- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

The Republican National Committee, in an unusual move, has named former federal prosecutor Tim Griffin as both director of opposition research and deputy communications director.
The RNC, which serves as the political and campaign arm of the Bush White House, hopes that by combining its intelligence-gathering and message operations, it can raise the art of Democrat-whacking to a new and more effective level.
"Tim's dual roles will bring needed coordination between articulating our campaign message and the research that supports that message," said Jack Oliver, deputy RNC chairman.
Some Republicans privately greeted the move as a sign that their party was ready to aggressively counter the Democrats' spin operation.
"Republicans tend to want to be seen as playing the game above board, while I don't think the Democrats have any compunctions about getting down and dirty," said public relations consultant Craig Shirley. He quickly added: "I say that as praise, not condemnation of the Democrats, because Republicans have to get better at the game, and I hope this is a step in the right direction."
"Only half the job is about getting the information on Democrats; the other half is passing it on so it doesn't come off as a dirty trick," said conservative strategist Grover Norquist, who believes combining the opposition research and communications roles is a smart idea.
That is also why Mr. Griffin has removed a taboo against anybody in the RNC research department speaking with the press.
Mr. Griffin, 33, has done some heavy lifting for his party as an investigator and lawyer. He was a Justice Department political appointee who had been prosecuting federal drug and firearms cases in Little Rock, Ark., until he was yanked back to the RNC. He had served there as deputy research director in the 2000 presidential campaign and as a legal adviser to the Bush-Cheney Florida recount team.
Before that, he was senior counsel for the House Government Reform Committee and associate independent counsel investigating former Clinton administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Jennifer Palmieri, spokeswoman for Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, put a sinister twist on Mr. Griffin's appointment.
"I agree that Griffin brings a wealth of experience to this job," she said. "Unfortunately, it's as a federal prosecutor and investigator, which I hope doesn't suggest that Republicans are going to continue the politics of destruction that they blindly pursued during the Clinton administration."
The DNC spokeswoman added: "Once again, we see that if the tone in Washington is going to be changed, the Democrats are going to have to be the ones who bring that change."
Outlining his new RNC role, Mr. Griffin said he will:
Tell his staff of more than 20 researchers he won't say precisely how many what kind of information to pursue about Democratic candidates.
Consider that information worthwhile only if it dovetails with the political campaign message coordinated in advance by the White House, the RNC and the party's House and Senate campaign committees.
"I want to make sure my researchers are doing their thing with the press in mind, coming up with info useful to the press and voters rather than pulling data for the sake of pulling data, as if it were a game of Trivial Pursuit," he said.
Pass the information directly to reporters, on a background basis, instead of having the research department, housed on the first floor of the RNC, give it to the communications office, on the third floor, where RNC press aides then would be expected to get the word out to the press.
"My dual roles ensure that research and communications are working off the same page, and things won't get lost in the translation," said Mr. Griffin.
Both political parties have used opposition research, sometimes with devastating results.
"The Democrats' opposition research leaked, on the eve of the 2000 election, information about [President] Bush's youthful drunk-driving arrest, and it almost won the presidency for the Democrats," said Mr. Norquist, who has close ties with White House chief political strategist Karl Rove.
The RNC says the purpose of its research department is to analyze policy issues, use the analysis to promote the president's agenda, outline the party's positions and "point out the weaknesses in the Democrats' positions and alternative proposals." It uses all this to support local, state and national Republican candidates, including gubernatorial hopefuls this year.

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