Republican-Financed Freedom’s Watch to Spend $250 Million to Support Iraq War

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February 12, 2008 – President Bush has been to Las Vegas nine times since he was first inaugurated, but last Wednesday was the first time he ever stayed overnight in Sin City. He and his aides (and the traveling press corps) did so in luxury, staying at the Venetian, the palatial dominoqq casino resort run by Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. and a big force in GOP and philanthropic circles. (He is part of the money behind Freedom’s Watch, the conservative foreign policy group formed as a kind of counterpoint to liberal groups like Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were in the loading dock near the slots at the Venetian Thursday to greet Bush and jumped into his limousine to ride with him to his speech sponsored by a conservative think tank. You can enjoy online betting , online casino.

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After the speech, Adelson — who was at the White House in November for the official dinner for French President Nicolas Sarkozy — hosted Bush at a Nevada GOP fundraiser at his home in the Tournament Hills gated community. A Nevada GOP official would not provide figures for the total take. — Michael Abramowitz, in the Washington Post, February 4, 2008.

In early December, Freedom’s Watch, the well-funded conservative lobbying group founded by former White House staffers and extremely wealthy longtime Republican donors, fired its first shot in Election 2008. Founded last year, and making its public debut with a $15 million dollar advertising campaign in support of Bush’s “surge” in mid-August, the group recently funded a series of ads in a northern Ohio special congressional election.

The advertisements, called “aggressively negative” by the Washington Post, branded the Democratic Party candidate as being soft on illegal immigration. According to the Washington Post, “Behind a blood-red foreground, the group’s ad showed Latinos hurrying under fences and being frisked by police as a narrator accused Democratic candidate Robin Weirauch and ‘liberals in Congress’ of supporting free health care for illegal immigrants.”

Republican Robert Latta won the House seat representing the district around Bowling Green, Ohio.

Freedom’s Watch (website) was founded by Bradley Blakeman, the organization’s president and a former assistant to President George W. Bush and presidential appointee to the US Holocaust Museum; Mel Sembler, a millionaire former Bush ambassador to Italy, and Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary. Much of its financial support so far has come from Sembler and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino executive who is one of the richest people in the world. Many people use to do gambling from platform like qq39bet. You will see that many people earn good cash on สล็อต xo which is most popular platform among the casino players. Sbobet is the most prefer platform by casino players.

According to Congresspedia, a joint project of Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom’s Watch ” . . . is organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, meaning that it can lobby on issues but cannot expressly advocate for specific candidates.”

On September 17, 2007, it registered with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate as a non-profit lobbying organization. The organization lists Blakeman, Michael Leavitt, identifed as having served within the past two years as “Staff Asst & Regional Rep, [NC State] Senator [John] Snow,” and Matt David, identified as having served within the past two years as “Director of Rapid Response; White House Special Asst. to Director of Policy, Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance” as lobbyists.

The idea for Freedom’s Watch was “hatched,” according to Congresspedia, in March 2007 at the “winter meeting” of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Manalapan, Florida, where keynote speaker Vice President Dick Cheney “accused the Democrat-led House of Representatives of not supporting troops in Iraq and of sending a message to terrorists that America will retreat in the face danger.” The RJC was described in 2005 as “a big money pro-Israel lobby group linking Jewish-American neoconservatives to the Christian Right and Israel’s Likud government.”

The organization’s mission is “to promote the common good and general welfare of the American people by supporting mainstream conservative public policies. We engage in grassroots lobbying, education and information campaigns, and issue advocacy to further our goals and objectives. We also seek to create coalitions and collaborate with like-minded groups and individuals to further our common goals. Freedom’s Watch provides a credible conservative voice and strong leadership on pressing domestic and international issues to keep America strong, safe, and prosperous.”

According to its website, the organization’s four “core issue areas” are:

–The dangers of radical Islam and the emerging Iranian threat
–Advancing a conservative agenda and market-based solutions to pressing domestic problems
–Standing up to Big Labor’s radical agenda
–Preventing the degeneration of our society by stopping the legalization of controlled substances.

“While initial reports suggested a budget of $200 million, people who have talked to the group in recent weeks say the figure is closer to $250 million, more than double the amount spent by the largest independent liberal groups in the 2004 election cycle,” the Washington Post reported. “There is a sense among those contributing to Freedom’s Watch that MoveOn powerfully filled a void in the left, that rallied support in the left, that raised money from the left, that mobilized the left,” Fleischer told the Post.

John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy recently passed on this e-mail survey/fundraising appeal that he received from Freedom’s Watch’s Bradley Blakemore:

Have you seen our television ads that have the liberal establishment reeling?

For most of last year, the liberals declared Iraq a lost cause and pushed for immediate withdraw of our troops — but then we pushed back. Instead of surrender, victory is now within our grasp!

