September 3rd, 2009
03:47 PM ET
5 years ago

FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots head for the Hill

Next week, a flood of protesters are planning to head to Capitol Hill.
Next week, a flood of protesters are planning to head to Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Members of Congress - returning to work after a chaotic August recess - may be welcoming a return to their D.C. offices and a schedule free of visits to town halls, the district-level gatherings that have provided the stage for some of the summer's fiercest faceoffs. But their break is likely to be a short one: Next week, a flood of those town hall protesters are planning to head to the Hill.

Starting Thursday September 10, the day after President Obama delivers an address on health care reform to a joint session of Congress, thousands of opponents of his proposal are slated to swarm congressional offices. The push marks the kickoff of the annual three-day March on Washington organized by former Rep. Dick Armey's FreedomWorks organization. Given its critics' show of strength, predicts FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, the latest Democratic health care legislation will be "dead on arrival."

The first two days of the event are slated to include workshops on fundraising, "grassroots on the ground" and Web activism. But the centerpiece of the agenda Thursday and Friday are congressional visits: Participants will be given lobbying guidance before being directed to head to the Hill for planned, and unplanned, meetings with legislators - particularly those who support, or are considering support for, President Obama's health care plan. An overwhelming number of the new attendees, and speakers at the weekend's events, are expected to come from the ranks of the Tea Party Patriots, as the group's "Tea Party Express" tour ends in the nation's capital.

Planners say they aren't looking to re-create a town hall atmosphere on Capitol Hill – but admit the prospect is likely. "There'll be some chaos, there'll be some yelling," concedes coordinator Brendan Steinhauser; some individuals visiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might call her an "evil-monger." But FreedomWorks, which has consistently denied charges it helped organize deliberate disruptions of congressional town halls this summer, continues to claim a hands-off approach, insisting that any aggressive activity won't be directed by them, and that they will be asking participants to take a civil approach. "We do our best to guide (those headed to the Hill)," said Steinhauser Wednesday, a week before the event. "But they're individuals. There's no guarantees."


It's been a tough summer for FreedomWorks. Reports that the group was responsible for packing town halls with rowdy protestors drew fire from liberal opponents; reports that they were charging conservative organizations thousand of dollars for speaking slots and access to attendees at next week's gathering drew criticism from some allied groups. FreedomWorks continues to deny mobilizing activists to spark chaos at the summer's district-level town halls, and has defended the fees as minor and necessary to gather funds to cover expenses associated with next week's events.

The number of local activists who've registered in advance for the summit's two-day grassroots training crash course has increased tenfold from last year, according to FreedomWorks, from 200-300 to more than 2,000 as of Wednesday. Organizers estimate that the number of attendees for the Saturday rally - co-sponsored by conservative groups like the Tea Party Patriots, National Taxpayers Union, Heartland Institute, and Free Republic, Tea Party Express - is likely to be in the tens of thousands, but say they have no real sense of what the final count might be. (Also unknown: how many unaffiliated or counter-protesters might show.)

Saturday will feature the main event: a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where a speakers list dominated by local activists will address attendees in between crowd-rousing vintage musical interludes like Welcome to the Jungle, Metallica's Whiskey in the Jar and Bush's Machinehead. The lineup is light on elected officials, including just a handful of conservative stalwarts like Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Mike Pence, and Sen. Jim DeMint. FreedomWorks says organizers wanted to focus on Washington outsiders, but concedes that speaking slot requests by some conservative politicians – including unnamed 2012 hopefuls – were politely declined, based on their positions on issues like TARP and the stimulus. Other typically interested officials, perhaps wary of the boos and catcalls that greeted Sen. John Cornyn at a Tea Party rally in Texas, didn't ask to address the crowd this year.

Next week is also, as political observers have noted, a preview of another fall fight ahead: the battle over "cap and trade" climate legislation that is expected to take center stage after health care cedes the spotlight. FreedomWorks organizers say they believe passions are just as high on that issue. "This week will be the beginning of a new big tent movement," said spokesman Adam Brandon.


Filed under: FreedomWorks • Health care
soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. CR

    Right-wing mobs spewing ignorance and bigotry.

    September 3, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Robert, Burbank

    Evidently, those poeple do not read or watch the news. I just wonder if they do not realize how ridiculous they look protesting. Oh! just wait s minute ....They are Republicans and they are not informed as usual

    September 3, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Wake Up

    Obama:
    - Has appointed several communists to administration positions
    - Nationalized banks and car companies
    - Trying to get school children to "pledge allegiance to Obama"
    - Taking names of people who disagree with him
    - Created 36 Czar positions that Congress has no oversite of.
    - Has emergency control to shut down the internet

    Forget your party, and just analyze those facts. Obama is a scary president and needs to be sanctioned and controlled. Be honest with yourselves...this isn't what we voted for.

    September 3, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. sharon

    why do all these people all use the words like: kill.......dead........?

    why do they want to do harm to people?

    are they all that mean?

    do they not know about laws?

    do they not care?

    if so......they are truely horrible humans.

    September 3, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. TangledThorns

    I live near DC and wish I knew about the rally beforehand, I would so be there. The liberals can thank Obama and Pelosi for awaking the sleep conservatives.

    September 3, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. truthsayer

    Somebody send these nutbags back to the asylum

    September 3, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Mike from Tacoma

    Why are you covering these wackos? You paying for the bus?

