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“Deep-Pocketed” Conservative Group Takes Aim at Iran

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This article profiles “Freedom’s Watch,” a wealthy conservative group who supports the war in Iraq and is strongly advocating attacking Iran.

Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.

…One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.

Since the group is organized as a tax-exempt organization, it does not have to reveal its donors and it can not engage in certain types of partisan activities that directly support political candidates. It denies coordinating its activities with the White House, although many of its donors and organizers are well connected to the administration, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.

On a press release regarding Ahmadinejad’s request to lay a wreath on the site of the Twin Towers, Freedom’s Watch uses an underhanded rhetorical sleight-of-hand to connect Ahmadinejad to the Arab Sunni al-Qaeda highjackers who are ideologically opposed—and have threatened to annihilate—Iran’s Persian Shiite leadership.

Today Freedom’s Watch released a statement concerning Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s requested visit to Ground Zero to honor the 9-11 terrorists during an upcoming trip to New York. [emphasis added]

This statement is a blatant falsehood casting serious doubt on the integrity and intentions of Freedom’s Watch.

UPDATE: Jim Lobe has an excellent article on Freedom’s Watch at his site.

According to one benefactor anonymously quoted by the Times, the group hopes to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008, although such a sum, it needs to be noted, represents a mere fraction of the total wealth (or even annual income) of one of the group’s funders, Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief of executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation that also operates highly profitable casinos in Macao. The Times notes that Adelson, who is close to Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu and who helped set up Natan Sharansky with his own institute at the pro-Netanyahu Shalem Center earlier this year, is rated sixth on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. In an article about his recent launch of a new right-wing newspaper in Israel, The Forward described him as the world’s wealthiest Jew, whose foundation has given tens of millions of dollars to Birthright Israel, which provides all-expenses-paid trips by young U.S. Jews to Israel.

Freedoms Watch Lie

Irancove @ September 30, 2007

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