Freedom's Watch ad buys

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This article is part of SourceWatch coverage of Freedom's Watch
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The following relates to Freedom's Watch ad buys.


Political ads targeting Democrats

May 2008 Louisiana Congressional election

In April 2008, Freedom's Watch ran ads in Louisiana slamming the Democratic candidate in a special Congressional election for supporting higher taxes. The Democrat, state representative Donald J. Cazayoux, nevertheless beat Republican former state representative Woody Jenkins in the race to replace former congressman Richard H. Baker (R-La.). The election was held on May 3, 2008. [1] [2]

Based on the "metadata" in the word processing file for the Freedom's Watch ad script, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Freedom's Watch illegally coordinated with the National Republican Congressional Committee on the Louisiana ad. "Patrick McCarthy, the media consultant who wrote the Cazayoux ad for Freedom's Watch, said an innocent mistake caused the document to appear as if it came from the NRCC. McCarthy, who did consulting work for the NRCC for six years, said he pulled up an old ad template from his NRCC days and wrote the Louisiana ad script over it, then saved the file and sent it to the TV stations," reported the Washington Post. [1]

The ad script file "also apparently shows that a former NRCC employee, who now works for Freedom's Watch, was the last person to edit the script," reported Raw Story. That employee, Carl Forti, "hadn't worked at the NRCC for about a year prior to joining them," Freedom's Watch responded. Democrats also pointed out that the Freedom's Watch ad and an NRCC ad created for the same Congressional race "use an identical photo of Cazayoux and cite his votes in favor of tax increases." In addition, "Freedom's Watch began airing its ad the day after the NRCC ad stopped airing." [3]

December 2007 Ohio Congressional election

In December 2007, Freedom's Watch ran anti-immigrant ads blasting the Democratic candidate in a special Congressional election. "Behind a blood-red foreground, the group's ad showed Latinos hurrying under fences and being frisked by police as a narrator accused Democratic candidate Robin Weirauch and 'liberals in Congress' of supporting free health care for illegal immigrants," reported the Washington Post. Republican Robert Latta won the election, becoming the Representative from the northern Ohio district that includes Bowling Green. [4] Freedom's Watch spent $86,000 on the Ohio ads. [5]

Veterans Day 2007

Early ad buys

2nd ad buy

On September 3, 2007, before Congress was to return from summer recess and most Americans were celebrating the Labor Day holiday, Freedom's Watch announced the release of a new ad[6] which declared that " is losing its battle because the forces of freedom are winning theirs." Freedom's Watch states that the ad "supports the recent conclusion of Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) that the U.S. military is having success in the War on Terror, especially in Iraq." Baird, "who voted against the original Iraq war resolution in 2002, now says he opposes efforts to back away from the troop surge and opposes a specific timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops."[7][8]

Freedom's Watch president Bradley A. Blakeman said "It's really misguided and harmful what is doing ... To see them attacking a Democrat representative for simply saying the troops in Iraq are having success is really disturbing. Are they rooting against the United States winning? Victory is possible and it's the only option for America."[7]

"The ads will begin airing this week in the Vancouver, WA market and will run for several weeks. The Freedom's Watch ad buy will be at least 150% the size of the attack ad buy, which was $20,000.00. In the spot Baird is seen joining other prominent Democrats and Republicans such as Jim Marshall (D-GA), John Barrow (D-GA), John Kyle [sic] (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham [sic] (R-SC) as well as injured Iraq veteran Sgt. John Kriesel in support of victory in Iraq," the Freedom's Watch news release stated.[7][9]

Graham, who serves on both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, is a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and had "just returned from [two weeks of] Reserve duty in Iraq."[10][11]

1st ad buys

Freedom's Watch's first ad buy of "at least $5.8 in the next four weeks ... which is already public information, shows that Freedom's Watch is targeting 37 Republicans with a direct message - stand with Bush’s failed Iraq war strategy," Tom Matzzie, Washington Director, Political Action / Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, posted August 22, 2007, at AMERICAblog.[12][13]

The following, Matzzie wrote, are included in the first ad buy, which will cost "at least $5,855,960 over the next four weeks (from 8/22/07 to 9/23/07)":[12]

Radio ads

A poster on the Democratic Underground discussion board reported August 29, 2007, that Freedom's Watch was running ads during Air America's progressive talk radio host Thom Hartmann's show in "all likelihood" because "they bought ad time on EVERY SINGLE SIRIUS CHANNEL, or at least all of them that carry talk radio of any kind, as a high-end discount advertising package." The poster opined: "I strongly doubt they singled out Thom's show as likely to win them support, it's just they can easily afford to piss money away in every direction at once."[14]


From the "Center"

