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Conservative 527 group fails to live up to its expectations

The New York Times reports: The conservative group Freedom’s Watch, headlined by two former senior White House officials, had been expected to be a deep-pocketed juggernaut in this year’s presidential election, heralded by supporters on the right as an aggressive counterweight to MoveOn.org, George Soros and the like.

But after a splashy debut last summer, in which it spent $15 million in a nationwide advertising blitz supporting President Bush’s troop escalation in Iraq, the group has been mostly quiet, beset by internal problems that have paralyzed it and raised questions about what kind of role, if any, it will actually play this fall. ...

Independent groups not constrained by the limits placed on campaign contributions to candidates and parties have increasingly become major players in races for federal offices. Those known as 527s, named for the section in the tax code they fall under, raised more than $400 million in the 2004 election cycle alone, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Such efforts could be especially beneficial for Mr. McCain, who has badly trailed his Democratic counterparts in fund-raising. ...

Although the organization was founded by a coterie of prominent conservative donors last year, the roughly $30 million the group has spent so far has come almost entirely from the casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Sands Corporation, who was recently listed as the third-richest person in the country by Forbes magazine.

Mr. Adelson has insisted on parceling out his money project by project, as opposed to setting an overall budget, limiting the group’s ability to plan and be nimble, the Republican operatives said. Mr. Adelson, who has a reputation for being combative, has rejected almost all of the staff’s proposals that have been brought to him, leaving the organization moribund for long stretches, the operatives said. -- Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed

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