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Freedom's Watch Starts Spending

Gaming mogul Sheldon Adelson. Photo by Bobby Yip of Reuters

Freedom's Watch, an outside conservative organization seen by many Republicans as their best chance of holding down major losses in the House and Senate this fall, has begun spending in key races after months of relative inaction.

In the past 10 days, Freedom's Watch has dropped more than $1.6 million on ads in six House races and two Senate contests. That spending comes after the group spent less than $40,000 on television ads between May and September, raising questions in many circles about whether the group would be a major factor in the fall election.

"We're keeping a very close eye on the landscape, and at this point we're making evaluations daily on whether we can impact a particular issue debate," said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the group.

Freedom's Watch is currently on television in the Colorado and Oregon Senate races as well as House contests in Alabama's 2nd district, Illinois' 10th, Nevada's 3rd, New Jersey's 3rd and New Jersey's 7th.

The bulk of its spending is in the two statewide races; Freedom's Watch has dropped nearly $660,000 on ads in Colorado's open seat against Rep. Mark Udall (D) and another $366,000 against state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) in his race against Sen. Gordon Smith (R). (Detailed spending totals in each district available after the jump.)

For Congressional Republicans, the spending by Freedom's Watch has been greeted with a sigh of relief. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- through its independent expenditure operation -- has been on television in dozens of districts for several weeks, pounding on vulnerable Republican incumbents and bolstering Democratic challengers and open seat candidates. The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has yet to run a single ad in support of any of their candidates or against any Democrat.

That huge ad disparity is the result of the continued financial struggles of the NRCC. At the end of August, the DCCC had $54 million to spend on races as compared to just $14 million for the NRCC -- a historic funding gap.

Unlike the party committees, Freedom's Watch is able to take donations of unlimited size from individuals due to its status as a 501(c)(4) group under IRS law. The main funder for Freedom's Watch is Sheldon Adelson, the gaming billionaire who has shown a willingness to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to electoral politics.

Democrats have sought to make Adelson an issue in their response to Freedom's Watch's activities and, in Alabama's 2nd district, got a boost from the state Christian Coalition today.

"Sheldon Adelson does not share our values as Alabamans, and Freedom's Watch's underhanded attack ads do nothing but cheapen the political discourse in this state," said Dr. Randy Brinson, president of the Alabama Christian Coalition. "Where Adelson has placed his treasure makes it quite clear where his heart is: in gambling and in backing the regime in China that persecutes Christians."

As interesting as where Freedom's Watch is getting its money, is where it is spending it. All seven races in which the group is currently engaged feature either a Republican incumbent seeking reelection or an open seat being vacated by a GOP incumbent.

Freedom's Watch's decision to play defense in its first major buy of the fall campaign speaks to the general attitude Republicans in the House and Senate have adopted. With the political landscape slanted badly against them, congressional Republicans are hoping to simply weather the storm on Nov. 4, holding enough seats in the House and Senate to make them a viable minority party in 2009, and allow them to begin positioning for what is likely to be a several-cycle climb back to the majority.

When and if the NRCC goes up on television The NRCC has already reserved ad time in 18 congressional districts. Expect those commercials to follow Freedom's Watch's lead -- spending their limited resources on behalf of a handful of GOP incumbents and challengers where a bit more money can make all the difference.

Defense is all congressional Republicans can play this cycle. How well they do it will determine whether they are looking at several years or several decades in the minority come 2009.

Freedom's Watch spending

Colorado Senate: $659,212
Oregon Senate: $366,033

Alabama's 2nd district: $52,374
Illinois' 10th district: $155,298
Nevada's 3rd district: $115,510
New Jersey's 3rd district: $23,690
New Jersey's 7th district: $124,885
New Mexico's 1st district: $155,903

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 29, 2008; 12:17 PM ET
Categories:  House , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Pick a President (Updated)
Next: Analysis: The Failure of the Bailout Bill


Now, Vladimir Putin believes not only in the separation of church and state, he also believes in the separation of business and state. And that's the way it should be. And that's why a guy named Khodorkovsky is in jail. He was not content with becoming one of Russia's richest men (mostly through very shady dealings), but needed an even greater high - political power. It would be good for this country political soul to chop off greedy fingers, legally speaking, of 5-10 major business people in the US annually, lest others be tempted to feel that their wealth entitles them to barge into the public domain. Adelson seems to be a good candidate for experiment.

