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Tuesday, 30 July 2013 06:54

Conservatives, Super-Conservatives, and These Guys: Meet "Groundswell"

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CommiesFINALThere's a new right-wing super group in Washington, D.C. and it aims to out conservative any other conservative group currently operational. Groundswell is a newly organized conservative effort to combat progressives, the Obama administration, Congressional RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), and the evil machinations of Karl Rove. As David Corn recently reported in Mother Jones, its participants have "been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for 'a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation.'"

What might separate Groundswell from other long-term like-minded entities is its apparent commitment to action. A key to the group's success will be how quickly, broadly and effectively it will be able to craft and dispenses an assortment of messages.

Inadequate messaging and an anemic social media presence were two of the major problem areas outlined in the Republican Party's post-presidential election "autopsy." To reckon with this, Groundswell has brought on board a number of reliably conservative journalists who apparently will help craft anti-Obama memes, themes, and talking points, and distribute them across an assortment of social media platforms.

According to Corn, through "hush-hush sessions and ... a Google group," Groundswell is "devis[ing] strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism." They are also apparently trying "to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP ├╝ber-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks."

The group, which meets weekly at the offices of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog, includes Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller, a tea party consultant and lobbyist, and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women's Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas); and several journalists associated with the Breitbart News Network, the Washington Examiner and National Review.

"A certain amount of secrecy cloaks Groundswell's efforts," Corn reported. "Though members have been encouraged to zap out tweets with a #GSW hashtag, a message circulated to members of its Google group noted that the role of certain advocates should be kept 'off of the Google group for OPSEC [operational security] reasons.' This 'will avoid any potential for bad press for someone if a communication item is leaked,' the message explained." According to Corn, "The Groundswell documents were provided to Mother Jones by a source who had access to its Google group page and who has asked not to be identified."

A document obtained by Mother Jones titled "Notes from March 27, 2013," contained a list of "Action Items," which included Immigration, Obamacare, Guns, National Security, Elections, Perez Nomination, Boy Scouts, Benghazi, New Idea: State Outreach. RNC Autopsy, and Rage Against the Media.

The March 27 document also summarized the group's beginnings:

"Groundswell evolved out of conversations among conservative leaders after the November elections. This is the eighth meeting. Now others are asking to be included. Growth needs to be strategic; it should be made up of senior level people willing to collaborate. It is important to keep a balance of social conservatives, national security conservatives, and constitutional conservatives. Outreach has occurred to incorporate groups with extensive reach: Heritage, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, AFP [Americans for Prosperity], FRC [Family Research Council] and the NRA, among others...Our country is in peril. This is a critical moment needing critical leadership. We want to protect the strategic collaboration occurring at Groundswell and build on it. Please be careful about bringing guests and clear them ahead of time."

According to Corn, "Several conservative journalists have enthusiastically participated in Groundswell's deliberations," including Mark Tapscott, executive editor of the Washington Examiner, and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon and Matthew Boyle. (Tapscott told Mother Jones that he decided to no longer participate in Groundswell after attending a few meetings.)

Boyle, however, appears to be fully committed. He "sent a message to Groundswell members seeking tips and offering to help shape stories Groundswellers wanted to disseminate: 'I'm saying we can get pieces out fast on Breitbart. Whenever you have an idea, email or call me with a pitch and I'll do my best to get the story out there. Keep us on offense, them on defense. Even if the idea isn't perfect, I can help massage it to get there.'"

Other than their weekly meetings, Groundswellers use their Google group to share information, ideas, talking points, and accomplishments. And there's no limit on kooky suggestions.

One suggestion that isn't so kooky was rendered by Steven Sutton, vice president of development for the conservative Leadership Institute and a former chief of staff to several House GOPers. Corn reported that Sutton suggested Groundswell organize a "strategic message development project."

"What is needed," he wrote, "is an umbrella thematic message under which each specific issue can be magnified and maximized. For those familiar with it, this is an extension and development of the Leesburg Grid (which the Left has co-opted and now uses extensively, and the Right has ignored and allowed to fall into disuse.)"

Sutton came up with "four main themes: Obama and liberal policies fail; Obama and liberal policies make things worse; there is a lack of leadership in the White House; and Obama 'puts politics ahead of people/our country/America.' These themes, he contended, 'are best used sequentially, rather than randomly/haphazardly/isolated...The most important thing is to think thematically and drive these messages.'"

(Photo: Catechetical Guild)