Author Archives: admin

Gregg Keller launches Missouri Century Foundation

The Washington Examiner is out with a national story on a new c4 public policy organization started by Gregg Keller of Atlas Strategy Group. Keller will serve as Chairman of the Missouri Century Foundation, a Missouri-specific c4 that will busy itself with, among other priorities, stopping Obamacare expansion in the Show-Me State. You can read the full article below.

Gregg Keller Appears on “This Week in Missouri Politics”

Atlas Strategy Group’s Principal, Gregg Keller, appeared as part of a panel discussion on “This Week in Missouri Politics.” The link to the video is below.

Gregg Keller Appears on Stay Tuned StL

Atlas Strategy Group Principal Gregg Keller appeared on “Stay Tuned StL” last night as part of an election wrap-up. The link is below and Keller’s portion begins at around the 30 minute mark.

Gregg Keller interview on St. Louis NPR

I was interviewed this week on St. Louis’ NPR station as part of their Politically Speaking series. The link is after the jump; hope you enjoy it.


Republicans and Conservatives: Be of Good Cheer

Republicans and Conservatives: Be of Good Cheer

By Gregg Keller

Be of good cheer, Republicans and conservatives: the 2016 Presidential slate on our side is shaping up better than you might think. In fact, the list of potential Republican candidates for Commander in Chief stimulates every lobe of both the Republican and the conservative brain. And our reasons for optimism extend to what’s happening with the Democratic field, as well.

Surveying the Republican primary field, one must come to the conclusion that there’s something there for everyone. Searching for a northeasterner capable of energizing business-minded Republicans? I give you Chris Christie. If Gen-X rising stars are your thing, you go with Marco Rubio. Looking for a gubernatorial technocrat and policy wizard? Bobby Jindal. Pull the lever for Rand Paul if you’re a libertarian-leaning conservative. Culture warriors can choose between Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Jeb Bush was a hugely popular big-state Governor with a great story to tell. Conservative true believers are in love with Ted Cruz. Romantics who love a good comeback story can run to Rick Perry, who’s enjoying a renaissance thanks to the bumbling of national Democrats.

If you’re a Republican or a conservative who can’t find someone in this field to like, I’d submit you can’t be pleased.

And what are the prospects for Democrats? I’d submit they aren’t as pretty as the culturally-ascendant Left would have you believe. They have a frontrunner 2 years ahead of Election Day who can’t go anywhere but down in terms of grassroots energy. She has inherent problems with her Party’s base that aren’t going to go away and that, laid bare, guarantee a legitimate challenge from her Left. But Hillary Clinton’s greatest limitations aren’t political: they’re personal. Politicians should be shrewd, calculating and smart. Hillary is certainly all of those things. But they also must have personal skills, be likable and charming. Barack Obama cut right to the heart of her problem in the 2008 debate when he called her “likeable enough.” And that’s her greatest limitation. I’m sorry, but Hillary Clinton just isn’t a good politician. That doesn’t mean she can’t win – she can, and she very well could. But Republicans and conservatives should enter the next Presidential cycle confident that their slate of candidates feature several who can go the distance.

Keller for Schweich

In Auditor Tom Schweich’s 8-day report Gregg Keller’s Atlas Strategy pulls in $4,000. See it here.

Originally in August 11 MOScout

VIDEO: Gregg Keller takes part in televised roundtable re: MO SD 2 Republican primary

I was invited to be on a televised panel the other evening following a debate in Missouri’s 2nd Senatorial District Republican primary. Scott Faughn from the Missouri Times moderated and I was honored to be included with fellow panelists Jane Dueker, Rep. Ron Hicks and Ryan Burke. I hope you can find time to watch the 30-minute discussion; here’s the link:

