America Rising LLC | PAC | America Rising Squared | Definers Public Affairs

America Rising

America Rising and Affiliated Entities

  • America Rising LLC: The original for-profit opposition research company. 
  • America Rising PAC: The political action committee.
  • America Rising Squared (aka, America Rising Advanced Research; aka, AR2 or AR2): The nonprofit 501(c)4. 
  • Core News: A media platform published by America Rising Squared.
  • Definers Public Affairs: A public affairs agency launched by America Rising founders.  

Background on America Rising

America Rising LLC and America Rising PAC were founded in Spring of 2013, in response to perceived Democratic superiority in the field of opposition research. [1] The related but distinct corporate entities are both commonly referred to as America Rising, and the entities are often confused. Most popular mentions in the media and public refer to the activities of the PAC. As CNN described when the enterprises first launched: [2]

As a super PAC, [America Rising] will focus on digital campaigns and placing negative stories about Democrats in the news media. It does not plan to run television ads.

A separate wing of the group will incorporate as a limited liability company (LLC), which can coordinate directly with campaigns and political committees by sharing video and resources. [To avoid making illegal in-kind corporate contributions, the LLC needs to charge for access to the videos and resources.]

The America Rising joint enterprise was founded as an opposition research shop described by the Wall Street Journal as “the unofficial research arm of the Republican Party.” [3] America Rising PAC describes itself as “an organization on the right for the sole purpose of exposing the truth about Democrats through video tracking, research, and communications,” and spends its time attacking democrats, progressives and environmentalists. [4]

America Rising co-founder Matt Rhoades previously worked for DCI Group and was Mitt Romney's campaign manager for the Republican nominee's failed 2012 presidential bid. America Rising's other co-founder Joe Pounder is a long-time Republican strategist and opposition researcher, and a former research director at the Republican National Committee. Pounder resigned from America Rising to work on Marco Rubio's campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. After Rubio suspended his campaign, Pounder returned to the America Rising family as president of Definers Public Affairs. (More on Definers below.) 

In early 2014, America Rising PAC's website relaunched as a “news site,” in order to easily publish and spread attack videos and blog posts about opposition targets. [5]

Hiding Donors and Running Attack Ads: The Various Corporate Entities of America Rising

The various entities under the America Rising umbrella give the enterprise a flexible structure that can serve different purposes. The PAC can purchase research from the LLC and can sell or disseminate it to other organizations. The 501(c)4 nonprofit, AR2, doesn't have to declare its donors. (More on AR2 below.) All told, America Rising had a budget of $8 million for the 2014 elections and is seeking to nearly double this. [6]

The organization reportedly has more than 100 staff, including a large number of “trackers” who follow the group’s targets around the country and record their actions. Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is the group's biggest target, but America Rising also undertakes a wide range of opposition research on Democrats and progressives, including prominent environmentalists, before disseminating it to other right-wing organizations and on social media.

America Rising is located in the same building as Definers, a public affairs agency “launched by” America Rising, which hosts many former AR staff and which undertakes similar research work for corporate clients, and which has received money from America Rising. [7], [8]

America Rising Advanced Research (aka, America Rising Squared, aka AR2)

America Rising Advanced Research (aka, America Rising Squared, aka, AR2), the nonprofit 501(c)4 arm of the family, was launched publicly in July 2015, although it appears in FEC filings as early as February 2014. [9]

As a nonprofit 501(c)4, AR2 doesn't have to disclose its donors, like the parent PAC does. The nonprofit is limited from running political attack ads, but can publish videos and news and advertise about issues themselves. The Washington Examiner explains: [10]

The issues-based 501(c)4 won't be able to run ads directly attacking political foes the way America Rising does. But the group is permitted to spend roughly half of what it raises on political persuasion, and can run critical spots urging someone like Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to take positions on particular issues.

