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Bush backers begin surge of their own

A Veteran's of Foriegn Wars Honor Guard stands at parade rest as President Bush addresses the VFW National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. today.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The president made a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars today, where he laid out his case for continued involvement in Iraq. The speech was the opening volley in a White House campaign to build support for keeping troops there. Marketplace's Steve Henn reports the president's going to have some well-financed allies backing him up.


Steve Henn: Freedom's Watch, a nonprofit group formed just two weeks ago, plans to spend $15 million in the next month airing ads like this one featuring a veteran who echoes Bush's arguments for staying in Iraq.

Freedoms Watch video: They attacked us and they will again. They won't stop in Iraq.

Freedoms Watch President Brad Blakely says he'll spend millions targeting individual members of Congress and airing ads nationally. But for now he's keeping the details of his strategy under wraps.

Brad Blakely: Because this is a campaign, I have not locked in. I have to see where the best bang for our buck is.

This may be a campaign but Blakely's group doesn't have to follow campaign-finance laws. Freedoms Watch was able to raise millions almost instantly because it's organized as a 501c4, a special kind of tax-exempt nonprofit.Groups like this can legally accept huge donations and they never, ever, have to disclose the names of their donors. For those looking for an end-run around campaign restrictions . . .

Fran Hill: 501c4's are perfect.

Fran Hill is a law professor at the University of Miami.

Hill: There is no limit on the contribution of any one source — individual or corporate.

Blakely's group is voluntarily making some of it donors names public, but not all of them.

Henn: Are you going to make amounts available?

Blakely: No. No. We're not releasing any amounts of any individual, because we don't have to.

Antiwar groups don't have to disclose their donors either. The result: More negative ads and the American public may never find out who's paying for them.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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