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Op-ed Placement

LaTourette: Who You Callin’ a Grifter?

I believe this is what people in the psych biz call “projection.” Former congressman, and current transportation lobbyist, Steve LaTourette recently penned a column accusing the Tea Party—of which I am a proud member—of “lining its pockets while Republicans are actually trying to get things done.” LaTourette is an established authority on the topic of lining pockets in Washington, given that he has increased his personal wealth by 11,000 percent since 2004.

08/06/2014
Tea party's growing money problem
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Newspaper Article

Tea party's growing money problem

BY Kenneth P. Vogel

Some leading tea party activists are concerned that their efforts to reshape American politics, starting with the 2010 elections, are being undermined by a shortage of cash that’s partly the result of a deep ambivalence within the movement’s grass roots over the very idea of fundraising and partly attributable to an inability to win over the wealthy donors who fund the conservative establishment.

08/18/2010
Just how 'political' is Glenn Beck?
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Newspaper Article

Just how 'political' is Glenn Beck?

BY Kenneth P. Vogel

Glenn Beck says there’s nothing political about the Aug. 28th "Restoring Honor" rally he is organizing with a veterans group in Washington.But Sarah Palin will be a main speaker, congressmen such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) are helping with fundraising and two of the main engineers of the tea party movement — FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots — are offering volunteers as well as logistical advice.

08/02/2010
Activists seize control of politics
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Newspaper Article

Activists seize control of politics

BY John F. Harris & Jim Vandehei

For any politician with the usual instincts for self-protection, the lessons of Tuesday’s primaries could not be more clear: This could happen to you.Arlen Specter lost in Pennsylvania even though the party-switching Democrat was recruited and backed by a sitting president. Rand Paul won in Kentucky even though the Republican was regarded as an eccentric renegade by that state’s political establishment.

05/20/2010
Obama: Be 'ambassadors' for truth
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Obama: Be 'ambassadors' for truth

BY Jeanne Cummings

Amid White House concerns that it’s losing the message war on both its left and right fronts, President Obama on Thursday tried to rally his grass-roots army to regain momentum and redefine the battle for health care reform. In a conference call with Organizing For America activists, the 13-million-strong grass-roots wing of his machine, Obama told supporters they must battle misinformation being spread by opponents of his plan, such as claims that the bills in Congress would cover illegal immigrants or amount to a government takeover of health care.  “Now, come on. We can have a real debate because health care’s hard and there are some legitimate issues out there that have to be sorted through and worked on,” Obama said. “The best ambassadors for true information, factual information is all of you. You have more credibility than anybody on television when it comes to your family members and your friends and your neighbors and that’s why you being involved is so important,” Obama told supporters. For many Democratic activists, Tuesday call raised the question: What took the White House so long? “I have no explanation for this,” said Joe Trippi, a supporter of the Obama plan and grass-roots activism expert. “I cannot figure out why they didn’t start the mobilization effort earlier and why it does appear that the right got the jump on it.” Conservative attacks about rationing and “death panels," however, are only half of the White House’s problems. In recent days, Obama’s own liberal base — and their powerful talk-show host allies — have opened a new front by attempting to define health care reform as the creation of a government-run insurance program. Without a so-called "public option," it’s not real reform, they argue — even as White House officials have said that while a public plan is "the preferred option," its not "the essential element" of a successful plan. The dual fronts have left the normally silver-tongued Obama administration nearly stuttering with frustration. Asked about if the White House had failed to effectively galvanize its base, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Wednesday opened his answer with: “Well, again, I'd — I think I would dispute the beginning characterization. I think, again, particularly at the events that you saw the president do, I don't — I don't think you noticed a lack of support for providing health care reform among those that were outside of the president's events,” he said. This isn’t the first time that the Obama machine has been ambushed in a message war by the opposition. In the administration’s earliest debate over a stimulus bill, the White House messaging machine seemed to be humming along — until the Republicans found a wayward provision related to abortions and used their own powerful talk show host allies to begin driving down public support for the economic recovery package. In that case, the president managed to slug his way through the rough patch and go on to win. The White House now needs a similar turnaround to preserve his chief domestic policy — and his supporters are anxiously awaiting the plan. Ahead of the call, Organizing for America’s Pennsylvania Director Elizabeth Lucas said she hoped to hear the president’s take on the situation and to “talk about some strategy.” It’s not that Obama’s grass-roots army has been standing idle. Jeremy Bird, the organization’s deputy national director, can tick off a host of behind-the-scenes accomplishments: More than 1.5 million people have taken more than 3 million actions — including canvassing, phone banking and hosting local events — to promote the president’s plan.

