BATTLE LINES ARE DRAWN

Left, Right Proxies Push on Iraq

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The proxy fight over the Iraq war grew more crowded yesterday with the launch of Freedom's Watch, a lobbying group that will mount a $15 million advertising and grass-roots campaign to maintain Republican support for President Bush's policies.

Freedom's Watch's ads include images such as this one, and they emphasize the sacrifice of U.S. troops and their families.

Freedom's Watch will go head to head with Americans United for Change, a Democratic Party ally, backed by organized labor, that is pressuring the same wavering Republicans to break with the White House. Although louder and more experienced, Americans United is not so moneyed, with a fundraising goal of $10 million for the year, and $1.75 million to $2 million already spent on ad campaigns.

FREEDOM'S WATCH

Antiwar groups branded the organization a White House front, and it does have an administration pedigree.

Leadership:

Bradley A. Blakeman, president, a former deputy assistant to President Bush.

Ari Fleischer, board member, former Bush press secretary.

Matthew Brooks, board member, executive director, Republican Jewish Coalition.

Donors:

Mel Sembler, GOP funder and former ambassador to Italy who bankrolled the president's inaugural committee and helped finance the 2000 Florida recount battle.

John Templeton Jr., a pediatric surgeon and board member of Canada-based Templeton Growth Fund. Templeton's foundation in 2004 financed an independent expenditure group, Let Freedom Ring, promoted as a counter to George Soros-backed liberal groups attacking the president's reelection.


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