Rove, who declined to comment for this story, handles most of the fundraising and does not charge the super PAC commission for that work or get paid in any other fashion. He is not on the board and rarely advises on an individual race or ad buy, functioning only as an “informal adviser.”
Most strategic decisions are made by Law, who served as executive director of the NRSC under McConnell, and Carl Forti, the super PAC’s political director whose résumé includes political director for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and communications director and chief independent expenditure strategist for the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2004 and 2006. Forti also plays a key role and helped launch the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future. Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio was Forti’s deputy at the NRCC.
Crossroads saves as much of every dollar possible for ad buys. It pays almost no fundraising commissions or fees and solicits bids from consultants on polling, ad production and other campaign services. Campaigns can pay anywhere from 6 percent to 15 percent commission to media buyers. But Crossroads pays 3 percent, in part because of its volume of buys.
Crossroads’ spartan office occupies part of a top floor high-rise in downtown, Washington, D.C. Visitors enter through a pair of wooden double doors marked only by an inconspicuous nameplate and white doorbell. With Rove serving as its premier front man, the political group attracts its fair share of protesters. The staff relishes those attacks, hanging protesters’ posters on the wall like political taxidermy.
Staffers hung one poster that declared “Indict Karl Rove” to the wall with masking tape. Just inside the entrance, there’s a framed cease and desist letter from President Bill Clinton’s counsel to Jo Ann Davidson, a Crossroads’ board member. The October 2011 letter asked Crossroads to stop using a YouTube image of Clinton in one of its advertisements. It didn’t work; the spot finished its flight.
Otherwise, the white walls are mostly undecorated save for a few generic-brand flat-screen televisions. There’s a trendy red poster that reads “Keep Calm and Vote Republican.”
The space is a cross between a swanky political consulting firm and a gritty campaign committee office; the young staffers walk around without jackets and ties.
A large carpeted conference room anchors the office, filled by an expansive black table with seats for 14. It’s a symbolic nod to the board’s influence in the organization.
About 10 board members meet almost monthly to approve overall strategy and a framework for spending in individual states. It’s a departure from the consultant-driven model of past third-party groups, for which hired hands could control the ad making, ad buying and strategy — often to their own financial benefit.
“We see ourselves — certainly as not the leader — but as a convener of advocacy in the center-right sphere,” Law said.
Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he waits to take the stage for his town hall campaign rally with Sen. John McCain at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.