Political Management Tips

By Gregg Keller
July 22, 2014

One of the greatest things about working in politics is the quick personal bonds you forge with your coworkers under the stress of a difficult campaign. Great, too, is the fact that every two years brings a new campaign and a new batch of talented coworkers to learn from. This year has been especially gratifying from that perspective for me, as I’ve been able to watch two former deputies of mine win high-profile, underdog races. In February I saw a former deputy of mine manage the winning campaign for San Diego mayor. This, despite the fact that registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city. Tonight, I was thrilled to watch another former deputy of mine, this one a hire at a national political nonprofit I used to run, shock the political world by managing the winning campaign in Georgia’s Republican US Senate primary. This win came despite the fact that his candidate was a political novice running against the entire Georgia Republican establishment. The students have, indeed, become the masters.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have been entrusted with responsibility for managing large organizations from a relatively young age. At 28 I managed my first US Senate campaign: a $15 million dollar statewide effort. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to run other large campaigns and political organizations, including two of America’s biggest political nonprofits. Along the way I’ve worked with and overseen some truly talented people. Through those experiences I’ve learned to rely upon a few self-taught management lessons. Among them:

1) Go. Go. Go. A political manager always needs to be moving, always doing things and always seen by their team to be doing things. Every self-help book puts proactivity right at the top of attributes for a successful person. The same is true for political organizations. Embrace your inner spaz. If you saw me in one of my political management roles you’d think I had serious ADHD, as I constantly flitted from one meeting or phone call to another. In politics, that’s what successful management looks like.

2) Over-communication. Embrace it. Live it. My first job in politics was as the Body Man to a US Senate candidate. I drove the car, carried the briefcase, managed the schedule on the road and handled the candidate. It’s still the best job I’ve ever had and since then I’ve had the opportunity to mentor and train a few personal aides myself. One thing I always tell them about keeping the schedule on track when traveling to events with the candidate: there’s no such thing as “on time.” You’re either late or you’re early. So be early. The same is true for internal communications: there’s no such thing as the “right” amount of communication. You’re either over-communicating with your colleagues or under-comunicating with them. The consequences of the former are far easier to bear than those of the latter. So, when communicating with your coworkers, overdo it.

3) Speed kills. The other guy, that is. One of my most painful political memories was working with a statewide candidate, a first-time candidate at that, and watching him put himself through the wringer as to whether or not to sign a particular national conservative group’s Pledge. I wanted him to sign it, but that’s beside the point. The candidate, against my advice, spent two weeks taking advice from anyone he could get on the phone as to whether or not he should sign this particular pledge. That kind of overly-deliberative posture may work in the business world, where you have quarters and even years to make decisions. But in politics decisions must be made quickly. If you make a mistake, make a course correction. But losing political efforts are those that move slowly.

4) Punish sins of omission, not commission. If you’re managing your political team effectively, they’re going to be constantly acting, constantly executing, constantly making decisions. They understand the overall objectives but aren’t waiting on you, the manager, to OK every single tactical decision. The more decisions that are made, the more mistakes will be made. Don’t punish mistakes that result from a proactive stance, except in extreme circumstances of poor judgment. Doing so will kill your team’s spirit. When they commit a sin of commission, talk to them about it, figure out a fix, distribute a hug and move on. In instances when you can’t get someone off the dime to proactively work: that’s when you start throwing furniture. I Don’t Know This Guy`

I Don’t Know This Guy

Democrats in red states are panicking about Obama showing up to campaign for them.

Mark Udall hardly even tried to fake it. In January, after President Obama’s State of the Union address, CNN’s Dana Bash asked the first-term Colorado senator if he wanted the president to campaign in his state. Udall had won his 2008 race by 10 points, and Obama had carried the state twice, which made it all the more perplexing when the senator replied with a nonsensical word salad.

“We’re gonna be running a strong campaign based on Colorado’s interest, Colorado’s future,” said Udall. “My job, I think, is to protect Colorado’s way of life. We’ve got a wonderful way of life.” Meaning? “We’ll see what the president’s schedule is. We’ll see what my schedule is.”

