Is Freedom’s Watch Legal?

I’m reading what some Republican blogs are writing about the Republican front group called Freedom’s Watch, which is expected to spend as much as $250 million against Democrats in the coming election. Here is an example of a right-wing blog’s understanding of this group, writing about a December Congressional special election in Ohio: Meet the New "Bad Boys" of Conservative Politics: Freedoms Watch,

. . . Freedoms Watch, a new conservative powerhouse backed with funding rumored in the hundreds of millions of dollars, also showed up on the field of battle. And they brought something which we bloggers lack — money.
. . . Freedoms Watch is actually a 501(C)4 and not a 527. But seriously: $200 million to help defeat Democrats, folks. That’s going to change the landscape for 2008.
In fact, in the last few days of the campaign, Freedoms Watch aired this TV ad with a media buy rumored to be close to $500K in the Toledo, OH media market helping educate voters on the Democratic opponent, Robin Weirauch.
. . . Freedoms Watch is a new force in conservative politics and I’m glad that they showed up on the field to help us hold Ohio-5.

The understanding on the right is clear: Freedom’s Watch is a Republican “on the field” campaign organization, working to defeat Democratic candidates. There is simply no question about it. There isn’t even a wink and a nod going on here.
It is flat-out illegal for a C4 to be operating in campaigns or involved in electoral politics. But who is going to go anything about it?
James Boyce also has a post today following some of Freedom’s Watch’s money. And take a look at the Freedom’s Watch Newsladder.

Watching Freedom’s Watch: The Donors

Since 2004, we have been very involved in investigating, exposing, and uncovering the roots and exposing the tactics and lies of the right-wing smear machine. James was involved not only in John Kerry’s campaign, but also in the Truth and Trust Team, a group of Kerry friends and family who attempted to fight back against the Swift Boat Veterans.
Dave, of course, followed the campaign and those attacks closely, and then worked with James and others, including our friend, Taylor Marsh, on The Patriot Project in 2006. Created by John Kerry, David Thorne and others, The Patriot Project helped veterans such as Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy and John Murtha defend themselves — even looking into previous attacks on John McCain. We also were part of the team that exposed the Economic Freedom Fund, a group created with a $5,000,000 donation from Bob Perry that attacked moderate Democrats, primarily in red states.
Why do folks like Bob Perry give money like that? It’s strictly business.

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Don’t Be Fooled

A Republican front-group called Freedoms Watch is saturating the TV with ads saying Iraq attacked the United States on 9/11.
Please watch the following response, and send it to friends and others. Take action – start your own”viral e-mail.”

The Republican ads repeat the phrase “we’re seeing results” and :things are getting better” and ask people to hold out for “victory.” This is obvious focus-group-tested wording. The phrases have no meaning, but they sound good. It sounds reasonable to “hold out” when “things are getting better.”
But it’s just a lie.
What does “victory” mean? Who are we supposed to be fighting? How do we “win”?

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Behind The Front: The Pro-War “Freedom’s Watch”

By Dave Johnson and James Boyce
In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration took a page out of the tobacco industry’s playbook and actively organized front groups to counter the anti-war efforts of Vietnam veterans like John Kerry and Bobby Muller. Men like John O’Neill – later to re-appear as one of the Swift Boat Veterans – were hired to create what Watergate felon Charles Colson called “counter-foils.”
Today with the launch of “Freedoms Watch” our politics are further poisoned by the appearance of another mutant variation of this front-group tactic. Freedoms Watch is a shadowy 501c4 organization created to try to keep Republicans from abandoning the White House on Iraq. Ironically, on the very day the President invoked the legacy of Vietnam, his administration has created this Nixonian front-group counter-foil.

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