    September 3, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    How about a better picture from an angle not purposefully designed to make the crowd look bigger CNN? Hmmm? There's probably like a couple hundred of these jibber-jabbering lie regurgitators in total, and yet the media is treating it like the Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests revisited. Enough already! Shine a light on it...stop filtering it and sensationalizing it just so you can milk it for viewership and click to justify your ad revenue. It's nothing more than a small group of very angry true-believing GOP tribesmen.

    September 3, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Tony from Michigan

    Here comes the American Taliban!!!
    This is good, they are going to have a town hall meeting. What are they going to do? Let me guess, someone will try to ask a question and the rest will scream and threaten....lol

    September 3, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Leonard

    These people are so ignorant. No valid point and all they do is listen to loons. Using words like socialist and facist. Come get real. Just say what you want to say. You are mad a Black man is President. If you were really afriad of the Governmetn then everything President George Bush did would have scared you. ie wire taping, starting false war with people that did nothing to us, bulling other countries and trying to force them to act like America. I could go on for days.

    These people are all jokes.

    September 3, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Barbara Independent in NY

    Get out of Washington–the hate mongers, bigots and racists are on their way. There's nothing like a "grassroots" mob and their hypocritical Republican puppetmasters.

    September 3, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Bedtime for Obonzo

    They should all wear ACORN t-shirts. That way they'll get instant access to Democrats, and the Capital Police won't both them.

    September 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. geecee

    The psychotic fringe-based lunatics haven't run their course yet, I guess. Let them go. No one pays any attention to them other than those who already believe like they do. They won't convince anyone that their paranoid accusations have any substance to them. It's interesting how they don't want Obama to speak to schoolchildren, don't want him to speak to a joint Session of Congress, so afraid that he might in his intelligent, rational, sensible manner actually get some people to understand and think about what is best for them. But they can run all over the country and rant and rave and shout their absolutely hysterical, ridiculous accusations, distortions and lies and that's American. Our President shouldn't speak to our school children though. Well, maybe they'll let him read "My Pet Goat" to a classroom. That's about their level of intellectual interaction anyway!!

    September 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. 60's survivor

    mad hatters each and everyone.

    September 3, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Sorry, "bother."

    September 3, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. debbie

    Living proof that there is a sucker born every minute. And they're all conservative.

    September 3, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. Idiot_Pelosi

    That's right, NO MORE TAXES.

    We're not paying any more taxes.

    So, OBUMMER, you ifigure out how to pay for your socialist agenda and how to lower the deficit.

    September 3, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. in total disbelief

    It will never cease to amaze me how people can believe that the government is gonig to "put gramma to sleep". This whole Death Panel thing is completely stupid.

    The fight about Government health care is just as stupid. How many of these people are receiving Medicare/Medicade (Government Run) while complaining about the possibility of Government run health care? Somehting to think about people!

    My wife just past her first anniversary of being cancer free rom Ovarian Cancer. We have what I thought was fairly good insurance through my employer, but with denials, half coverages and the general run around from the insurance company, we are now having trouble paying all of our bills each month. There was so much left over after the insurance coverage it is just terrible.

    I for one truly hope that the health care system is reformed. If it isn't, we are all screwed in about ten years. The way they are raising their rates and lowering their coverage, it moght not even take that long.

    Wake Up People!!!!!

    September 3, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  19. Lisa P

    These people aren't patriots, they're an ignorant rabble led by fools, cynics and opportunists. They may have the right to petition their representatives but their ill-informed actions and opinions don't merit the attention CNN and the mainstream media echo chamber have been giving them.

    But then I guess the silent sensible majority don't make for good TV, even if we are much easier to find.

    September 3, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  20. Randolph Carter, the Obamabot who rams healthcare down yer throat

    Oh boy the Petit-bourgeois are throwing a tantrum again. We are the most spoiled nation on the planet. Y'all realize taxes are really low, historically speaking? So what if we raise them a little to help the less fortunate? But, no, I must have my 4,000 sq. ft. house and my 2 SUVs and my 72" plasma TV. I may have to give up taking the family to Olive Garden if my taxes go up!!! Me me me!!! You want tax break after tax break, and when they keep giving them to you, you say, look at what a terrible job government does at this or that. Do you see the causal link? Probably not in a nation where the education system is geared toward vocational training instead of critical thinking. Give me a break. Have a nice day, consumerbots!

    September 3, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  21. b nice

    screw the tea baggers . Pass the healthcare reform bill!! they should be called winers instead of tea baggers because they are acting like they drink too much wine!

    September 3, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  22. markus

    ill-informed, misguided nutcases...

    September 3, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  23. Hak

    Ignorant GOP nut jobs!!

    Hateful, cowards that are afraid of everything, gays, poor people, people of color, immigrants, socialists like those evil Germans, French, Canadians, British, Swiss. .

    Red Neck Cowards move to your bunkers. I think there is one availble in Waco!!

    September 3, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Whackos! Get a job!

    September 3, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Is this article meant to be an advertisement for their event? Seriously. I don't think I've ever seen a longer Ticker article EVER. And the GOPers complain about the "liberal" media? You guys should be thanking CNN for airing this vapid nonsense in such meticulous detail, all the while treating it as though tihs troup of clowns has an enormous following and constitutes a representative sample indicative of the opinions and perspective of a majority of the populace. Seriously: please shut up about the "liberal media" from here on out you crybabies.

    September 3, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
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