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freedomworksforamerica.pngIt's been an exciting two days here at BlogCon11, FreedomWorks' 2nd annual conference for conservative bloggers. The sessions have covered policy, politics, and technology. Beyond the formal sessions, I've been renewing old acquaintances and building new friendships with bloggers, think-tankers, columnists, and activists from all over America.

I hope to do a summary of the event later, but one particular session pleased me no end, and I want to pass it along.

FreedomWorks for America is the FreedomWorks-affiliated Super PAC, and they're in the process of vetting candidates for the 2012 federal election.

FreedomWorks for America is trying to ensure that the new president is backed by (or faced with) a tough-minded majority of senators and congressmen who will do what we need to do to solve our fiscal crisis before we wind up like Greece. They want to make fiscal conservatives the majority of the majority party, controlling the agenda in both houses of Congress. This effort can't wait for the general election. It has to start well before the primary, helping solid fiscal conservatives to prevail over conservatives-of-convenience in Republican primaries.

This PAC won't be buying TV time. Instead, it will work to connect fiscally conservative Tea Party-type activists and donors with candidates who are worthy of their support, a "force multiplier for the Tea Party," as FreedomWorks political director Russ Walker put it. The website will help connect activists with any campaign in the country.

"You have to get your own house in order before you can get out there and start taking on the Democrats," commented Dick Armey, Chairman of FreedomWorks. "Our Super PAC is not about buying television ads, it's about engaging the American public, and getting them outside talking to their neighbors and putting up yard signs. We want to build a grassroots army of active volunteers that will work to retire Democrats in the House and Senate, but also hold Republicans accountable to the principles upon which they got elected."

Features on the website include candidate profile pages, official endorsements, interactive ranking systems for candidates on the issues, links to pledge time towards community organizing efforts, links to pledge money to a specific campaign, phone banking, grassroots training videos, and downloadable activist toolkits and door-to-door Get Out The Vote (GOTV) materials. It also features a "grassroots lab" where politically-minded volunteers can submit ideas on how to defeat President Obama in 2012, and rank the ideas already submitted.

"The website is designed to empower the leaderless, decentralized community of the tea party movement. There is no leader, no community organizing Czar. It's simply a political toolkit for individuals across the country to use as they see fit, with unique knowledge of their community and circumstances," commented Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks.

It's a tough job to find candidates who will remain faithful to conservative principles once they get to Washington. Executive director Max Pappas noted that, with the popularity of the Tea Party movement, every candidate knows the right words to say, so FreedomWorks for America dives deep into the candidate's record and philosophy to find the candidate's fundamental beliefs. Without strong roots in the philosophical and economic basis for limited government, a public official is easily swayed by the prevailing winds of lobbyist pressure and Washington conventional wisdom.

Checking a candidate's roots means digging back through a candidate's complete public record, going all the way back to earliest part of a candidate's career, votes taken, endorsements made, and contributions given. If a politician endorsed, say, a city sales tax increase or a crony-capitalist state tax credit, it's going to count against him when he tries to move up to federal office.

In addition to the abundant amount of searchable online data (e.g., news stories, minutes of public meetings), FreedomWorks for America looks to local free-market, limited-government activists and bloggers to dig up information on candidates and to provide context. Local grass-roots opinion matters.

PACs connected with groups like FreedomWorks and Club for Growth played an important role in the election of strong conservative freshman senators like Mike Lee (UT), who defeated an squishy incumbent Republican, Marco Rubio (FL), who won over an ex-Republican governor who showed his true colors, and Rand Paul (KY). In each case, the national free-market PACs influence helped a consistent fiscal conservative prevail over a wishy-washy or weak Republican.

Having this kind of scrutiny from influential national conservative organizations will give local activists leverage in keeping Republicans from turning into RINOs on local issues. At the same time, it places a burden on us to ensure that key pieces of the record don't disappear into the ether. Campaign websites (and endorsements) often vanish from the web quickly after election day. In some cases, they never show up online. Local activists can help by scanning and posting candidate mailers and key documents and recording public meetings and political ads, tagging video and audio with the names of those involved, so that later searchers can find the information.

The FreedomWorks for America candidate browser lets you see the list of all announced and incumbent candidates and 2012 candidates already endorsed. Registered users of FreedomConnector can rate and leave comments on the candidates.

So far FWA has endorsed five Senate candidates Ted Cruz in Texas, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Adam Hasner in Florida, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Don Stenberg in Nebraska. I got to meet Mourdock and Stenberg at a reception Saturday night. Both serve as treasurers of their respective states, making real budget cuts to their departments (not just cuts from the previous rate of growth).

FWA isn't the only group taking this approach. Sen. Mike Lee has set up a leadership PAC called the Constitutional Conservative Fund, using similar criteria to identify candidates worthy of support. So far they've endorsed Cruz, Flake, Stenberg, and Dan Bongino in Maryland.

Stay tuned for more blog entries in coming days about more force multipliers that FreedomWorks and its affiliates will be making available to conservative activists for this important 2012 election cycle.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 12, 2011 5:12 PM.

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