Last week, a group called Defense of Democracies let rip with a national ad campaign aimed at pressuring House Democrats (and targeting 15 in particular) to buckle and support the Senate’s surveillance bill, which contains retroactive immunity for the telecoms. The ads ended by encouraging viewers to contact their representative and urge them to convince the House leadership to bring the Senate bill to a vote — because “the law that lets intelligence agencies intercept Al Qaeda communications” has expired, “crippling” surveillance.
The group, other than denying that the telecoms themselves were behind the $2 million campaign, refused to disclose where the money had come from. But in the current issue of the National Journal (not available online), Peter Stone reports that Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul, “chipped in much of the $2 million,” citing “sources.”
That’s not all that surprising, since Adelson (with a net worth of $26 billion, Forbes‘ 12th richest person in the world) is a big backer of conservative attack groups. For instance, he’s the big money behind Freedom’s Watch, which reportedly plans to spend $250 million defeating Democrats this election.
Defense of Democracies, a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, was formed by the related Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a supposedly “non-partisan” non-profit that lost all of its Democratic board members after news of the ad campaign broke. It’ll be interesting to see whether the run of ads, which lasted one week and ran on the national cable networks, was a preview of more to come in the election. I guess that depends on how generous Adelson is feeling.