Santorum’s New Iowa Staffers Have Ties To Shadowy Conservative Advocacy Group

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Rick Santorum announced two new hires in Iowa today — and though those new hires are veteran Republican operatives in Iowa, they both also have ties to a shadowy conservative group that tried to undermine robocall laws during the midterm election, and spent millions on attack ads against Democrats.In another sign that he’s gunning for a run for president in 2012, Santorum announced that he’s bringing on veteran Republican strategists Nick Ryan and Jill Latham, both currently with the Des Moines based Concordia Group. Ryan founded and is now President of the group.

According to CNN:

Ryan served from 1999 to 2006 as a top political advisor for Rep. Jim Nussle and ran three successful congressional campaigns in Eastern Iowa. He is also the founder of the American Future Fund, an advocacy group formed to advance conservative and free market ideals.

Latham served as Iowa Political Director for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. Among other things, she also worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin from 2005 to 2006.

But Ryan and Latham were also involved with the American Future Fund, a group that made a bid in late 2009 to circumvent state robocalling laws, as part of its own planned robocalling campaign for the 2010 elections.

As Zack Roth reported in November 2009:

As for AFF itself, the group already has earned a reputation for trafficking in vicious and misleading shots against Democrats. A typical recent ad alleged that the government “planned to give flu shots to detainees at Guantanamo.”

It also has worked closely with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks to help promote the Tea Party rallies against health-care reform. Republican heavy-hitters Jan Van Lohuizen, Ed Tobin, Ben Ginsberg are all reportedly involved with the group.

TPM reported in November ’09 that, at the time, the Des Moines Register referred to Ryan as the chair of AFF’s board. But contact info on the AFF website (and on its 990) go to the Concordia Group. And Latham had been listed as contact on a press release for the AFF.

AFF is a 501c4, so it’s allowed to keep its donors under wraps.

Right Wing Watch also points out that AFF was behind one particularly dirty ad, attacking Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) for saying the “Ground Zero Mosque” is a local issue. “For centuries Muslims built mosques where they won military victories. Now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero.”

Watch:

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