By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Founder, Feather, Larson & Synhorst
CEO, Minneapolis St. Paul 2008 Host Committee
Jeff Larson is "perhaps the most powerful GOP operative nationwide," says Sarah Janecek. "And he earned it." Many say that he was also the single most important person in bringing the Republican National Convention to St. Paul.
Larson is a powerhouse political consultant, specializing in highly sophisticated and doggedly thorough campaign techniques: telemarketing, email blasts, strategic maps and manuals for campaign foot soldiers, and a host of other obscure and powerful services.
His company, Feather, Larson & Synhorst (FLS), which he founded with two other campaign heavyweights, was paid $18 million for its work on George W. Bush's national re-election campaign. The company's website boasts that Larson has "worked on behalf of 35 state parties, dozens of gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and U.S. congressional candidates, along with national organizations including the Republican National Committee."
For a time, there was a blurb on the FLS website from none other than über-strategist Karl Rove, a friend and colleague of Larson's. "I know these guys well. They become partners with the campaigns they work with. From designing the program to drafting scripts; from selecting targets to making the calls in a professional, successful way, they work as hard to win your races as you do."
Larson has worked himself into the highest echelons of Republican politics from the dregs of the political hierarchy. His first job in politics was as a driver for Bud Westman, a man vying for a North Dakota Senate seat. Within weeks Larson was Westman's deputy campaign manager. Westman lost and Larson moved on. In 1984 he was working the re-election campaign for the state's governor. After another loss, he made an incongruous leap to executive director of the Delaware Republican Party. Incongruous leaps became Larson's thing. Next he was a Republican National Committee field agent under Lee Atwater. Can you smell a Rolodex cooking?
His RNC fieldwork gig covered 13 states, including Minnesota. He worked the RNC job, with an added position in the Bush-Quayle re-election campaign, until Bill Clinton's election slammed the door on his party ambition in 1992.
If Larson was demoralized, he was not immobilized. He stepped into an underworld of political campaigning that would be his gateway to unfathomable political influence. That underworld was a place where a few bright and tireless entrepreneurs began experimenting with the possibilities of using emerging technologies to supercharge old-fashioned, pavement-pounding campaigning.
He started with a company called Strategic Communications, and in 1999 he helped launch Feather, Larson & Synhorst.
Larson lives across the river in Hudson, Wisconsin, now, but he still has a base of operations in Minnesota, and he's CEO of the Minneapolis St. Paul 2008 Host Committee, which is tasked with laying the groundwork for the RNC.
You won't find him flaunting his success in front of cameras or crowds. He's a man who has little interest in being a public persona. He's "one of the least known national Republican players you'll find," says Vin Weber. "He has the classic Scandinavian penchant for anonymity."