Aegis Strategic & Aegis PAC
- Location: Arlington, VA
- Tax-Exempt Status: For-Profit
- Website: http://aegis-strategic.com/
Aegis PAC was “a project of Aegis Strategic, whose mission is to help establish America as a country of freedom and opportunity for all citizens by identifying and working to elect principled leader committed to promoting a free and prosperous America.” The Aegis Groups were “founded with the blessing” of the Koch brothers’ political advisers, according to Politico. Aegis’s staff was almost entirely composed of former and current employees of the Koch network, and according to the Politico article, “its consulting contract with Freedom Partners provides most of its revenue.”
Mother Jones speculated that the impetus for the creation of Aegis Strategic emerged from a Freedom Partners donor summit, where a major “topic of conversation was ‘candidate recruitment and training’… A little over a month later, corporate records show, Aegis Strategic was officially incorporated in Delaware.”
Aegis Strategic reportedly planned “to handpick local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs’ free-market, limited-government agenda, and groom them to win elections.” In terms of those candidates, Aegis confirmed to Politico that it would target Republican incumbents, saying “we do look for opportunities and we relish opportunities to find unprincipled incumbents who aren’t adhering to free-market principles who could be challenged and who we could replace with a better vote.”
The candidates that Aegis identifies supposedly would have “access to the Kochs’ formidable donor network.” Aegis president Jeff Crank “acknowledged that some candidates seek out his firm” specifically because of its ties to the Koch network. And this decision pays off for those candidates – Politico detailed how Crank moderated a panel at a Koch conference in 2014 featuring GOP Senate hopefuls Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, and Cory Gardner to discuss how “third party groups in the network” were making “a big difference” in their campaigns. The three candidates then each collected more than $60,000 from a joint fundraising committee, Victory Trust 2014, set up by Aegis for the conference.
Mother Jones argues that Aegis “comes across as an effort by the Koch brothers’ allies to bring in-house the business of campaigns. On its website, Aegis bills itself as a one-stop shop… offering candidates such services as opposition research, fundraising, direct mail, TV/radio/cable advertisements, phone banking, data management, and social media.” It’s apparent that Aegis also sets up “dark money” groups to support its clients – Trees of Liberty to boost Joni Ernst’s bid for Senate, and Citizens for a Sound Government to help Hal Heiner’s bid for Kentucky Governor are two known examples. In both those instances, the groups ran negative advertisements against fellow Republicans.
Aegis PAC, meanwhile was a project to funnel grassroots fundraising money to Aegis Strategic’s preferred candidates. As the AegisPAC website states, “Not all Republicans are worth electing and not all races are competitive.” A donation form by Aegis PAC reveals that “contributions made through AegisPAC will be transmitted directly to the designated candidates for federal and state offices.” For the 2016 cycle, those candidates included Koch-favorite Sens. Patrick Toomey and Ron Johnson. AegisPAC also supported Pam Tucker (whom it was aggressively recruiting to run for embattled GOP Rep. Frank Guinta’s seat, including flying her to DC to meet with the Kochs’ Mercatus Center, per Politico) John Faso, Jim Banks, Lee Zeldin and Don Bacon for the House of Representatives; Greg Gianforte and Bill Cole in governors’ races; and Josh Hawley for Missouri State Attorney General.
Aegis Strategic president Jeff Crank was formerly the Chief Operating Officer for Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Aegis’s COO was Alan Philp, and while, unlike most other Aegis Staffers, his bio mentions no Koch ties, Philp has an extensive history of heading Koch-backed organizations, including leading two groups supporting Hal Heiner’s failed gubernatorial bid in Kentucky. Politico confirmed that Aegis was active in setting up at least one of those groups. In the early 90’s, Philp was an adjunct scholar at the Mackinac Center, a State Policy Network member.
Aegis’s lead strategist, Karl Crow, co-founded i360, the Kochs’ for-profit data operation, after graduating from the Koch Associate Program and working for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, where he focused on “how political advocates for economic freedom are identified, trained and promoted,” foreshadowing his work at Aegis. Crow created Trees of Liberty, a dark money 501(c)4 non-profit which attacked Sen. Joni Ernst’s GOP primary rivals and which shares an address with Aegis, according to Politico.
Brad Stevens, Aegis’ Director of Candidate Identification, previously worked as a state director for Americans for Prosperity, and was a National Advisory Committee Member. Joe Burgan, who works on Candidate Identification as well, was Hal Heiner’s campaign manager when he ran for mayor, prior to the Kochs failed attempt to boost his gubernatorial campaign. Aegis’s Political Analyst, Aaron Greenberg, previously worked as an assistant to the Vice President for the Leadership Institute. And Director of Development Tommy von der Heydt “also serves as the Deputy Director of Member Relations for Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce” and previously worked as a senior development officer at AFP.