CNN: Karl Rove, American Crossroads and the Super PAC Democrats love to hate

-By Jessica Yellin

January 24, 2012-  Washington (CNN) — Forget Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. If there's one Republican who scares Democrats, it's Karl Rove.

Here's why.

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the two groups he helped found, plan to raise $300 million this year to defeat President Obama, elect Republicans to Congress, and block the Democrats' agenda.

They already spent half a million dollars attacking the President's squeaky clean image with an ad about Solyndra and a voice-over that said "Mr. President we need jobs, not more Washington insider deals." That was in December, before the first Republican primary was held. Crossroads says they plan many more like it.

Though Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser, is the best-known face of American Crossroads, he's a fundraiser and key strategic adviser but doesn't work there in any official capacity. The man who runs the Super PAC is Steven Law.

"This is a very split electorate, people are uncertain about where they're going to go. It's going to be a tough fight," Law, Bush's former Deputy Secretary of Labor, told CNN, "That's where groups like American Crossroads can play a very vital role in providing information that tips the balance one way or another."

We visited Law in Crossroads' offices just a few blocks from the White House. For a multi-million dollar outfit, their headquarters look surprisingly similar to a call center.

"Its kind of shockingly sparse really," laughs Law, who prides himself on his low overhead, "We have holes in the wall. Not a particularly high end kind of place."

But don't let that fool you. In 2010, public records show they spent $39 million on advertising and election communications. Their political director, however, says they actually spent $70 million between both groups. They are not required by law to disclose all their expenditures, so we may never know.

Their early campaigns had a mixed results, pouring millions into successful efforts to elect Republican Sens. Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio; and failed efforts to defeat Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Harry Reid.

Law says he's OK with that track record: "We tend to pick (races) where it's a real effort where it's tough to move the ball forward," said Law. "In the upcoming Presidential election, we think it's going to be tough."

According to Law, the groups are a counterbalance to the outside groups that bolster Democratic candidates.

"American Crossroads was conceived as an answer to the hundreds of millions of dollars that unions and and other groups on the left have been spending for years to support Democrats," said Law. "We started American Crossroads because we thought there ought to be a way for us to try and level the playing field."

Representatives from both and the labor unions vehemently object to the comparison, citing more rigorous disclosure rules for labor groups and the more democratic nature of the organizations.


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