New Republican Group Sparks Worries About Party’s Future

April 16, 2010 8:04 a.m.

There is growing worry that a mysterious new Republican political action committee formed by Bush-era heavyweights including Karl Rove could harm the Republican National Committee down the line. As we’ve been reporting about the RNC’s woes and chairman Michael Steele’s tenure, more and more GOPers tell me that Rove’s new “American Crossroads” group spells trouble.

“That is very destructive to the party,” a former very high-ranking RNC official told me in an interview today. The official said the group, which already has $30 million in donor pledges but does not seem to have an active Web site, will have broad implications for the RNC if it is successful during this election cycle.

The former official told me that my story about Steele sparring with Rove and his allies offers a glimpse at where the new group is headed. “They are gathering the sinews of power and drawing off RNC resources. If they have the power, the party will have to turn back to them for leadership,” he said.As I reported yesterday, Steele allies believe that he didn’t do himself any favors by clearing house of the nearly 100 RNC staffers when he took the helm in 2009. They suggested the Bush-era consultants and staffers who were booted may have fanned the flames of the anti-Steele political fire ignited when spending reports showed a $2,000 tab at a bondage-themed nightclub.

As Steele’s problems picked up steam in recent weeks, American Crossroads formed and generated buzz — though those involved with the group say privately there is nothing to worry about. In addition to Rove, former RNC Chairmen Mike Duncan and Ed Gillespie are on board. An RNC spokesman also told me that these groups “will help all Republicans as we move towards November. But it comes as top Republicans like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council are encouraging donors to put their money into other groups. Other GOPers say there has been an uptick in donations and new members joining outside political groups and the campaign committees.

If Rove and his team do raise the cash they are boasting about, the RNC will run out of money and the old Bush team will be controlling the finances of the party, the official griped. That may leave top donors looking to American Crossroads and others instead of to the national party in future cycles.

“This is drawing [donors] away from the party and into something else, and its very formation is communicating to the donors nationally that there is no confidence in the Republican party,” the former official said. He suggested this would allow the RNC’s donor base to atrophy and put the next chairman in a position of needing to completely rebuild.

Several other RNC members and GOP operatives told me about similar concerns in recent days, and one specifically suggested that Gillespie is aiming to lead the next Republican convention in 2012.

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