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Freedom's Watch Gets Busy

The Washington Post reports that Freedom's Watch—the new conservative non-profit funded by billionaire Sheldon Adelson—could spend as much as $250 million in the 2008 elections. (To put that in context, MoveOn spent just $21 million in 2004.) And the group's already making a splash:

Adelson personally wrote an $80,000 check to Freedom's Watch on Dec. 7, according to Federal Election Commission documents, just four days before the election that gave Republican Robert Latta the House seat representing the district around Bowling Green. 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. ...

Democrats are particularly concerned about the impact these groups can have against vulnerable incumbents from rural districts, where TV advertising is less expensive. "Those are congressional districts where a little bit of money can go a long way," Van Hollen said.

As an appetizer, Freedom's Watch took out full-page ads last fall in the local newspapers of seven freshman House Democrats from rural districts, targeting their antiwar votes and linking them to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

So far the DCCC has been out-raising its Republican counterpart by a wide margin—$31 million vs. $2.3 million—but Freedom's Watch could swamp that advantage easily. By the way, the latest issue of Mother Jones has a short-but-colorful profile of Adelson that, if anything, understates how Ahab-esque the guy is—especially his obsession with attacking labor unions (among other things, he once took a case all the way to the Supreme Court, trying to argue that sidewalks were private property, just so he could charge union picketers with trespassing).

--Bradford Plumer