Frank Luntz, Part Deux: Alex Castellanos

July 16, 2009 12:32 pm ET

On July 7, 2009, Alex Castellanos issued a "GOP Health Care Strategy" memo to "GOP Health Care Advocates."  Like the Frank Luntz-issued talking points, the Castellanos messaging has quickly been put into rotation by the GOP.  And also like Frank Luntz, Castellanos comes with baggage of his own.

Castellanos Wants To Obstruct Efforts To Reform Health Care

Castellanos Authored New GOP Talking Points On Health Care. According to Politico: "In a recent memo, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos coins a new phrase that he believes will slow down reform by making voters nervous: 'the Obama experiment.' [...] For months, Republicans have been searching for an effective way to oppose the Democrats' government-centric plans without appearing to oppose health reform. Castellanos' memo follows one written in May by another GOP messaging expert, Frank Luntz." [Politico, 7/13/09]

Castellanos: "We've Got To Slow Down" Health Care Reform.  In his recent GOP health care messaging memo, Alex Castellanos' asserts: "If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it, and advance real reform that will actually help.  Key Message Point: We've got to 'SLOW DOWN the OBAMA EXPERIMENT WITH OUR HEALTH.'" [GOP Health Care Message Memo via Politico, 7/7/09, emphasis original]

"Father Of The Attack Ad"

Castellanos: "Father Of The Attack Ad." According to his biography on the National Media Inc. website, "Alex Castellanos is one of the Republican party's best known and most successful media consultants and strategists...He has been credited with the discovery of the political 'soccer-mom' and called 'father of the attack ad'. Castellanos has helped elect 9 U.S. Senators, 6 Governors, and enjoys over two decades of political consulting experience, both abroad and in the United States." [NatMedia.com, accessed 7/15/09]

Castellanos Advised Gov. Romney And Sen. McCain During 2008 Presidential Election

Castellanos On Hillary Clinton: "It's Accurate" To Call Some Women A "Bitch."  According to ThinkProgress: "CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin criticized a New York Times column that published a joke about Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) being a 'white bitch.' 'I think it's appalling, but I think she's absolutely right that there has been a level of sexism," said Toobin. But CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, who is also an adviser to Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) campaign, disagreed, saying that some women deserve to be called a 'bitch': 'If I can disagree, I think you're dead wrong. She's dead wrong. And I think she thinks her problem is she's a woman. Her problem is she's Hillary Clinton. And some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate.'" [ThinkProgress.org, 5/21/08, emphasis original]

Castellanos Sat On The "McCain Ad Council."  In May 2008, New York Magazine reported: "In this year's Republican race, Castellanos worked on Mitt Romney's primary bid, but today he sits on what's known as the McCain Ad Council, a group of A-list Republican admen serving as outside media advisers to the GOP standard-bearer." [New York Magazine, 5/15/08]

Castellanos' Strategic Campaign Plan For Romney Leaked To Press. The Boston Globe reported on the exposure of a Romney campaign plan, "The plan, which top Romney strategist Alex Castellanos helped to draft, charts a course for Romney to emerge as the nominee...its expansiveness, level of detail and the involvement of Castellanos suggest that it is a significant strategic blueprint....The plan, for instance, indicates that Romney will define himself in part by focusing on and highlighting enemies and adversaries, such common political targets as 'jihadism,' the 'Washington establishment,' and taxes. [...] Like every Republican in the race, Romney faces the delicate task of how to talk about President Bush, whom the country gives low job-approval ratings. But the plan lists two ways Romney can set himself apart from Bush. The first says, simply, 'Intelligence.'" [Boston.com, 2/27/07, emphasis added]

"RATS" Ad, 2000

Bush Campaign Ran "Rats" Ad Against Al Gore. CBS News reported: "The Republican National Committee has launched a new ad comparing the Bush and Gore prescription drug proposals. According to the RNC, the ad, entitled Federal, will replace a similar but controversial ad that flashed the word 'rats' for 1/30th of a second." [Ad via YouTube, accessed, 7/16/09; CBSNews.com, 9/14/00, emphasis original]

Castellanos Was Responsible For The Bush Attack Ad. According to the BBC: "Alex Castellanos, who made the ad for the Republican National Committee, has fuelled the controversy by apparently changing his explanation as to how the word 'rats' came to appear in his advert. Renowned as a maker of attack ads for political campaigns, Mr Castellanos claimed initially that the use of the word was 'purely accidental'. By Wednesday he had admitted that the word 'rats' was 'a visual drumbeat designed to make you look at the word bureaucrats.'" [News.BBC.co.uk, 9/13/00]

