DCCC, Murphy Say Rove Advising Freedom’s Watch

Posted July 1, 2008 at 2:12pm

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Freedom’s Watch, a 501(c)(4) organization, are tussling over the status of former White House political advisor Karl Rove and the extent of his ties — or lack thereof — to the conservative advocacy group.

The DCCC, believing it has found in Rove a major motivator for Democratic donors, said in an e-mail fundraising appeal sent out on Sunday that President Bush’s former chief political advisor was “working” for Freedom’s Watch. Freedom’s Watch is a well-funded conservative organization that has played an increasing role in trying to influence House races in favor of GOP candidates.

However, Freedom’s Watch officials insist that Rove is not “working” for the group in any direct capacity, whether on salary or on contract.

Additionally, Freedom’s Watch officials described as blatantly false the claim that Rove is the group’s “chief political strategist.” That claim was made by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) in an e-mail fundraising appeal he sent out on Monday.

“We have recently learned that Freedoms (sic) Watch, a pro-war interest group with a $250 Million dollar budget, has hired Karl Rove to be a chief political strategist,” Murphy wrote.

Freedom’s Watch maintains that Rove’s communications with the group have been sporadic and infrequent — if anything decreasing over the last nine months.

“When the Democrats are done inventing bogeymen, maybe they could get to work inventing a real energy policy, or maybe an apology for getting it wrong on Iraq,” Freedom’s Watch spokesman Ed Patru said Tuesday. DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) “is the J.P. Morgan of the conspiracy theory business,” he said.

But the DCCC stands by its claim. When contacted Tuesday and told that Freedom’s Watch labeled as inaccurate the charge that Rove was “working” for the group, DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider referred to a June 14 National Journal story to bolster its claim.

The story, written by longtime Capitol Hill reporter Peter H. Stone, reported that — according to two GOP strategists — Rove has worked out a consulting deal to advise the group with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the driving force and main financier behind Freedom’s Watch.

“Freedom’s Watch is splitting hairs,” Crider said. “It’s a distinction without a difference.”

The Murphy campaign referred to the same National Journal story when asked Monday afternoon to back up its claim that Rove was the “chief political strategist” for Freedom’s Watch.

The DCCC referenced the following portion of Stone’s story to back up its claim:

“Two GOP strategists said they have heard that Rove has worked out a private consulting deal with Adelson; this arrangement, one strategist reported, pays Rove in the mid-six figures for giving speeches and providing assistance to Freedom’s Watch on labor union issues, a top priority of the group.”

The Murphy campaign referenced an additional portion of Stone’s story:

“William Weidner, a Freedom’s Watch board member, recently told National Journal that Rove has offered strategic advice to both the group and its major financial backer, Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson,” Stone wrote. “Weidner, president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which Adelson chairs, called Rove ‘an invaluable asset’ to the group.”

Murphy’s June 30 e-mail went out to supporters on the final day of the second quarter Federal Election Committee fundraising disclosure deadline. Murphy is facing businessman and retired Marine Corps officer Tom Manion (R) in a general election contest that has the potential to become competitive.

Freedom’s Watch officials conceded that Rove occasionally holds discussions with representatives of the group, which has a board of directors in addition to a staff in Washington, D.C. that is tasked with executing its political operations on a day-to-day basis.

Still, Freedom’s Watch officials said any suggestion that Rove is involved with directing strategy on even a semi-regular basis is simply not true.

“The assertion that Patrick Murphy is making is categorically false,” Patru said Monday afternoon.