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. Marie MD

    Oh goodie! You people picked a really good weekend . . . . Metro is not running so bring your silly little running shows.
    I bet your headliner will be wearing her ugly shoes and hairdo.

    September 3, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Grrr-awful-o

    This is obviously a huge threat to leftists. Leftists can dish it out but can't take it. Listen to them squeel with pain!

    September 3, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. KK

    To all you religious right-We are our brother's keeper.

    September 3, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Jay T.

    i hope they enjoyed those roads they traveled on to ge to Washington. Your tax dollars at work.

    September 3, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Jay T.

    What happened to the Birthers? Man, I miss those guys. Now, we get the death panel loonies. They aren't nearly as cool as the Birthers.

    September 3, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. obammyisgreat

    sure, sounds like a great plan by the head jenkem huffer.

    the gov't has ruined EVERYTHING they've got their greasy hands on...healthcare will be no different....God help us.

    September 3, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Dont blame me

    And to those liberals that still claim that theCivil Rights and Voting Rights acts are theirs, I have some news for you.

    84% of Rebulicans voted for the Civil Rights act and only
    63% of Democrats voted for the Civil Rights act.

    These are well documented FACTS.

    And without those Republicans voting for it, it would have NEVER passed.

    September 3, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. bella

    And of course, leading the PAC - WOLF IN CHIEF/BARACCUDA SARA PALIN!!! HA

    September 3, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    The number of people that attend will just be the tip of the iceberg. Millions would like to attend, but can't for lack of money or time off from work to make the trip. There will be Conservatives, Independents, and yes some true Democtrats. (Not Far Left Radicals). If the Libs want to discount and ridicule, that's fine. They can be surprised by the 2010 Elections.

    September 3, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. walleye

    I have decided that these Right Wingnuts really do not want to read about and learn the facts before reacting. They pickup trash and lies thats been posted on the internet and never bother to investigate its validity. They want to appear as Christians, and educated individuals, yet they go out slamming their fellow man because they are gay or dont believe in their philosophy. The GOP is one sick group of uneducated, bigoted, stubborn and hypocritical morons that will never change. I say let them rot in the hell they create.

    September 3, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. a progressive liberal and proud of it

    CNN, I take issue with "Teaparty Patriots" in your headline. These people are not true patriots!

    September 3, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Hopeington

    And not one word about the pro reform marches scheduled across the country on Sept. 13th, sponsored by barackobama.com Organizing for America. I guess reasonable discussion amongst the majority of adults about our health care system, just doesn't get them airtime.
    The sad part is these angry people have been misled by the likes of Rick Scott and Freedom Works and don't even realize they are not talking about the reality of the health care bill, they're just yelling about the lies they've been told, and coupled with their smoldering hate, they only reveal their deep seated fear that a black man, President Barack Hussein Obama, is in the White House.

    September 3, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. StevenR

    Every sign in the picture has a lie on it. And the title "Tea Party Patriots" – is that leading or what? Wouldn't "Tea Party Dupes of Big Insurance Companies" be more accurate?

    September 3, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. Jeff in Virginia

    Where was all of this media coverage when the left was trying to stop this country from going to war?

    September 3, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Former Army

    The angry, low information voter is the greatest threat to this country there is.
    That is exactly why Obama was elected.

    September 3, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. Independant

    Democrats are Socialists.

    Republicans are Criminals.

    Socialists are better than Criminals.

    I Support Socialists.... :)

    September 3, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. StevenR

    ???
    - 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

    An example of an IDIOT that has been LIED TO and HE BELIEVES IT.

    September 3, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. David

    Tea parties are a joke.. Where were they when George W. Bush was spending and growing the deficit. Obama inherit this Republican mess. It takes a democrat to clean up after the Republicans mess.

    September 3, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. AUSTIN,TX

    wake up...get a life...I'm sure you didn't vote for Prez Obama....I have a suggestion, all of you idiots thats not happy in the US...one word....leave

    September 3, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Suzan

    This article didn't say did Palin agree to come along and support them or did she decline

    September 3, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. Larry

    Because the Bush Administration ruined the economy these idiots have no jobs and no homes to go so they having nothing better to do except be paid to protest by the health insurance lobbyists.

    September 3, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Voted4HealthCare

    It is sad when people protest their best interests for corporate lobbyists and against health care for their fellow Americans in need.

    No wonder I left Dick Armey's GOP. I could no longer be associated with this hypocritical nonsense.

    Most Americans support Health Reforms Now because it is the morally correct thing to do for our country.

    September 3, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. CJ

    Don't you right wingers all know that the big insurance companies are getting these so called parties together..... You need to listen to something on TV besides Fox news...... Maybe you would learn something.....

    September 3, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. Tired

    Why cannot we just have an informed discussion and debate? More and more it seems simply if the President says it – well it must be wrong, evil etc etc etc. So much of the commentary has information that is just plain incorrect. There is no basis in fact....no true quotes. Cheney arguing that torture is A-OK is scarier to me than anything the current President has said or done. Actually the President has done nothing to hurt us. Last year we all wanted better and cheaper healthcare! Last year we wanted a President more willing to talk to the people! Last year we wanted a President the world would respect and hopefully listen to! We are certainly a fickle bunch.

    September 3, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  25. Wolf twitters 4 Palin

    Are these critters stopping for an all expense paid lunch with their LOBBYISTS?

    September 3, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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