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

FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots head for the Hill

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="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. Government is your DADDY

    Blah, Blah, Blah Obama is the worst thing ever, Government do all is the mans vision, take over of the private sector, but what else would you expect from a man who thinks the government is the answers to your problems in life.

    September 3, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. John

    One asked why they are all white people...simple...they work for living, and dont want or need hand outs

    September 3, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  3. John from California

    These people are Anarchists and Un-American trouble makers and the Department of Homeland Security should be investigating all of them.

    The unpatriotic fools look like the McCain and Palin losers who refuse to get over the last election well, this kind of display while the country is at war is offensive to all Americans and especially our troops fighting for our freedom.

    September 3, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. Gene

    Yep.. just keep fighting against your own interests... then start crying when you get your medical bills in the mail.

    I wonder how much Real Estate goes for in Vancouver? 🙂

    September 3, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. David



    $10 / Hr.
    Free Food
    Free Ride
    Free Hotel rooms

    September 3, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    As more Americans realize what the huge level of debt is going to do to our way of life, this kind of outrage against the government who is mismanaging our money will grow quickly. When you consider how incredibly difficult it will be for future generations of Americans to pay back the trillions of dollars along with interest, you can understand that the whole country should be screaming at Washington. The future is a dreary place for America and we are watching it get worse every day.

    Meanwhile, if it makes you liberals feel better, complain all you want about the previous Republican administration. But that won't pay the bills when they come due.

    September 3, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. Rebekah

    I have truly had it with Americans maybe just people in general. The right, left, black, brown, white blue, purple...whatever. Why are people so full of hate for their fellow man? When someone is being called an idiot or lacking common sense, the truth of the matter is, because this persons ideas are different from mine they are wrong and I will not listen, I will not open my mind to others ideas, my way is the right way! Everyone has the right to their opinion, no matter how different. But to refusing to listen or hating someone because of their religion, ideas, or lifestyle, is not one you would choose is really the detriment of our society.

    September 3, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Ed in Indianapolis

    I'm sure most sane people have noticed that the same hate, anger, and racism that was shown at McCain/Palin rallies is the same being shown at these tea parties and town halls. Sore losers seeking revenge. I find it so un-american. I wonder if any of these people claim to be Christians?

    September 3, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  9. Marie in California

    I'd be at the Tea Party rally in Washington DC on September 12th if I could. I support them 100%.

    As for me, I'm just another American who is over-taxed and over-regulated.....not part of anybody's movement and not getting instructions from anyone. I don't belong to ANY groups or movements.

    I'm just an ordinary American who is fed up with the increasingly Socialist trend in the federal government in recent decades, a government that now rapidly spiraling downward into some unknown and bleak financial and moral abyss.

    Whatever happened to the basics of individual responsibility and personal accountability, of individual effort and free enterprise, which were once the cornerstones of our once-great country?

    What we've got now is the government equivalent of junk bonds

    Don't tread on me!

    September 3, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. Kelby In Houston, Texas

    Here is another issue. the opposition keeps refering to health care reform or the public option as "Obama-Care"
    As if Obama, and not congress, is writting the bill.
    This is not about Obama. This is about The People. You keep focusing on Obama and you will lose the same way you lost the election.
    The People are not afraid like these oganizations want us to be.
    The People want a public option.
    If the people we have in power now don't do it. They will be voted out and replaced. The GOP will NOT be coming back in to power for a long time.

    September 3, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  11. Duane

    Where's all the noise for Public option of Public Schools (a socialized program) vs Private Schools?
    Where's all the anger over social security (Hey "social is in the title) vs saving money for retirement
    Where's all the noise over government college loans (a public option) vs Private loans?

    My point is that this a silly and outrageous argument. These people are dummies

    September 3, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. Sheryl

    Why is there little or no coverage by CNN of the numerous vigils held in support of Health Care reform? Why was coverage of town hall meetings focused on the few that included disruptive behavior, often outside of the meeting itself, while thoughtful questions and discussion occurred, both for and against, within the town hall? When will CNN and other news outlets begin reporting responsibly on the health care debate, instead of focusing in on the most drama CNN can find? Just asking.

    September 3, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Phil

    The liberals just hate a good protest. Wait...what about all the protests they have had over the past 8 years! The difference with the Tea Party Protestors and the I Hate Anything Not Liberal Protestors is that the Tea Party ones are actually educated on the issues. They don't go to protests because they are told to like good little sheep.

    September 3, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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