America Rising Advanced Research has launched an aggressive social media campaign against leading figures in the US environmental movement, including creating the website Core News which features attacks on prominent climate policy advocates including Bill McKibben, Tom Steyer and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Brian Rogers, the executive director of America Rising Advanced Research, was briefly the research director for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, where he worked on a campaign “to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation.” Rogers was also a longtime senior adviser to Republican Senator John McCain and held key roles in McCain's run for the US presidency in 2008. [11]

Definers, the corporation-serving, for-profit venture of America Rising

In 2015, America Rising founders Matt Rhoades and Joe Ponder launched Definers Public Affairs as a communications agency for corporate clients. Pounder describes: [12]

The formation of Definers actually began with the founding of America Rising LLC by Matt Rhoades and myself in 2013. I’ve known Rhoades since 2004 when I was his intern at Bush-Cheney ’04. We’ve worked together on and off for the next decade. After 2012 when he was the campaign manager for Mitt Romney and I was the research director at the Republican National Committee, we decided to start America Rising to focus on opposition research, rapid response communications, and video tracking for political clients.

As we built America Rising into a 60-person operation with employees across the country, we were actually turning away corporate clients so we could focus exclusively on our political mission. In 2015, we changed that and formed Definers. 

Today, Definers Public Affairs shares the politically-linked leadership of America Rising and several staff members with other AR entities. For example, America Rising Advanced Research executive director Brian Rogers is also a Senior Vice President at Definers. Definers Public Affairs is also located in the same Arlington, Virginia office building as America Rising LLC. [13]

According to the Center for Responsive Politics' database, two groups reported payments to Definers during the 2016 election cycle: Marco Rubio for President made five payments totalling $52,200; America Rising PAC made 6 payments totaling $42,500. The first of these payments was on 06-08-2015. [8]

In June, 2016, Definers expanded its reach to Silicone Valley in Oakland, working with former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller. [36]

“Silicon Valley is a natural target for their so-called 'oppo' efforts,” Recode reported. In in interview, Miller told Recode, that the “spotlight that is on their industry,” meaning more investment is needed to ensure “you have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that’s being pushed out about your competitor, or regulator, or activist groups or activist investors, that are challenging you.” [36]

There might be some companies that are more willing to engage in that,” Miller said, but “increasingly, as [Silicon Valley] companies mature, I think they may recognize the need to do that.” [36]

In November 2017, it was announced that Definers had joined law firm Denton’s to launch a global research firm called 3D Global Affairs.

Among the services offered at 3D Global Affairs would be “governmental relations and lobbying support to shape the environment” and “communications and rapid response professionals to direct  the narrative.” [40]

Definers Public Affairs & the EPA

In December, 2017, it was revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency had contracted Definers to provide “news analysis and brief service” to the EPA. According to Mother Jones, the $120,000 contract include use of the Definers War Room console that helps clients track media coverage and the output of opponents. Following calls for an Inspector General audit and a Government Accountability Office investigation on the EPA and Definers, the contract was cancelled. [39]

In 2019, newly obtained emails showed that claims by Definers that the contract had been awarded based solely on cost considerations were not completely true, Mother Jones reported. “Moreover, the emails provide a detailed picture of how the Trump administration immediately and aggressively tried to realign the agency and route taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes,” MJ reported. [42]

The EPA emails, obtained by the Sierra Club, showed the EPA press office had set aside concerns from staff regarding the choice of Definers, including its uncompetitive bid. [42]

A former EPA employee spoke with MJ, saying the “whole notion that the agency is using a group like Definers and [NTK] and manipulating the media coverage of its activities” could be a violation of Congress’ appropriations law prohibiting the EPA from using funds for propaganda and publicity purposes. “Somebody reads a story and thinks it’s a straight news story, when in fact the agency is putting out misleading information that’s very offensive and probably violates the Appropriations Act,” the former staff member said. [42]

The Washington Post reported that the contract was cancelled almost immediately after criticism from Capitol Hill and with questions surrounding political work by Definers. While the EPA defended the contract, America Rising president Joe Pounder separately said the decision was mutual and that the firm would not be offering services to government agencies. [41]

