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America Rising: Mitt Romney staffer starting opposition research group

Mitt Romney's campaign manager is joining with two Republican National Committee staffers to form a new conservative opposition research group, America Rising.

Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney's campaign manager and the research director for George W. Bush's 2004 campaign, will reportedly lead the effort, first reported by CNN. He will be joined by RNC research director Joe Pounder and spokesman Tim Miller. 

In its 98-page autopsy of the current Republican party, the RNC called for "an outside group ... that focuses solely on research of Democrats," one that will "establish a private archive and public website that does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information."

Democrats already have a group like this: American Bridge 21st Century. Founded by David Brock, the former conservative behind the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, American Bridge tracked Republican candidates in the field and scoured their public appearances for embarrassing quotes. The group spotted and circulated Rep. Todd Akin's comments on "legitimate rape" and Rep. Steve King's comparison of immigrants to dogs. The group sent mailers to voters highlighting Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's controversial statement on pregnancy and rape.

"We plan to start this enterprise because so many Republicans seem to agree that there is a need on our side of the aisle for an entity that is focused on solely holding Democrats accountable for their actions and records using research, candidate tracking, rapid response and digital tools," Rhoades said in a statement.

On top of its research on potential Democratic 2016 contenders, the group plans to test different dissemination methods for maximum impact. Campaigns will include social media, digital advertising and PR aimed at earned media coverage. The group does not plan to air television ads.

"It doesn't surprise me that Republicans would want to replicate this," American Bridge President Rodell Mollineau said, warning that "it's not as easy as it looks."

America Rising will be divided into a super PAC and a limited liability company with clients; the latter would be legally capable of working with campaigns and committees. American Bridge is divided into a super PAC and a nonprofit 501(c)(4) foundation that does not have to disclose its donors.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the group was "excited about the efforts of groups like America Rises that will further strengthen the future of the Republican Party." The RNC is also expanding its research operation going into the 2014 elections.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.



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