"Hands" Ad, 1990

Castellanos "Wrote And Produced" Racially Charged Political Ad.  According to PBS, "In the North Carolina [1990] Senate campaign, Republican incumbent Jesse Helms was several points behind Democrat Harvey Gantt in polls taken shortly before the election. Over a weekend, political consultant Alex Castellanos wrote and produced an ad called 'Hands.' Gantt's support of affirmative action had been identified on surveys as an unpopular position. The controversial 'Hands' featured a close-up shot of two hands holding a letter and crumpling it as a narrator says 'You needed that job, but they had to give it to a minority.' Helms made up the difference in the polls and won re-election." [PBS.org, accessed 7/15/09]

"Hands" Ad transcript: "You needed that job and you were the best qualified.  But they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota.   Is that really fair?  Harvey Gantt says it is.  Gantt supports Ted Kennedy's racial quota law, that makes the color of your skin more important than your qualifications.  You'll vote on this issue next Tuesday.  For racial quotas: Harvey Gantt.  Against racial quotas: Jesse Helms." [Helms 1990 Campaign Ad via YouTube, accessed 7/16/09]

Castellanos Is Connected To Big-Spending Lobbying Groups

Castellanos Has Experience Creating Ad Campaigns For A Variety Of Organizations. According to the Center for Politics, "Alex Castellanos is one of the Republican Party's new generation of TV-advertising consultants. He has served as media consultant to 6 U.S. presidential campaigns. He has helped elect 9 U.S. senators, 6 governors, and enjoys over two decades of political consulting experience, both in the United States and abroad. Mr. Castellanos has also produced issue advocacy campaigns for several corporations and national associations including: Verizon Communications, American Forest & Paper Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Citizens for Better Medicare, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce." [CenterforPolitics.org, accessed 7/16/09, emphasis added]

Citizens For Better Medicare

CBM Is A PhRMA Front Group.  According to Public Citizen: "The drug lobby's goal is single-minded: avoid any kind of Medicare drug coverage that reins in skyrocketing drug costs...To carry out this campaign, the drug companies' regular lobby, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), created the innocuous-sounding Citizens for Better Medicare (CBM) to serve as its front group. Through CBM, they have budgeted at least $65 million for television advertising since July 1999. This air battle has been supplemented with radio, print and Internet ads, along with direct mail appeals from CBM and its member groups." [Public Citizen, accessed 7/16/09]

Castellanos Paid Nearly $8.5 Million For Three Months' Lobbying. According to Public Citizen: "Citizens for Better Medicare, the drug industry's front group, spent $8.5 million from July 1 to September 30, according to the group's first disclosure report filed on Oct. 15 pursuant to a new law that requires IRS section '527' groups to reveal their expenditures and funding sources...The CBM filing reveals that 98 percent of the money went to ad producer Alex Castellanos, who also works for George W. Bush and the Republican National Committee. Castellanos' threesome of clients raises questions about campaign coordination between the drug industry and Republican candidates." [Public Citizen, accessed 7/16/09, emphasis added]

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce

Chamber Opposes Senate Health Care Reform Bill.  According to its website: "On June 16, 2009, the Chamber sent a letter to Chairman Kennedy and Ranking Member Enzi of the Senate HELP Committee expressing that while the Chamber is dedicated to health care reform, the Chamber will oppose the 'Affordable Health Choices Act' in its current form." [USChamber.com, accessed 7/16/09]

National Media, Inc.

Castellanos Works For National Media, Inc. Alex Castellanos is listed as a team member of National Media, Inc. [NatMedia.com, accessed 7/16/09]

  • National Media, Inc. Clientele List Includes Federation Of American Hospitals And PhRMA. National Media Inc's client list includes: American Red Cross, HCA Sunrise, Federation of American Hospitals, and PhRMA. [NatMedia.com, accessed 7/16/09]

Purple Strategies

Castellanos Works For Purple Strategies.  Alex Castellanos is the first of four staff listed on the Purple Strategies website.  [PurpleStrategies.com, accessed 7/16/09]

  • Purple Strategies Produced An Ad For A Health Care Coalition. Purple Strategies produced an ad for a health care coalition that included PhRMA, FamiliesUSA, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and SEIU. [PurpleStrategies.com, accessed 7/16/09]
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