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GOP Message Veterans Boost NRCC Ties to K Street

The National Republican Congressional Committee — the entity charged with pushing the House GOP back into the majority — is reaching out to former Capitol Hill staffers and veteran campaign consultants to craft its 2010 political strategy and rally the Republican troops on K Street.

The NRCC Communications Downtown Advisory Group, which will be announced today, will include Carl Forti, Dan Leonard, Ron Bonjean, Karen Hanretty, Kevin Madden, John Feehery, Brian Kennedy and other veteran Republican consultants and former Hill staffers.

The new group will meet on a monthly basis and operate informally, with each of the roughly 20 advisers offering their take on how the committee — and GOP candidates — should craft their messages on Democratic priorities such as “card check,” financial services, energy and other often- divisive legislation.

Forti, a former NRCC communications director who worked on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) presidential bid and then ran the outside political group Freedom’s Watch last cycle, is now a consultant at the Alexandria, Va.-based Black Rock Group. Qorvis Communications’ Hanretty ran the committee’s press shop last cycle, while Madden, who now works at the Glover Park Group, was Romney’s spokesman during the 2008 presidential primaries.

Feehery, formerly a spokesman for then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), is now a lobbyist at the Feehery Group. Bonjean is also a former Hastert spokesman as well as a former spokesman for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) who worked in the Bush administration and now runs Singer Bonjean Strategies.

Former NRCC spokesman Leonard is now at the National Pharmaceutical Council. Kennedy, now at Dittus Communications, was House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman in 2007.

“The NRCC communications team couldn’t have a better and more talented group of individuals contributing to our efforts,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in a statement on Friday. “Every single one of them brings a great level of knowledge and skill that spans across a broad spectrum of issue areas and political campaigns.”

On Friday, Hanretty applauded Spain’s efforts in setting up the downtown sounding board, saying that it may help the committee ward off the traditional political “bubble,” which can stifle ideas and promote the status quo.

She also said that it shouldn’t hurt in helping rebuild the committee’s badly eroded fundraising base.

As of Feb. 28, the NRCC had $1.9 million in cash and $6.4 million in debt, according to Federal Election Commission records. In contrast, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $2.9 million in cash and carried massive debts totaling $15.1 million.

“It helps create some buzz, which is good for a Republican committee right now,” Hanretty said. “It’s important for the downtown community to know that a political committee like the NRCC has its ear to the ground.”

“That sends a really good message to the donor community that the political committee isn’t insular,” she added.

In the 2008 cycle, many Republican insiders on K Street privately griped about then-NRCC Chairman Tom Cole’s (Okla.) lack of outreach to the downtown community and about that poor relationship contributing to the committee’s weak fundraising. The new group could be viewed as part of NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions’ (Texas) attempt to help change that.

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