The Rove brand was tarnished in 2006, when Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate. His exit from the White House the following year was dogged by scandals, from the political firing of U.S. attorneys to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. And with his longtime enemy John McCain serving as the party’s standard-bearer in 2008, Rove could only sit by and watch as the fearsome big-money machine he built over the course of a decade – his political Death Star – was blasted out of orbit by an insurgent Obama campaign powered by hundreds of millions in small-dollar donations. The linchpin of Rove’s coup is American Crossroads – a shadow version of the RNC for the party’s richest donors. Organized under the same part of the tax code that gave us Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the fundraising group can collect unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. Before the Citizens United decision rewrote the rules of campaign finance, these so-called “independent expenditures” could only be used to support issues, not candidates. But now groups like American Crossroads can use their funds to openly back GOP candidates – or quietly work to destroy Democratic opponents by investing in the dirty tricks of which Rove is a Jedi master.
He’s ready for another close-up.