November 16th, 2010
06:00 AM ET
12 years ago

Tea Party goes high tech

Washington (CNN) - With the 2010 election's conclusion, conservative grass roots organizations like FreedomWorks are looking toward their next big hurdles– making sure elected officials keep their promises to reduce the deficit and lower taxes and, of course, winning big in the next major election in 2012.

As part of their effort to continue the conservative momentum which led Republicans to an unprecedented 60 seat gain to clinch the majority in the House of Representatives, FreedomWorks, founded by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, is rolling out a new website aimed at empowering Tea Party-backed groups by providing supporters with the tools to connect with other local groups, find events and engage in discussions.

FreedomWorks organized many of the high profile Tea Party movement events over the past year and a half, and in the 2010 election cycle poured millions of dollars into efforts to help elect many Tea Party- backed Republican candidates to Congress.

While it is expected to take some time for the website to become fully operational - a move the group hopes is completed by February for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) - the site will begin its official roll out on Tuesday. The site will launch in Ohio because of the state's large base of support.

According to FreedomWorks director of federal and state campaigns Brendan Steinhauser, "There are about 25 or 30," active Tea Party groups in Ohio.

"Once we get the bugs worked out then we'll start to focus on other states leading up to a 50 state rollout." Steinhauser said, during a sneak peak of the website on Friday.

Website developer Kara Pally explained what makes the site more accessible and innovative than those of other grassroots organizations.

"Based on your location, it's going to suggest people for you to be in touch with, it's going to suggest groups that you may be interested in, it's going to suggest events in your area," Pally said. "That's something that doesn't exist on any other platform."

Pally said that Freedomworks organized the site so that anyone who is a "fan" of the FreedomWorks page on the social networking website Facebook will be automatically subscribed to the new interactive site. According to her estimate, 500,000 members are currently fans of the group on Facebook.

Steinhauser said the site will help solve a major problem from the 2010 campaigns, when individuals had difficulty connecting with different Tea Party groups.

He explained that during the 2010 campaign there were groups in Ohio within a few miles of each other who did not communicate.

"We had to physically go in, meet every group, call every person, e-mail every person," Steinhauser said.

But, he said, FreedomWorks had trouble keeping the groups organized after the initial meeting.

"There really wasn't a good answer," Steinhauser said, "other than - we have to do this again or it's this technology."

In addition to providing the tools to help people connect, the purpose of this new site is to make FreedomWorks more hands off - essentially giving members a starting point to organize on their own.

At Friday's meeting, Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of FreedomWorks, talked about the new site as the next transition in the grassroots movement.

Kibbe compared the site to the mailer strategies a decade ago and to e-mail five years ago, which he called "expensive and inefficient."

"It was our job to connect people, which definitely limited the ability for this thing to take off in a more spontaneous way." Kibbe said.

"We think about this," Kibbe said, "as very much tapping into all of the energy of the local people and the spontaneous organization of local things and it cuts out the middleman completely."

"That's where you got all of this impact in the last election cycle, where Tea Partiers started using Facebook, started finding each other without any middleman, whether it be the Republican party, candidate or FreedomWorks being involved in that. This is the next step," Kibbe said.

In an interview, Steinhauser acknowledged the strength of then-candidate Obama's grassroots program during the 2008 election and said that FreedomWorks learned from his approach.

"He definitely used technology, very well- they definitely used Facebook, twitter, text messaging very effectively, and he understood that, you know, being a community organizer means you have to let the local communities um, work with you, they have to have a lot of autonomy, they have to have a lot of stake in the process."

But, Steinhauser said, FreedomWorks is taking the technology to the next level. "We've kind of taken what he did, a lot of the methods and the technologies and the philosophy behind that and we've tried to sort of up the ante and make a better technology that goes even farther."

As for 2012, he said "I think we will be more organized online for 2012 than anyone. This technology is really going to be something that is sort of setting the standard I think going forward in American Politics."

Filed under: Dick Armey • FreedomWorks • Tea Party movement
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. e01938

    Well, so happy to see the Orwellian "FreedomWorks" will be providing a forum for simpletons to spew hate and reaffirm non-truths and attempt to elect some of their ilk to send to Washington. The facts in reality are far more complex than this lot would like to believe. There are no simple answers and if you think there are you probably take your marching orders from Beck or Limbaugh.

    November 16, 2010 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  2. AGeek

    "making sure elected officials keep their promises" – why does the Tea Party think they're some special bunch of unique little flowers that can magically make this happen? Elected officials have not been keeping promises for a very long, long time. The Tea Party thinks it can control egomaniacal power brokers who, when given the opportunity, will fatten their own wallet rather than do what's best for their constituents and the country?

    I have a bridge for sale. It's over some prime Florida real estate. Any of you Tea Party folks interested?

    November 16, 2010 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  3. ronalde

    thats just great,but i didn't see one thing about producing jobs or improving the economy,just looking to get reelected in 2012,if they don't improve the economy they can forget about 2012,people are not going to stupid for a 3rd time.

    November 16, 2010 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  4. Jason B.

    Engage in discussions? Since when? I thought the Tea Party was only interested in shouting and not giving a hoot what others thought.

    November 16, 2010 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  5. jim

    great. seriously, great. we live in a modern world, people should use modern tools.

    if only they would start using FACTS to support their political ideals ...

    November 16, 2010 07:56 am at 7:56 am |