Conservative Spotlight: Let Freedom Ring

All this year, liberal Democrats have been circumventing the foolish rules imposed by the McCain-Feingold anti-free speech campaign finance reform bill by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into independent groups working to defeat President Bush. These groups, usually organized under IRS code Section 527s, are taking up the fundraising slack left by official Democratic Party organs that cannot raise as much money as under the new regime regulating political speech in this country as they did in the past. Since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in a recent ruling essentially gave these 527 groups the green light to circumvent McCain-Feingold, Republicans have been getting in on the act to try to counter the flood of money that rich leftists such as billionaire George Soros are pouring into anti-Bush efforts. Let Freedom Ring (LFR), a new conservative group, is about to join the fray with $1 million in seed money from an anonymous donor. Its goal is “to counter the millions of dollars being spent to attack and discredit President Bush by leftist organizations supported by billionaire George Soros, Hollywood liberals and others,” says the group’s website. “Let Freedom Ring will promote a positive political philosophy based upon respect for constitutional principles, economic freedom and traditional values,’ said [Colin] Hanna, president of the non-profit organization. ‘We think that Americans are basically positive and optimistic, and want to be inspired rather than repelled by politics. That’s why Let Freedom Ring will not engage in negative personal or partisan political attacks.'” “We will only accept positive spots,” said Hanna in a recent interview. LFR, a 501(c)4, will run a contest for TV commercials in a search for the best ways to promote conservative values. “This will be modeled on what did,” said Hanna. LFR wants to promote a comprehensive conservative message, he said. “We want ads promoting constitutional government, economic freedom, and traditional values,” he said. “We believe in keeping the judiciary out of the legislative process. We are pro-family, pro-marriage, and want an appropriate role for judges in the public square.” He said that ads can mention the President’s name, though he acknowledged that this would mean they could not be run 60 days before the election. But, he said, they can be shown on LFR’s website. “I think the term ‘webmercial’ will come into its own this year,” he said. “We want to reach out to patriotic Americans, especially people of faith, and encourage them not to let mud-slinging by the left turn them off to our political process,” said Hanna in the press release announcing the group’s formation. “We will not be simply a conservative version of and The Media Fund. We will not engage in attacking Sen. Kerry the way those organizations attack President Bush.” LFR will also pursue three other projects: “We are producing a documentary about the faith of President Bush, Sen. Rick Santorum [R.-Pa.], and Sen. Zell Miller [D.-Ga.],” said Hanna. One reason these were chosen, he said is that “There are a lot of politically passive churchgoers who did not vote in 2000. You have heard the figure of four million evangelical Christians who didn’t vote in 2000. I don’t think that they didn’t vote because of apathy. I think it is more because of disillusionment.” “Disillusionment almost always occurs at either the state or local level, where the voters thinks that he or she ‘knows’ the candidate, and then discovers either that the person elected was less committed to the hot issue in play than the voter thought or, more often, that even though the person elected was okay on the hot-button issue, was a major disappointment on a host of other issues, ultimately adding up to a total in the negative that exceeded the credit to the positive from the hot issue,” Hanna explained later. Hanna noted that effective political ads must “reach people emotionally.” He said that Santorum had already been interviewed for the documentary, Miller had expressed interest, but that he would have to content himself with “interviewing people who have had occasion to observe President Bush and his faith first-hand.” LFR also wants to organize 1,000 volunteers to get out the vote in seven states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. And “we also want to build coalitions of existing organizations whose membership is likely to encompass some of the values that we have,” he said. “That can include Catholic pastors. . . . The swing voter in 2004 is not deciding between Bush and Kerry. The swing voter in 2004 is deciding between voting and not.”