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Another Con Knock-Off, Freedom's Watch, Has Trouble

You'll remember years ago that was created as a counter to DailyKos. Fast forward to today and is just another subsidiary of right-wing publishing house Regnery. It has none of the impact on the political discourse that Dailykos does - nor even more organically created sites on the right do, for that matter.

MoveOn was founded by normal Americans, built a huge grassroots membership, then became an institution on the left. Freedom's Watch, like the right often tries, skipped the whole messy grassroots bottom-up segment and leapt right into being an institution of the right with its financing by the same money barons who fund so much of the right. There are problems.

Almost eight months later, some Freedom's Watch watchers are wondering whether some of the cavalry got lost. Even as the group has mounted a new campaign to coincide with General David Petraeus' testimony on Iraq to Congress this week, there has been conservative grumbling about Freedom's Watch—and Adelson. And several Freedom's Watch staffers, including its first president, Bradley Blakeman, have left the group. Now Washington conservatives are worrying that Adelson may not be the white knight they had wished for.

In not-for-attribution interviews, a few conservative think tank hands and activists expressed frustration that Freedom's Watch has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy, and they gripe that it has been slow to set up a MoveOn-style infrastructure. Freedom's Watch hasn't realized its full potential, they say, in part because Adelson overly involves himself in the group's decision-making and won't heed the good advice of…well, people like them.

"He is both meddlesome and attached to his own agenda," says a conservative think tanker. "And he is not listening to people who are giving him good political and strategic advice.… Everyone I know comes away very frustrated from their experience" with Freedom's Watch. "They are late to the game and they need to recognize that," he adds. "MoveOn has had a microphone to itself for a number of years. Freedom's Watch is not entirely ineffective, but they are not well organized or maximizing their impact." (Conservatives may be too obsessed with MoveOn to realize that it's a membership-based organization and not a precise model for a top-down outfit like Freedom's Watch.)

When the right was on the outside looking in, they did in fact build institutions and organizations representing real people - the fringe, no doubt - but real people. Since they've become the party of Washington they have adopted the astroturf strategies of those DC pressure groups and lobbyist firms, running campaigns that profess to speak for people yet in fact turn out time and time again to be the production of a big coporate slush fund.

My hope and belief is that they'll be on the outside looking in before they realize that.