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Freedom's Watch to Rival MoveOn Funding

Ronald Kessler By Thursday, 23 August 2007 12:21 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

A new conservative organization called Freedom’s Watch has begun running $15 million in TV, radio, and Internet ads aimed at bolstering support in Congress for President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq.

Conservatives have long wondered why no one has stepped forward to provide as much funding to push their issues as the left-of-center operations started by George Soros. The new non-profit organization is designed to fill that void: Its funding will exceed that of entities that have been underwritten by Soros.

The No. 1 issue pushed by the new group will be protecting America.

“The war on terror is fundamental, in that no other issue means a dime if America is not safe and secure,” Bradley A. Blakeman, president of the new group, tells NewsMax. A lawyer, Blakeman was in charge of appointments and scheduling during President Bush’s first term.

“We’re going to educate the American people on those representatives who have less than stellar votes on keeping America safe,” he says. In addition, he says, “We believe in a free market, economic freedom, and a smaller government. We believe in a safe and strong America. We believe in having our streets free from drugs. And we believe that workers’ rights should be protected, and not necessarily by unions.”

A major thrust of the new organization will be counteracting disinformation in the media.

“We’re tired of hearing just one side of a story, when we know that there’s a vast majority out there who believes otherwise,” Blakeman says. “We want to give voice to those people. As our ads do — our ads are absolutely non-partisan. They’re real people, telling their own story, unrehearsed. The only thing we’ve done is given them the opportunity to tell their story, and the only reference to Freedoms Watch is to let everybody know who paid for it.”

The ads — which can be viewed at — feature soldiers who have fought in Iraq and the widow of a soldier who died there. Her uncle was a fireman who lost his life responding to the 9/11 attack.

The opening ad, produced by Jamestown Associates of New Jersey, shows a military veteran saying: “Congress was right to vote to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. I re-enlisted after Sept. 11 because I don’t want my sons to see what I saw. I want them to be free and safe. I know what I lost. I also know that if we pull out now, everything I’ve given and the sacrifices will mean nothing. They attacked us, and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq. We are winning on the ground and making real progress. It’s no time to quit. It’s no time for politics.”

The ads will run for five weeks on outlets like Fox News Channel and CNN. Outside of presidential campaigns, the ad buy is said to be the largest underwriting of issue ads in U.S. history.

While the total assets of the organization and the largest sources of funds are not being disclosed, the board members include well-known Republicans like former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and former ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler.

“For those who believe in peace through strength, the cavalry is coming,” Fleischer says.

The group 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. Its stated mission is “to ensure a strong national defense and a powerful effort to confront and defeat global terrorism.”

The group plans to open offices in Washington next month on 9th Street N.W. across from FBI headquarters. The group also will start Stand United for Freedom, a non-profit organization that will underwrite efforts by third parties.

“A bunch of us like-minded activists got together and said we’re tired of being kicked around,” Blakeman says. “We’re tired of a void in the debate, and you’ve got to either put up or shut up. So we got our resources together, we got our people together, we got our mission together, we got a business plan together, and now we’re executing it. We talked about it for over a year. But it’s just culminated in the last couple months.”

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq — formed by the Service Employees International Union, Political Action, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and other liberal organizations — has already issued a statement calling Freedom’s Watch a “White House PR front group” and an “attack group.”

Blakeman often appears on television as a Republican analyst and is regularly quoted in NewsMax’s Washington Insider. In the Aug. 16 NewsMax story FISA Opposition Leaves Hillary, Obama Vulnerable, Blakeman took aim at Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s votes against revising FISA to allow continued interceptions of calls between foreign countries without a warrant.

“First the Democrats screamed that the intelligence wasn’t good enough, and now they claim that gathering of intelligence is too good,” Blakeman said. “They have a platform of a weaker America. There shouldn’t be any disagreement about keeping our country safe.”

Besides Blakeman, Fleischer, and Sembler, the board of the new organization consists of William P. Weidner, president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Donors include Sembler; Anthony Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who was Bush’s ambassador to Malta; Kevin Moley, who was Bush’s ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; Howard Leach, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who was Bush’s ambassador to France; and Dr. John Templeton of Pennsylvania, chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation.

They also include Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. who was ranked by Forbes magazine as the third-wealthiest American; and Richard Fox, chairman of the Jewish Policy Center, who was Pennsylvania state chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980.

Blakeman declined to compare the group with Soros’ funding.

“Over the next month or so, we’ll be releasing the other issues that we’re going to involve ourselves in,” Blakeman says. “But one thing is for sure: Everything we involve ourselves in will be with the same determination and gusto and resources as this effort to support our war efforts in Iraq.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.

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A new conservative organization called Freedom’s Watch has begun running $15 million in TV, radio, and Internet ads aimed at bolstering support in Congress for President Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq. Conservatives have long wondered why no one has stepped forward to...
Thursday, 23 August 2007 12:21 PM
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