FREE-MARKET CONSERVATIVES AIM TO BE HEARD

Saturday, July 26, 2003

LOCAL

John Hallman envisions a force of free-market, small-government conservatives rising from the generally liberal fields of Palm Beach County. “We want to become a voice as big as some of the groups on the left are, [such as] environmental groups that drive public policy through a large membership and making their voices heard,” he said.

Hallman’s a long way from that goal, but months of organizing on behalf of Citizens for a Sound Economy have brought some success. The last local meeting attracted 40 people.

The group is interested only in economic policy and does not touch issues such as gun control or abortion.

“That’s not our thing,” Hallman said. “We’re for free markets and limited government — free-market alternatives to big-government solutions.”

Nationally, the organization has earned some skeptics, who say it is not as pure as it bills itself.

Citing internal documents, The Washington Post reported that the organization got lots of money from the sugar industry — and asserted that federal Everglades cleanup legislation would be terrible for the Florida economy. It also got tobacco industry money — and opposed cigarette taxes.

Hallman, who’s so committed to the cause that he is leaving his real estate profession for the just-created job of South Florida director, said he did not know anything about where the national organization’s funding comes from. All he wants is a group of local activists who will scrutinize government.

U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Melbourne, a possible candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, is to speak to the chapter’s fourth monthly meeting next Saturday. For details, call Hallman at 561-392-4432.

Copyright 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

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