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September 14, 2006

Front-Group PFA Echoes Republican "Freedom, Security and Survival" Themes

-- by Dave Johnson

This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project

The Republican “527” front-group Progress for America has reemerged, and is running a TV advertisement that echoes and amplifies the “be afraid” election campaign theme launched by President Bush. The ad is currently running in Missouri and nationally on cable TV.

The ad, titled “The War on Terror,” is not even a little bit subtle, marketing pure fear. “There are people who want to KILL … US!” it shouts in a horror-movie-advertisement voice, as dark-skinned, Middle-Eastern faces appear on the screen.

Just as President Bush did all last week (political campaigns traditionally begin on Labor Day), the ad conflates different groups like al Queda, Islamic Jihad, and Hezzbollah together as if they are one group. The ad reinforces the Bush administration and surrogate’s repeated claim that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack. Referring to “the evil” that happened five years ago while showing a plane hitting the World Trade Center, the ad then says President Clinton “took little action” against al Queda and says that “after 9/11 we destroyed al Queda terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Also, echoing current Party talking points, the ad claims there are those who want to “cut and run” from the war on terror.

Reflecting another campaign point advocating warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the ad goes on to say “we have narrowly escaped another 9/11, using proven surveillance that some would stop” – even though it was British law enforcement that caught those involved, using warrants.

Finally, the ad closes saying “the war on terror is a war for our country’s freedom, security and survival.”

The Progress for America website claims its mission includes:

• Winning the "War on Terror" in Iraq to prevent future terrorist attacks in America;
• Increasing the public’s awareness of the under-reported positive news and advances in Iraq;
• Educating the public about the necessity of winning the war on terror by completing the mission in Iraq;
Of course, in this supposed war for our very survival there is no call for sacrifice or public effort of any kind beyond voting for Republicans – no draft to provide the needed troops who fight for our freedom and security, no taxes to pay for this war for our survival, and certainly no energy conservation or even fuel use standards to reduce the flow of money flowing to the supposed “enemies” from oil purchases. Such appeals to national sacrifice for the war effort might cause the Republicans and Progress For America to sacrifice something they desire much more than defeating terrorists – votes.

Progress for America is a front-group. It is a “527” organization.  As Patriot Project pointed out in Behind the Front: The Creation of Vets for Freedom, Opensecrets.org writes:

"527 groups are tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities, often through unlimited soft money contributions. Most 527s on this list are advocacy groups trying to influence federal elections through voter mobilization efforts and so-called issue ads that tout or criticize a candidate's record."

And Common Cause writes:

"In the 2004 election, 527 groups influencing federal elections spent an estimated $400 million. About 25 individuals alone gave $146 million to these groups, some of which were staffed by political operatives who had close ties to the national political parties. The fear was that 527 groups would be a backdoor route for parties to once again collect soft money, and to evade Federal laws on the books for more than 50 years that have prohibited labor unions and corporations from using their treasury funds to influence federal elections."

Initially intended as an Astroturf operation to create the appearance of public support for President Bush’s policies such as tax cuts, energy deregulation and judicial appointments, PFA was one of the largest political operations in the 2004 Presidential campaign. According to SourceWatch,

“In the last three weeks leading up to the November 2, 2004, election, PFA-VF outspent the next largest spending Democratic 527 group three-to-one on political ads.”
Following the election, PFA is reported to have spent as much as $20 million – much of that received from investment firms anticipating commission fees – in support of privatizing Social Security. From the Feb., 2005 Washington Post story, Conservatives Join Forces for Bush Plans,
"For corporations wary of publicity over their involvement in [promoting Social Security privatization, tort reform] and other controversial issues, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, the Club for Growth and Progress for America pointedly offer donors the promise of anonymity."
The next PFA cause was pressing for Bush’s judicial nominations, and later fighting against “Net Neutrality.” And now, like clockwork, PFA has arrived on the scene, with an ad campaign that exactly correlates with the Republican Party and President Bush’s election-season message of extreme fear.

PFA was formed in February 2001 by Tony Feather, who had been political director for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign. PFA is closely-linked to the Republican firm Feather, Larson & Synhorst DCI Group (DCI). According to the Center for Media and Democracy,

FLS-DCI specializes in creating phony front groups to make it appear as if there's a groundswell of support for its clients' issues.
Tony Feather was also a founding partner of DCI, which does extensive work for the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney campaign ($17 million combined in 2004). <

Tom Synhorst, PFA strategic advisor, also a veteran of Bush/Cheney 2000, was the founder of DCI. Previously Synhorst worked as a tobacco PR specialist, and an associate of Christian/lobbyist Ralph Reed.

Chris LaCivita, former National Republican Senatorial Committee director, later employed at DCI, became Executive Director of PFA before he went over to help the Swift Boat Vets to attack John Kerry’s service record with claims like he lied, or that he shot himself to get his medals.

(Incidentally, DCI, which is still receiving large payments from PFA – over $147,000 just this year, as of June 30. and its Republican ties have been in the news for other reasons as well. DCI employee James Tobin, New England campaign chairman for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, was convicted last December for his part in a plot to jam Democrat’s phones on election day.)

So here we have yet another front group, misleading and manipulating the public.  They want us to be afraid.  Perhaps we should be afraid of what they are doing to democracy.

Posted by Dave Johnson at September 14, 2006 8:45 AM

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Comments

There's plenty to comment on about this campaign, but it's more important to somehow get the real truth out for a change. The truth is Bush and this administration is very vulnerable if we have the sense to attack by telling the truth loud and clear. There's no port security, no inspection of those damned cargo containers, as I'm reminded every time one passes my place, this administration did its best to give the local piers here to a Middle-Eastern country, no matter how much it demonizes those dark-skinned villains, and was outraged by having this blocked. Our borders are wide open. Of the two major terrorist plots I'm aware of, the attempt to blow up planes was foiled by the British, and the plot to flood NYC by bombing a subway train in a tunnel under the Hudson was foiled by NYC. That one really brought me up short because the tunnel goes under my place and I live right on the Hudson! The Feds have wasted so much of our resources in Iraq they have neither the time nor the energy to do anything about national security except talk about it -- and the Dept. of Homeland Security is clearly not interested. Their entire "plan" is clearly for us to put together those stupid "go bags" and "survival kits" and either hunker down (the plan for any kind of epidemic or pandemic) or get in our cars and drive, thus plugging up the highways and making any kind of rescue efforts impossible, in case of natural disaster or terror attack. And if you don't manage to get out when they tell you to, the aftermath is strictly your own fault. Look at New Orleans. Yeah, they're vulnerable, because they have no security plans, only window-dressing like making grandmothers take off their shoes in airports.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 14, 2006 3:30 PM

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