The Outsiders

by digby

According to the AP, Move-On, the much loathed liberal grassroots group of nearly three and a half million members is being met with a similar group of grassroots conservative outsiders:

Outsiders Aim to Frame Political Debate

WASHINGTON -- They raise millions of dollars, conduct provocative ad campaigns, work with a vast network of like-minded allies and have the power to frame the presidential election going forward as much as the candidates themselves.

That used to define only the liberal, an organization of 3.3 million members that has raised $25 million in the past 18 months and is helping spearhead an anti-war coalition.

Now, a group of conservatives and Republicans with close ties to the White House have formed their own enterprise, Freedom's Watch, landing on the political scene with a $15 million ad campaign to defend President Bush's Iraq war strategy.

As such, Freedom's Watch and could be the left and right bookends not only on the war, but on a number of issues that will decide the 2008 elections and shape congressional debate beyond. Freedom's Watch organizers said they are considering whether to create a political subgroup, like MoveOn has, that could directly play a role in elections.

Right. Book-ends.

When Blakeman speaks of "we," he is referring to "friends, former administration people, party leaders, decision makers." Unlike MoveOn, which has its roots in California's Silicon Valley, Freedom's Watch is clearly a Washington creature.

Many in its inner circle of strategists and donors are close to Vice President Dick Cheney or held high posts at the White House. Blakeman, whose 26-year-old nephew died when the World Trade Center collapsed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was director of scheduling and appointments at the Bush White House.

Among those who brainstormed with him this summer was Mary Matalin, Cheney's counselor until 2003 and still an adviser to the vice president. Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman, is a member of the Freedom's Watch board.

The group's donors include Mel Sembler, a friend of Cheney's and longtime Republican fundraiser. Sembler was chairman of the legal defense fund for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. Another donor is Kevin E. Moley, a former U.S. ambassador to international organizations in Geneva and a senior aide to Cheney during the 2000 presidential campaign.

The group organized itself as a nonprofit lobbying organization and, unlike political organizations that advocates for or against candidates, is not required to identify its donors. Still, when it launched its multimillion-dollar ad campaign on the war in August, Blakeman listed some of its supporters, several of them pro-Israel conservatives.

Besides Sembler and Moley, other donors are Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., who recently launched a new conservative newspaper in Israel, and several former Bush fundraisers who landed ambassadorial posts. They include Moley and Sembler, who was ambassador to Italy, as well as Howard Leach, former ambassador to France, and Anthony Gioia, former ambassador to Malta

Only in the Village could someone characterize that group as being "outsiders."

You just have to laugh.