America Rising Tactics

America Rising and AR2 send “trackers” – staff members with video cameras tasked with recording their targets – to follow top tier Democratic candidates on the campaign trails and key environmentalists and other opposition research targets. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Activism Boot Camp, America Rising hosted a seminar titled “We’re Watching You: How to Video Track 24/7.” [14]

America Rising LLC runs a website called, from which they sell photos that have been taken at the hundreds of campaign events attended by the trackers. America Rising LLC describes: [15]

We have no control over the lighting at the events we film, often have less than cooperative subjects, and make no claim to being professional photographers. We offer them to you as a cost-competitive alternative to meet your digital and direct mail needs.

The Ameria Rising Advanced Research (AR2) runs a website called Core News, which features attacks on prominent environmentalists including Tom Steyer, Bill McKibben and Leonardo DiCaprio, and was described by Buzzfeed as a “secretly funded propaganda site … [that] is publishing stories attacking environmentalists, scientists, and politicians who warn about climate change.” Stories range from “aggressively opinionated, to sort-of true, to demonstrably false,” according to Buzzfeed. [16]

America Rising has attacked Democrats who opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, and has a particular focus on billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, hosting articles titled “Steyer Watch” and criticizing Steyer for spending more than $65 million on his super PAC races in the 2014 election. [17]

Who Funds America Rising?

Donations to America Rising Advanced Research (aka, America Rising Squared) are not declared, as it is incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)4.

While America Rising LLC is a business that can sell its services with no disclosures necessary, reported the Republican National Committee spent at least $183,900 on America Rising in the 2016 election cycle, with an additional $45,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee. [32]

OpenSecrets also broke down known individual payments to the America Rising PAC for the 2016 election cycle: [23]

Donor Total
Paul Singer $250,000
Miguel Fernandez $100,000
Ronald Weiser $50,000
End Spending Action Fund $50,000
Michael Vlock $50,000
Keller Investment Properties $25,000
Harol Brierley $25,000
JJ Matthews $25,000
LE Simmons $25,000
CBI Ventures LLC $15,000
Roger Enrico $15,000
Allen & Kelli Questrom $15,000
Brian France $15,000
Edward Schutter $10,000
Allen & Kelli Questrom $10,000
Gregory Ciongoli $10,000
Scott Sperling $10,000
SJZ, LLC $10,000
Keller Investment Properties $10,000
Keller Investment Properties $10,000
William Kunkler $10,000
Paul Dickson $5,472
Jerry Langer $5,000
Andrew Puzder $5,000
Andrew Puzder $5,000
Jonathan Bullen $5,000
Louis Chiavacci $5,000
James Tozer $5,000
Walter Schlaepfer $5,000
Scott Keller $3,442
LE Simmons $2,102
LE Simmons $2,101
Peter Huizenga $2,000
Robert Beyer $1,000
Michaelon Wright $1,000
EPAY Business Solutions $854
Robert Davis $500
Allan Blutstein $250

Network Map of the America Rising Family


June 2017

America Rising (AR Squared) wrote a white paper that was picked up by The Daily Caller as evidence that “the materials required to build electric vehicles and solar panels are produced under some of the most worst environmental and labor conditions on Earth.” [34]

The inconvenient truth is that these ‘clean’ sources of energy are produced under the worst of labor and environmental rights violations,” the report, titled “The Human & Environmental Costs of 'Clean Energy'“ claims. [35]

April 2017

America Rising PAC said that it would target Sen. Elizabeth Warren with a strategy that includes opposition research, video tracking, Freedom of Information Act and public records requests, and communications to “make Warren’s life difficult” during her 2018 Senate reelection campaign. This was according to a memo obtained by Politico outlining the group's efforts. [37]

We view book launch as the soft launch of her presidential campaign. We’ll do the same to her as we did with Hillary Clinton in 2014,” said America Rising executive director Colin Reed.  [37]