Posted by: VMR1 | September 30, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I live in Denver, Colorado and work in Boulder, Colorado for the oil and gas industry. On a daily basis I deal with many different people of many different political persuasions and politics comes up often. I also have noticed the advertisements on TV and in my mailbox from "Freedom's Watch" and actually took a close look at who they are and what they are all about after noticing some of the uncited (or poorly cited) comments attributed to Mark Udall (like...for instance.. .three word clips from a newspaper article in 2002. . .) I.E. Mark Udall said in 2002 that he "wanted.. .to raise. . .taxes. . .on. . .working families" I keep expecting them to say that Mark Udall hates puppies and plays chess (that elitist!) with Osama bin Laden.

Fact of the matter is that Freedoms Watch is hurting Schaffer more than he is helping. Maybe they play well with the far right, but with rational people who take their vote seriously, and vote on candidates based on research...they really make Schaffer seem sleazy. Their advertisements pretty much force the viewer to say "who the hell is Freedom's Watch and where in Colorado are they located?"

Oh. . .they're from D.C.

Posted by: swampfox | September 29, 2008 9:39 PM | Report abuse

That guy Adelson looks like he'd fit perfectly into oone of those local Republican meetings in the Simpsons, when Mr Burns, Dracula, the Texas mogul etc would get together to discuss how they'd buy the next election.

Posted by: Bud0 | September 29, 2008 9:12 PM | Report abuse

With that kind of lousy funding, it sounds more like Freedom's Botch to me.

Posted by: soonerthought | September 29, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

How can a 501(c) be actively campaigning in such a partisan manner as this? "The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity." -- but this appears to be nothing but an attack group.

Posted by: The_Thinker | September 29, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

KOZ - What on earth are you talking about? You have been raging all week that Wall Street and all of it's problems are Democratic problems and have been urging McCain and the Republican's to vote NO on a bailout! (That, in spite of the fact that globalization, free trade, deregulation, and all of the rest that led to this mess is straight out of the NeoCon playbook and is legislation your Republican's passed when they controlled COngress). So guess what? You got your wish! The right voted against it and liberals bailed on you and your silly President's bailout plan. You got EXACTLY what you wanted (except for the Fox News delussion of being able to pass the blame onto Democrats), so now you get to slep in the bed you made.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | September 29, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The failure of the bailout bill is not about anything else but timing.

If this had happened earlier this year, or last year, the bill would've passed with 300+ votes in the House.

This was politics before country, with blame to be shared on both sides.

Sometimes your constituents don't understand when something is necessary, however distasteful it may be. Hold your nose and vote AYE, for crying out loud.

If people understood that it's a lot easier to retire when your 401(k) or IRA haven't bottomed out, maybe they wouldn't spend all their time complaining about the fact that government has to intervene.

The line between Main Street and Wall Street isn't quite as distinct as people think it is. If we don't get this thing done, Main Street is going to be closed for business.
Instead, you want to be re-elected.

Posted by: cam8 | September 29, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

so the bailout fails. for once we have on perfect display the leadership of the Lib congress. Madame PeLousy and limp as a noodle Reid have demonstrated why the congressional approval rates are below 10%.

anyone got Obama's phone number? his capabilites as a leader have been aptly demonstrated.

