September 3rd, 2009
03:47 PM ET
9 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. T Mckinley

    I'll bet my "bottom dollar" that a lot of these teabaggers are still mourning the fact that Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 election to Lyndon Johnson.

    It was Johnson's election over Goldwater that gave us the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. It was also Johnson's election that gave us Medicare and Medicaid. If Goldwater would have been elected, NONE of these things would have happened.

    I'll bet the teabaggers consider LBJ to be a "Socialist."

    September 3, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. victim of republican greed

    The Commies are coming, the Commies are coming!

    September 3, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. kamenwati

    If anyone needs proof of America's need for health reform all they need to do is look at the "sick" crowds of angry wingers frothing at the mouth and waving their hateful signs.

    September 3, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. cedgar

    Why do most post here stated these are Republicans?
    I m true purple independent, middle class voter.
    Why all the hate? Do we not have the right to voice any and all concerns
    we have with the government? Why do some make this about race?
    I just want the government to follow the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    And yes the country got off course in the 30's, but look where it has
    taken us.
    Trillions in debt
    I personally do not think any of these programs will be around for the
    next generation. I do not understand why American's think it is the government responsibility to take care of them???? Where are the
    family and communities?

    We need to get back to personal responsibility and family.

    September 3, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. Fool me once shame on u, fool me twice... err...

    Just a bunch of bigots. They will need health care reform the most because many will be blowing vessels in the coming years having a black man in the White House. Too funny!

    September 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  6. Glennis

    I haven't attended any town halls, tea parties or any other kind of protest but I have nothing against those who do attend. ( I do regulatory contact my representatives to let them know my feelings on various issues.) The snarky comments, ridicule and condescension leveled at these protesters does nothing more than create a greater divide than already exists. My guess is that most of those flinging the insults about are as stupid and uninformed as they accuse others of being. The problem as I see it is that our elected representatives have long ago ceased listening to their constituents and now those constituents are making their voices heard in the only ways they find effective. It will be interesting to see how many Congressmen and Senators lose their jobs if they continue on the self serving path they travel.

    September 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Burns NH

    Obama has surrounded himself with so called appointes who have
    backgrounds that would not be accepted in any work place and not
    even allowed by any reference check. My point is what the hell is
    he thinking. MY guess he is paying off those who supported him in
    the election. This is not my immage of America as I grew up,served my country and raised a God loving family.

    September 3, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. Dave

    What these people don't realize is that they ALREADY pay for the uninsured and underinsured. Since people rushed to emergency rooms without coverage are still treated, hospitals make up for it by increasing fees for everyone else. Therefore, everyone with coverage pays a higher premium.

    We are ALREADY paying the "higher taxes for healthcare" that they're so afraid of. With a universal plan, at least everyone will be forced to contribute, rather than the current system where only those who chose, or whose employer chooses to have healthcare pays.


    September 3, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  9. gt

    lucky for the congress..... they dont run them out on a pole tar and featherd...

    September 3, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  10. victim of republican greed

    The paid bloggers in the Fox entertainment Tea Party motorhome are out in full force today. What a bunch of slime.

    September 3, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Obama Victim

    what this county is about........we get to hold up our sign, whatever it says.....condemn the president...praise the president....say he is the devil..say he is the messaih...................and no police/soldiers anywhere telling you to time you complain about this country think about that............and how many places in the world that someone would not be allowed to carry a sign and say what you matter what side you are on........there is nothing better than citizens peacefully in the streets speaking their mind

    September 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Glennis

    ( I do regulatory contact my representatives to let them know my feelings on various issues.) Make that regularly!

    September 3, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |

    Ah, I see FreedomWorks is continuing with their Astroturfing campaign! It is nice to know that all those Health Insurance Premiums are going to line the pockets of those at FreedomWorks. That's ok, if the corporations are going to try to influence our politics with their money I guess I will donate mine to the DNC. I don't like money in politics, but these Teabaggers are about as legitimately grassroots as Ahmadinejad's Presidency.

    September 3, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Matt

    Angels on the sideline,
    Puzzled and amused.
    Why did Father give these humans free will?
    Now they're all confused.

    Silly monkeys give them thumbs,
    They forge a blade,
    And where there's one they're
    bound to divide it,

    Right in two (tool lyrics)

    Anyone opposing Obama = conservative, rightwinger, teabagger, racist, ignorant. You are for him or against him, you are left or right, you are conservative or liberal........on and on and on!!

    Any other labels or insults you guys want to use? Its really helping.

    Fact is, Federal Government dealing in healthcare AT ALL is illegal under the constitution.

    September 3, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. libs r fools

    these are the ones showing free speech, the ones that have the guts to go against the govt pushing there trash on citizins

    September 3, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. Sammy

    The townhall raucus with people shouting and showing hitler's photos ... C'mon, if a person is genuinely concerned about something (like Cost) then there were SO MANY people that expressed and articulated themselves.

    All those others are either vested interests or paid for "the act".

    Still believe, this administration is transforming a lot of things BUT will not be reelected (people here are similar to the illiterates in under developed / developing nations such as Pakistan, Iran/Iraq – EASILY get incited, fearful and race/gender biased... yeah, I mean it (the election fears and now the healthcare anger clearly reflects that!!)

    September 3, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. Dont blame me

    Believe it or not, but here in Texas, a lot of the people that are at those Tea Partys are Democrats.

    They too are fed up with what is going on with our federal government.

    And to those of you that make the clame that the people at these Tea Parties are dumb and ignorant, I just have this to say; A lot of us are highly educated, I had a 3.96 GPA in computer science , my wife had a 3.98 in business management and there are a lot of doctors, lawyers, and business people at these meetings and most of us have read H.R.3200 in its entirety. Have YOU ???

    September 3, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. M. Ames, Syracuse

    Protesting the tax cut they received, are they?

    Using terms like "Socialist" and "Fascist" interchangeably, as if they meant the same thing.

    Bussed around the country ala Dick Armey's fact-optional -"grass roots" movement–maybe they can afford to take that much time off to chase windmills and chase the boogeymen with their pitchforks, I don't know.

    The angry, low information voter is the greatest threat to this country there is.

    September 3, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  19. JF

    Once again, another bunch of whack-jobs with WAAAYYY too much free time on their hands

    September 3, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Christian Values

    As a christian, I support Health Care reform.

    I used to be a republican, whom always TALKED about christian values.

    I'm now a Democrat, who actually PRACTICES christian values.

    In regards to these Tea Bag Parties. It's legal, and I fully appreciate them having a voice. It makes me love my country all the more when even stupid and uninformed hypocrites are allowed their rights.

    September 3, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. demwit

    Careful tea baggers.., the Obama zombies are starting to feed on protesters now.

    September 3, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Willy Brown

    Train Kept A Rollin democrats. Change is coming in 2010 & 2012.

    September 3, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Reagan was wrong

    Why is everyone in the picture white?+

    September 3, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  24. Sandra

    Obama, Biden, Hillary Clinton and Pelosi are the Best Team America Ever Had.

    Go Team Go, We Support You. Majority of Americans Voted you, that is why you are there. You are doing a Great Job.

    Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are Criminals, Put them in Jail. 😐

    September 3, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

    Tea baggers make me sick.

    I support real health care reform with a public option.

    September 3, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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