"Uh, ok. Here's the thing: The Bush Administration has free media coverage whenever they want, by just holding a press conference. And it's not like they never thought 'hey, maybe we should encourage Americans to buy into this ridiculously mismanaged war.' In fact, you will recall that Bush tried that for a few years, including well after it became a very unpopular viewpoint. People, not shockingly, have their own opinions, and are not swayed by 'Trust me, it'll start working any day now' as an argument. So how could spending lots of money to say the same things (which they've been saying for free) be all that effective? Note to Ari Fliescher: Cavalry is when fresh, helpful troops come in on horses to change the battle. This is like pumping money into a carousel so that you can sit and watch the same sequined horses move up and down over and over again."[15]

From the "Left"

"In a disgusting display of mendacity not seen since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, a pro-war advertising campaign spearheaded by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is buying $15 million worth of 30-second television spots that repeat the lies linking 9/11 to Iraq – and explicitly threatening another terrorist attack in the US if we 'surrender.' It's the first storm in a season of fear," Justin Raimondo commented at[16]

"This strategy is nearly identical to the one that the swift boat group implemented in 2004 against John Kerry. Get experienced DC-based political operatives, and parade soldiers in front of the camera to tout whatever message across. It's quite effective, in that it will probably cause at least a few Republicans to buckle," The Blue State Blog commented August 22, 2007.[17]

"And because soldiers are the ones saying it, the lines that these PR people are feeding them can go farther than the most right-wing lawmakers. They tell us that we will get hit again if we pull out. Kind of like what Cheney said in 2004 about what would happen if Kerry got elected", Blue State said:[17]

"'If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,' Cheney said."

"Since the start of the war, there have been a few truly ridiculous right-wing ads. Before the 2006 midterms, the RNC paid quite a bit of money to air what was, for all intents and purposes, an al Qaeda recruitment video.[18] Around the same time, the Progress for America propaganda organization ran the now-infamous 'They Want to Kill Us' ad.[19]

"But Freedom’s Watch's ads are equally nauseating, if not more so. There are four different ads, each more offensive than the last. In one, a veteran who lost a leg is shown arguing that we have to stay in Iraq because 'they attacked us.' In the next, a mother of a fallen soldier (who apparently doesn't mind being exploited by the right-wing smear machine) argues that we’ll invite another 9/11 unless we stay in the middle of Iraq’s civil war," Steve Benen wrote in The Carpetbagger Report.[20]

On August 22, 2007,'s Director, Tom Matzzie, wrote an open letter to Ari Fleischer which was posted at AMERICAblog:[12]

"Thank you. The news today about a $15 million TV ad campaign targeting Republicans in the name of a group called 'Freedom Watch' is probably the best thing we could want right now. It is a gift.
"The revival of your role as salesman-in-chief for the White House’s failed war policy is also welcome. We were looking for a way to connect this mysterious 'Freedom Watch' outfit to the White House Iraq PR machine. And then it turned out that you made our job very simple—you are in charge. This is the 'White House Ad campaign.' ...
"Every extra minute of TV time talking about Iraq is another drip, drip, drip of bad news for politicians who won’t break with Bush. So, thanks."

Matzzie "predicts these ads and their images of widows and wounded veterans will backfire because they are 'reminding the public of the cost of the war in Iraq' and not the justification for the military presence. ... 'That's bad news for Republicans who are still sticking with Bush on the war,' Matzzie said."[21]

"In sum: The neo-conservatives took a wealth of public approval and drove it off a cliff. With plummeting approval ratings for the president, the war, and the GOP in general, the right wing is seeking to jettison its more squeamish (translation: sensible) members and trim the party down to a sleek, diabolical death machine that may be monstrously unpopular, but is once again ideologically focused. Perhaps the only respectable thing about the last eight years of Republican Party politics is that they are no longer solely interested in maintaining power: they are now trying to crucify their own in an attempt to stay consistent to the same ill-conceived ideas they started with," Tim at The Vulgar Trade Blogspot wrote.[22]

"The White House running an ad campaign is a sign of desperation, and Ari Fleischer's emergence is so ironic since he's the guy that pitched the lies that got us into the war in the first place," Matzzie said.[23]

"So the liars[24] who lied us into war,[25] who fabricated 'evidence' of Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction,' aren't to blame – oh no, of course not! It's those of us who oppose this monstrous and mistaken invasion who are to be targeted as advocating 'surrender' in a conflict that cannot be won without murdering half the population of Iraq and enslaving the other half. Because we allowed the Scooter Libbys and the Ari Fleischers to lure us into a quagmire,[26] we must remain submerged there forever – or the loss of this soldier's leg was all for naught.

"What kind of morality is it that lets the perpetrator of a fraud off scott-free while blaming the victim who has been defrauded? It's called neocon morality[27] – where the neocons are always in the clear, and the rest of us are dunned to pay the price of their immeasurable hubris," Raimondo wrote.[16]

"The 'Freedom's Watch' ad campaign is going to boomerang, and badly, hitting the War Party in the face with a loud wallop – and a richly deserved one," Raimondo asserted.[16] "You'll note that this propaganda campaign is being launched as we approach the sixth anniversary of that signal event, and we can expect the atmosphere of impending doom to thicken considerably as the day approaches. These ads are part of it, as is the crazed rhetoric coming from the administration, including the President's evocation[28] of the 'stabbed-in-the-back" thesis as applied to the Vietnam war.[29]

"The American people are not going to be won over by a cabal of money-laden ideologues who use the suffering of others to promote and ensure yet more suffering," Raimondo said.

