Terry Nelson

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For the football player, see Terry Nelson (American football). For the musician, see Terry Nelson (musician).

Terry A. Nelson is a consultant and Republican strategist in the United States. He was the political director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. In early 2006, Nelson was hired as a "senior adviser" to Senator John McCain; in December 2006 McCain's presidential exploratory committee said that Nelson was McCain's pick to be his national campaign manager, should McCain choose to turn his exploring into a full-blown run for the White House.


Nelson is a native of Marshalltown, Iowa.[1] He graduated in 1994 from the University of Iowa with a B.S. in Political Science.

Nelson, his wife Marci, and their three children live in Falls Church, Virginia.[2]

Politics and political campaigns[edit]

State and regional[edit]

Nelson managed the 1992 campaign of U.S. Representative Jim Nussle, two years before graduating from college,[3] and Nussle's 1994 campaign. From 1995 to 1996 he was a field representative for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). In 1997, he became the majority staff director of the Republican caucus in the Iowa state senate.

National positions at NRCC[edit]

In 2000, Nelson became the political director of the NRCC.[1][4]

From January 2002 [5] to July 2003, Nelson was deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee (RNC). In that position, he has been mentioned in two criminal cases:

  • Nelson was the superior of James Tobin, the New England political director for the RNC, who was convicted in late 2005 for his role in a scheme to jam phone lines in New Hampshire in November 2002 to block Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Nelson was on the government's witness list to testify at Tobin's trial,[6] but he was never called to testify at the trial.[7]
  • As of 2006, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and two others face criminal charges of violating a Texas law that prohibits the use of corporate money to fund candidates. The indictment charges they wrote a check to the RNC from a PAC controlled by DeLay and had the RNC send the same amount of money to the candidates, in order to get around that law. According to the indictment, the request and proposal to do this was made to Nelson in September 2002, and the check and list of candidates to be funded was given to Nelson two days later.[8]

Presidential campaigns[edit]

In July 2003, Nelson became the political director of the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, a position he held for the next year and a half.

In early 2006, Nelson was hired as a "senior adviser" to John McCain's Straight Talk America political action committee.[1] In late 2005, Nelson had told the National Journal that he wouldn't make a decision about which Republican campaign to join until 2007 at the earliest, saying "I'm currently enjoying my private life and don't have immediate plans to change that." [9]

In December 2006, McCain's presidential exploratory committee said that Nelson was McCain's pick to be his national campaign manager, should McCain choose to turn his exploring into a full-blown run for the White House.[10]

On July 10, 2007, Nelson resigned as national campaign manager for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. [11] The sudden departure of both Nelson and longtime McCain adviser John Weaver came after months of increasing campaign problems. McCain, after first insisting that neither man had been fired, called their departure "a consensus decision." [12]


Dawson McCarthy Nelson Media[edit]

In 2001, Nelson co-founded the Republican media shop Dawson McCarthy Nelson Media (DMNM), a communication and advertising firm that develops strategy, messages, and advertising for Republican candidates.[13] One of the firm's clients was Americans for Job Security (AJS), a Virginia-based group that the American Insurance Association helped launch. AJS takes out attack ads against liberal and moderate candidates nationwide without disclosing its political contributions or expenditures.[3]

Crosslink Strategy Group and Mercury Public Affairs[edit]

In 2005, Nelson and his partners at DMNM started another firm, Crosslink Strategy Group, to create grassroots campaigns for corporations and interest groups. The firm’s website says it can teach clients how to "increase your PAC fundraising" and ensure "compliance with campaign finance laws." One of the employees of the firm is Chris LaCivita, who helped design Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's anti-Kerry ads.[3]

Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group with significant funding from Wal-Mart, has employed the Crosslink firm. In April 2006, temporary workers hired by Crosslink were signing up shoppers to become members of the "Working Families" group, a campaign intended to eventually go nationwide.[14]

In May 2006, Crosslinks Strategy Group became an operating unit of Mercury Public Affairs, with Nelson becoming a partner[15] and running the firm's Washington, D.C. office.[16] The firm describes itself as "a full-service strategic communications firm" whose political division "has been involved in successful political campaigns in over thirty states". It is part of the Omnicom Group, a global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company.[17]

