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. Debbie

    And the nut cases go on vacation to DC...

    September 3, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. marissa

    It's fun to see the right stand up for a change. But what's funny is the lefts indignance at the right using their tactics. It's made for an entertaining summer.

    September 3, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  3. T Mckinley

    If the teabaggers are looking for a leader to represent them and what they truly stand for...

    May I suggest someone like David Duke? He opposes President Obama for the very same reasons they do.

    September 3, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. EBJ

    I have ONE question for the "tea baggers" and that is WHEN DID THEIR TAXES GO UP?? President Obama has been in office since January of this year and I'm a working American and I have noticed NO increase of taxes taken out of my paycheck. In fact I have not paid anymore taxes yet and got more back from the IRS this year then last. If their taxes are like mine then the taxes they are protesting came under Bush not Obama. That's the irony of this whole thing. They should come out and be more truthful..these are just rightwing cry babies that are still upset they lost the election and even worst some are upset that the President for the first time in history doesn't "look like them"! The tax increase that Obama had proposed putting on the rich hasn't even taken effect yet. Nothing wrong with protesting but at least be honest with why you're doing it.

    September 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "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"

    Those aren't facts, theyt are misrepresentations based on underlying facts. Learn the difference and the conservative movement will become 100% more palatable to a lot more people.

    September 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ooooh the "We Want Our Country Back (from Obama)" crowd ar coming to my neck of the woods. We have a little party planned for them.

    September 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  7. yuri

    They just have nothin' better to do than dance to the tunes of the tactful tyrants of the GOP. Why can't they offer meaningful and constructive criticisms rather than picketin' and peltin' placards at all and sundry. There ain't no dearth of morons in this planet.

    September 3, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. Otto

    I would like to know as a fact; do these people work. Do they have a job and pay taxes?

    How can people spends days shouting and screaming while they have a day job? Can someone answer these questions?

    September 3, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. sharon

    what will happen when these "people" get all rilled up............

    and something horrible happens..........?

    who will be accountable then?

    who will stand up and say "I" did that?

    or, "I " caused that?

    do "they" realy want to be responsible?

    o.k. if they bring the "hate"......bring the cuffs. Lock them all up.

    secret service ....................are you ready for the "hate mongers"??????

    September 3, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Proud Member..Party of No

    I will give Barry Obama thanks for one thing.......awakening the sleeping giant. The grassroots revolution has begun and we the people are going to take our country back from the nutjobs that are currently running the country. Barry's little run at Marxism is a disaster along with his presidency.

    September 3, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. Debra

    Can just one of these brainless sheep (and I apologize to real sheep) explain to me the downside of Medicare for All...?....Because I for one would love to not have to worry about going bankrupt in the case of a serious illness, or or being laid off, or have to worry every year about whether or not my employer will continue to offer medical coverage..)
    What is their hang up with this? Does any thinking person really believe the crap that these morons are spewing...?
    I watched a news report where a man yelled at a waitress w/a child that he shouldn't be responsible for paying her healthcare in a Universal system....well how do you think she feels about having to pay for his roads to be plowed, or for his kids to go to school, or for the police who keep his house safe....C'mon people, start using your brains about this.

    Do they think their taxes are too high? Well, so are mine!....but if a higher tax meant that healthcare would no longer be a source of worry, for me or any other American citizen...then I would gladly pay.
    I guess that what separates human beings from mobs.

    September 3, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. Scott, Tucson

    I love the hypocrisy of the leftist Dem's, when Bush was in office the protesters to any and all of his policies were justified proclaiming it was their rights to heap hate speech upon Bush. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, you just can't can stand the taste of Freedom of speech by true Americans.

    September 3, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    On January 20. 2009 there were at least 2 million people came out into the bitter cold to see Barack Obama inaugarated as President of The United States of America. It was a turning point. That election represented a rejection of the path that we were on. We were being governed by fear. Fear divided us. Fear determined what our next move would be. On that day, the people said ENOUGH! On that day, the people were united by hope, hope for the future
    Today, that fear still lingers in the population. It is evident by organizations like Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots, 60+. If you listen to them, all they talk about is what they are afraid of.
    We should take comfort in the fact that this is the minority. although it be a vocal minority. They do not have the numbers that we have. They may be loud, but they are still irrelevent.
    WE WANT A PUBLIC OPTION

    September 3, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. Lexi

    I would like to meet one-just ONE-protestor who can come up with valid reasons for hating this plan.

    September 3, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Alex

    It's ironic that these same people 5 or 6 years ago called any sort of political activism and questioning of the President and executive branch treason! The taste of sour grapes serves to mask any cognitive dissonance I guess...

    September 3, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. T Mckinley

    Here we go again...

    The "let's oppose anything and everything President Obama wants to do because we're all pissed off that a black man was elected President" tour is coming to a town near you.

    September 3, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Brian0901

    These people are of the lowest intelligence. They cannot read or think for themselves. I defy any of morons to give me a rational argument against this plan. And by rational I mean do not use the words "socialism" or "facism" or any other word you don't know the meaning of.

    I'm waiting.

    September 3, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    On least thought: Who wants to bet me $787B that when Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy EXPIRE by their own terms, these nutjobs and the rest of the neocon monkeys claim that Obama raised their taxes?

    September 3, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. Really

    Just because i'm a conservative does not mean i'm racist, ignorant, uneducated, or uninformed. I am conservative because I am educated (B.S. University of Iowa in Political Science) and I am informed. I support paying taxes however, I do not support my money being spent wastefully. Do you know the amount of waste that goes into some projects. If the left figures out a way to streemline spending and make it productive instead of wasteful then you might see me move to the left but for now my intelligence tells me to stay conservative.

    September 3, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  20. ROTFL

    Dick's Caucasian shills for tea-bagged hypocrisy. The sorest losers Dick can buy (and teabag). What a joke.

    September 3, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  21. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    I don't like to wish ill on anyone, but I hope they all need some kind of medical attention and are found to be uncovered by their insurers for some reason while on this Denial Crusade.
    I think that if they had some idea of what it is like to have to deal with life without secure health care, they MIGHT be willing to consider alternatives... OF course they will probably need to remove their tin foil hats before anything meaningful can get in.

    September 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  22. Buck Feck

    Tea Baggers-
    Proof that stupidity is a pre-existing condition.

    More than 2000?? Wow, impressive. Remember how these same people reacted to the hundreds of thousands that protested going to war in Iraq? They were wrong then too.

    September 3, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. NVa Native

    There won't be any tin-foil left in the Walmart!

    September 3, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. justin

    Lies upon lies by these idiots. Enough with the coverage.

    September 3, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  25. single mom

    I love watching people utilize the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution.
    Here we get to use our Freedom of Speech – which was put in the Bill of Rights mostly to guarantee the right to civilly argue with the government. (Not obscenities, not threats – civli!) And these people, just as in the townhall meetings, as in parades and other gatherings, get to utilize their right to gather freely and make their opinions known to the political leaders of their country.
    All of this built on a foundation created over 220 years ago by men who couldn't possibly have dreamed that their grand experiment would survive as long as it has.
    We've survived worse, people. Let's get it together, pull up our big boy pants, roll up our sleeves and make our country's founders proud.

    September 3, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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