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February 12, 2008

Watching Freedom's Watch: The Donors

-- by Dave Johnson and James Boyce

Since 2004, we have been very involved in investigating, exposing, and uncovering the roots and exposing the tactics and lies of the right-wing smear machine. James was involved not only in John Kerry's campaign, but also in the Truth and Trust Team, a group of Kerry friends and family who attempted to fight back against the Swift Boat Veterans.

Dave, of course, followed the campaign and those attacks closely, and then worked with James and others, including our friend, Taylor Marsh, on The Patriot Project in 2006. Created by John Kerry, David Thorne and others, The Patriot Project helped veterans such as Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and John Murtha defend themselves -- even looking into previous attacks on John McCain. We also were part of the team that exposed the Economic Freedom Fund, a group created with a $5,000,000 donation from Bob Perry that attacked moderate Democrats, primarily in red states.

Why do folks like Bob Perry give money like that? It's strictly business.

Take, for example, the global warming arena where we have shown folks how the same tactics, the same strategies, the same people sometimes who created this whole smear empire with the tobacco companies, are now doing the same with global warming.

ExxonMobil has given these groups $25 million over the years - often, incredibly, as charitable donations. This past quarter, they had $11.7 billion in record profits. That's a return on investment we all would envy.

Now, we are looking forward not back.

And what we see is a front group on steroids, a massive death star of right wing machinery, floating, ready and waiting.

Freedom's Watch, operating like the opposite of a grassroots-funded progressive group like MoveOn.org, was founded by major donors like

... Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who ranks sixth on the Forbes Magazine list of the world's billionaires; Mel Sembler, a shopping center magnate based in St. Petersburg, Fla., who served as the ambassador to Italy and Australia; John M. Templeton Jr., the conservative philanthropist from Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and Anthony H. Gioia, a former ambassador to Malta who heads an investment group based in Buffalo, N.Y. All four men are long-time prolific donors who have raised money on behalf of Republican and conservative causes.
as well as
Richard Fox, one of the major building, development and real estate management companies in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey and a longtime GOP activist. He co-founded the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Gary Erlbaum, owner of Greentree Properties in Ardmore, Pa., who tried to rally Orthodox Jewish support for last year's failed reelection bid of conservative Christian Sen. Rick Santorum.


Freedom's Watch has direct connections with the Republican Party and is staffed by Republican Party operatives like Ari Fleischer, former White House Spokesperson; Bradley A. Blakeman, a former deputy assistant to George W. Bush; Kevin E. Moley, a senior adviser to Dick Cheney during the 2000 campaign.

Check out their site and their rhetoric. It is a major right wing group and here's the scary part:

Freedom's Watch says it plans to raise over $250,000,000 to play in this election. But Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)(4) organization, which means they can engage in political activity but not as their primary mission. They are allowed to lobby on issues but not support candidates. Yet the group appears to be primarily designed to influence elections in favor of Republican candidates

But who is going enforce the laws? The FEC? The Justice Department? Perhaps Senate Democrats can issue one of their strongly-worded statements of disapproval.

So what do we do?

We watch them -- and we start exposing them now, every day, all day.

We are going to post these articles frequently and often.

We are going to launch a Newsladder where we would appreciate everyone joining and linking up anything they see about this group.

We are going to launch in the coming days a new site, www.watchingfreedomswatch.com where, again, will write and expose this group.

The issue isn't you - and what you know. If you are reading this you are a blog-reader and already know more than most people about how these things work. The issue is whether we can drive narratives and how much knowledge we can give the average American about who these folks really are and what they are up to.

Posted by Dave and James at February 12, 2008 12:53 PM

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