The president arrived in Colorado this week. Udall did not appear with him. “It bothers me a lot,” one liberal Coloradantold a reporter, as she took her place at an Obama rally. Maybe Udall couldn’t believe that he was in a close race with Republican Cory Gardner, a cherub-faced congressman whose brightest moment in the spotlight came when he asked Kathleen Sebelius to defend the“brosurance” health care ad campaign. But Udall’s fear and trembling gave Gardner a week of easy attack lines. In campaigning, as in facing down a bear in the wilderness, it has never been a good idea to broadcast weakness.

So, how should other Democrats behave toward the president? This election year presents them with the most unforgiving Senate map a party has faced in a generation. There are seven seats currently held by Democrats in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012. Republicans only need to win six of those races (and hold on elsewhere) to take the Senate. There are at most two states, Georgia and Kentucky, where Democrats think they have any chance of winning a Republican seat. Romney carried those states too. When asked if she wanted President Obama to stump for her, Kentucky’s Democratic star Alison Lundergan Grimes nonanswered that hers was a “race that’s one about putting the people of this state first.”

Please remember that Mark Udall’s tap dance happened in a state that Barack Obama actually won. Twice! The 2014 election is likely to give us many more moments of gut-wrenching agony and Democrats going all Apostle Peter on the president they universally supported when elected in 2008. Members of the White House political team will grit their teeth and ask low-level campaign staffers if, you know, it would be OK for the commander-in-chief to show up. They will be told to call back in a few days. Often, they will be told, “No thanks, but send money.”

This won’t console the candidates, but they are not the first to find themselves trapped between their voters and an unpopular president. In 1998 and in 2006, both the second midterm years of struggling presidents, lots of candidates agonized over whether to let the most powerful man in the world land his plane near them. Their campaign staffers admit that there’s rarely a scheduling issue so serious as to cancel or skip a historic visit. They advise, mostly, to just let the guy come and campaign.

“There can be scheduling conflicts, but very few are real,” says Bob Shrum. In 1998, he was consulting for Senate candidate John Edwards in North Carolina, a state Bill Clinton had lost twice. “It was the middle of the impeachment stuff, it was a Southern state, and [incumbent Sen.] Lauch Faircloth was running with this predictable stuff—two ‘liberal lawyers,’ Clinton and Edwards.”

The Edwards campaign debated it—should Edwards raise money, in the state, with the soon-to-be-impeached president? They went for it, but they had an angle. Shrum approved ads that mocked Faircloth for his many (often procedural) votes supporting Clinton’s position. Like many Democratic campaigns of that year, Team Edwards went after the Republicans for their overzealous investigations of the president.

This worked, and Edwards won, but none of the incumbent 2014 Democrats are in as strong a position as Edwards was. Their predicament resembles that of Jim Talent, a one-term Republican senator from Missouri who faced re-election in the brutal 2006 cycle. George W. Bush had won Missouri twice, but his numbers had slipped into the rain gutter, and Talent went into the election trailing Democratic recruit Claire McCaskill. The White House called to see if President Bush could show up. The Talent campaign thought it over.

“The thinking was, everyone knows that Talent was a conservative,” remembers Talent’s campaign manager at the time Gregg Keller. “You’re not going to convince folks that the president is some persona non grata. It is what it is. We were looking at numbers and realized we needed a pop in southwest Missouri. The president did rallies in Joplin and Springfield—we had 10,000 people at both.”

The Talent campaign knew something that political scientists would have been happy to tell them. Presidential visits usually help a campaign, even when the president is wildly unpopular. Whether or not a president shows up to campaign, there is nothing stopping a rival from linking a candidate to the president of his party. He can Photoshop them together. The presidential appearance always serves to excite his base, as long as there is a base left to excite.

“I remember at one point being in the meeting where we’re finally making the decision,” says Keller of Bush’s proposed visit. “We have polling memos. We have the pro and con arguments. And I remember someone looking at me and saying, ‘You know what, if Bush comes into Springfield, and if our folks don’t get excited aboutthat, we were never gonna win anyway.’ ”

The visit went well, but the build-up was a little humiliating for the Bush White House. Other campaigns had flat-out refused presidential visits; other campaigns, they didn’t even bother to ask. This autumn will see countless fresh stories about how unpopular Obama is in most of the key states, paired with stories about how the candidates prefer visits by Hillary Clinton, or Bill Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren, or Joe Biden, or Howard Dean—basically, any Democrat who is not the president.

