New York Times reporter Carl Hulse reports on the role of the conservative organization ‘Freedom Watch’ in holding the Ohio 5th district House seat for the GOP and defeating Democratic candidate Robin Weirauch.
The Freedom’s Watch ad, which had ample air time through an estimated $100,000 buy, was a tough one on immigration — the new go-to issue for Republicans. The ad suggested that Ms. Weirauch supported public health care benefits for illegal immigrants. Ms. Weirauch said she obviously does not support such a thing but instead backed a national health care plan that she said would extend to legal residents of the United States. Nevertheless, she had a tough time explaining her way out of it.
This was the first time Freedom Watch bankrolled ads in a GOP House race, but it is not going to be the last. Hulse speculates that Freedom Watch has “tens of millions” of dollars to pour into political races, to help make up the RNC’s fund-raising shortfall.
While it is unclear from recent reportage exactly who runs Freedom Watch, an earlier Washington Post article by Peter Baker named Mel Sembler, “the big-time Bush family fundraiser and co-founder of Freedom’s Watch,” former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, former White House aide Brad Blakeman, Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matthew Brooks and casino executive William Weidner. Baker quotes watchdog Larry Klayman, who is suing Freedom Watch, saying “its ties to the White House make it likely it was concocted by them as a scheme to circumvent the ban on soft money political advertising.”
Baker also reports that Freedom Watch was launched to spend $15 million in an advertising campaign supporting Bush’s escalation of the war in Iraq. All of which diminishes the cred of Republicans who whine incessantly about the contributions of pro-Democratic “special interests” and wealthy donors.
Meanwhile, Democratic breast-beating about our fund-raising advantage thus far probably needs some reassessment. Apparently, we’re going to have to dig a good bit deeper to win both the white house and a working congressional majority.