Pro-War "Vets for Freedom" Tied to Bush's PR Team

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.


Thanks from this Iraq vet for exposing these partisan hacks. The sheer arrogance of anyone naming their organization "(Blank) For Freedom" is enough to tick me off, but to dishonestly advocate for an open-ended policy of sacrificing young American lives for no good reason sickens me. I guess I hate freedom.

William Wade Zirkle graduated from Avon Old School in Avon CT in 1996, according to the Hartford-Courant. Average tuition now for a boarder at Avon Old School is $35k annually. Mr. Zirkle certainly was not your average GI. The address of Vets for Freedom is 132 N. Main St., Woodstock VA 22664. The building was purchased by Lloyd H. Hartman in 11/01. Woodstock is in Shenandoah County. There are a number of Zirkles in and around Woodstock and a number of businesses registered to Zirkles. W. Denham Zirkle is director and former president of the Zirkle Mill Foundation, Inc., 12097 S. Middle Road, Edinburg, VA 22824, registered 9/04. Lisa R. Zirkle is secretary, Sharon Z. Wetherholtz is treasurer and Ann M. Zirkle is another director. 990s are not available online. The foundation receives state and federal funding, according to its website. The address of Zirkle Family Farms, LLC, formerly Zirkle & Associates, LLC, is 12097 S. Middle Road, Edinburg, VA. No officers listed. Katherine E. Ramsey of Hunton & Williams, Riverfront Plaza East Tower, 951 E. Byrd St., Richmond VA 23219, is the registered agent for the Zirkle Foundaton and Zirkle Farms. W. Denham Zirkle, a former executive vice-president with Templeton Investments, is or was CEO of Carret and Company, another investment firm. Carret and Company is owned by Castle Harlan Partners III L.P., a private-equity investment fund organized and managed by Castle Harlan, Inc., the New York merchant bank. Assets under management by Carret and Company are now more than $2 billion. William D. Zirkle of Edinburg, VA donated a total of $4.5k to the campaigns of Todd Gilbert and Jerry Kilgore in 2005. William Wade Zirkle, also of Edinburg, donated $2k to the Virginia League of Conservation Voters in 2005. Any idea if William D. or W. Denham Zirkle is related to William Wade Denham Zirkle?