Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Super-PAC Bankroller Foster Friess Jumps on Romney Bandwagon

| Tue Apr. 10, 2012 6:38 PM EDT
Foster Friess.

Rick Santorum and Foster Friess, the silver-haired, crocodile-hunting, born again financier who made his fortune in mutual funds, go way back. Friess helped raise money for Santorum as early as 1994, when Santorum first ran for US Senate in Pennsylvania. During Santorum's surprisingly successful presidential campaign, Friess poured $1.6 million into a super-PAC called the Red, White, and Blue Fund that was devoted to helping Santorum win the GOP nomination. The money helped keep Santorum competitive in multiple primary states. But after Santorum dropped out of the race on Tuesday, it didn't take long for Friess to jump on the Mitt Romney bandwagon.

"I'm obviously going to be of help [to Romney] in whatever way I can," Friess told Politico's Ken Vogel, who broke the news. Friess continued: "I've got some plans as to how I might be able to be of help. The bottom line is, I'm going to be very supportive and I'll probably have plans to share with you a little later on."

If Friess does decide to go all-in for Romney, he could give a max of $2,500 to Romney's campaign. But there's no limit on what Friess can give to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. (An official with Restore Our Future did not respond to a request for comment about reaching out to Friess since Santorum's departure.) Friess could also give to Karl Rove's American Crossroads, a Republican super-PAC that plans to spend up to $300 million blitzing President Obama and supporting Republicans. Or he could donate to Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) non-profit that doesn't disclose its donors and runs a mix of so-called issue advocacy ads and pure political ads. In other words, there's no shortage of Romney-friendly political players eager to take Foster Friess' money.

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Exclusive: McDonald's Says It Has Dumped ALEC

| Tue Apr. 10, 2012 2:41 PM EDT

This story has been updated.

Add another name to the list of corporations who've ditched the American Legislative Exchange Council: McDonald's.

The fast food giant tells Mother Jones that it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, the corporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country. "While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012," Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald's spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Yingling didn't mention any specific campaign or outside pressure as playing a role in the company's decision to leave ALEC.

The Gates Foundation Is Done Funding ALEC

| Tue Apr. 10, 2012 10:47 AM EDT
Portland Action Lab

It's been a rough week or two for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state legislators on everything from voter ID to privatizing public schools to curbing workers' rights. Since the GOP's massive gains at the state level in the 2010 elections, liberal activists have sought to expose ALEC by publishing its model bills and listing its legislative and corporate members. The pressure is having an effect. Last week, Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi all announced they would cut ties with ALEC. On Monday, another big name ALEC funder joined the list of defectors: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation, which boasts an endowment of $33.5 billion, had given ALEC $375,000 in the past two years to provide "information to "ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance," a spokesman told Roll Call. But no more. The spokesman, Chris Williams, said the Gates Foundation would finish its existing grant but discontinue future ALEC funding.

Here's more from Roll Call:

Last week, Kraft Foods Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and Intuit Inc. each said they would withdraw support. The announcements came after months of behind-the-scenes pressure from another liberal group, Color of Change, an African-American advocacy group.

Color of Change went public today with demands that AT&T Corp., one of ALEC's 21 corporate board members, also sever ties with the organization. Over the past year, the group has reached out to 15 consumer product companies that back ALEC, highlighting the organization’s connections to voter ID laws passed in at least a half-dozen states.

Civil rights activists say the laws disproportionately target minority, student and elderly voters, who tend to vote Democratic, and could bar up to 5 million voters from the polls this fall. In recent weeks, other liberal groups have joined the effort.

Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson said the group is using Internet appeals to pressure companies that have made explicit efforts to build a strong relationship with African-American customers.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement that "the dominoes are falling and the curtain is closing for ALEC. People power has worked and this is a major step in the right direction." An ALEC spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mitt Romney Hires GOP Super-PAC Guru and Ex-Corporate Lobbyist

| Thu Apr. 5, 2012 11:37 AM EDT
Ed Gillespie

On Tuesday, as baseball's managers penciled in their lineups for the first games of the 2012 season, Mitt Romney's campaign hailed a major roster addition of its own: GOP operative and dark-money guru Ed Gillespie.

Gillespie is a pillar of Republican politics. He chaired the Republican National Committee from 2003-05, served as a top aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and helped write the GOP's "Contract with America" in 1994. He also worked on George W. Bush's 2000 campaign and later served as a counselor to Bush in the White House.

What the Romney campaign's press release doesn't mention is Gillespie's years as a well-traveled Washington lobbyist. At his firm, Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Gillespie's client list included such mega-corporations as Bank of America, AT&T, now-bankrupt MF Global, Verizon, and dozens more. Quinn Gillespie bills itself as "as one of the country’s most influential and effective public affairs firms"—that is, a big-time influence peddler in DC. (Gillespie is no longer listed as working for the firm.)

Most recently, Gillespie made headlines for creating, along with Karl Rove, the powerful super-PAC American Crossroads and its shadowy nonprofit sister group, Crossroads GPS. The two groups dominated the outside spending wars in the 2010 midterms. American Crossroads led all other super-PACs in fundraising ($26.5 million) and spending ($21.5 million), and to good effect: Of the 10 races where it spent the most money, 6 went its way. Crossroads GPS, which as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit doesn't disclose its donors, did even better: It spent $15 million and got favorable results in 8 of its top 10 races.

The Crossroads twins dominate the outside-money playing field. And that's due in large part to Gillespie's savvy.

Gillespie says he's taking a leave of absence from Crossroads and his other gigs to work for Romney. But critics of super-PACs and dark money say Gillespie's move to the Romney campaign raises more questions about the supposed independence of the Crossroads groups, which by law cannot coordinate with any candidate or campaign. They wonder: Can Gillespie completely sever his ties with the Crossroads groups?

David Donnelly, executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, who calls the super-PAC coordination rules "a complete fiction," says that even if Gillespie ends his work with Crossroads, he'll still bring his knowledge of Crossroads' inner workings, its message and strategy, and relationships with its strategists and its funders to the Romney camp. That knowledge could prove valuable to Romney as he gears up for a general election fight with President Obama. "He could be the connective tissue," Donnelly says.

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