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Left, Right Proxies Push on Iraq

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.

Sheldon G. Adelson, the third-richest American in Forbes magazine's rankings last year, is chairman and chief executive of the casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the creator of Comdex, the huge high-tech trade show.

Kevin E. Moley, former U.S. ambassador to international organizations in Geneva. He was a senior adviser to Dick Cheney during the 2000 campaign, and he and his immediate family have contributed more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and party committees.

Howard Leach, former ambassador to France, chief executive of Leach Capital Corp. and president of Foley Timber and Land Co. in Florida. A Bush "Pioneer," Leach contributed $100,000 to the president's inaugural committee, helped fund the Florida recount, and financed GOP campaigns with more than $225,000 in 1999 and 2000.

Anthony Gioia, former ambassador to Malta and the head of Gioia Management, who raised about $500,000 for Bush's first presidential campaign at one event in his Buffalo home.

Richard Fox, one of the major building, development and real estate management companies in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey and a longtime GOP activist. He co-founded the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Gary Erlbaum, owner of Greentree Properties in Ardmore, Pa., who tried to rally Orthodox Jewish support for last year's failed reelection bid of conservative Christian Sen. Rick Santorum. He has been a contributor to Rudolph W. Giuliani's presidential campaign, but he has backed some Democrats, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and Rep. Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.).

AMERICANS UNITED FOR CHANGE

Since the umbrella group formed to beat back Bush's Social Security plan in 2005, it has become the clearinghouse for causes allied with the Democratic leadership.

Leadership:

Brad Woodhouse, president, a former press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and press secretary for Erskine Bowles's unsuccessful Senate bid in North Carolina against Elizabeth Dole.

Suzanne Granville, deputy executive director and former official in the AFL-CIO's women's department.

Donors and key players:

Tom Matzzie, Washington director of MoveOn.org, who has helped fund Americans United as MoveOn pursues its own antiwar campaign. He headed online organizing for John F. Kerry's unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004 and was online mobilization director for the AFL-CIO.

Gerald McEntee, president of AFSCME, the union of state and municipal employees and a fixture in Democratic fundraising.

John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, who saw his union splinter with upstart service workers unions but has worked with the splinter group to help fund Americans United.

Andy Stern, president, the Service Employees International Union, a leader of the splinter group and an aggressive backer of Democratic political causes.

Anna Berger, head of Change to Win, the umbrella labor organization and budding AFL-CIO rival.

Larry Cohen, president, Communications Workers of America, who has moved to unionize white-collar, high-tech workers and may see antiwar activism as a hook.

Reggie Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the powerful teachers lobby.

-- Jonathan Weisman

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