A Suspicious "Deep-Pocketed Conservative Group"

The Times front page warns readers about Freedom's Watch, a "deep-pocketed conservative group" with suspicions of White House ties. Did the left-wing MoveOn.org ever receive this level of scrutiny from the paper.

"Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift a New Conservative Group," reporter Don Van Natta Jr.'s front-page Sunday profile of the "deep-pocketed conservative group" Freedom's Watch, raised questions ofWhite House ties on three occasions.

"Freedom's Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush's troop increase in Iraq."

The tone quickly shifted to suspicion and remained there until Van Natta's conclusion:

"[President Bradley] Blakeman denied the accusation that Freedom's Watch is a White House front group. 'I don't need their help,' he said of his former colleagues at the White House. 'I don't seek their help. And they don't offer it.' Mr. Blakeman is a long-time friend of Ed Gillespie, the new counselor to Mr. Bush who succeeded Dan Bartlett. Mr. Blakeman said that he speaks with Mr. Gillespie, but that they are careful not to discuss the activities of Freedom's Watch.

"Mr. Fleischer said Freedom's Watch was not coordinating with the White House and had an agenda beyond the Bush administration. 'On Jan. 21, 2009, what will these critics say when we are still here, doing the same thing?' he said. 'We will still be here after George Bush is gone.'"

Compare the tone here to the Times' previous reluctance to see coordination between the radical anti-war group MoveOn.org and the John Kerry 2004 presidential campaign.

Reporter Glen Justice wrote up a controversial anti-war ad from MoveOn.org on September 17, 2004, and puzzled over why Bush was hassling the Kerry campaign about it. (By contrast, the Times consistently tried to link Bush to the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.)

"Bush campaign officials immediately sought to paint the image in the advertisement as a soldier surrendering and called upon Senator John Kerry to denounce the advertisement even though it was created and run by a third-party advocacy group."

When MoveOn.org, a left-wing holdover from the Clinton impeachment saga, was first reinvigorated with cash from left-wing billionaire George Soros, the Times didn't write a headline about the group's "big coffers" (an awkward phrase anyway). TheNovember 18, 2003 coming-out story by Michael Janofsky and Jennifer 8. Lee, "New Group Tries to Click Democrats to Power," reintroducing the group after its cash infusion from Soros, did not label MoveOn.org liberal and didn't challenge the group about coordination with the Kerry campaign, even while outlining dubious behavior like this:

"Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, met Mr. Boyd in April to discuss MoveOn.org's strategies. The party has also expressed interest in buying MoveOn.org's e-mail list, an offer Mr. Boyd rejected as a violation of members' privacy.

"In August, the Democrats essentially copied (with MoveOn.org's permission) a MoveOn.org e-mail message asking supporters for money to fight the Republicans in the Texas redistricting conflict."