400 Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
- Local 202.783.3870
Government goes to those who show up. FreedomWorks makes it easy to hold your elected officials accountable in our fully interactive Action Center.
Find activists, groups, and events right in your own neighborhood. Join FreedomConnector to get involved and learn more about key issues threatening our economic freedom. Whether you’re looking for like-minded people, trying to boost your existing group’s impact, or simply trying to stay up on current events, FreedomConnector is the place to start. See what’s happening in your state today!Get Connected
400 Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
It was time to crash Michael Kaplowitz's precious little news conference.
A small crew sauntered across the parking lot in Carmel, heading to the back of a gathering for Kaplowitz, a Democratic Westchester County legislator running for state Senate. They hoisted anti-Kaplowitz and anti-tax signs as he spoke, then prodded him with questions, which he did his best to avoid.
While celebrating their right to protest, Kaplowitz dismissed the group as shameless operatives for his Republican opponent, Assemblyman Greg Ball. But these folks hotly disagreed: They are Kaplowitz's hardworking, law-abiding, taxpaying constituents — in the throes of their Howard Beale moment — and they wanted answers.
They were Hudson Valley Patriots.
Lisa Douglas, a 46-year-old North Salem mother and Navy veteran, created the Patriots last year as a "therapeutic blog" to vent her political frustrations. But it quickly expanded into a small organization, website, citizen newspaper, daily e-mail briefing to 1,700 people nationally and another fast-growing chapter for New York's grass-roots Tea Party movement.
"I'm proud; It's very comforting to know that you're not alone in the way you think," said Douglas, whose organization pushes for the movement's fundamentals of lower taxes, smaller government, protection of the Constitution and skepticism of politicians from both major parties.
Today, as a coming-out party for the young organization, FreedomWorks' leader Dick Armey — former Republican House majority leader and national Tea Party grand poobah — will headline a Patriots-sponsored rally and book signing.
The event, at Sciortino's in Brewster, will include Tea Party-inspired music, plenty of anti-government signs and a red-, white- and blue-trimmed flatbed truck used as the stage.
The fall elections should be a big test for the local Tea Partyers' power and the anti-incumbency wave they're riding.
But aside from that one election cycle, local organizers laugh at the idea that they are part of some fad and say they will continue to put politicians on notice for years to come.
A pitch to the masses
On Monday, just after 7 a.m., Gary Murphy and Howard Hellwinkel, small-business owners and two of about six Patriots core members, stood at an entrance to the Goldens Bridge train platform.
They tried to hand their thin, broadsheet newspaper, The Well-Informed Citizen, and an accompanying pitch as quickly as passing commuters would allow.
The paper — produced, as the masthead says, by "Non-Partisan Seekers of Truth" — was created by the Patriots about three months ago as a way of getting out a positive Tea Party message and educating the masses.
Douglas writes most of the copy, which is full of stories politely decrying "ObamaCare," high taxes and an expensive, bloated welfare state.
In addition to the newspaper, Douglas wakes up at 5 a.m. six days a week to peruse more than 200 daily e-mails and 50 websites to compile "The Need-to-Know News." The daily e-mail blast is an extensive aggregation of Tea Party interests, from concerns of spiking public water with lithium to efforts to preserve the Bush tax cuts to more harsh words against President Barack Obama.
Each e-mail ends with: "YOU ARE ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT WILL SAVE THIS COUNTRY!"
Yet, despite this outreach, or maybe because of it, there are many who question the merits of the movement and see Tea Partyers as misinformed kooks.
"It seems that a lot of Tea Party protests are, what shall I say, shortsighted, just sort of emotional," said Elizabeth Saenger, a founder of the left-leaning Westchester for Change, which tried to counterprotest a White Plains Tea Party tax-day rally in April.
The 68-year-old Mamaroneck resident said she was concerned with the growth of the Tea Party movement, which she called self-contradictory, misguided and prejudiced.
"I think that there is a racist strain in this, I really think so," she said.
Murphy said he's acutely aware of the negative connotations associated with the Tea Party, but considers them artifical election-year distractions from who Tea Partyers really are. As a counter, he offers himself as a friendly, regular-Joe archetype of the movement.
"I watch Paul Rudd movies; I'm a regular person," Murphy said, "I would never stand for something like that and surely my wife, too, would never stand for any organization that would have any hint of hateful rhetoric."
Murphy, 39, of Chappaqua and Hellwinkel, 59, of North Salem get up at dawn several days a week to hand out newspapers before work. On Monday, they engaged commuters while sipping coffee, taking emergency calls from work and intermittently discussing their views on illegal immigration and the financial stimulus.
Many passers-by ignored them. One man gave them a thumbs-up as he rushed by. Another asked them if they were Tea Partyers and, after they responded yes, brusquely walked off.
Murphy and his wife, Robin, are longtime Republicans, but for most of their lives were disinterested and uninvolved in politics.They focused on raising their family and running their cleaning service, Maid Brigade.
Something snapped. As with many other Tea Partyers, they "woke up" to the overspending of government, the back-room deals and lies of both Republicans and Democrats, and started to get angry and fearful about their country's future.
In January, the couple went to a State-of-the-Union address TV-watching event to meet like-minded folks. They bumped into Hellwinkel, who opened them up to the Tea Party. From there, the once nonconfrontational Murphys started working for local political campaigns and became more and more involved with the Patriots, bringing their small-business skills to help grow the organization.
The Murphys' shift to the Tea Party followed a familiar trajectory. With dozens of new groups popping up all over the country, many of those involved repeat the same points of being politically agnostic but suddenly awakening from a fog and jolted into action.
Jeanine Vecchiarelli, 52, a New City homemaker, helped start Rally for America in Rockland in the fall, sparked by "more than anything else, the taxes, and the feeling that more and more and more that Big Brother is looking over our shoulder."
The group's regular meetings now bring 30 to 40 people. Much like the Patriots and other Tea Party groups, the organization maintains loose affiliations with other local chapters, as well as national groups like FreedomWorks. In the same model, it is also leaderless — with a small steering committee at its center — and reaches hundreds of others through rallies and social media.
White Plains gave birth to one of the first Tea Party groups in the nation, said founder Jon Coolong, 47, a purchasing director for a New Jersey company. The group now boasts 300 members and is a major player in the regional movement.
For Douglas, the Murphys and Hellwinkel, the thankless, unpaid hours of work put into their small organization are of little concern, as they say they need to keep fighting for no less than their children's futures.
"Bottom line, I want these career politicians out, because they have no respect for the positions that they hold, they have no respect for the people that employ them and pay them handsomely," Douglas said, "They spend three-quarters of their day looking to get money instead of doing the job that they are paid to do."
She paused, then for effect, added, "Damn it!" and laughed out loud.
It was time to crash Michael Kaplowitz's precious little news conference.A small crew sauntered across the parking lot in Carmel, heading to the back of a gathering for Kaplowitz, a Democratic Westchester County legislator running for state Senate. They hoisted anti-Kaplowitz and anti-tax signs as he spoke, then prodded him with questions, which he did his best to avoid.