The American Action Network (AAN) is a new Republican non-profit that is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance outside of the structure of the Republican National Committee (RNC). The AAN brings together some of the biggest and best political networks through the participation of The Hon. Jeb Bush and Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS). Joining these Republican leaders is superlative GOP major donor Fred Malek and political mastermind Karl Rove. AAN will be a group to watch going into the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The fact that Jeb Bush and Haley Barbour are involved means that there are nationwide, presidential-level political resources involved. Both of these men have networks that span the American political compass and have decided to apply them on behalf of the GOP via the AAN. These are serious, thoughtful minds with the ability to successfully implement a political agenda.
The addition of Karl Rove speaks to the intent of AAN to organize nationwide and apply the accompanying muscle for the purpose of winning elections. Mr. Rove may be considered negatively by many opposed to his political views and denounced as the Dark Lord of elections, but he has a set of skills like few others. The Democratic and liberal opposition would do well to stay abreast of AAN activities under Mr. Rove’s guidance.
Mr. Malek’s inclusion in AAN speaks volumes to the state of affairs at the RNC. It has been reported and can be trusted that there are many high net worth individuals who have been long time donors to the RNC who are unhappy with the current management of Chairman Michael Steele. Mr. Malek’s decision to be front and center at the launch of the AAN means there are many like him who will choose to put their contributions in the hands of this outfit of powerful thinkers who can get it done at the ballot box.
The initial criticism of the AAN will draw parallels between it, the National Policy Forum (NPF) and the more recent National Council for a New America. The NPF was conceived in 1993 by then RNC Chairman Barbour as a vehicle to raise money, develop policy ideas and germinate those ideas by building grassroots coalitions. The NPF was derailed by questions around a $2.1 million loan guarantee from the U.S. subsidiary of a foreign corporation. The National Council for a New America was launched in 2009 and died quickly of its own accord due to questions around its founding out of the leadership office of U.S. Representative Eric Cantor. The difference is the Supreme Court ruling, particularly in the case of the NPF. With this ruling comes the ability for the NPF concept to achieve expectations in the shape of the AAN.
The AAN has been established and will be developed by influential, wealthy people with the intent of winning elections on behalf of the Republican Party. In turn, the AAN will have the ability to attract grassroots supporters. More importantly, AAN will have the resources to conduct outstanding research that will manifest as persuasive electoral communications. Despite the Supreme Court decision on corporate free speech, the national political party committees are still prevented from accepting corporate contributions. This is a bucket of money the party committees desire to dip into but may not. Thus, while the influence of the RNC will not be wholly diminished, the AAN formation indicates a power shift within the GOP.