The memo said that America Rising's goal was to “to damage her 2020 prospects.” While the emphasis was on Warren, others were also targeted by America Rising's efforts and include Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).  [37]

Politico reported in September 2017 that America Rising was coordinating with the pro-Trump America First Policies, the political nonprofit behind the America First Action super PAC. [38]

May 2016

In May 2016, America Rising PAC released an app that “arms users attending political events with adversarial questions to ask Democratic candidates.” Called “Grill,” the app also allows users to record video, which is uploaded to a private channel that can be accessed by America Rising employees, who evaluate and screen the footage for promotion. The app also lists candidate events for users based on geographical location. [21]

Never before have attendees of political events had at their fingertips a set of pointed, incisive questions guaranteed to make news,” America Rising PAC communications director Jeff Bechdel told BuzzFeed News. [22]

March 2016

America Rising Advanced Research has announced that the group will conduct in-depth research on potential Supreme Court nominees. “Rogers said the group was using around 10 researchers to search the Internet, law libraries around the country and other sources to probe the backgrounds of several possible selections to replace the late Antonin Scalia,” the Associated Press reported. A later report by the Associated Press stated the RNC contracted with AR2 to help with research on a potential Supreme Court nominee. [19], [20]

February 2016

America Rising Squared released an attack ad on Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton which showed footage of Sanders agreeing with a statement that the greatest threat to national security is climate change while showing images of terrorists side-by-side with the melting Arctic. [18]

America Rising Bernie Sanders Attack Ad

August 2015

AR2 launched Missouri Rising, a regional affiliate to “[promote] conservative issues and [shape] the debate in Missouri.”

Staff of America Rising's Entities

Note that America Rising LLC and America Rising PAC share many staff members. Staff are listed below by how staffers describe themselves on LinkedIn, or how they have been described in news articles. 

Matt Rhoades, Co-founder, America Rising LLC, America Rising PAC, America Rising Advanced Research, Definers Public Affairs

Matt Rhoades

“He founded America Rising in response to a recommendation contained in an autopsy of Romney’s failed presidential run that was ordered by the Republican National Committee. The group’s original goal was to compete with American Bridge, the Democratic opposition research group, but its focus under Mr. Rhoades has been to subject Mrs. Clinton to an ordeal similar to Mr. Romney’s.” [New York Times] - [24]

Joe Pounder, Co-founder, America Rising LLC, America Rising PAC, America Rising Advanced Research; Co-founder and President, Definers Public Affairs

Joe Pounder


One Republican who worked closely with Pounder credits him with revolutionizing the way the party does opposition research, ushering in an age where opposition research and rapid response are living, breathing things that move with the news cycle and social media. More importantly, a number of Republicans said, Pounder is more than a one-trick pony. He is a master of opposition research, but he also understands how best to put that information to use in other parts of a campaign, making sure that research and communications teams work in sync with each other. [National Review] - [25]

America Rising LLC

Raj Shah, Co-founder, Director, and Deputy Communications Director

Raj Shah


Shah is now Research Director, GOP
Raj Shah most recently served as Co-Founding Partner and Managing Director of America Rising LLC, where he developed the organization’s Hillary Clinton opposition research book. He previously served as a Deputy Research Director at the RNC during the 2012 presidential election cycle. A graduate of Cornell, he has also worked on Senate and presidential campaigns and served in the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President George W. Bush. []

Byron Koay, Managing Director, Co-founder

Byron Koay


Allan Blutstein, Vice President of Freedom of Information Act Operations

Allan Blutstein

LinkedIn, Twitter

Allan Blutstein has joined the firm as vice president of Freedom of Information Act operations, placing him in charge of public records requests. Blutstein, who joined the firm after working at the government accountability firm Cause of Action, is a lawyer and public records expert. He previously worked as a principal legal adviser to the FOIA staff at the Treasury Department's Office of Financial Stability, as well as in the Department of Justice's Office of Information and Privacy. [Roll Call] - [26]