In October 2006, Wal-Mart publicly ended its contract with Crosslink Strategy, after significant controversy erupted regarding Nelson's involvement with an allegedly racist campaign ad mocking Democrat Harold Ford of Tennessee.[18]

Akerman Senterfitt[edit]

In March 2005, the Florida law firm Akerman Senterfitt announced that Nelson had been hired "as a consultant in the firm’s emerging Government Relations Practice".[19] As of September 2006, the firm's website (www.akerman.com) no longer listed him as a member of the firm.[20]

2006 Tennessee Senate election[edit]

In September 2006, the Washington Post reported that the Republican National Committee had hired Nelson to run an ad campaign to attack Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate seats in the November general election, featuring negative information that researchers had or would dig up on Democrats.[21]

In October 2006, Nelson was revealed as the second producer, with lead producer Scott Howell, of the attack ad used against Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr. in which a white woman said that she had met Ford at a Playboy party. The ad concluded with the woman speaking to the camera and saying with a wink, "Harold, call me." It was criticized as racist by the NAACP and others.[22]

Coverage of the controversy characterized Nelson's partner Howell as a "protegé" of Karl Rove. After Jesse Jackson and others called on Walmart to fire Nelson, Walmart asked for and received Nelson's resignation.[23]


  1. ^ a b c Chris Cillizza and Zachary A. Goldfarb, "McCain Camp Hires 'Best Bricklayer,'", Washington Post, March 19, 2006
  2. ^ "About Us", Crosslink Strategy Group, accessed September 11, 2006
  3. ^ a b c Andrew Wheat, "DeLay’s Beautiful Laundrette', October 21, 2005] Texas Observer
  4. ^ Iowa Caucuses 2008 - Leadership and Supporters, George Washington University Democracy in Action project, accessed September 11, 2006
  5. ^ "RNC Continues Grassroots and Outreach Efforts; Announces New Staff and Initiatives", Republican National Committee press release, January 17, 2002
  6. ^ "Witness List for the Prosecution from the Trial of James Tobin, 11-29-2005", document copy at TPMMuckracker.com
  7. ^ Paul Kiel, Terry Nelson got around", TPMMuckracker.com, March 20, 2006
  8. ^ "Indictment of Tom DeLay on Money Laundering Charges, 10-03-2005", document at TPMMuckraker.com
  9. ^ "Hotline Clip-N-Save: The Bush Team In '08...", National Journal, December 6, 2005
  10. ^ "McCain Picks Campaign Chief", ABC News (blog), December 7, 2006
  11. ^ "McCain drops manager, strategist - politics - Decision '08 - John McCain News | NBC News". MSNBC. 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  12. ^ Nagourney, Adam; Kirkpatrick, David D. (2007-07-11). "McCain Campaign Drops Top Aides; New Doubts Rise". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  13. ^ "http://www.cfboard.state.mn.us/NewsRelease/pawlentyfindings.htm", State of Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, October 10, 2002
  14. ^ Marilyn Geewax, Shoppers Become Unwitting Warriors In PR Battle", Cox News Service, April 4, 2006
  15. ^ "Former Bush-Cheney Political Director Terry Nelson Joins Mercury Public Affairs as Washington, D.C., Partner", press release, May 4, 2006
  16. ^ "Terry Nelson, Partner", Mercury Public Affairs website, accessed September 11, 2006
  17. ^ "Who We Are", Mercury Public Affairs website, accessed September 11, 2006
  18. ^ New York Times, October 28, 2006, "Wal-Mart Dismisses Adviser Who Created G.O.P. Ad"
  19. ^ "Two Major Bush Cheney '04 Advisors Add Significant Presence to Akerman Senterfitt's Washington, D.C. Office: Mark Wallace and Terry Nelson To Strengthen Firm's Government Relations Practice", Akerman Senterfitt press release, March 7, 2005
  20. ^ Search of attorneys and consultants at Akerman Senterfitt, accessed September 11, 2006[dead link]
  21. ^ Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza, "In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal: Millions to Go to Digging Up Dirt on Democrats", Washington Post, September 10, 2006
  22. ^ "Rove Protégé Behind Racy Tennessee Ad", CBS News, October 26, 2006
  23. ^ "GOP consultant cuts ties with Wal-Mart", AP story, October 28, 2006

External links[edit]