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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.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 15, 2008; 5:02 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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There have been reports that Freedom's Watch is conducting a push poll here in Maine involving the Allen/Collins race. I cannot provide any direct evidence, but it would be worth looking into.

Posted by: Gerald Weinand | July 16, 2008 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Ever wonder why so many conservatives like Mickey Edwards are holding their noses at the current desecration of the ideas of Goldwater and Buckley? Why the glorification of Ronald Reagan, who tripled the entire national debt of the U.S. in eight years and why the perpetuation of the pitiful programs of George W. Borrow? Will we never learn?

Posted by: dick brandlon | July 16, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Watch out for groups like "Freedom's Watch". As a Republican, I'm deeply chagrined that conservative groups resort to negative smear tactics in an attempt to get our candidates elected. Think about it---if you have to lie, distort and smear to defeat someone, maybe they really deserve to get elected. Sure wish everyone would stick to an honest debate of real issues.

Posted by: Boisemark | July 16, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I thaught "Freedom's Watch" stood for stealing-free-elections - -

Posted by: Mad As Hell | July 16, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

you might be a lot more anxious before November, old Dianne.

Posted by: mike | July 16, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Electronic voting and the lack of a paper trail in the overwhelming majority of polling places nationwide could render moot any attempt at political suasion by 527s. There may be no longer a need; a simple remote programming command may take care of business. This cycle, they could be little more than window dressing and a welfare program for producers of political ads.

Robin Williams' movie of a couple of years ago, "The Man of the Year," gave more coverage to this forgotten issue than any mainstream media outlet has within the past year.

How about tackling that one, Chris? You could start by interviewing the New York attorney who runs the web site,

You got the power; it's really too late for this cycle, but at least some coverage may help explain the results in November.



Posted by: scrivener | July 15, 2008 11:05 PM | Report abuse

How long, I wonder, until Freedom's Crotch is called out as a collection of Bush cronies - "From the crowd that brought you the trillion-dollar deficit, WMD, Abu Ghraib and tax cuts for Big Oil."

Posted by: FlownOver | July 15, 2008 10:59 PM | Report abuse

"I am anxiously awaiting the release of Michelle Shaniqua Obama's "whitey" tape."

Are there seriously still people who think that tape actually exists?

Freedom Watch hasn't had a great track record so far, but money is money.

Posted by: SC | July 15, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

'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.'

Uh, shouldn't you mention that they lost both these races, Mr. Cilizza -- is that asking too much of your 'integrity'?

Posted by: Nona | July 15, 2008 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Dianne-- have you a life, other than hating black people?

Then why not go do something about that?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Exactly -- the Republican agenda is just a continuation of the disastrous bush/cheney policies, no matter who the candidate is.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 15, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

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

Both of which the Republicans lost- bring it on baby

Posted by: F Jack Bishop | July 15, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

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