Time profiles independent expenditure groups pouring money into US elections

Time’s Michael Crowley has published a good overview of the current independent expenditure landscape heading into midterm elections. It covers mostly trodden ground, but in a supremely readable style that discloses a few nuggets of wisdom as well. Here’s Crowley on the seamless interchange of friendships and ideas between groups like American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, and the American Action Network:

[Coordination] can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling a friend. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, the current chairman of the RGA, is an adviser to the AAN. The RGA, in turn, is on pace to spend even more than American Crossroads this year — at least $65 million and perhaps far more — in an effort that will be coordinated with Law’s group. A key RGA fundraiser is Fred Malek, a top GOP moneyman who is also on the board of the AAN. (Gillespie has joined Malek on at least one fundraising trip to New York for their respective outfits.) To make things really easy, Gillespie, Malek, Barbour, Law, Coleman and several other Republican fundraisers gather regularly to coordinate strategy. The attendees, who first convened at Karl Rove’s home, even have a nickname for themselves: the Weaver Terrace group, named for the Washington street on which Rove lives.

Also, on the strategic differences between the big right- and left-leaning groups currently in the fray:

Republicans say their new efforts merely level a playing field that Democrats and their allies — with the help of Barack Obama — have owned for several election cycles. Moreover, whatever the Republican groups are doing, Democrat-friendly labor unions are set to put some $150 million of their own money into the fall elections. Other groups, such as Emily’s List and the League of Conservation Voters, will kick in several million more. But this kind of cash is different from what the GOP groups are generating. Much of that union spending involves member-to-member communications, which Democratic operatives say are less effective than TV ads. And ads from unions and single-issue groups tend to be less effective than those from a purely tactical group like American Crossroads, which can tailor a flexible message.

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