The post-election soul searching going on inside the Republican Party is taking place inside Fox News as well. Fox News chief Roger Ailes, a canny marketer and protector of his network’s brand, has been taking steps since November to reposition Fox in the post-election media environment, freshening story lines — and in some cases, changing the characters. According to multiple Fox sources, Ailes has issued a new directive to his staff: He wants the faces associated with the election off the air — for now. For Karl Rove and Dick Morris — a pair of pundits perhaps most closely aligned with Fox’s anti-Obama campaign — Ailes’s orders mean new rules. Ailes’s deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris. Both pundits made several appearances in the days after the election, but their visibility on the network has dropped markedly. Inside Fox News, Morris’s Romney boosterism and reality-denying predictions became a punch line. At a rehearsal on the Saturday before the election, according to a source, anchor Megyn Kelly chuckled when she relayed to colleagues what someone had told her: “I really like Dick Morris. He’s always wrong but he makes me feel good.”
A Fox spokesperson confirmed the new booking rules for Rove and Morris, and explained that Shine’s message was “the election’s over.”
Multiple sources say that Ailes was angry at Rove’s election-night tantrum when he disputed the network’s call for Obama. While the moment made for riveting television — it was Ailes’s decision to have Kelly confront the statisticians on air — in the end, it provided another data point for Fox’s critics. A spokesperson for Ailes denied any rift between Ailes and Rove, and said the two plan to meet this week.
This privatization of our elections has occurred without public knowledge or consent, leading to one of the most dangerous and least understood crises in the history of American democracy. We have actually lost the ability to verify election results.
The non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints Thursday with both the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleging that Karl Rove and his secretive Crossroads GPS violated election law and may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to do so.
Under campaign finance law and FEC regulations, 501(c)(4) groups, like Crossroads GPS, can raise unlimited funds from wealthy individuals and corporations without having to disclose their donors. The only time donors to these secretive groups must be disclosed is when donors give more than $200 explicitly “for the purpose of furthering an independent expenditure.”
According to CREW, Rove expressly asked for and received millions of dollars in contributions specifically to fund an independent expenditure effort in support of unsuccessful Republican Ohio Senate nominee Josh Mandel:
Tuesday’s elections produced some big winners — and some really big losers — whose names never appeared on any ballot. After outside groups spent more than $1.3 billion in independent expenditures to influence the outcome of the election, we now get to see just what all that money bought them — or didn’t.
This is like the irresponsible shithead pot calling the bloviated fearmongering kettle black.
New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that after Fox News initially made the call that President Obama had won Ohio, Karl Rove — a contributor to the network and the head of a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC — fought against the decision, causing “Fox News’ top producers” to call a meeting with Rove and two of the people in charge of making the Ohio call, Arnon Mishkin and Chris Stirewalt.
Ultimately, Fox decided to have Mishkin and Stirewalt explain their reasoning on-air. But rather than have the duo appear on camera, producers decided to have Fox anchor Megyn Kelly “walk through the office and interview” Mishkin and Stirewalt in a conference room. Sherman reported that an anonymous Fox insider said: “This is Fox News … so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.”
From Sherman’s article:
Shortly after 11 p.m., Bret Baier went on-camera to read a script written by Fox’s Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, based on an analysis by the network’s decision desk, announcing Ohio for Obama. “That’s the presidency, essentially,” Baier said.
Instantly, Fox phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn’t been been fully tabulated. “The Romney people were totally screaming that we’re totally wrong,” one Fox source said. “To various people, they were saying, ‘your decision team is wrong.’” According to a Fox insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove — whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail — took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio’s electoral math in disputing the call.
This time, it was the network divided against itself, and Fox News’ top producers held a meeting to adjudicate. The decision desk stood their ground. They knew how momentous the call was. Earlier in the night, according to a source, before making the call, Arnon Mishkin, who heads the decision desk, told Fox brass, “let’s remember this is Fox News calling Ohio. This will say something beyond Ohio going for Obama.” Fox brass told Mishkin to get the numbers right and ignore the politics: “If we think Ohio has gone Obama, we call Ohio,” said a Fox News executive.
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.”
Yesterday in Salon.com, Craig Unger, author of Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power (a new book which tracks quite a bit of Rove’s 2004 election chicanery, including the mysterious death of Ohio’s GOP election tech guru Mike Connell, etc) wrote about Rove’s ties “to shady GOP operative Nathan Sproul.”
Sproul is the paid Mitt Romney political consultant at the center of the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, who, though the RNC claimed they had fired him after fraudulent registration forms were recently discovered in some 12 Florida counties, is still at work on behalf of Republicans in 30 different states, according to the LA Times. The long history of voter registration fraud allegations against his companies since 2004 are so toxic that Sproul says the RNC asked him to create the shell company, Strategic Allied Consulting, this past June without his name on the corporate filings in order to hide his involvement. (RNC spokesman Sean Spicer claims he’s unaware of such a request, though Sproul tells us he stands by the assertion.)
Unger points to the letter [PDF] we posted late last week from Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), ranking member of the U.S. House Elections subcommittee, sent to Rove, with a series of questions about his involvement with Sproul, including the purposes of some $750,000 that Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC paid to Sproul, as well as questions about Rove’s dealings with Sproul and his companies “during the 2000 and 2004 Presidential campaigns.”
While the congressman requests a response from Rove by October 23, “so that every American who is eligible to vote may go to the polls on November 06 confident that neither you nor any of your political organizations is engaged in an effort to undermine the integrity of our electoral process,” if “Bush’s Brain” stays true to form, he’ll simply ignore the Congressional inquiry entirely.
In this case, once again, he may have very good reason to, as Rove’s relationship to Sproul and the Strategic Allied Consulting firm now appear to be even closer than Rep. Gonzalez had suggested in his letter last week.