08/20/2009
Parties' new battleground: Google
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Newspaper Article

Parties' new battleground: Google

BY Patrick O'Connor

If you Googled “stimulus” earlier this month, you probably stumbled upon a collection of ads blasting the Democrats’ economic recovery plan. Search the phrase “card check” and Google turns up labor union ads backing the controversial Employee Free Choice Act. The “Roy Blunt” Google search, meanwhile, sends you straight to a sponsored link for the Missouri Republican’s new Senate campaign. This isn’t an accident. Campaigns and other political organizations are finally getting Google-savvy, latching onto an advertising tool that most companies have been using for years. The campaigns are using targeted search terms — acquired in Google auctions — to put their message in front of interested online readers in hopes of influencing the political debate outside traditional media and advertising outlets. The stimulus debate offers a case study in how special interests push their spin on Google to reach people who care about the topic of the day in Washington. “Savvy political marketers are looking at this as a way to build their base,” said Peter Greenberger, who helms Google’s elections and issues team in Washington, D.C. “The stimulus was the perfect example of this.” FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group that crusades against government expansion, pegged a series of online campaigns to words like “stimulus” or “stimulus package” the week of the big vote. These include an online petition against the plan, a campaign to call congressional offices and an ad campaign criticizing conservative Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the bill. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner also used targeted searches to highlight a GOP alternative to the Democrats’ stimulus bill. His political action committee, the Freedom Project, sponsored links to popular search terms to spread the Republican message online. “It’s very user-friendly and very effective,” said Don Seymour, a spokesman for the Freedom Project. “The beauty of this is that you can change the campaign on the fly.” The GOP alternative is one of three campaigns Boehner’s Freedom Project has pegged to Google search terms this year. The first was an online petition opposing the release of the second $350 billion of a Wall Street bailout. The last protested the Democrats’ decision not to post the stimulus online for 48 hours, as they had promised. Companies have employed this advertising strategy for years as a business tool, but they have also lagged in using Google as a tool to influence voters. Automakers, for example, have used Google advertising for quite some time to market their cars online. But the auto giants have been less aggressive about taking their case to voters online until last fall, when the automakers used targeted searches to make the case for what became $17.4 billion in federal loans. “They are very savvy marketers about selling cars,” Greenberger said. “They have not done as much on the issues game.” Google started building its political market in 2007 in the early stages of the presidential campaign. Greenberger and his team set out to give the presidential campaigns a vehicle to target potential voters, donors and volunteers. The Google staff also helped the campaigns tailor online searches to target the most sympathetic audience. 

02/24/2009
The Unconstitutional Bailout
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Op-ed Placement

The Unconstitutional Bailout

BY Matt Kibbe

When you get beyond the rhetoric of change, it is astonishing how close President Barack Obama is following his predecessor in economic policy. Just as George W. Bush attempted to jump-start the economy with a jolt of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama is doubling down on the bailout bets. In the Troubled Assets Relief Program process, the legislative branch is authorizing nearly a trillion dollars in spending.But isn’t this backward? Doesn’t Congress have the sole power to authorize executive branch spending, and the president, the power to veto congressional spending authorizations?I opposed the $700 billion bailout legislation because, among other objections, I believed it to be an unconstitutional delegation of congressional authority to an unelected official in the executive branch. Both the short history of the legislation’s implementation and a new legal analysis published by FreedomWorks Foundation confirm my original fears. This dramatic role reversal, with the executive telling Congress what to do, is exactly why the bailout is unconstitutional and must be stopped.The bailout legislation violates the bedrock constitutional principle of nondelegation by investing the treasury secretary — an unelected member of the executive branch — with too much discretionary authority to exercise too much power. In a recent legal analysis prepared for FreedomWorks Foundation, attorneys note, “Rather than making the policy choices necessary to guide the secretary’s discretion, Congress has given the secretary far-reaching power to intervene in the nation’s economy and effectively to nationalize American businesses — upon the thinnest reed of statutory constraints. And in doing so, Congress has effectively chosen not to make law but, rather, to make the treasury secretary the lawmaker.”The debate over the second half of the bailout being authorized continues this backward approach to lawmaking. It has members of the Congress asking the Treasury Department to make promises that it will do better this time than it did before. But it is Congress’ constitutional duty to tell Treasury what to do, not ask.Critics may say government being bound by the Constitution is a quaint idea, and the current crisis allows no time for it. But the Constitution is as relevant as ever. Drawing on their firsthand experience with King George, the Constitution’s Framers made the exercise of power difficult by design to protect liberty, to force deliberation, and to ensure accountability — all of which are threatened by the continuation of the bailout.

02/05/2009
Bailout Critics Say They’re Losing
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Newspaper Article

Bailout Critics Say They’re Losing

BY Lisa Lerer

It’s not an easy week to be a Bailout Buster. The loose coalition of free market conservatives and congressional staff opposed the government-sponsored rescues of investment bank Bear Stearns, insurance company American International Group and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now the Bush administration is proposing the largest government-funded bailout in American history. And the Bailout Busters are bracing themselves for defeat once again.

09/24/2008
Panicked Legislators Push Housing Bill
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Newspaper Article

Panicked Legislators Push Housing Bill

BY Matt Kibbe

It is illegal to yell "Fire!" in a movie theater because people could be hurt in the ensuing stampede. For the same reason, it should be illegal for a politician to yell "Panic!" on the floor of the House or Senate. Taxpayers might get run over as politicians rush to spend billions of taxpayer dollars and then stampede to the nearest microphone to claim credit for solving the problem. An example of this behavior is the Dodd-Frank mortgage bailout bill being considered in Congress this month.

07/14/2008
The dirty truth about carbon offsets
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Newspaper Article

The dirty truth about carbon offsets

BY Matt Kibbe

The "do as I say but not as I do" philosophy of the liberal elite is on the rise. Consider President George W. Bush's 2005 proposal to fix Social Security by allowing workers a right to invest their own payroll tax dollars into personally owned, diversified stocks and bonds. These efforts were met with howls of indignation by wealthy liberals. The market, they argued, was too risky, and workers not quite bright enough to manage their own money. Never mind the aggressive stock strategies and fat returns on investments the elites themselves reap.

06/12/2007