Alexandra Angel, Vice President

Alexandra Angel


Angel has one of the toughest jobs on the right: Finding new oppo research on Hillary Clinton, one of the most known-commodity candidates in U.S. history. Leading a team of eight analysts, Angel directs day-to-day research and rapid response operations focused specifically on the 2016 presidential race. Before going to America Rising, Angel spent two years as an account executive at DCI Group, where she tracked federal legislation. She’s also done a couple stints at the RNC and worked as deputy operations director on Steve Poizner’s 2010 gubernatorial run in California. She’s also put her research and analytical skills to use as an instructor for the Close Up Foundation, a group that promotes civic participation. [Campaigns and Elections] - [27]

Dan Knight, Vice President of House Research

Dan Knight

LinkedIn, Twitter 

Dan Knight, who was a senior research analyst in the 2014 cycle, will now serve as vice president of House research for the 2016 cycle.  [Roll Call]

Daniel Knight is Vice President of House Research at America Rising LLC, where he manages a team of analysts engaged in research and rapid response on Democratic House candidates in the 2016 election. Prior to his work at America Rising, which he joined in 2014 as a senior research analyst, Dan worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee and at a DC-area conservative non-profit. [Red Alert Politics]

Aaron Baer, Vice President of Tracking and Video

Aaron Baer


Cooper Reves, Digital Director

Cooper Reves

LinkedIn, Twitter

Francis Brennan, Deputy War Room Director

Francis Brennan


We’re the eyes and ears,” said Francis Brennan, 25, war room director at the conservative political action committee America Rising. “We try to just pump out as many facts as we can. Everything we do is fact-based. It’s not scrutinized or opinion-based. It’s all facts. We have to prove what we are saying. We can’t just say things.” [McClatchy] - [6]

Matt Vollenweider, Deputy Team Leader

Matt Vollenweider

LinkedIn, Twitter

Kyle Sisenstein, Deputy Senate Team Leader

Kyle Sisenstein

LinkedIn, Twitter

Domenick Cocchiara, Research Analyst

Domenick Cocchiara


Rocco Cavalluzzi, Research Analyst

Rocco Cavalluzzi

LinkedIn, Twitter

Jillian Davidson, Research Analyst

Jillian Davidson

LinkedIn, Twitter

Julia Hoy, Senate Research Analyst

Julia Hoy

LinkedIn, Twitter

Carter Reese, Analyst

Carter Reese

LinkedIn, Twitter

Michael Berg, Research Analyst

Michael Berg

LinkedIn, Twitter

Ari Schaffer, Presidential Research Analyst

Ari Schaffer

LinkedIn, Twitter

Sam Montgomery, Office Manager

Sam Montgomery

LinkedIn, Twitter

Scott Sloofman, Tracker

Scott Sloofman

LinkedIn, Twitter

Ryan Powers, Research Analyst

Ryan Powers

LinkedIn, Twitter

Charles Lehman, Research Analyst

Charles Lehman

LinkedIn, Google+

Garrett Fulce, Director of Full-Time Tracking

Garrett Fulce


Travis Cady

Travis Cady


Kevin Brinegar, Tracker/Field Analyst

Kevin Brinegar


Chris Malloy, Field Research Analyst / Tracker

Chris Malloy


Tim Wigginton, Tracker/Field Researcher

Tim Wigginton


Robert Rose, Tracker/Field Research Analyst

Robert Rose

LinkedIn, Twitter

Patrick Peterson, Tracker/Field Research Analyst

Patrick Peterson


Grace Nowak, Field Research Analyst

Grace Nowak


Nicholas Goeden, Tracker/Field Researcher

Nicholas Goeden


Nick Bolger, War Room Analyst

Nick Bolger


America Rising PAC Staff

Colin Reed, Executive Director

Colin Reed


“Reed brings his recent experience as Sen. Scott Brown’s 2014 campaign manager… Previously, Reed served as deputy communications director for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, communications director for Scott Brown’s 2012 Senate race, and press secretary in Brown’s Senate office. Reed also has experience at the NRSC, and on the 2008 presidential campaigns of Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain.” [America Rising PAC] - [28]

