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. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    These people do not represent a silent majority. They are not a majority of any kind. They are, simply, a very loud and ostentacious minority. They hope that their fear will spread to others and their party will regain power. If you care about people and you get your information from multiple sources, you are branded a liberal. Conservatives are the exact opposite of that...and that is the real problem.

    September 3, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. No Hillary = No Obama

    These groups are not going away no matter how many "prime-time" speeches Obama orchestras for himself. Really, this is wearing thin. Everytime he wants something or is faltering he has a "major" speech, cuts into prime-time for everyone – if he would sit behind his desk more and spend time with specifics instead of being camera-dependent then maybe we wouldn't have to hear his wagging tongue as much – how lazy can you get?

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

    Why is it all the lefties try and turn this into a racial issue when the righties don't agree with them?

    Race has jack to do with this.
    I couldn't care less the color of my president.
    His policies are reckless.
    Just as much as Bush destroyed our good standing with the world, Obama will do so domestically.
    The man has racked up more debt in 9 months than Bush did in 8 years.
    And now he wants to tack another 2 trillion onto the tab... no thanks.

    September 3, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Ravi

    Lol, just goes to show you that angry White Women can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than angry white men.

    September 3, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. John B. From New Hampshire

    Based on this blog alone it's a 9 to 1 ratio of pro reform vs. anti-reform. these "don't give me gov't run health care, but don't touch my medicare" crazies are so far beyond ridiculous I would swear they were from Mars! They're right up there with those Texans cheering for secession!! Personally I think all these "Americans" should go to Texas, secede and become a third world country. Then they would truly see how "Bad" government is!! Either that or Mexico could have them back!! Either way, quit whining, yes a black man is president, get over it! You're setting a horrible example for our children, yet you all seem to think Beck, Hannity, Rush and the ilk preach the word of god... you make Christianity look like the 4th Reich!!!

    September 3, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  6. Ron -- Seattle

    Wow 2000 people?

    I guess that the 69,000,000 that voted for Obama will just have to sit down and shut up!

    You know, because they want their country back!

    September 3, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. Former Army

    The angry, low information voter is the greatest threat to this country there is.
    Yes, that is why Obama was elected. I am an engineer and most engineers I know are conservative.

    September 3, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  8. Fenarkleman

    Okay, here we go: Hey, healthcare reform stinks. It will make Dick Cheney prance up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in a pink tutu, saying "I'm a little girl. Look at my curl. Weee!" It's bad for America.

    Okay, now that I have written that, where's my check? Pfizer? United Healthcare? Someone? Hey, I just spewed some outright lies for you, just like the other far right wingers you hired to try to defeat healthcare reform. Where's my check?

    September 3, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. Reagan was wrong

    These people are CONVINCED that Obama is a socialist
    These people are CONVINCED about death panels
    These people are CONVINCED that we've always been at war with Eurasia

    It's just simply IMPOSSIBLE to have an actual conversation ground in reality with someone who is CONVINCED that 2+2=5

    September 3, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Jane

    Gee, just what we need is more "help" from Freedom works (a lobbying organization assisting Big Health care) by whipping up the wing nuts of America. What a scary thing this is!

    September 3, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  11. Tea Party Hypocrites

    The Tea Party people are hypocrites. Where were they to complain when Bush presided over the largest expansion of the size of the federal government since the New Deal? Where were they to complain when President Bush's tax and budget policies turned the Clinton-era surplus into deficit? Where were they when he created Medicare Part D, the biggest expansion of "socialist", government-funded health care since LBJ? Where were they when TARP 1 bailed out the big banks in 2008? So why all the new anger in 2009? Because Obama, a Democrat, is president.

    September 3, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  12. Former Navy Seal

    The angry, low information voter is the greatest threat to this country there is. Yes, that is why Obama was elected. I am an engineer and most engineers I know are liberals.

