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The CEO of IMGE, one of the largest center-right digital public affairs firms in Washington, purchased the company from Media Group of America (MGA) this past Friday, Axios has learned.

MGA, which also houses Independent Journal Review, was co-founded by Alex Skatell and Phil Musser in 2013. Ties to IJR had previously weighed on IMGE's business goals of remaining independent of editorial, like not being able to take on a presidential candidate in 2016. On the flip side, perception problems for potential editorial conflicts existed at IJR, so MGA agreed to make a clean break.

"As the companies have matured, Alex and I recognized this split allows both companies to fully and independently pursue all the opportunities ahead." said Phil Musser, CEO of IMGE.

It's a big deal because IMGE has become a big presence in the Republican media agency space with clients like Boeing and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the newly-created Great America PAC chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. Becoming totally independent of Independent Journal Review will let it avoid entanglements with an editorial partner.

  • IMGE has also hired Bryan Sanders, husband of new White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to lead a newly-created research and insights division, IMGE Insights, that will focus on sophisticated on-line polling and large-scale research. Bryan has served as a strategist for some of the most unexpected Republican victories in the country over the last decade and was named a "Rising Star in American Politics" by Campaigns and Elections magazine.
  • On top of that, they've recently added several big strategic partners, like Liesl Hickey, who used to run the NRCC, and longtime political operative Phil Cox, who runs the bipartisan public affairs firm 50 State, and who is taking an expanded role at IMGE as a senior advisor.

Go deeper

Kevin McCarthy's rude awakening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.

The next big political war: redistricting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Vaccinations, relief timing dominate Sweet 16 call

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks during a news conference in December with a group of bipartisan lawmakers. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.