Pulse: Chatter: Politics: Checks and Balances

In an effort to answer the Dems’ fund-raising  tsunami this election cycle, a feisty conservative group is  tapping some local heavyweights for cash.

Edwin Starr was wrong, it turns out. War is good for something — especially if you’re a local GOP member in search of badly needed campaign dollars. While headlines blare the Democrats’ bank-busting support, the GOP — as is always the case — is lurking in the shadows, building its own war chest with hefty contributions from some regional heavy hitters.

One group called Freedom’s Watch has been making a killing by tapping into the local conservative donor pool. The group, founded by former White House flack Ari Fleischer and other Bush supporters, launched a $15 million ad campaign this summer to drum up support for the war. Some of that money came out of local accounts, including those of John Templeton Jr., of the Templeton Foundation; Gary Erlbaum, of Greentree Properties in Ardmore and the Jewish Exponent; Richard J. Fox, the real estate magnate and former chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition; and Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast- Spectacor, which owns the 76ers and the Flyers. If you need more evidence of the group’s clout, consider that in late October, Bush made a pit stop at Templeton’s Bryn Mawr home for a $1,000-a-plate GOP fund-raiser. (Ten G’s got you a photo op with W.)

One indication these aren’t the Democrats: You won’t see any Barbra-type speechifying from this crowd. Because Freedom’s Watch is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit corporation, it’s built to be a shadowy organization. It doesn’t have to reveal where it gets its money or disclose how much it’s raised. FW president and CEO Bradley Blakeman says he’s had only limited interaction with Templeton and the others, but says his group is seeking “a long-term relationship [with donors], so that this is not a one-off donation.” After all, those yellow ribbons — and those Halliburton contracts — don’t come cheap.