It now appears that Strategic Allied Consulting has the same corporate mailing address in Virginia as Rove’s American Crossroads PAC. Imagine that…
I posted this in September when it came out - but I wanted to repost to remind my friends here that we really need to be giving support to House and Senate races as much as that seat at the top. Can you donate to a Dem Senate candidate? Volunteer?
As politicians, delegates, and thousands of reporters at the Republican and Democratic conventions obsessed over who will be elected president, a parallel convention of sorts was taking place in hotel dining rooms and private clubs around Tampa and Charlotte. There, party kingmakers met in secret with the wealthy backers who are increasingly driving this election to discuss an equally urgent question: Which party will control the U.S. Senate?
With no real chance of regaining control of the House this year, the Democrats are determined to keep hold of the other half of the Capitol. Their pitch to donors: If the Senate goes to the Republicans, Congress will unite against President Obama in a potential second term. The scarier scenario for Democrats (and one that’s especially effective at prying open wallets) is that if Mitt Romney wins the White House, a Republican House and Senate could join with him to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and unravel government regulations. Republican fundraisers employ the same sales technique, only in reverse: Even if Romney wins, a Democratic majority in the Senate would stand in the way of his most ambitious plans. Total control of government is all that matters.
No one makes this case more persuasively than Karl Rove. At a private breakfast briefing in Tampa, Rove—the most powerful unelected Republican—told about 70 of the biggest donors to his American Crossroads super PAC, “We’ve got to get this done to get Mitt Romney and the Senate, to repeal Obamacare on Day One!”
Karl Rove is upping the ante. According to Politico, the Rove-founded American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are launching their biggest paid-media push of the election cycle Tuesday, with a $16 million one-week buy on TV and radio in multiple presidential swing states and Senate battlegrounds.
Of that $16 million, the super PAC American Crossroads will devote $11 million to defeating President Barack Obama, with a TV spot titled “Actually Happened” that compares the current 8.1 unemployment rate to a lower rate that the president projected earlier in his term. Viewers will see the ad in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, will spend $1 million on radio ads in those same states and an additional $4 million in Montana, North Dakota and Virginia.
We can’t beat their money so we have to beat them with boots on the ground. Have you volunteered?
On the final morning of the Republican National Convention, Karl Rove took the stage at the Tampa Club to provide an exclusive breakfast briefing to about 70 of the Republican party’s highest-earning and most powerful donors. During the more than hour-long session, Rove explained to an audience dotted with hedge fund billionaires and investors—including John Paulson and Wilbur Ross—how his super PAC, American Crossroads, will persuade undecided voters in crucial swing states to vote against Barack Obama. He also detailed plans for Senate and House races, and joked, “We should sink Todd Akin. If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”
Then Rove pleaded with his audience for more money—much more.
The morning began with an address about the urgency of defeating Obama by Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Crossroads Chief Executive Officer Steven Law followed and introduced some of the super PAC’s staff, referring to general counsel Tom Josefiak as “the guy who keeps us from ever having to wear orange jumpsuits.”
Then came the main event: Rove, joined by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, laid out his strategy for winning the White House. “The people we’ve got to win in this election, by and large, voted for Barack Obama,” Rove said, in a soothing, professorial tone, explaining why the campaign hadn’t launched more pointed attacks on the president’s character.
Rove explained that Crossroads had conducted extensive focus groups and shared polling and focus group data with “all the major groups that are playing” in the election. “As many of you know, one of the most important things about Crossroads is: We don’t try and do this alone. We have partners,” he said. “The Kochs—you name it.”
What had emerged from that data is an “acute understanding of the nature of those undecided, persuadable” voters. “If you say he’s a socialist, they’ll go to defend him. If you call him a ‘far out left-winger,’ they’ll say, ‘no, no, he’s not.’” The proper strategy, Rove declared, was criticizing Obama without really criticizing him—by reminding voters of what the president said that he was going to do and comparing it to what he’s actually done. “If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you.”
Rove spoke almost exclusively about defeating Barack Obama and retaking control of the White House. There was sparse praise for Mitt Romney—either as a candidate or as a future leader and policy maker.
Rove’s analysis of the Senate races was technical and masterly. The Republicans need four seats to gain a majority, and Rove said he feels “really good” about Nebraska and is optimistic about North Dakota, even though Democrats have a strong candidate in former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. “We’re deeply engaged” there, Rove said. In Wisconsin, former Governor Tommy Thompson “has an excellent shot to win—he has a quirky, cross-party appeal.” Virginia is going to be tight and will likely mirror the way the state votes in the presidential race. Of those, Rove declared, “we can win three.”
In Connecticut, Rove noted that Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment, whom he had once written off, was running a “really smart campaign.” And the state, he noted, had moved more to the right. “Those affluent, socially liberal, economically conservative people in Fairfield County and the New York suburbs have finally figured out that their pocketbooks matter more than abortion.”
There are six Republican incumbents Rove identified as in jeopardy, but the biggest risk to Republican hopes of retaking the Senate is Todd Akin in Missouri, following his comments about “legitimate rape.” Rove urged every attendee to apply pressure on Akin to convince him to leave the race. “We have five people who are interested” in replacing Akin, Rove said. “We don’t care who the nominee is, other than get Akin out.”
Just to get the “juices flowing” of the billionaires in the room, Rove shared a little anecdote. Someone he described as a “benefactor” had recently contacted him, offering to donate $10 million to be deployed in Florida—$5 million for Republican Congressman Connie Mack’s Senate race against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and $5 million for the presidential race. But the donor placed two conditions on the money. One, his donation had to be matched by other donors. And two, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had to start making phone calls on their behalf. Rove paused for effect and announced: “Jeb’s making phone calls for us!” The crowd erupted.