By Matea Gold, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — Republican uber-strategist Karl Rove joked about murdering a Missouri Senate candidate who made controversial remarks about rape and revealed his strategy for persuading independent voters to turn against President Barack Obama in a private briefing for top GOP donors that was infiltrated by a Bloomberg reporter.
Rove’s remarks, part of a briefing Thursday at the Tampa Club during the Republican National Convention, provided a window into the secretive political operation of the conservative “super PAC” American Crossroads and its sister nonprofit group, Crossroads GPS, both co-founded by the former Bush adviser.
The session was reported on by Bloomberg’s Sheelah Kolhatkar, who wrote that she attended the event at the invitation of a significant Republican donor. She said she gave her name and was allowed in the session.
“At no point was I presented with, or did I agree to, restrictions regarding the information I heard,” she wrote. “Upon my arrival at the breakfast, I was not asked if I was a journalist.”
Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said Kolhatkar gained access to the meeting by not appropriately identifying herself.
“Bloomberg’s reporter unethically misrepresented herself to gain access to a private meeting, while reporters who followed the (Society of Professional Journalists) code of ethics were turned away,” he said in a statement.
In a response to a request for comment, Kolhatkar emailed, “It happened exactly as we reported it.”
The SPJ code of ethics states that journalists should “avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.”
The donor briefing Kolhatkar attended showed Rove in his purest form: candid and wonky.
Rove told the gathering of 70 top donors, which included billionaires and hedge fund managers such as John Paulson, that focus groups and polls show that attacking Obama as a “a far-out left-winger” does not persuade independent voters.
“If you keep it focused on the facts and adopt a respectful tone, then they’re gonna agree with you,” Rove said, according to Bloomberg.
At one point, he joked about taking out Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, whose assertion that women rarely get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” have caused Republicans no end of grief.
“We should sink Todd Akin,” Rove quipped. “If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”
The FBI recently opened an investigation into a threat against Akin, a Missouri congressman.
“I’m sure Karl misspoke,” said Akin spokesman Rick Tyler. “But we forgive him.”
Rove also told the assembled crowd that the two Crossroads groups aimed to spend more than $300 million in 2012, with $200 million for the presidential race, $70 million for the Senate and $32 million for the House.
Crossroads president Steven Law asked the donors to ante up with more contributions, saying they were two-thirds of the way to their goal.