Critics: Groundswell Group Report 'Faux Outrage'

Magazine report on GOP group met with a sigh from insiders.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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The revelation that some right-wing activists, journalists and congressional staffers have formed a group – named Groundswell – to coordinate messaging to achieve political goals such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, promoting voter ID laws or blocking Obama administration nominees has been met with a collective eye roll from the Republican consulting class and not much outrage from liberals.

In an exclusive report, Mother Jones' David Corn – who was responsible for breaking the secret recording of Mitt Romney's fundraiser last year leading up to the presidential election – reported on leaked minutes from the conservative cabal's meetings.

"Groundswell has set itself up as the theme lab for the true-red activists of the conservative movement," Corn wrote. "Fearing that some hydra of the left has long been running wild, vanquishing the right and bringing the nation closer to utter ruin, the members of Groundswell have birthed a hydra of their own."

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He details how activists like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, Ginni, and others, such as former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., and representatives of groups like Judicial Watch and the Family Research Council have been meeting since early this year to push back against liberal talking points. The group at times runs counter to narratives promoted by more mainstream or old-school Republicans, such as Karl Rove, Grover Norquist or GOP congressional leadership, Corn said.

"They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism," said Corn. "And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks."

But Republican consultants around town scoffed at the breathless nature of Corn's reporting.

"For anyone who's followed the close coordination on the Democratic side between labor unions, liberal umbrella groups and other left-wing organizations like Think Progress, you have to appreciate the faux outrage from their side today," says Brian Walsh, a GOP strategist and former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "I'd encourage the writers at Mother Jones to re-watch 'The War Room' from the Clinton days or have a chat with Jim Messina at [Organizing for Action] and they'll quickly be reminded that this sort of thing has been going on for years."

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Another former top Republican Senate aide says, "It'd be one thing if any person on that list was someone you already didn't think would be in that room... 'Oh my God, [President Barack] Obama is in there!'"

A similar group – known as Journolist – formed of left-leaning reporters and think tank academics caused a furor on the right when it was revealed in 2010.

But Mike Leavitt, a Republican campaign strategist, says the hubbub around Groundswell is merely an attempt by the left to further a favorable narrative that the right is engaged in a civil war.

"It's natural for the party not in control of the White House to have a healthy debate about the direction of the party," he says. "Debate within political parties is not new. The reality is no matter what the left says Republicans on Election Day 2014 will continue to control the US House, majority of state legislatures, governorships and we will have a long list wonderful candidates running for the president."

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