Politics

Dan Conston Takes Helm of Top House GOP Outside Groups

Conston will lead the Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network

Interns work the phones at the Congressional Leadership Fund office in GOP Rep. Steve Knight’s district in Lancaster, Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The two major GOP outside groups involved in House races are getting a new leader. Dan Conston will take over as the president of both American Action Network and its related Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the groups announced Tuesday. 

The move comes after Republicans lost 40 seats in the midterm elections, meaning Republicans will shift from defense to offense in the upcoming 2020 elections. Conston will replace Corry Bliss, who oversaw record fundraising for the group and the creation of a new Congressional Leadership Fund field program with offices in 40 districts. Bliss will remain an advisor to both groups.

Conston intends to continue the field program, according to a source with knowledge of his plans.

“I’m honored to be a part of this effort and humbled by the opportunity,” Conston said in the groups’ announcement, first reported by Politico. “CLF is poised to play a decisive role in fighting to win back the majority behind the strong leadership and vision of Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise.”

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Conston previously served as communications director for both groups in the 2012 cycle, focusing on building a regional press operation. In 2014 and 2016, he was a director of independent expenditures, managing half of the groups’ spending on campaigns.

In 2014, Republicans won eight and lost one of the races where Conston was directing the outside spending, including in competitive districts such as Arizona’s 2nd District and Texas’ 23rd District.

Democrats flipped the Arizona seat this year, with GOP Rep. Martha Mcsally vacating it to wage an unsuccessful Senate bid. GOP Rep. Will Hurd won a third term in the swing Texas district.

Republicans won all of the 10 races where Conston managed the independent expenditures in 2016, although Democrats won a handful of those races this year.  

This cycle Conston launched the American Patriots PAC, an outside group that bolstered Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Mike Waltz of Florida, who both won their contests.

Waltz, whose campaign could not coordinate with Conston's group, said the group's engagement in the race helped push back against the deluge of Democratic spending.

"We really felt like we had the kitchen sink thrown at us,” Waltz said in a brief phone interview. "... To have an organization like American Patriots PAC come in from the outside and help get my message out was a game changer for me."

Prior to joining AAN and CLF, Conston served as communications director for GOP Rep. Peter Roskam, who served as the chief deputy whip. Roskam lost his re-election bid this year to Democrat Sean Casten.

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