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Friday, August 3, 2012

‘King Karl’ Is Back

Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor to President George W. Bush, at a panel discussion in Dallas. (AP)

The 61-year-old campaign mastermind, once known as “Bush’s Brain,” has ramped up political fundraising with Crossroads GPS, the so-called “social welfare” organization he co-founded.

He has taken tools the Democrats used in 2004 and is beating them at their game, with Crossroads GPS and conservative groups like it on track to spend roughly twice what Democrats expect to spend with their fundraising groups.

Bloomberg Businessweek editor Paul Barrett has a cover story this week about how Karl Rove, whom the magazine calls “King Karl,” has reinvented himself and redefined political finance over the past three years:

Crossroads’ headquarters is a plain set of offices on the 12th floor of a blocky Washington building. The first thing greeting a visitor is a poster hijacked from a liberal protest. “Indicted: Karl Rove and American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS,” says the ersatz wanted notice. The mock charges include “conspiracy with billionaires to elect politicians who will do their bidding at the expense of the health and security of the 99 percent.”

The Crossroads groups are staffed leanly, with about 20 people, half of them junior researchers peering at laptops. Apart from his satirical mug shot, Rove is nowhere to be seen on this day. He holds no official position at Crossroads, draws no salary from the groups, and doesn’t get reimbursed for plane fare or lunches. He spends most of his desk time at Karl Rove & Co., a legally separate firm a few blocks away that oversees his media activities and well-paid public speaking. Rove, according to colleagues, devotes about a third of his working hours to Crossroads, almost all of it fundraising and private kibitzing with donors. At those skills, he has few rivals. “What Karl says goes,” says contributor John Dowd. “I trust him.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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