By Alexander Burns
A top strategist for the American Conservative Union is leaving the prominent activist group to strike out independently as a political consultant.
Gregg Keller, who served as Mitt Romney’s national coalitions director in 2008 and managed former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent’s 2006 campaign, is founding a firm dubbed Atlas Strategy Group. The company aims to give strategic advice to private and nonprofit organizations, as well as to political campaigns.
Keller said he will continue to advise the ACU – which hosts CPAC, the national conservative cattle-call event – as an outside consultant but had decided to step down as executive director in order to launch a business of his own.
“Atlas Strategy Group will help corporations and associations navigate center-right public policy,” Keller told POLITICO. “In a polarized political landscape, center-right coalition building is more important every day; we’ll help these large organizations know who they should be talking to and how to craft a strategy to work with conservatives to achieve their shared goals.”
During Keller’s three-year tenure at ACU, the right-leaning group expanded its fundraising and branched out to begin hosting regional CPAC gatherings in cities such as Denver, Orlando and St. Louis. A part-time Missouri resident, Keller came on board after a newly appointed ACU chairman, former Florida GOP Chair Al Cardenas, vowed to revitalize the sometimes-dusty grassroots organization.
Prior to joining the ACU, Keller was executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the social conservative group founded during the 2010 cycle by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed.
Keller said he has already made several hires for Atlas Strategy Group and plans to announce them at a later date. The company will offer both fundraising and communications consulting, as well as coalition-building services to marshal public support for clients’ causes.
He does not anticipate building a large payroll and described the firm as part of a larger, industry-wide shift away from big, corporate outfits with high overhead costs.
Though Keller said he will keep working with the ACU, the turnover at the top of the group raises the prospect of other strategic changes at the organization. Cardenas previously announced that Dan Scheider, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and strongly conservative former Kansas Rep. Jim Ryun, was taking over the executive director job from Keller.