From the "Right"

"From the mailbag: Freedom's Watch is a new activist group that seeks to bring the kind of financed activism in favor of the War on Terror that groups like Move On bring against America."[30]

On September 7, 2007, commenter Paula on the blog of right-wing World Magazine, in response to the question "Have you seen the new TV commercials put out by Freedom's Watch? The commercials were developed to help boost support for the war on terror and encourage viewers to contact their senators and representatives to urge continued support for the war effort. After viewing the commercials here, what do you think about them?", said:[31]

"Freedom watch is yet another 501c organization. This one headed by Bush’s former PR hack Ari Fleischer. It appears as if this 'grass roots' organization was hastily set up to influence the debate as Petraeus prepares to make his big presentation. It has the look and feel of a Madison Avenue propaganda con-job."


  1. 1.0 1.1 Paul Kane, "Democrats Accuse GOP Campaign Arm Of Covertly Writing Ad," Washington Post, April 16, 2008.
  2. Paul Kane, "La. Democrat Wins In GOP Stronghold," Washington Post, May 4, 2008.
  3. Nick Juliano, "Democrats allege GOP committee illegally coordinated with outside group: Conservative org says charges are trumped up, inaccurate," Raw Story, April 16, 2008.
  4. Paul Kane and Jonathan Weisman, "Conservative Answer to MoveOn: Political Advocacy Group Formed by Former Bush Aides Plans a Broad Agenda," Washington Post, January 20, 2008.
  5. Michael Luo, "Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed," New York Times, April 12, 2008.
  6. "Move On," YouTube (posted by John Ruskin, Illinois Review: "A great video from Freedom's Watch."), September 3, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Freedom's Watch Releases New Advertisement in Support of Victory in Iraq," PRNewswire-USNewswire, September 3, 2007.
  8. The news release was immediately picked up on September 3, 2007, by and
  9. Note that the Freedom's Watch news release spells the names of two Congressmen incorrectly: "John Kyle" for Jon Kyl and "Lindsay Graham" for Lindsey Graham.
  10. Robin Wright, "After Tour of Duty in Iraq, Graham Backs 'Surge'. Senator Cautions Against Withdrawal Of Troops This Year," Washington Post, August 28, 2007. It should be noted that in June 2007, Michelle Malkin started calling for Graham's ouster. See "Dump Lindsey Graham,", June 9, 2007.
  11. Editorial: "What They Did on Summer Vacation," New York Times, September 2, 2007.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Tom Matzzie, "An open thank you letter to Ari Fleischer," AMERICAblog, August 22, 2007.
  13. News Release: "WH Front Group Led by Former Bush Flack Swift Boats Vulnerable Republicans With Attack Ads in Effort to Bully Them into Supporting Failed Bush Strategy in Iraq," Americans United for Change (USA TODAY), August 22, 2007.
  14. "Freedom's Watch ads running during Thom Hartman on Sirius 146," Democratic Underground discussion board, August 29, 2007.
  15. "Why have one when you can have one for twice the price?" Stop. Just Stop Blog, August 22, 2007.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Justin Raimondo, "Home Front 'Surge'. War Party's ad campaign will boomerang,", August 24, 2007.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "(Video) Washington insider group uses soldiers to promote war," The Blue State Blog, August 22, 2007.
  18. Steve Benen, "Who’s airing an enemy propaganda film — CNN or the RNC?" The Carpetbagger Report, October 24, 2006.
  19. "PFA War on Terror ad," YouTube, September 7, 2006.
  20. Steve Benen, "Freedom's Watch," The Carpetbagger Report, August 22, 2007.
  21. Tim, "Hello, Bullet. I'd like to introduce you to foot," The Vulgar Trade Blogspot, August 22, 2007.
  22. Sridhar Pappu, "White House Vet Ari Fleischer, Back to Fight for The Surge in Iraq," Washington Post, August 24, 2007.
  23. Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest, "The Lie Factory," MotherJones, January/February 2004 (issue).
  24. Justin Raimondo, "WHO LIED US INTO WAR? Let's find out,", July 28, 2003.
  25. Dick Cheney: "Cheney '94: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire C-SPAN," YouTube, posted August 10, 2007.
  26. Justin Raimondo, "Nihilism and Neoconservatism. Brothers under the skin,", June 20, 2007.
  27. Jim Hoagland, "Bush's Vietnam Blunder," Washington Post, August 24, 2007.
  28. Justin Raimondo, "The Thirty Years War. Vietnam – we're still fighting over it,", April 29, 2005.
  29. Neil Stevens, "Freedom's Watch," The Minority Report Blog, August 26, 2007.
  30. Chapman, "Pro-war Airtime," World Magazine Blog, September 7, 2007.