Last month, the New York Times identified four top founding donors of Freedom's Watch, the conservative political group that has spent millions on ads encouraging support for President Bush's Iraq policy. All four are linked to the campaigns of top Republican presidential candidates.
Mel Sembler, who we profiled last week, is a supporter of Mitt Romney, serving on his national finance committee. John Templeton, Jr., another member of the Freedom's Watch founders' circle, is a chairman on Romney's National Faith And Values Steering Committee.
The other two founding donors identified by the Times back former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Anthony Gioia serves as Giuliani's Western New York State Finance Chair; Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the world's sixth-richest man according to Forbes, hosted a pricey Las Vegas fundraiser for Giuliani in September.
The support of these donors to both Freedom's Watch and the major GOP presidential hopefuls suggests at least two points.
First, it shows that however much Romney and Giuliani may be bashing one another on the campaign trail, certain issues just aren't negotiable. Some of the most politically mobilized supporters of the candidates agree on the need to produce a unified message on issues like Iraq, Iran, and other matters to come, and have created an organization to make sure that conservatives are on the same page.
Second, the presence of these Republican campaign heavy-hitters suggests that Freedom's Watch will ultimately take on a heavy electoral focus. Donors with their eyes on 2008 realize that the eventual GOP nominee will be helped significantly if public support for President Bush's war policy is shored up.
"A lot of conservatives believe that there was a void in between election cycles within the conservative movement, and they believe that while conservatives are good at elections, after election day, we fold up our tents, and the brainpower goes dormant until the next election cycle," said Matt David, Freedom's Watch spokesman, when asked why these donors are funding the group. "Freedom's Watch was created so that we would have continuity between election cycles, and that there would be in existence for years and years to come an institution that was ensuring continuity, and ensuring full time career staffers in this operation."