Karl Rove: American Crossroads Following in Democrats' Footsteps

The former White House Chief of Staff says his Super PAC is following a playbook written by Democrats.

By + More
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove speech on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007. Rove, President Bush's close friend and chief political strategist, plans to leave the White House at the end of August, joining a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exits in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration.

TAMPA, Fla. - Karl Rove refused to say Monday whether the influence of outside spending groups on the presidential election was good or bad for the electoral process.

"It is what it is," the former senior advisor to George W. Bush told reporters at a breakfast Monday morning. "All I know is this: the Democrats have been doing this for years, and I got sick and tired of fighting with one hand behind my back."

Rove, who founded American Crossroads, a Super PAC contributing the largest amount of money to political campaigns, defended his tactics as ones he learned from the other side of the aisle.

"Republicans were tired of the Democrats beating us by having this phalanx of liberal groups and unions talking to each other and beating up our guys and gals year in and year out," he said. "[Republicans] were looking around for a vehicle that they could support, and Crossroads is a little bit different vehicle."

Crossroads is more than "a little bit" of a different vehicle. The group raised $72 million in just 29 weeks in 2010, and Rove said his goal this cycle is to raise $300 million.

When Politico's Mike Allen suggested Crossroads would raise far beyond that number, Rove laughed and said: "If you know that, tell me exactly how, so I can call the right people to make sure that happens."

Many of Crossroads' funders are unknown, as the Super PAC works with a spin-off group that can legally accept funds from anonymous donors.

[Follow all the news from the Republican Convention on our Election 2012 page.]

Rove said despite Crossroads' influence, he did not believe politicians "felt beholden" to the group, or that the enormous amount of money at play had any consequences for good governance. Many observers have said these groups give outsized influence to special interest groups, and distort the democratic process.

But Rove said it was "the hypocrisy of the liberal media" that made Crossroads appear as if it was doing something new.

"I don't remember this angst when Americans Coming Together (ACT) funded by George Soros and five of his pals were beating up [George W.] Bush," he said. ACT, a liberal group, was later dinged by the Federal Election Commission for violating campaign finance laws during the 2004 presidential election.

Rove also said he didn't remember "anybody writing a frantic editorial in the pages of the New York Times" when the NAACP National Voter Fund announced an anonymous $14 million contribution, and then ran an ad attacking President Bush on race. The voter fund did not immediately respond to request for comment.

"I love the franticness now that conservatives are doing it," Rove said.

Rove closed the discussion by claiming that Crossroads "wanted to be transparent," a comment that elicited laughter from the room. Lack of transparency has been one of the biggest criticisms of Crossroads and other Super PACs.

"We want to be transparent to our donors," Rove clarified, and then grinned out at the room.

 Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Check out our gallery of political cartoons.
  • Behind the Scenes: Preparing for the Republican National Convention
  • Mitt Romney's Running Mate: Rep. Paul Ryan