One Nation is a 501(c)(4) dark money group “masterminded” by Republican strategist Karl Rove as part of his network of conservative advocacy and fundraising groups. The group ramped up its spending for the 2020 election and became one of the top outside spenders, injecting nearly $200 million into ad campaigns and the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund.
One Nation president and CEO Steven Law has held numerous leadership roles in the conservative fundraising and advocacy sphere. He previously served as Sen. Mitch McConnell’s chief of staff and is the current president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC aligned with McConnell. In addition to One Nation, Law has served as president of two other Karl Rove-affiliated groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
In 2020, Law’s salary at One Nation was over $568,000.
One Nation secretary and treasurer Caleb Crosby is a Republican dark money operative and “former Karl Rove deputy.” Crosby served as a campaign aide to former Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and was a “veteran of the George W. Bush administration.” As of November 2022, Crosby is a principal officer for six active entities, including One Nation.
Crosby serves as the treasurer of:
Crosby also runs The Crosby Ottenhoff Group political consulting firm with fellow Republican operative Benjamin Ottenhoff. According to FEC filings, the company is a popular choice among Republican candidates, raking in over $3.1 million from federal candidates and committees since 2020. In 2021, One Nation paid the Crosby Ottenhoff Group $105,000.
Crosby is the president of the libertarian think tank, the Alabama Policy Institute, which advocates for limited government and anti-regulatory policies. API opposes same-sex marriage, claiming that the anti-discrimination policy will lead to the “unraveling of traditional marriage” and represents “liberalizing social conventions.”
One Nation board member Bobby Burchfield is a long-time attorney who has spent his career representing conservative interests. In addition to his role at One Nation, Burchfield has served as board chair of another Rove group, Crossroads GPS.
In 2003, Burchfield represented Sen. Mitch McConnell in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, in which McConnell and conservative groups challenged the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act passed the previous year.
Burchfield also delivered oral arguments on behalf of Mitch McConnell in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission in 2014. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling struck down the aggregate limits on the amount an individual can contribute to federal candidates, parties, and PACs during a two-year period. The court ruled 5-4 that the limits are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
One Nation board member Sally Vastola is one of the GOP’s “revolving door personnel,” having served in high-level positions for Republican members of Congress and lobbying firms. Vastola has also served on the board of Crossroads GPS.
Former Pfizer lobbyist Ken Cole was added to One Nation’s board in 2019. Cole has also served on the Chamber of Commerce board since at least 2015. The Intercept pointed out that Pfizer and the Chamber of Commerce have both “lobbied against bills that would lower drug prices.”
One Nation chief operating officer Jennifer Fay has also served as the COO of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS since 2011. Fay is a former lobbyist and congressional staffer.
Conservative operative and public affairs specialist Ian Prior is the spokesperson for One Nation. Prior has also served as the spokesperson for other Karl Rove-linked groups, including American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, and the Senate Leadership Fund.
One Nation was originally registered as a 501(c)(4) in 2010 as Alliance for America’s Future, a group founded by political consultants Kara Ahern and Barry Bennett. Bennett later became a senior adviser to Donald Trump. At the time it was founded, Alliance for America’s Future was linked to Dick Cheney through his wife, Mary Cheney, who served as AAF’s secretary and treasurer.
Republican strategist Karl Rove took over the organization in 2015 and rebranded it as One Nation.
When it was founded in 2015, One Nation’s sole mission was to support Republican Senate candidates in the 2016 elections, when the GOP had to “defend twice as many seats as Democrats.”
In October 2016, CREW alleged that One Nation was abusing a loophole in FEC rules that allows organizations to skirt around the reporting requirements for internet political ads.
One Nation focused on U.S. Senate races during the 2018 midterms, raising $17 million in 2017 and $58 million in 2018 to fund these efforts. Of the $64.1 million the group spent in 2018, $3.8 million of that went to other right-wing groups.
In 2018, One Nation gave $18.6 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, which ended up spending $95 million boosting Senate Republicans throughout the 2018 cycle.
One Nation’s other 2018 donations included a $250,000 grant to Citizens for a Working America, a “little-known dark money group” that “[bankrolled] several groups that launched multimillion-dollar ad campaigns in federal and state elections,” and $1 million to the dark money group American Economic Freedom Alliance.
One Nation also donated $500,000 to the National Rifle Association in 2017.
One Nation’s spending activity exploded in 2020 when it raised $172 million and spent a staggering $195 million — a drastic increase from its 2019 expenses, which totaled $20 million. The organization’s funding spree was supported by several eight-figure contributions from anonymous donors, including a $33 million contribution.
The group also spent more than $97 million on issue advocacy campaigns. Of that total, $79.6 million was paid to two media firms also employed by the Senate Leadership Fund: Main Street Media Group and Mentzer Media Services. Additionally, One Nation gave large grants to several right-wing nonprofits in 2020, including Unite for Colorado, the American Exceptionalism Institute, and Crossroads GPS.
