Freedom's Watch Expands To Senate Behind Bush Campaign Adviser
Freedom's Watch, an independent organization aligned with conservatives and targeting competitive House races, is expanding its mission in the coming election, hiring veteran party operative Tony Feather to run its new Senate-focused wing.
Feather, who served as political director for President George W. Bush's 2000 race, will serve as a consultant to Freedom's Watch and adds to the already strong connection between the Bush White House and the organization.
"We've said from the beginning that we want to impact public policy debates both locally and nationally, and the issues being debated in the Senate is certainly a part of that," said Ed Patru, a spokesman for Freedom's Watch.
The group was co-founded last summer by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and its current chairman, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Committee, is Mel Sembler, a wealthy real estate developer and major backer of Bush's campaigns.
Feather was also intimately involved in the founding of Progress for America, a 527 group aligned with Republicans that spent millions on ads during the 2004 presidential election. He is a partner in Feather, Larson & Synhorst -- a do-it-all Republican consulting firm with strong ties to the Bush team.
Under the new iteration of Freedom's Watch, Feather will oversee the group's activities in a handful of Senate races while Carl Forti, the former communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, will continue to handle House races. Feather and Forti last worked together on the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney; Feather was a senior adviser while Forti was political director.
As a 501(c)(4) organization, Freedom's Watch cannot directly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate but can involve itself in races as long as its activities are issue-based. It does not have to disclose its donors and can accept contributions in unlimited sums. The majority of its funding is widely seen as coming from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (more on him tomorrow in this space) but due to the lack of required disclosure it's impossible to know for sure.
Freedom's Watch has already waded into two contentious House special elections -- in Louisiana's 6th district and Mississippi's 1st district -- earlier this year, running television ads hitting the Democratic nominees on taxes and healthcare.
The expansion of Freedom's Watch into Senate races is sure to be greeted with relief at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. As of the end of May, the NRSC had $21.6 million to spend on the races this fall, well behind the $38.5 million the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed on hand at that time.
Freedom's Watch (and other like minded outside groups like the American Future Fund) may not be able to close that gap entirely but they will be to narrow it, helping Republican incumbents and challengers from being snowed under by the spending by national Democratic committees.
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