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527 Watch: Vets For Freedom

The 527 group Vets for Freedom is running a new ad accusing Barack Obama of skipping Senate votes and "voting against funding for our troops."

The organization, which has been around since 2006, calls itself "a nonpartisan organization established by combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... VFFPAC will support those who support victory--that is our only litmus test." [Bolding theirs] That means about what you'd expect: They've cut ads helping Joe Lieberman and Democratic Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia, in addition to numerous Republicans.

Veterans For Freedom was the pro-war point group lobbying Congress during the 2007 debates over Iraq funding, and it's already aired several anti-Obama ads this year. (McCain buddies Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were members of the group's honorary policy board until it the group became overtly anti-Obama in May 2008.)

According to NPR's Secret Money Project, the group received large donations from the conservative group Freedom's Watch, as well as major Romney and Giuliani fundraisers. The group's executive director is a former McCain staffer, its former field director worked for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, and it was reportedly set up with help from former White House spokesman Taylor Gross.

The group has an odd structure: Its official 527 arm, which lists only five donors this cycle (who contributed just $2,050), did much of the group's advertising in 2006. But now its operations have shifted to a 501c4 "charity arm," which isn't subject to donor disclosure requirements.

Veterans For Freedom has often been distinctly on-message--for instance, repeating McCain's debate claim that Obama "never held a single hearing" on Afghanistan--and it has been accused of illegally coordinating with McCain to air ads in swing states, even though as a "non-election" group it is not allowed to do so.

--Barron YoungSmith

Update: Readers, I'll be keeping track of 527 organizations as they run ads. If you see any, please email me information about the ad and the group at Thanks.