Jeff Bechdel, Communications Director

Jeff Bechdel

LinkedIn, Twitter

Amelia Chassé, Press Secretary

Amelia Chass

LinkedIn, Twitter

Those who have worked alongside Chassé describe her as savvy and relentless—she “never gets outworked,” according to longtime McCain adviser Brian Jones. As vice president at Hynes Communications, Chassé manages the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and devises online strategy for many of the firm’s top clients, including American Crossroads. At the start of the 2012 cycle, Chassé helped Crossroads cultivate its relationship with online conservatives. Chassé also counts herself among the cadre of young GOP consultants pushing her party to more fully embrace the digital age. [Campaigns and Elections Magazine] - [29]

Joe Chaudoin, Research Analyst

Joe Chaudoin

LinkedIn, Twitter

America Rising Advanced Research Staff

Brian Rogers, Executive Director

Brian Rogers


Brian Rogers is Executive Director of America Rising Squared (AR2). Prior to joining AR2, Rogers served as Communications Director to U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and previously served as Deputy Communications Director and Research Director for McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and held senior communications and opposition research roles on multiple statewide campaigns across the country, at the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. [ARSquared] - [30]

“Rogers is best known as the long-time spokesman for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He was also McCain’s spokesman during the senator’s 2008 presidential campaign, during which Rogers made headlines for arguing that Obama, too, lived in “a frickin’ mansion“ and was an “arugula-eating, pointy-headed professor type….But Rogers was also, for a short time, the research director for former Vice President Al Gore’sAlliance for Climate Protection. Upon taking that job in May 2009, he said he would be “working on the Repower America campaign to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation.” [Huffington Post] - [11]

Jeremy Adler, Communications Director (previously, Research Analyst, America Rising LLC)

Jeremy Adler

LinkedIn, Twitter

Jeremy Adler is Communications Director of America Rising Squared (AR2). He previously served as a regional press secretary for Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. Before that, he worked as a member of America Rising’s Senate research team and also was a part of Scott Brown’s 2014 New Hampshire Senate campaign. [ARSquared] - [30]

Definers Public Affairs Staff

Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, below described above, are respectively Founder and President of Definers. 

Jim Barnett, Chief Operating Officer

Jim Barnett


Jim Barnett’s experience spreads presidential, statewide, local, corporate and issue campaigns. Prior to joining Definers, Barnett served as Vice President for Political Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform. Barnett is a veteran of Republican politics having managed Sen. John McCain’s comeback victory in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary and U.S. Senator Scott Brown’s $45 million 2012 campaign. He is a past chairman of the Vermont Republican Party and served as deputy campaign manager and communications director for Governor Jim Douglas’s 2002 upset victory. [Definers] - [31]

Brian Rogers, Senior Vice President

Brian Rogers

LinkedIn, Twitter

Tim Miller, Partner

Tim Miller

LinkedIn, Twitter

Tim Miller, former spokesman for Jeb Bush, joined Definers Public Affairs in September. Miller said the firm is going to go “more aggressively…directly after threats to our clients” and Definers will build digital platforms for the Washington fights. [33]

Julia Cotrone, Special Assistant

Julia Cotrone


Michael Chenderlin, Chief Digital Officer

Michael Chenderlin


Christy Paavola, Vice President

Christy Paavola


Geoff Embler, Senior Vice President

Geoff Embler


Tim Killeen, Senior Vice President

Tim Killeen


Andrew Lautz, Research Associate

Andrew Lautz

LinkedIn, Twitter

Sara Pietsch, Art Director

Sara Pietsch


Mike Presutti, Research Associate

Mike Presutti


Will Schenkel, War Room Associate

Will Schenkel


Todd Scher, Research Associate

Todd Scher

Jasmine Sossa, Graphic Designer

Jasmine Sossa


Nick Zanetti, Research Associate

Nick Zanetti



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