    September 3, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Steve (the real one)

    Wonder why you liberals are so bonkers over these people. What have they done to you? Are they costing you time and money? Last time I checked this is still America and these people have the right to protest, regardless if you agree with them or not. You liberals do it all the time! Is this your way of practicing your tolerance? Are they the hate mongers, racists and bigots you boldly proclaim they are? After reading your posts, it would seem to me the hate mongers and racists would be YOU!

    September 3, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Tony

    Tea Baggers are so entertaining! Never seen so many tax dodgers and cheats in one place. Should make it easier to crack down! What "real" Americans. WOW!

    September 3, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. vic nashville , Tn

    Let them protest when Obama pass health care reform they will be happy they will get more benefits

    September 3, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. Proud Member..Party of No

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 43% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 36% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent. That represents the lowest level of support for Democrats in recent years, while Republicans have tied their highest level of support for the third straight week.

    Thanks, Barry!

    September 3, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  17. Joseph, Los Angeles

    It's time for the backers and supporters of health care reform to meet with them at the same time in Washington. We will outnumber them 10 to 1.

    September 3, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  18. jpspec

    Obama has given people many, many reasons to protest. While the focus is on Heal Care, far too many other things are being done. The most recent one is how Obama has targeted school age children to hear him speak. Innocent??? Read his original video and give it some thought. SCARY. (I said "original video" because after more parents protested, the video was modified. With more parents protesting that Obama has no right to try to promote his goals via kids, it looks like for now it may not be shown in schools now. We can expect him to try AGAIN .

    This has been: The land of the FREE because of the BRAVE. He has put us into the position of having to choose between Health Care and Freedom. Not Good.

    I slept too long and my dreams are becoming a nightmare. It is now time that I wake up. Hope other join me.

    September 3, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. cedgar

    The tea bag parties started when the government started handing
    out money ie tarp 1,2,3 are what ever number we are on.
    The American Public did not want the first Tarp!
    We were told if we did not give money to the banks the economy would crash! So what we got was big bonus to the same companies we gave the money.
    Then we were told we needed a stimulus bill, timely, targeted and temporary and look what we got!
    We also had to give money to auto companies are unemployment would be double digit it is now 9.4% and going up.
    Now they want Cap & Trade, Card Check and Health Care.
    So some on this post do not understand why middle America is pissed off. This is not about political party. This is about stopping all the greedy, corrupt politicians.

    September 3, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. Working person who cant afford insurance. God Bless the Republicans.

    Insurance companies choose who live and die. Obama would never support a plan that did that. It would be political suicide. But I am sure since Rush or Palin say it is Obama's plan all the book burners will go along with it.

    September 3, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. FreedomAlwaysWorks

    YES – I can see that.....

    interesting thing is that it works for whatever you want it to work for – ex: it works to launch a smear campaign on Pelosi OR one on Obama OR George Bush OR Cheney (ooops, it didn't work for the latter two of them when the Iraq War was waged and we ALL got slammed with a trillion plus of debt FOREVER...)

    where is my tea???

    September 3, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Will they all wear teabags on their heads? Will they all bring assault weapons and march in formation??Are they coming to circle the White House and lybch President Obama? Will Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly be there to help build the gallows??

    September 3, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  23. Post always rejected by CNN

    Patriots....they sully the name. They are a bunch of thugs trying to pretend they are somebody.

    THE DEMOCRATS HAVE NOT RAISED ONE PART OF ANY TAX. If they are protesting taxes it has to be bush' why doesn't somebody tell them they are not only stupid, they are blind also.

    September 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Jake

    what a bunch of idiots! you deserve to be led by Palin!

    September 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. T Mckinley

    Just knowing that these racist, right-wing teabaggers were in my "backyard" the other day almost makes me wish that Lincoln would have gone ahead and let the Confederacy seceed.

    Then again, I wouldn't want to have a "nukular" armed Confederacy, with it's belief that EVERYONE should be just like THEM, pointing all of it's "nukular" weapons at us "commies" here in the Union.

    September 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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