We are Freedom’s Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and defending conservative principles and promoting a conservative agenda.

In just a few months, John, Freedom’s Watch has helped turn around the public debate and helped ensure that our troops in Iraq had the chance to do what they do best, WIN.

Now Freedom’s Watch is turning its attention to other critical issues that are at the forefront of the debate during this critical and historic national election year.

John, before we launch our next round of ads, we want to gather feedback from grassroots conservatives like you to find out which issues and policies you believe are most important.

So please . . . take a brief online survey that will serve as the basis for Freedom’s Watch’s 2008 campaign for a conservative agenda.

We need to know if illegal immigration, taxes, government spending, national defense, education, health care or some other issue is at the top of your own election year agenda, so that we can move it to the top of ours as well.

In late January, Paul Kiel of pointed out that Freedom’s Watch had “begun its promised push to recruit membership — to become ‘a conservative answer to MoveOn'”:

In a mailing that the group has sent to an unknown number of people, a four-page fundraising pitch (which is addressed, “Dear Fellow Patriot”) is packaged with a two-page “Citizens Census.” The “CONFIDENTIAL CENSUS DOCUMENT,” as it’s described in the letter, is actually a list of questions about core conservative issues, such as “Should we give our troops everything they need to fight our enemies?” with “Yes,” “No,” or “Undecided” as the offered responses. The questions are under the heading “FREEDOM’S WATCH CITIZENS CENSUS QUESTIONS.”

The letter and census was mailed in an official looking envelope marked “2008 Citizens Census.” FW spokesperson Jake Suski, Sen. John McCain’s former Western finance director, denied the mailing was misleading, telling Kiel that “It doesn’t even have the qualities of an official document.”

Building a powerful infrastructure

Freedom’s Watch is experiencing a growth spurt in both its infrastructure and its projected agenda. “We’re a permanent political operation here in town. We’re not going to be Johnny One Note,” Joe Eule, the group’s executive director told the Washington Post. Helping pave the way to permanency is a projected doubling of its 20 person staff, the creation of an in-house modern studio capable of transmitting advertisements to television and radio stations across the country, and the hiring of a new communications director, Ed Patru, the former spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee who was recently lured “away from Capitol Hill” the Post reported.

Patru, who earlier in his career was the communications director for the American International Automobile Dealers, appears to be an able-bodied spinmeister for Freedom’s Watch’s Swift Boat.

A year ago, Patru, then the House Republican Conference spokesman, attacked Pennsylvania Democrat and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy, who had spoken out on the need to end the war in Iraq. According to the blog Brendan Calling, Patru sent out the following quotes (with Patru’s commentary) from freshman Rep. Murphy:

Mr. Murphy said in a speech on the House floor Tuesday: “I served in Baghdad from June of 2003 to January of 2004, walking in my own combat boots, I saw firsthand this administration’s failed policy in Iraq.”

That is true. Mr. Murphy, according to his Web site, served with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.

However, Republicans dug up a quote from Mr. Murphy in the Widener University School of Law Magazine, Fall 2004 edition.

There, Capt. Murphy said: “We are really making a difference here in Baghdad. These people haven’t had a sense of justice in such a long time. We’re rebuilding schools and parks, and I am working with the Baghdad judiciary on rebuilding their court system . . . For those of us who joined the legal profession to make a difference, this sure is the place.”

In an attempt to find out more about his record of service, Brendan Calling phoned Patru’s office:

No one could connect me to Patru, but a person named Shane spoke to me. Had Patru ever served in the military? Shane wasn’t sure. Had Patru served in Iraq? Shane was pretty sure that wasn’t the case. How old was Ed Patru? Shane didn’t know. Was he over 42, was he past the maximum age of enlistment? Shane didn’t know. Did Patru support the war in Iraq? Shane couldn’t answer for his boss.

Patru seems better equipped for attacking than he is at prognosticating. When asked in a December 2005 interview with The Hotline, the National Journal’s daily briefing on politics, if the Democrats could take back the House, Patru responded:

Patru: Trying to take back the House running on Duke Cunningham or running on Abramoff or any other issue may sound good inside the beltway. But in the real world, House races are local phenoms . . . voters have good relationships with [their members] . . . most of our incumbents are battled tested . . . if the issue is ethics’s a losing issue for Dems b/c we’re more than happy to point the figure at them. Nancy Pelosi is the only leader in Cong. to have been fined by the FEC for having too many PACs. Rahm Emanual went to Chicago to campaign for Richard Daley . . . when ethics are brought up, most voters . . . look at Cong. and the approval level drops as an institution.”

With perhaps as much as $250 million to throw around during the upcoming elections, we will no doubt be hearing a lot more from Freedom’s Watch and Ed Patru.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent writer for Media Transparency. He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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