One Nation continued to amplify its spending in the 2022 election cycle, with particular attention on the U.S. Senate races in battleground states such as New Hampshire, Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia, Montana, and Georgia. According to FEC reports, One Nation gave a total of $53 million to the SLF between December 2021 and September 2022, which the group could then use on its own attack ads.
Many of the ads One Nation aired in 2021 focused on Democratic senators’ support of the For the People Act, which would have made major expansions to voting rights. One Nation characterized the historic bill as “partisan power grab legislation.”
The group also led campaigns on energy issues, including several ads targeted at Wisconsin residents above age 35 that encouraged citizens to tell Republican Senator Ron Johnson to fight for the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
As in previous elections, One Nation took advantage of the FEC’s internet ads loophole in the weeks leading up to the 2022 general election. After the “electioneering communications” window opened on September. 8th, One Nation spent $3.86 million on 161 Google ad placements in the weeks leading up to November 8th, Additionally, New York University’s Ad Observatory reported that One Nation spent an additional $629,000 to run ads on platforms owned by Meta. Under current law, One Nation was not required to report spending on any of these ads to the FEC.
One Nation did not give out any grants to other organizations in 2021, except for one payment to its affiliated group Crossroads GPS, which received $900,000.
While One Nation’s public activities primarily focus on targeting Democratic senators, the group has also joined the right-wing campaign against “critical race theory.” Conservative groups have increasingly used a manufactured panic about CRT to incite fear and anger towards Democrats over schools’ efforts to increase equity and educate students about social issues like racism.
One Nation has given several million dollars to anti-abortion groups pushing for more restrictive abortion laws – including $1.9 million to the Susan B. Anthony List and $500,000 to the National Right to Life between 2016 and 2019. The Susan B. Anthony List ramped up its activity at the federal level during the 2018 midterms, spending $2.4 million to back congressional Republicans. In 2016, the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Right to Life were the only two groups that received grants from One Nation.
One Nation has close ties to congressional Republicans’ main super PACs – the Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund. SLF is aligned with Sen. Mitch McConnell, while CLF is “closely affiliated” with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
Of the nearly $200 million One Nation spent in 2020, $77 million went to the Senate Leadership Fund. That same year, the SLF paid One Nation $2.1 million. In 2021, One Nation paid the SLF $14.4 million.
One Nation exists in an interlocking web of dark money groups and media companies tied to long-time Republican strategist, Karl Rove. Operating under Rove’s “Crossroads” brand, these organizations shuffle funds within the network to advance Republican candidates and their far-right agenda.
Rove helped create several groups under the “Crossroads” umbrella, including a 527 advocacy group called American Crossroads, a 501(c)(4) called Crossroads GPS, and the conservative media group Crossroads Media. In addition to these “Crossroads” groups, One Nation is closely tied to the popular conservative media services firm, Main Street Media Group.
American Crossroads is a deep-pocketed super PAC founded in 2010 by Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, both of whom served in the Bush administration.
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies — commonly referred to as Crossroads GPS — is a 501(c)(4) spinoff of the 527 organization American Crossroads.
The leadership and staff of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are almost identical to One Nation’s.
One Nation’s primary media services vendor is Main Street Media Group, a Virginia-based firm founded by former Trump administration communications aide, Mike Dubke. In 2001, Dubke founded MSMG and two other conservative media services companies, Crossroads Media and Herd Media, with MSMG becoming “one of the go-to firms on the national scene for both political candidates and corporations.” One Nation paid Main Street Media Group $12.5 million in 2021, $57.3 million in 2020, $6.6 million in 2019, $28.5 million in 2018, and $1.7 million in 2017.
Main Street Media Group handles ad purchases for Crossroads Media, another media firm tied to Karl Rove that “lies at the center of a web of powerful conservative media firms and political committees.”
One of Main Street Media Group’s top clients is American Crossroads, which paid MSMG over $70 million in the 2020 election cycle and $5.9 million in the 2022 midterm cycle. Additionally, the Senate Leadership Fund paid MSMG $125 million and $158 million in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, respectively.
Additionally, Main Street Media Group is tied to Rove’s Crossroads network through its staff.
One Nation’s primary legal services contractor is the law firm Holtzman Vogel Baran Josefiak Torchinsky. Holtzman Vogel is a boutique law firm that represents “some of the nation’s largest super PACs and their related nonprofits” on the conservative side, including American Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, the Honest Elections Project, the BH Fund, the Freedom and Opportunity Fund, and American Engaged. With the influx of money in politics following the 2010 Citizens United decision, Holtzman Vogel “became one of the premier legal shops to help the PACs distribute their largesse.”
As a 501(c)(4) organization, One Nation is not required to disclose its donors and is allowed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from anonymous funding sources. There is little information available about One Nation’s donors, but reporting and publicly available documents give insight into some of its supporters.