The only candidates who might benefit from an Obama visit are the ones who need to thrill black voters again, as former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland did in 2010. He didn’t win, but after polling as far as 17 points behind now-Gov. John Kasich, he lost by less than 3. The black  share of the electorate, 15 percent, was higher than it had been in 2008.

“I chose to fully embrace the president, and that was the right decision for me,” said Strickland, who now runs the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Yet Strickland would not command his fellow Democrats, or fellow progressives, to show up when the president did. “There may be situations where someone would feel like it would not be helpful. And I’m sure the White House would understand.”

Adelson’s political beneficiaries adopt casino magnate’s cause to ban Internet gambling

The Washington Post

By ,

Published: May 7 E-mail the writer

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, waging a new campaign to ban Internet gambling, is deploying a state-level political network he has been quietly developing over the past few years.

Adelson became a political force in 2012 when he poured more than $90 million into Republican presidential campaigns.

But less noted at the time was Adelson’s largesse in Florida, where he contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political committees supportive of Gov. Rick Scott (R). Adelson also gave $2 million to the Republican Governors Association and directed millions more to candidates for attorney general and other state-level offices across the country.

Many of the beneficiaries of Adelson’s state donations are now siding with the billionaire as he seeks to outlaw a practice he views as a threat to the economic health of the casino industry on which he built his fortune.

Scott, who is facing a competitive reelection campaign this year, sent a letter late last month to congressional leaders at Adelson’s request calling on lawmakers to prevent states from legalizing Internet betting, saying the practice lets gambling “invade the homes of every American family, and be piped in to our dens, living rooms, workplaces and even our kids bedrooms and dorm rooms.”

The efforts by Adelson, who has vowed to play a big role in boosting another Republican for the White House in 2016, reveal the unusual role being played by the GOP mega-donor as he balances a largely conservative ideological agenda with his business interests. In doing so, he has triggered what may become one of the costliest lobbying battles of the year, in Washington and state capitals, as he combats rival gambling companies favoring a move to the Internet.

The expanding debate has prompted Adelson to add Democrats to his orbit of influence.

In recent months, he hired two well-connected California Democrats — former state House speaker Fabian Núñez and longtime party strategist Chris Lehane — as he opposes a bill in Sacramento that would legalize Internet gambling. They join other prominent Democrats on Adelson’s payroll, including former senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.

The bipartisan coalition is designed to help Adelson, who controls Las Vegas Sands Corp., resist a push by rivals such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment to sell state legislators and governors on the expansion of gambling online as a potentially lucrative source of tax revenue. Adelson and his team are shaping an aggressive counteroffensive, with television ads and high-priced lobbyists, to argue that Web-based gambling would hurt children, invite criminal activity and produce little actual revenue for the states.

Adelson is “playing three levels of chess,” Lehane said in an e-mail­, including “mapping the terrain to determine who are the key players; assembling the right team that is purple in terms of overall blend; and focused on the disciplined bi-partisan/non-
partisan message of kids safety.”

The letter sent last month by Scott was a blow to Internet gambling proponents, who see Florida as a potentially large market for the industry and had begun talks with some lawmakers about pushing legislation in Tallahassee.

But Adelson, who has expressed interest in opening a large casino in Miami, forged a rapport with Scott.

Between 2010 and 2012, Adelson contributed $750,000 to committees supporting Scott and his political agenda, according to Florida campaign finance records. That included a $250,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association PAC in Florida, made in September 2010, just before Scott’s election, and two additional $250,000 contributions in June 2012 — one to the Republican Party of Florida and the other to Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s independent political action committee.

A spokesman for Scott declined to comment on his relationship with Adelson.

