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RNC Growth And Opportunity Project Report Advises Super PACs

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WASHINGTON -- Spend less on negative advertising and spend more on ground game. Target young voters, especially young women. Build a national database that includes email and cell phone numbers. And, above all else, learn to work together.

These were all suggestions in the Republican National Committee's (RNC) 100-page Growth and Opportunity Project report released on Monday, detailing what went wrong in the 2012 election and how to set the party in the right direction for future elections. Except these were not recommendations for the RNC, but recommendations by the RNC for the network of independent political groups that have exploded in size and number since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling opened the door for unlimited independent spending.

The litany of suggestions are notable in this very public report because election law forbids the GOP from certain crucial types of private coordination with these groups. By publicly airing its recommendations, the RNC can legally pass on suggestions to groups from Karl Rove's Crossroads to the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and even the insurgent Club for Growth -- suggestions that include spending and tactical advice that would otherwise be against the law if shared privately.

In fact, the selective public sharing of information to get around the private coordination ban is one of the RNC's suggestions. "Until the laws change, we have to do a better job of making the right things public," the report says, with a hint of the GOP's call for the repeal of most campaign finance regulation, which was also previously stated in the 2012 Republican Party platform.

The push for selective publicity of certain information -- messaging, opposition research, tactical decisions -- is just an extension of the main message the report has for "Friends & Allies": cooperation. But cooperation with an understanding that the RNC sits at the head of the table.

"While there are legal limits to how we work together, we need to take a lesson from how the other side collaborated in 2012 and make sure we are in harmony on general strategy and party-building efforts," the report states.

To do this, "The RNC needs to sit down with various players and determine, as the law allows, who is doing what. Only the RNC can serve this role, and it is certainly one of the challenges in operating in the current environment."

What those groups should be doing, according to the report, is investing in a ground game by putting more effort into voter contact and registration and reaching out to communities that have been turned off by the party's recent image, including youth, women, Latinos and African-Americans.

The report calls attention to an initiative by the American Action Network, one of the largest independent nonprofits involved in political activity, and the Republican Governors Association "on a Hispanic microtargeting effort to acquire real data that could prove constructive in campaigns going forward. This is the sort of innovation with our friends and allies that we want to encourage."

"The Network's made multiple ahead-of-the-curve investments over the last years to strengthen the center-right movement and we're glad to see similar investments advocated for in today's report," American Action Network spokesman Dan Conston told The Huffington Post.

Other recommendations in the report were more critical of the practices of the independent conservative network. The first such suggestion blasts the largest expense incurred by nearly all of the major independent groups, stating, "Simply put, TV spending is out of control."

The biggest spenders on television advertising during the 2012 election were American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, a duo founded by Rove and other top Republican strategists. Crossroads and its profligate television spending became one of the biggest targets after the election's many failures for Republicans.

"Outside groups, along with the RNC, did spend a lot on TV -- but against the backdrop of Obama running literally twice as many TV ads as Romney," Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio wrote in an email to HuffPost. "Crossroads would have dedicated more resources to other platforms had that disparity not been so great."

Collegio stated that Crossroads endorsed the report's recommendations, and specifically, the report's call for more transparency between donors and the consultants running the groups about how the money is being spent, something that Collegio says Crossroads already practices.

"We endorse the RNC's recommendations that decision-makers should not have a financial incentive to choose one activity (such as TV) over another, and that all groups (including parties and campaigns) should be transparent with donors about consulting fees, conflicts of interest and incentives," Collegio wrote.

One of the most interesting recommendations in the RNC report is its call for the creation of a new independent group in the mold of American Bridge 21st Century, an opposition research and tracking super PAC that served during the 2012 election as the temporal lobe of a network of independent progressive groups.

"Well-funded conservative groups should seek to hire activists to track Democrat incumbents and candidates with video cameras constantly recording their every movement, utterance, and action," the report says, explaining the need to replicate the model of groups like American Bridge. "Within the applicable legal constraints, we need to create our own video content, bank it, and release it when it suits our candidates' needs."

"An allied group dedicated solely to research to establish a private archive and public website that does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats would serve as an effective vehicle for affecting the public issue debate," the report continues.

Chris Harris, spokesman for American Bridge, sent HuffPost a simple message in response to the RNC's stated desire to copy work such as theirs: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

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