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Vets for Freedom/ad campaign supporting pro-war candidates

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This article is part of the SourceWatch coverage of Vets for Freedom (VFF) and
Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF).
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Vets for Freedom began sponsoring 60-second TV ads supporting pro-war candidates on August 31, 2007,[1] as part of its "Win the War! Victory in Iraq" campaign.

The first was a Thank You spot as "a counterpoint to recent ads" by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Americans United for Change "targeting Minnesota's Republican senator" Norm Coleman.[2]

"The ad war [came] a year ahead of the 2008 Senate race, and at a time when Coleman's approval ratings have dropped to a record low of 43 percent, according to a July 16 Survey USA poll."[2]

Insight into VFF's political ad campaign comes from a poll released August 15, 2007, that was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in seven battleground states—Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Virginia. The poll found that GOP senators "would lose to generic Democratic candidates. And the main reason was that the public is upset over the war in Iraq."[3]

"A trap is waiting for Republican incumbents and presidential contenders should they continue to back Bush on the Iraq war, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, who commissioned the poll, wrote in a news release. "September might be their last chance to convince voters that they have truly rejected Bush’s strategy should he ask for more time based on General David Petraeus' report on the 15th."[4]

Ad wars

Round three: Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire

In an August 14, 2007, viral email,[5] VFF executive director Pete Hegseth wrote that VFF "has released television advertisements in 5 states ... and stood up State Chapters in 26 states. We plan to release 5 more TV ads this week, and formally announce 5 additional State Chapters."

On Sunday, August 19, 2007, VFF will "[unveil] a television ad that will urge seven senators, including Arkansas' Mark Pryor, not to 'surrender' in Iraq when Congress resumes its debate on the war next month," the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported August 17, 2007.[6] "In Arkansas, the ad will run for a week on the Fox, ABC and NBC affiliates in Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Little Rock and the ABC affiliate in Jonesboro."

"None of the veterans [in the ad] are from Arkansas," Davis wrote.[6]

"Pryor is the only Democrat targeted. ... The other senators are Republican: Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, Judd Gregg and John Sununu of New Hampshire, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Olympia Snowe of Maine."[6]

The following link to current VFF ads "Please Do Not Surrender", released August 15, 2007: Sen. Brownback; Sen. Grassley; Sen. Gregg;Sen. Pryor; Sen. Roberts; Sen. Snowe; and Sen. Sununu.

Round two: Kentucky, Nebraska, Virginia and Connecticut

In an August 8, 2007, press release[7], VFF executive director Pete Hegseth said

"We will not let paid political partisans co-opt the Iraq war debate ... Members of Congress must hear from the silent majority of Iraq veterans-those who have been on the ground, who understand the stakes, and who are confident that under General Petraeus' leadership we can defeat al-Qaeda."
"Paid activists from MoveOn.org or Code Pink will scream, chant, and bully members of Congress in August,... But Vets for Freedom will use our experience-as veterans who have seen this war-to explain how we can win in Iraq and why we cannot afford to fail. No amount of screaming can overwhelm facts."

On August 9, 2007, Hegseth told the Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer that VFF "will begin airing TV ads this weekend in four states: Kentucky, Nebraska, Virginia and Connecticut. The ads will target senators whose support of the war may be wavering. One of the ads, titled 'Thank You,'[8] will commend Sens. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, for their support of the war."[9]

"Another ad, titled 'Don't Surrender,' features veterans asking senators, including John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, and Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, to vote against any legislation that sets a deadline for withdrawing American forces from Iraq," Pfeiffer wrote.[9]

The ads ask Warner and Nelson, who "are seen as key swing votes in the fall when Congress reconsiders the U.S. mission in Iraq following a progress report by Army Gen. David Petraeus in September", "not 'to surrender to Al Qaeda,' arguing that Congress should not 'second-guess our commanders on the ground' and not 'sugarcoat retreat by calling it deployment.'"[10]

"The ads will begin airing over the weekend [of August 11-12, 2007] and will run in most major media markets in each of the four states -- notably excluding New York City in the Connecticut media market and Washington in the Virginia media market, two of the most expensive markets in the country.

"'The buy is large enough to get our message in front of key audiences,' a spokesman for the group wrote in response to e-mail questions about the size of the media buy," Patrick O'Connor wrote August 7, 2007, in The Politico.[10]

The following link to current VFF ads:

  • "Thank You Sen. Joe Lieberman" for support of the war in Iraq.[11]
  • "Thank You Sen. Mitch McConnell" (R-KY) for support of the war in Iraq.[12][13][14][15]
  • "Please Do Not Surrender Sen. Nelson", "ad urging Sen. Ben Nelson not to surrender the War in Iraq."[16]
  • "Please Do Not Surrender Sen. Warner", "ad urging Sen. John Warner to surrender the War in Iraq."[17]

Round one: launched in Minnesota

The Minnesota campaign was launched in early August 2007 with television ads[2][18] thanking Sen. Norm Coleman, who supports Gen. David Petraeus's—and the Bush administration's—counterinsurgency strategy.[19]

"'Veterans who have served in Iraq can provide a view point that no pundit, paid MoveOn.org protester, or poll company can compete with,' Thule said. 'We know the exhaustion of keeping watch in our humvees through the early hours of the morning, the joy on children's faces when we drive by, and the exhilaration of a successful project completed. All folks see back home is explosions - we have a much more in-depth perspective.'

The ad, Minnesota Public Radio's Mark Zdechlik reported August 2, 2007,[18] "features comments from several men dressed in civilian clothes and identified as Iraq war veterans" who thank Coleman, "who's up for re-election next year, for his support of the war."

