As it looks ahead to the policy debates of the next several months — and the 2008 elections — FreedomWorks, the group dedicated to low taxes and limited government, has turned to an unlikely source for strategic inspiration: the left.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization, chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), this week is launching the Majority Project, a program designed to help shape the policy and political agenda between now and Election Day 2008.
FreedomWorks leaders freely admit they are using MoveOn.org — a scourge to conservative groups — as a model of sorts. Fueled by the anti-war movement in the runup to the Iraq War, MoveOn has become a major promoter of a range of liberal causes, with the membership and muscle to press Democratic politicians on issues and to aid candidates who support the group’s agenda.
“Our side needs to learn how to build the mechanics behind our agenda,” said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks’ president. “We’re going to be there slugging it out with people who only want to grow government.”
Kibbe and Pat Shortridge, the executive director of the Majority Project, said the conservative movement is crying out for energy and innovative solutions to the problems facing the country today. While they were predictably critical of much of the agenda being advanced by Congressional Democrats, they also accused Republican leaders of failing to promote a bold agenda and of “going Washington” by forgetting the principles that first swept the GOP to Congressional power in 1994.
“Our side needs to get back to work,” Shortridge said.
Using its 830,000 members to pressure policymakers and political candidates, FreedomWorks hopes to spark a new push for tax cuts, entitlement and education reform, and scaled-back government.
The group first plans to interview presidential contenders on these issues and gauge their support. FreedomWorks also is looking for “legislative entrepreneurs” who will carry the small government agenda through Congress, Kibbe said. Later in the election cycle, the group will consider endorsing candidates for the White House and Congress.
FreedomWorks has both a political action committee and a 527, though neither has been particularly active. In the fall, the group spent about $4 million on educational and get-out-the-vote efforts in 16 Congressional races without endorsing specific candidates.