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Look Who's Covertly Controlling the GOP: Karl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads

Karl Rove is no longer merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party.




The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Craig Unger on Karl Rove's comeback. 

Our guest for the hour is Craig Unger, who has written  Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power. In it, he writes, "Undeniably, he’s back," talking about Karl Rove. "He has re-invented himself. He is not merely Bush’s Brain; he’s the man who swallowed the Republican Party. As the maestro orchestrating the various super-pacs, he has inspired the wealthiest people on the right to pony up what could amount to $1 billion and has created an unelected position for himself of real enduring power with no term limits. Karl Rove has become the ultimate party boss." Craig Unger, lay out his rise to power, his fall, and then his rise again.

CRAIG UNGER: Right. Well, I think a lot of people saw him as a creature of the Bush family, and then that was it, and then it was all over in 2008 when Bush left the White House. And that was not the case at all.

And it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s. And there was not much of a Texas Republican Party in those years, partly because Texas had powerful conservative Democrats, like John Connolly and Lloyd Bentsen, so the big business people who normally would give to the Republicans said, "Well, why bother? We’re getting what we want from Connolly and Bentsen." Rove got around that by creating political action committees, and he took an issue that seemed obscure at the time, known as tort reform. It’s giving the rights of people to collect in product liability cases. And he went to Philip Morris, who put him on his payroll, and to big pharmaceutical companies and so forth and said, "Look, you guys risk billions and billions of dollars in product liability. Give a few million to my candidates, and we will take over the Texas Supreme Court, we’ll take over the Texas legislature, we’ll put George W. Bush in as governor, and we will save you billions of dollars." And he did precisely that. And he ended up with—he flipped the—the Texas Supreme Court was completely dominated by Democrats. It became completely Republican. And he ended up with some very loyal campaign contributors, like Bob Perry—who is no relation to Rick Perry—Harold Simmons and so forth. These are Texas billionaires. And they’ve stuck with him for about 30 years. So, that’s really the first phase.

The key moment then came in 2010, and this was the Republican Party was in crisis, as it appears to be again today. And if you—Michael Steele was chairman of the  RNC. And you may remember, in early 2010, there was an episode where Republican donors were being entertained at a lesbian bondage-themed strip club. And—

AMY GOODMAN: In California.

CRAIG UNGER: In California, exactly. And partly as a result of that and other things, big money people just refused to give anything to the Republican Party.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was a time when the Republican—when the  RNCwas broke.

CRAIG UNGER: Absolutely, absolutely. It was also just after a landmark Supreme Court decision,  Citizens United. And this opened the gateways for people to give unlimited contributions to super PACs. And so, Karl Rove had a luncheon at his home in Washington, D.C., on Weaver Terrace. He had about two dozen people there. These were the bigwigs in—it was co-sponsored by Ed Gillespie, who had been former chairman of the  RNC. And he came away with millions and millions of dollars, and this represented the birth of the super  PAC of American Crossroads, Crossroads  GPS and so forth.

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