Citizen journalists on SourceWatch have been investigating and exposing the many Republican connections and the partisan pro-war political agenda behind Vets for Freedom, a new organization with mysterious funding and a flashy website designed by Campaign Solutions, part of the Donatelli Group. Vets for Freedom's hollow claim of "non-partisanship" took another blow Sunday, June 25, when the Buffalo News published a front page story by Jerry Zremski, their Washington correspondent, linking Vets for Freedom to the Bush White House.
Describing Vets for Freedom as a "pro-war group with deep Republican ties," the Buffalo News revealed that Taylor Gross, who until last year worked as a spokesman for President Bush under White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, is conducting PR work for Veterans for Freedom. Gross attempted to convince the Buffalo News and other papers that two decorated military veterans with the group, Wade Zirkle and David Bellavia, could report cheaply for the newspapers from Iraq while embedded with the US military.
While pitching Zirkle and Bellavia to the Buffalo News and other papers as "balanced and credible" reporters, Taylor Gross neglected to identify himself as a Republican operative who had done PR work in the White House press office until just last year. Gross left his White House job to form the Republican public relations firm the Herald Group with his political cohorts Matt Well and Doug McGinn.
The revelations in the Buffalo News of Vets for Freedom's ties to the Bush public relations team come just days after the The New York Times reported that Republicans are strongly embracing the Bush Administration's war in Iraq as a keystone of their political strategy for the November elections.
The New York Times described the pro-war political strategy as "an effort to turn what some party leaders had feared could become the party's greatest liability into an advantage in the midterm elections." In a meeting "White House officials including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, outlined ways in which Republican lawmakers could speak more forcefully about the war. Participants also included Mr. Bush's top political and communications advisers: his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove; his political director, Sara Taylor; and the White House counselor, Dan Bartlett."
The New York Times article made no mention of Vets for Freedom, but the group has been conveniently attacking John Murtha and other Iraq war critics while heavily promoting Bush's pro-war mission. Vets for Freedom could become a very helpful front group in the Republican political PR arsenal designed to keep control of Congress and the Senate in the November elections.