1. Liberal activism requires loans to deadbeats
2. Democrats ignore signs of failure
3. Dem pols profit from donations
4. Repubs try to introduce corrective action, Dems block it
5. Real estate market bubble bursts
6. PeLousy fails to lead, Reid found hiding under his bed
7. Obama claims his cell service was out, but he would have voted PRESENT if reached

Posted by: king_of_zouk | September 29, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

jdunph1 - What are you talking about. Bush and McCain just successfully executed their secret plan to end the war in Iraq. Victory is theirs! They simply sent the country spiraling into a depression. For good measure, it looks like they have wrecked the economies of the coalition of the willing, everyone stupid enough to do business with the assorted Wall Street crooks, cretins at Freedom Watch, inbred hicks who get their “news and information” by watch Fox News, etc. So, we get out of Afghanistan, too! Of course there are some unintended consequences. After the looming hyper-inflation, the plummeting dollar (valued at, oh, around 20% of a Euro), the fact that the cost of commodities will be pegged to the Euro by the end of next week, and little thing like 30% unemployment, lack of funds for any sort of social services, instantly bankrupt Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, lack of medical care for everyone else, too, lack of housing, food, and an impending wave of violence that will make Iraq look like a walk in the park Please, don’t go treating the criminal syndicate that is American conservativism like some sort of political movement. These are CRIMINALS, swine that deserve to be tracked down like former members of the Nazi SS and punished to the last man and the Republican Party needs to be treated like a criminal organization. Believe me, virtually the entire world will feel this way before much longer. Adelson and like minds swine will be scampering for some hidey hole (Dubai? Nah, he’s a Jew…and it will be over populated by Wall Street sorts that “relocate” their corporate headquarters there).

Posted by: mibrooks27 | September 29, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I told you the other party isn't going to be getting back in the majority any time soon. 2010 is going to validate '06 and '08, as this will be yet another justice election. After losing the presidency to circumstances we couldn't control in 2000, and after losing election in '02 and '04 due to under-handed despicalbe tactics, we're only just now beginning to win back what's rightfully ours. After 2010, when we're back to where we would have been, then we can evaluate the landscape and see how long it will take them to get back in the majority (never in case you're wondering).
I'm looking forward to the first 2010 Senate lineup where not only will we not lose another seat for the third straight election, but we're going to pad our working-majority with big gains again.
Objectivity will prevent you from predicting this at first. But, when 2010 nears you'll start to see that what I've been saying is true.
These seats look like solid pick-ups for us if we get the candidates we prefer again:
Kentucky (all we have to do is run a candidate here)
Arizona (Napolitano)
Kansas (Sebilius)
Pennsylvania (Murphy, Matthews)
Ohio (Ryan)
Missouri (any number of people)
New Hampshire (Marchand, any number of people)
Florida (Davis)
Iowa (with a Grassley retirement of course; Vilsack)
Keep in mind this is just a preliminary list of course.
I'm disappointed with the updated electoral map. If you think McCain is going to win all of those swing-states I don't know what you're going off of.
We'll probably take NC, Va., Fla, Ohio, Colo., Nev., etc., etc.
Thanks Chris
jimmy dunphy

Posted by: jdunph1 | September 29, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious about the status as a 501(c)(4) group under IRS law,
of the New York Times and the
Washington(huffington) Post.

Posted by: USA3 | September 29, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, the Freedom Watch bumkins got what they wanted. The bailout failed....completely. I have watched these toxic swine blame Democrats for the economic mess they created. Now, the DEPRESSION begins and these fools get to rot in the hole they have dug for themselves and this country.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | September 29, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Some of us think it is time for America to elect grown up for the leadership positions. ............

Posted by: glclark4750 | September 29, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Freedom's Watch" ads don't seem to be doing any good in Oregon. Since they began running, Jeff Merkely has taken a 2-3% lead over the incumbent, Gordon Smith. That was without the Christian groups becoming alerted to Andelson's sponsorship of the ads. I wonder if the Christian organizations will take notice of John "well, I AM a betting man, heh, heh" McCain's links to gambling interests, as well?

Posted by: johnsonc2 | September 29, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Hey "Freedoms Watch"!

Why don't you try to defend this?!?!

John McCain's Latest Lie Gets Worse

You may recall the latest in the ongoing stream of baldfaced lies that passes for John McCain's presidential campaign.