"'We know that you have been under pressure from people who are willing to accept defeat by Al Qaida in Iraq, and force us to leave that country before we complete our mission,' they said in the ad. 'As people who have proudly worn the uniform and seen the enemy first-hand, we would like you to know we believe in this mission and we're proud you do as well.'
"The ad concludes with the men saying they know the U.S. can prevail in Iraq, 'unless Congress surrenders first.'"

Pete Hegseth, VFF executive director, "said his group [had] bought spots on This Week, Fox News Sunday & Meet the Press [for August 5, 2007] ...[but] declined to say how much the group is spending on the ad buys in Minnesota, which will be accompanied by similar spots in at least two other states he wouldn't name -- one supporting a Democrat, one a Republican."[2] The ad "will run for at least two weeks."[18]

Coleman faces stiff competition in Minnesota[20], including Republican challenger retired Army officer and Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraq war veteran Joe Repya who "served in Iraq in 2005 with the Screaming Eagles of 101st Airborne Division"[21], six members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farm-Labor Party[22]—among which is radio talk show host and activist Al Franken—and one independent.[23]

Democratic response

"Democrats, on the other hand, were happy the ad campaign would reinforce Coleman's support for President Bush's war strategy," the Associated Press reported August 2, 2007.[24]

"'This is what we've been trying to do for a long time,' said Minnesota DFL [Democratic-Farm-Labor Party] Chair Brian Melendez. 'It's an honest ad. I won't say I couldn't have put together a better ad if I'd wanted to, but I almost would have paid for this.'

"Coleman has opposed Democratic plans for setting a withdrawal timeline. However, he has argued for a new strategy of training and counterinsurgency which he said would allow a large drawdown of U.S. troops by next year," the Associated Press reported.[24]

Allahpundit of the conservative Hot Air Blog wrote August 3, 2007.[25]:

"They're counting on the war’s unpopularity next year to help unseat Coleman, who's made noise about switching course but thus far has stuck with Bush on all the important Iraq votes. The left is anxious to advertise that fact. As far as they're concerned, VFF's doing their job for them. ... The irony is, he's going to end up switching anyway, probably in September."

VFF or VFF-AF ad buys?

First of all, it should be noted that, in May 2007, Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF) reverted to identifying itself as Vets for Freedom (VFF)—both publicly and on its website. VFF is not a political action committee.

The August 1, 2007, Minneapolis Star Tribune article[2] did not state whether VFF's ad buys fall under the rules of "Electioneering Communication". This would be a function of the organization's political action committee—VFF-AF.

Resources

References

  1. News Release: "Vets for Freedom to Unveil Ad Thanking Senator Coleman for Support of Iraq Mission," Vets for Freedom, August 31, 2007,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Kevin Diaz, "Vets group ad thanks Coleman for war support," Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 1, 2007.
  3. Rob Christensen and Ryan Teague Beckwith, "Poll says war in Iraq dims Dole's prospects," The News & Observer, August 16, 2007.
  4. Joe Sudbay, "Bush and his Iraq war are dragging down GOP Senators facing re-election in 2008," AMERICAblog, August 15, 2007.
  5. Pete Hegseth,"Vets for Freedom: WEEK 6: 'Cost of Defeat' Call-in Campaign," Vets for Freedom (Israelated.com; aggregated from 'Wake Up America'), August 14, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Andy Davis, "‘Don’t surrender’ in Iraq, vets urge Pryor in TV ad," Arkansas Democrat Gazette (NWA News (Northwest Arkansas)), August 17, 2007.
  7. "Vets for Freedom Launches Ads in Four States, Fights Back Against MoveOn.org," Vets for Freedom, August 8, 2007.
  8. "Thank You Sen. Coleman," Vets for Freedom, August 2, 2007.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Pfeiffer
  10. 10.0 10.1 Patrick O'Connor, "Veterans group launches ads to counter anti-war organizers," The Crypt Blog/The Politico, August 7, 2007. Note that this link was submitted to digg by John Boehner.
  11. "Thank You Sen. Lieberman," Vets for Freedom, August 8, 2007.
  12. "Thank You Sen. McConnell. Vets for Freedom’s ad thanking Sen. Mitch McConnell," Vets for Freedom, August 8, 2007.
  13. Greg Sargent, "Gee, Thanks! New Ad Thanks GOP Senate Leader For Supporting War," TPM Cafe, August 10, 2007.
  14. "Group's ad campaign backs McConnell," Associated Press (The Courier-Journal), August 11, 2007.
  15. Bruce Schreiner, "Veterans group's ad thanks McConnell. TV Spot is Meant to Coun ter Criticism by Anti-War Activists," Associated Press (Kentucy.com), August 12, 2007.
  16. "Please Do Not Surrender Sen. Nelson," Vets for Freedom, August 8, 2007.
  17. "Do Not Surrender Sen. Warner," Vets for Freedom, August 8, 2007.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "Vets group runs ads in support of Coleman," Minnesota Public Radio, August 2, 2007.
  19. "Press Release: Vets for Freedom to Unveil Ad Thanking Senator Coleman for Support of Iraq Mission, Will Preview Ad, Introduce Minnesota Chairman in Thursday Teleconference," Blogs for Norm!, August 1, 2007.
  20. 2008 U.S. congressional elections (Minnesota)
  21. Joe Repya Blogspot.
  22. Minnesota Democratic-Farm-Labor Party in the Wikipedia.
  23. "Ron Gunzberger's Online Guide to Minnesota Politics," Politics1.com.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Coleman gets ad support for veterans' group," Associated Press (West Central Tribune), August 2, 2007.
  25. "Video: Vets for Freedom Thanks Norm Coleman for Staying the Course," Hot Air Blog, August 3, 2007.