The same phrasing used in Scott’s letter appeared word for word in letters signed a few weeks earlier by two other Republican governors, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Rick Perry of Texas.

More support came in a newspaper op-ed written earlier this year by Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.), who helped lead the RGA when Adelson made his $2 million donation to the group.

Then, last week, Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) formally expressed his opposition. Like Jindal and Perry, Pence has received Adelson’s financial support — at least indirectly — in the past, and he might be after it again. All three are contemplating running for president in 2016.

“A federal prohibition of Internet gambling is necessary,” Pence wrote in a letter to the Indiana congressional delegation last week. “Otherwise the ability of states like Indiana to prevent and control Internet gambling within its borders, despite our best efforts, will be greatly diminished.”

Close connections

Legalization advocates, who argue that technological safeguards can protect children and ensure an aboveboard industry, have established their own well-funded organization in Washington, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection. The group hired former House Financial Services chairman Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina as consultants. One offshore betting site, PokerStars, has hired former House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) to lobby.

Three states — New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware — have authorized online betting.

Casino executives generally applauded in April 2011 when the Justice Department cracked down on the online poker market, closing three offshore sites in connection with allegations that they had violated the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

More recently, though, amid a decline in revenues for U.S. casinos and an increase in global interest in online betting, the old consensus among the leading casinos has crumbled.

But Adelson, 80, is single-handedly funding the opposition, both by hiring lobbyists and tapping into political relationships forged through time and donations.

The federal legislation to effectively ban Internet gambling is being sponsored by an Adelson beneficiary, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Graham raised nearly $31,000 since 2009 from Adelson family members and Las Vegas Sands employees, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records. Adelson and his wife also hosted a fundraiser in Las Vegas last year for Graham.

The measure, introduced in March by Graham, was initially drafted by a Las Vegas Sands attorney, Darryl Nirenberg, then with the Washington firm of Patton Boggs.

Graham, in a recent appearance, did not shy away from his relationship with the casino magnate, but he rejected the idea that he came to this issue this election year because of Adelson.

“I would say that Sheldon has allied himself with most Baptists in South Carolina,” Graham told reporters recently. “The fact that Sheldon is on board is a good thing — but I am doing this because this is what my governor, my attorney general suggested I do.”

Adelson is also expanding his network to include influential religious groups whose constituencies tend to be anti-gambling.

His coalition now includes about a dozen state chapters of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a national alliance of Christian conservatives headed by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

Adelson has hired two former Faith and Freedom officials, including Gary Marx, a former executive director of the organization. Marx helped build support for legislation that would outlaw Internet gambling.

Reed gained notice for his earlier work on gambling matters during the scandal around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At the time, documents showed that Reed worked with Abramoff to block a proposed ban on Internet gambling, receiving funds indirectly from eLottery, a firm marketing online lottery ticket sales.

Reed declined to comment. Adelson advisers and a spokesman for Reed’s group said Reed was not personally involved in signing up his state affiliates.

Much of Adelson’s focus is in state capitals, where his team is showcasing bipartisan bona fides not traditionally associated with the work of a GOP billionaire.

During recent testimony before a California legislative committee in Sacramento, Adelson’s top adviser, Andy Abboud, took pains to note his agreement on the issue with one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She has signed on to the legislation sponsored by Graham.

“If Sheldon Adelson and Dianne Feinstein can agree on something, it’s time for people to pay attention,” Abboud told the lawmakers.

In Lehane, the California-based Democratic strategist, Adelson has hired a pugnacious advocate with deep ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and other high-level Democrats across the country. As a staffer in the Clinton White House, Lehane authored a famous dossier laying out the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that had mobilized to undermine the administration.

In Pennsylvania, Internet gambling supporters are optimistic. Adelson, however, may have a built-in advantage. Las Vegas Sands runs a large casino on the site of an abandoned steel mill in Bethlehem.

The Sands’s lobbyist in the state Capitol, Joe Uliana, said the Adelson arguments on Internet betting will get a good hearing in Harrisburg, adding: “We have a lot of clout.”