Rove's New Super PAC is a Win-Win for Democrats

By Brad Bannon, TJS - February 7, 2013

By Brad Bannon

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, it's time to prescribe massive doses of Prozac for Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and the people gullible enough to fork over millions of dollars to Republican and conservative super PACs. Rove's donors remind me of the proverb that a fool and his money are soon parted.

After squandering hundreds of millions of dollars on super PACs during the 2012 campaign, conservatives and Republicans are at it again. The GOP establishment, Karl Rove, and the folks who brought you American Crossroads, have created a new organization, the Conservative Victory Group, to fight the Tea Party and the dismal candidates it fielded in 2010 and 2012. It's a win-win for Democrats. Not only will American Crossroads waste millions of dollars attacking Tea Party candidates but the vicious cage match between the two groups will cripple the GOP.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

And it's not just Karl Rove and American Crossroads that are at it again. You can't keep a good money man down so Sheldon Adelson, the one man super PAC has gone back into the water with a group to defeat the President's Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

The Federal Election Commission just released a new set of spending figures for the 2012 campaign. The numbers were big enough to choke a Clydesdale or even Mitt Romney's dressage horse. The grand total was about $7 billion dollars including $2 billion by party committees. The FEC report indicates that outside groups have surpassed the political parties in financial clout—by the time the final tally comes in, according to the commission, outside groups will have spent even more than $2 billion.

About half of that outside money ($950,000) million came from super PACs. About a fifth of the super PAC money ($175 million) came from Rove's group, American Crossroads. The Republican financial angels who backed American Crossroads would have gotten a better return on their investment by buying stock in Facebook. Ninety-eight percent of the Republican candidates who "benefited" from American Crossroads' largesse lost.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Are Super PACs Harming U.S. Politics?]

It's no wonder that so many former National Rifle Association supporters in Congress have bailed on the group. It's now clear that you can buck NRA bucks and live to tell about it. The NRA was one of the many outside, pro-Republican outfits that didn't get any bang for its bucks in 2012. FEC reports indicate that the NRA spent $13 million in anti-Obama advertising and $4 million in pro-Romney ads. The progun group also spent more than $2 million in failed attempts to defeat three Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, former governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and incumbent Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bill Nelson of Florida.

American Crossroads has just mounted an attack on the actress Ashley Judd who is considering a run in Kentucky against the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. Based on American Crossroads's track record, Senator-elect Judd should already be writing her maiden speech on the Senate floor.

The Citizens United decision profoundly changed the complexion of campaign 2012 and the nature of marketing in presidential campaigns. Citizens United allowed unregulated money to flow into independent super PACs and this has given the groups more power to shape the presidential campaign than the individual candidates.

[Check out our collection of political cartoons on super PACs.]

The rise of the super PACS has created a system where the tail wags the dog. Because the super PACs spend so much money on behalf of or against candidates, it's difficult for candidates to market and control their own brand. By the time Mitt Romney secured the GOP nomination, the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future had spent twice as much money as the former governor's own campaign. The big spending Romney super PAC spent most of its money on shrill negative ads which completely dominated the Romney campaign's feeble effort to build a positive image for the former Massachusetts governor. By October 2012, Gallup indicated that Romney was the most unpopular major party presidential nominee since George McGovern.

The rise of super PACs has made it more difficult for Republicans to brand their party with a clear and consistent positive message. The GOP doesn't need any more problems than it already has.


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Brad Bannon runs Bannon Communications Research, a political polling and consulting firm which helps labor unions, progressive issue groups, and Democratic candidates win public affairs and political campaigns. Brad guest hosts Leslie Marshall's nationally syndicated radio talk show and is a commentator on America's Radio News Network.


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