America Rising is a for-profit group which is the unofficial research arm of the Republican Party. Organized under the direction of former RNC opposition research specialist and Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and RNC communication strategists Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, Rising was launched in response to the 2012 GOP autopsy’s call for a “well-funded” research and video tracking organization that would do “nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats.” America Rising was organized into two parts, giving the organization the ability to provide its materials and talk back and forth with outside groups because of its tax status:  “a super PAC that aims to spread negative stories about Democrats through digital channels and earned media, and a limited liability corporation that houses a video library to be shared with GOP candidates, the RNC and other right-leaning groups.”

Rising had a budget of about $8 million for the 2014 election cycle and reportedly aimed to nearly double that for the 2016 cycle. Through July 2016, Rising’s main customer was the Republican National Committee which paid nearly a quarter million dollars with additional six figure payments also coming from Senate Leadership Fund and Friend of Pat Toomey. Rising had 59 large contributors in the 2016 cycle, led by Paul Singer at a quarter million dollars.

In the 2014 midterm elections, footage from America Rising was used in more than a hundred Republican ads. Rising was focused on the 2016 presidential election from its very beginning, launching a “Stop Hillary 2016” fundraising effort  in 2013 and launching an anti-Clinton website. Rising hired Republican strategist Christine Matthews to conduct focus groups testing the Bill Clinton sex scandals, including Hillary Clinton’s role in allegedly “enabling” her husband or threatening the “other” women. In 2016, Rising launched an app providing users with adversarial questions to ask Democratic candidates at political events which it highlighted for users.

In 2014, the America Rising super PAC launched a 501(c)4, America Rising Squared or AR2, with America Rising president Joe Pounder leading concurrently as the new organization’s executive director. Pounder quickly left however to be a senior adviser for Marco Rubio and was replaced by former Communications Director to U.S. Senator John McCain Brian Rogers. AR2 has focused on right leaning issue campaigns centering primarily on energy and the environment, labor, and the Supreme Court.

AR2 is perhaps best known for their efforts to malign environmentalists. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking activist leaders including Tom Steyer and Bill McKibben in an extensive effort including a six-figure digital ad campaign, a field tracking operation, and a website that serves as a hub for the group’s content. AR2 has also been a proud leader for obstructing the Supreme Court nominations process by fighting to ensure Justice Scalia’s seat would remain vacant through the remainder of Obama’s presidency. AR2 has also focused on attacking the labor movement. In addition to their state-level operation, Missouri Rising, which is centers on campaigning for Right-to-Work-for-Less legislation, AR2 has added the LaborWire initiative in a broader effort to try to remove worker protections and the fight against living wages.

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