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Sheldon Adelson: White knight or white elephant?

Laura Rozen of Mother Jones reports that some conservative activists are disappointed with the organization launched by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to generate support for President Bush’s Iraq policy:

In Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, foreign-policy hawks thought they had found the conservative answer to liberal philanthropist George Soros: a deep-pocketed benefactor eager to dole out generous sums to right-leaning advocacy groups and grassroots campaigns. Adelson’s largesse, they believed, would underwrite the further advancement of conservative causes—particularly those regarding national security—and allow conservatives to do well-financed battle with ideological adversaries such as MoveOn.org. …

So last year, when Adelson helped to establish Freedom’s Watch, a group that late last summer launched a $15 million media campaign in support of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, hopes were high—both for Adelson and for Freedom’s Watch. As former White House press secretary and Freedom’s Watch official Ari Fleischer put it in August, “The cavalry is coming.”

Almost eight months later, some Freedom’s Watch watchers are wondering whether some of the cavalry got lost. Even as the group has mounted a new campaign to coincide with General David Petraeus’ testimony on Iraq to Congress this week, there has been conservative grumbling about Freedom’s Watch—and Adelson. And several Freedom’s Watch staffers, including its first president, Bradley Blakeman, have left the group. Now Washington conservatives are worrying that Adelson may not be the white knight they had wished for.

In not-for-attribution interviews, a few conservative think tank hands and activists expressed frustration that Freedom’s Watch has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy, and they gripe that it has been slow to set up a MoveOn-style infrastructure. Freedom’s Watch hasn’t realized its full potential, they say, in part because Adelson overly involves himself in the group’s decision-making and won’t heed the good advice of…well, people like them.

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