NRCC Veteran Walsh to Lead GOP Outside Group

by Nathan L. Gonzales April 12, 2011 · 9:00 AM EDT

Former National Republican Congressional Committee Political Director Brian O. Walsh will be the new president of American Action Network.

Starting today, he’ll head up a powerful outside group that spent $26 million on races last election cycle.

The New Jersey native comes off three election cycles at the NRCC, where he was deputy director of incumbent retention (2005), deputy political director and national field director (2007-08) and, most recently, political director for the 2010 elections.

Walsh was also political director for Republican Tom Kean Jr.’s Senate campaign in New Jersey in 2006 and managed the re-election race of then-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) in New York in 2004. He served as chief of staff to former Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and as an aide to former Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.).

American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) and self-described “action tank” co-founded by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) almost a year ago. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), will continue to be president of American Action Forum, a 501(c)(3) and sister organization of American Action Network.

“The network has shown it has the ability to have a meaningful impact across a broad spectrum of public policy challenges,” said Walsh, who was attracted to the group’s commitment to longer-term goals such as reaching out to the Hispanic community through the Hispanic Leadership Network.

American Action Network was formed, in part, as a Republican version of the liberal Center for American Progress, with multiple arms in policy and advocacy.

After the influence of spending from outside GOP groups such as American Action Network, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS in the 2010 elections, Democrats are following suit.

Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, former chief of staff to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are forming their own independent expenditure group to aid President Barack Obama’s re-election, according to an initial report in the Los Angeles Times. Emanuel, Burton and Sweeney also worked together at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 election cycle.

Other Democratic “super political action committees” are in the beginning stages, including Majority PAC and its sister organization, Patriot Majority USA, a 501(c)(4) led by Majority Leader Harry Reid’s former chief of staff, Susan McCue, former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive directors J.B. Poersch and Jim Jordan, and veteran political operative Monica Dixon.

Another former Reid aide, Rodell Mollineau, will lead another outside group, American Bridge 21st Century, and its sister organization.

Super PACs disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission and accept contributions over the federal limits but cannot directly coordinate with candidates. A 501(c)(4), named after a provision in the tax code, is a nonprofit organization that does not have to disclose its donors.