Freedom's Watch

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Freedom's Watch was a Washington D.C. based 501(c)(4) lobbying organization. Freedom's Watch was supportive of the Bush administration's positions in the War on Terror and of Republican Congressional candidates. The group was run and supported, in part, by several former officials of the Bush administration.[1] The organization stated that its goal was "educating individuals about and advancing public policies that protect America’s interests at home and abroad, foster economic prosperity, and strengthen families." [2] In the 2008 election cycle, Freedom's Watch purchased advertisements in support of Republican congressional candidates.

In December 2008, the organization's board of directors decided to shut it down at the end of 2008.[3]

Origins[edit]

Freedom's Watch had a working relationship with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the American Enterprise Institute.[4] The group was conceived at a Florida meeting of the RJC in March 2007 [5][6] in part to counter MoveOn.org and help the Bush administration sell its Iraq policy.[4] It was founded by a 12 people,[5] most notably Sheldon Adelson, who donated almost all of its initial funding.[7] Four out of five members of Freedom's Watch original board were Republican Jews, and four of the eight initial donors were Jewish, though board member Matt Brooks said "it would be a mistake to regard the group as having a Jewish direction," and noted that "half of the donors contributing to the group's first $15 million ad campaign are not Jewish."[8] [9]

In 2008, the group became paralyzed by internal problems and plagued by gridlock and infighting, according to Republican operatives who criticized Adelson's insistence on parceling out money project by project, which limited the group's ability to plan and be nimble.[7] For example, the organization spent weeks working on a package for the presidential election, but the plan did not go forward.[7] Some staff members blamed the problems on Major Donors who micro-managed the management of the start-up. Bradley A. Blakeman former member of George W. Bush's Senior Staff was its President.

Positions[edit]

Freedom's Watch supported President George W. Bush's Iraq War policies. "More and more Democratic and Republican members agree: The surge in Iraq is working," according to one ad. "Victory is America's only choice."[10] The group also claimed that Iran is a grave threat to the United States and Israel. According to the group's president, "If Hitler's warnings were heeded when he wrote 'Mein Kampf,' he could have been stopped." Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he continued, "is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel." One ad called Ahmadenijad "a terrorist".[5]

Board[edit]

The original president was Bradley Blakeman, though he resigned in March 2008 after a series of high-level staff departures. [12]

Notable donors[edit]

Freedom's Watch's donors included:[13]

Advertising[edit]

On August 22, 2007 Freedom's Watch announced a $15 million advertising and grass-roots campaign in 20 U.S. states to maintain Republican support for President Bush's policies.[13][14] The advertising campaign emphasized the sacrifice of U.S. troops and their families in Iraq. As The New York Times wrote, "Several of the group's spots suggested that Iraq, rather than Al Qaeda, was behind the September 11 attacks, even though the independent September 11 commission investigation and other inquiries found no evidence of Iraq's involvement."[5] ABC News, among others, concurred: "The ads also link the war with September 11, despite no reliable evidence Iraq played any role in those attacks."[15] In one advertisement, a war widow claims, "I lost two family members to Al Qaeda -- my uncle, a firefighter, on 9/11, and my husband, Travis, in Iraq. Congress did the right thing, voting to defeat terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan," adding that, "Switching their votes now, for political reasons, it will mean more attacks in America." In another ad, an Iraq war veteran states, "They attacked us, and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq."[15]

On September 13, the group aired a new television ad, challenging a MoveOn.org advertisement which questioned the integrity of General David Petraeus saying "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" and "Cooking the Books for the White House." [16] The advertisement stated, "Name calling, charges of betrayal it's despicable. It's what MoveOn shamefully does — and it's wrong. America and the forces of freedom are winning. MoveOn is losing. Call your Congressman and Senator. Tell them to condemn MoveOn." They also planned to run print advertisements on the subject.[17]

Freedom's Watch also purchased advertisements during the 2008 election cycle in support of Republican congressional candidates. For example, the group purchased $550,000 in advertising in the Mississippi 1st district special election in support of Republican candidate Greg Davis.[18] The group also ran ads in support of Republican candidates in two other special elections to fill vacant house seats in Illinois and Louisiana. All three Republicans were subsequently defeated by their Democratic challengers in historically Republican districts.

Criticism[edit]

In 2008, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee charged that, in a Congressional race in Louisiana, Freedom's Watch was running a television advertisement with a script that came from the National Republican Congressional Committee. Such coordination with the NRCC would be illegal for Freedom's Watch because of the latter's status as an independent group. A media consultant working for Freedom's Watch responded that the apparent origin of the script with the NRCC was the result of an innocent mistake.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The donors behind those new TV ads - First Read - msnbc.com
  2. ^ "Freedom's Watch web site: 'About Us' page"
  3. ^ Ward, Jon (December 8, 2008). "Freedom's Watch to shut at end of month". The Washington Times. 
  4. ^ a b c Peter Stone (2008-01). "Betting on Red". Mother Jones.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d Don Van Natta (2007-09-30). "Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift Group on the Right". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Kane, Paul; Weisman, Jonathan (2008-01-20). "A Conservative Answer to MoveOn". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  7. ^ a b c d Michael Luo (2008-04-12). "Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Pro-'surge' group is almost all Jewish". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2007-08-24. 
  9. ^ Philip Weiss (2007-10-08). "Surge Protectors". The American Conservative. 
  10. ^ "Battle over Iraq strategy" New York Times retrieved 30 September 2007
  11. ^ a b c d "Freedom's Watch to Rival MoveOn Funding". Newsmax.com. 2007-08-23. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2008. 
  12. ^ Chris Cilliza (2008-03-07). "Blakeman Leaves Freedom's Watch". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ a b "Left, Right Proxies Push on Iraq". The Washington Post. 2007-08-23. 
  14. ^ "Democrats Refocus Message on Iraq After Military Gains." Washington Post
  15. ^ a b Jake Tapper; Avery Miller (2007-08-22). "Selling the War, Through Advertising". ABC News. Retrieved 2007-09-30. 
  16. ^ "GOP calls on top Senate Dem to condemn anti-Petraeus ad - CNN.com". CNN. 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Pro-Bush group airs new war ads" Associated Press
  18. ^ A House Race Holds Clues for GOP, Susan Davis, The Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2008.
  19. ^ Kane, Paul (April 16, 2008). "Democrats Accuse GOP Campaign Arm Of Covertly Writing Ad". The Washington Post. pp. A03. 

External links[edit]