Monthly Archives: January 2014

St. Louis Business Journal: Keller leaves D.C. post to launch St. Louis political consulting firm

By Eli Yokley

St. Louis-based political operative Gregg Keller, former executive director of the American Conservative Union, has left his post to launch a new consulting firm in the region.

Keller, who led Sen. Jim Talent’s campaign in 2006 and served as Mitt Romney’s national coalition director in 2008, has now created Atlas Strategy Group, which aims to provide strategic services for non-profits, small business, corporations and political campaigns, including coalition-building, strategic consulting, fundraising and communications.

Like parts of the business community, Keller said the strategic consulting business is moving toward a freelance model. Keller said by moving away from the large-shop model, where consulting firms will set up large offices and force clients to pay large retainers, his model will allow him to significantly undersell his larger competitors.

“What I want to do is have a very small, stripped down firm that doesn’t take on many employees,” he said. “What I’m doing and have done is built several strategic partnerships with many professionals in different spaces, all of whom I’ve worked with in he past. If you’re smart and not too greedy, you can vastly undersell the big firms who need to pay for the big offices and all the expenses that come with a big firm.”

Keller, a St. Louis native, said the new job will allow him to spend significantly more time in St. Louis with his wife and three children.

“Happiness in life is working in politics at as high a level as I can and living in St. Louis.”
Keller said that particularly in the current news environment — where companies are watching social media and sometimes facing political pressure — coalition building is a key to capturing the attention of policymakers and their staff.

“Historically, there have been a few tried-and-true ways to affect public policy. One is lobbying: You hire lobbyists, build a political action committee, join a trade association and cut big checks,” he said. While he thinks that is still important, he believes particularly among more conservative members, that may not be as effective as a more nuanced route. “The business community is just now waking up to the kind of powerful coalitions that can enact public policy change if they just know who to talk to.”

Pointing to relationships built during time at ACU and his prior experience as National Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a social-conservative public policy coalition, Keller said bringing together activist and grassroots organizations behind an issue is an effective way to tug at the hearts and minds of lawmakers.

“There are a lot of conservative members of congress and state legislatures who aren’t moved as much by big corporate donators or well-paid lobbyists,” he said. By turning a business’s niche issue — whether it be a liquor regulation or an energy issue unfamiliar to the general public, for example — coalition building can in turn make that issue a conservative issue, he said.

POLITICO: ACU strategist forms new firm

By Alexander Burns

A top strategist for the American Conservative Union is leaving the prominent activist group to strike out independently as a political consultant.

Gregg Keller, who served as Mitt Romney’s national coalitions director in 2008 and managed former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent’s 2006 campaign, is founding a firm dubbed Atlas Strategy Group. The company aims to give strategic advice to private and nonprofit organizations, as well as to political campaigns.

Keller said he will continue to advise the ACU – which hosts CPAC, the national conservative cattle-call event – as an outside consultant but had decided to step down as executive director in order to launch a business of his own.

“Atlas Strategy Group will help corporations and associations navigate center-right public policy,” Keller told POLITICO. “In a polarized political landscape, center-right coalition building is more important every day; we’ll help these large organizations know who they should be talking to and how to craft a strategy to work with conservatives to achieve their shared goals.”

During Keller’s three-year tenure at ACU, the right-leaning group expanded its fundraising and branched out to begin hosting regional CPAC gatherings in cities such as Denver, Orlando and St. Louis. A part-time Missouri resident, Keller came on board after a newly appointed ACU chairman, former Florida GOP Chair Al Cardenas, vowed to revitalize the sometimes-dusty grassroots organization.

Prior to joining the ACU, Keller was executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the social conservative group founded during the 2010 cycle by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed.

Keller said he has already made several hires for Atlas Strategy Group and plans to announce them at a later date. The company will offer both fundraising and communications consulting, as well as coalition-building services to marshal public support for clients’ causes.

He does not anticipate building a large payroll and described the firm as part of a larger, industry-wide shift away from big, corporate outfits with high overhead costs.

Though Keller said he will keep working with the ACU, the turnover at the top of the group raises the prospect of other strategic changes at the organization. Cardenas previously announced that Dan Scheider, a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and strongly conservative former Kansas Rep. Jim Ryun, was taking over the executive director job from Keller.