This one was about his campaign manager, Rick Davis. McCain has been hammered for the large number of lobbyists running and surrounding his campaign, including Davis. But don't worry, said McCain:

"On Sunday, in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times, Mr. McCain responded to a question about Mr. Davis’s role in the advocacy group through 2005 by saying that his campaign manager "has had nothing to do with it since, and I’ll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it."

So reporters did. And found that he wasn't telling the truth. Not even close:

"One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement."

Well, though, at least Davis isn't involved with his own firm anymore, right? Newsweek reports:

"Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign's communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Davis "left" Davis Manafort in 2006. In a statement attacking The New York Times, posted on the campaign's Web site on Wednesday, campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb said that Davis "separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006." (A senior campaign official, in an e-mail statement to NEWSWEEK that was not for attribution on Tuesday night, said "Rick is no longer affiliated with the firm.")

Oh, my... You can see where this is going, right? Yep, you guessed it. They're lying yet again. According to Newsweek:

"Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records."

"[McCain campaign] statements appear to have overstated the extent to which Davis had severed his relationship with his lobbying firm. Filings made by "Davis Manafort Partners" with the Virginia Corporation Commission as recently as April 1, 2008, show that Davis was still listed as one of only two corporate officers and directors of the firm, according to records on the commission’s Web site reviewed by NEWSWEEK. That filing records Davis as the "treas/clerk" of the firm; his business partner, Paul Manafort is listed as the president and chief executive officer."

"Another filing by "Davis Manafort, Inc." (with the same Alexandria, Va. address, and recorded on Oct. 17, 2007) also lists Davis as an officer and director of the firm, reporting his position as "T/Clerk," a reference to his formal title as corporate treasurer and clerk."

So... "left"? "Separated?" "No longer affiliated?" That's a hell of a definition.

What's so hard about this, for the McCain campaign? Just stop lying. It's not doing you any good. Stop already!

Posted by: DrainYou | September 29, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

So why Cris is Freedom Watch spending to elect Republicans worthy of a book-like blog column but not the AFL-CIO and other unions spending a hundred million or so dollars to elect Democrats? The money that these union leaders are spending to elect Democrats is not even their money. This money belongs to ALL union members with about half of them not Democrat supporters. At least Freedom Watch is raising their campaign money from donors that give freely to a cause they believe in, whereas the union members who are not Democrats are being forced to give their union dues money to the political party they don't support.

Posted by: armpeg | September 29, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

So why Cris is Freedom Watch spending to elect Republicans worthy of a book-like blog column but not the AFL-CIO and other unions spending a hundred million or so dollars to elect Democrats? The money that these union leaders are spending to elect Democrats is not even their money. This money belongs to ALL union members with about half of them not Democrat supporters. At least Freedom Watch is raising their campaign money from donors that give freely to a cause they believe in, whereas the union members who are not Democrats are being forced to give their union dues money to the political party they don't support.

Posted by: armpeg | September 29, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Let's hope FW decides to make illegal robo calls in OR and CA.

There were stories about FW robo calls in a variety of states this summer. Many illegal.

CA Robo call law is here:

OR robo call law is here:


Shaun Dakin

Posted by: shimane1 | September 29, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

You forgot to mention, CC, that Adelson is an extremely rightwinger who also uses has vast gambling fortune to support radical settler groups and to influence politics in Israel.

"Freedom's Watch" was founded primarily to foment US military action against Iran and Syria. I think this fact is material to your piece.

"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."


"Rove has been busy pitching in by giving advice to McCain's team and spending a considerable amount of time as an outside adviser to Freedom's Watch, the conservative political group that is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to help elect House GOP candidates. William Weidner, a Freedom's Watch board member, recently told National Journal that Rove has offered strategic advice to both the group and its major financial backer, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. Weidner, president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which Adelson chairs, called Rove "an invaluable asset" to the group...."

Posted by: drindl | September 29, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

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