Karl Rove Just Tossed Rob Portman A Casual $1.12 Million

Senator Rob Portman is facing a tough reelection challenge, so Uncle Karl’s lending him a hand in the form of a $1.12-million ad buy.

Karl Rove’s One Nation just “bought $1.12 million worth of television, radio and digital ads advocating for jobs legislation sponsored” by Portman, according to Politico. The ads will run over the next several weeks in an attempt to give Portman a much-needed lift in the polls.

Not a bad haul for Portman: The $1.12-million assist significantly surpasses the $800K Rove dished out to both Roy Blunt and Joe Heck last week.

Apparently Karl Rove thinks Portman is just that much more vulnerable — Karl Rove can’t afford to lose a senator who so diligently prioritizes an out-of-state big money special-interest agenda over the needs of Ohio working families.

Background from Conservative Transparency:

One Nation is a nonprofit 501(c)4 addition to Karl Rove’s “constellation of Crossroads organizations.” The group “aims to advance well-constructed solutions to our country’s most urgent challenges: its plodding economy, massive debt, job-killing regulations and weakness in an increasingly dangerous world.”

In contrast to Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads, which plan to focus on the presidential race in 2016, One Nation is aimed solely at influencing Senate elections. And it’s wasting no time in getting to work: As of May 2015, One Nation had already purchased $2 million worth of radio, digital and print ads “touting” incumbent Republican senators facing tough reelections in 2016, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk, Richard Burr, Rob Portman, and Pat Toomey. The ads praise the senators for supporting trade-promotion authority and urge congressional action “to protect” Medicare and Medicare Advantage.  The spending included $325,000 on ads in New Hampshire in support of Ayotte, and $400,000 in Pennsylvania in support of Toomey. Its ads in Ohio praised Portman for “helping to lead the way” to consensus in Congress.

In October 2015, One Nation launched an ad buy in New Hampshire attempting to defend Sen. Ayotte on women’s health issues. They additionally purchased ads in Missouri defending Sen. Roy Blunt, which were supposedly focused on highlighting Sen. Blunt’s “ability to work across the aisle.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff, Steven Law, is the president of One Nation, along with its sister organizations American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Law is also executive chairman of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC “devoted solely to retaining the Senate majority” that “aims to be the go-to destination for major Republican donors interested in Senate races.” Ian Prior is cited as a spokesman for the group; Prior previously served as communications director for Crossroads / Crossroads GPS and, prior to that, as NationalPress Secretary & Deputy Communications Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

One Nation has not disclosed how much it is planning to spend in the 2016 campaign cycle but Law said that in 2015 alone the organization plans to spend “multiples more of what we are doing with this first wave” of ads.  Operating as a “dark money” c4 organization, the group is not required to disclose its donors.

Despite reporting in early 2015 that One Nation was a “new” (c)4 addition to the Crossroads network, Open Secrets found that the group was a renamed version of an entity previously known as the Alliance for America’s Future, a nonprofit affiliated with the Alliance for Freedom. Open Secrets notes that the takeover was “likely… because the group had the one thing that has been elusive to Crossroads since its founding in 2010: An approved application for tax exemption from the IRS.”

According to Open Secrets, there’s precedent going back to at least 1999 for this tactic whereby a group having difficulty with receiving IRS tax exemption – as Crossroads is currently facing – can acquire a group that already has the exemption, and then transfer its operations to the new group.

Open Secrets concludes that One Nation (formerly AAF) could be a valuable pick-up for the Crossroads network because “AAF is no stranger to dark money politics… and it comes with a network of IRS-recognized 501(c)(4)s that can serve either as surrogates, or as pools of moneyOne Nation can use to churn funds around to inflate its social welfare spending… It offers the reconstituted Crossroads the kind of security that is prized by the snarl of nonprofits affiliated with the Koch donor network.”

As a sign of its rising importance, One Nation spent more in the first five months 2015 than it did as AAF in any of the full years of 2012, 2013, or 2014.