FreedomWorks was formed with the 2004 merger of Citizens for a Sound Economy, headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Empower America, co-founded by supply-side pioneer Jack Kemp, to push for lower taxes— especially on investment and inheritance— smaller safety-net programs, and fewer regulations on business and industry.
1775 Pennsylvania Avenue NW - 11th Floor
Washington, DC 20006-5805
Chairman: Dick Armey
President: Matt Kibbe
Formed: 2004, with the merger of Citizens for a Sound Economy (founded 1984) and Empower America (founded 1993)
Board of Directors: Dick Armey; Matt Kibbe; James H. Burnley; Thomas Knudson; Richard J. Stephenson; Bill Jaeger; Ted Abram (American Institute for Full Employment); and Frank M. Sands, Sr.
Finances: $5,772,520 ($3,082,191, 2004 revenue for FreedomWorks, Inc., a 501(c)4, and $2,690,329, 2004 revenue for FreedomWorks Foundation, a 501(c)3. In addition, FreedomWorks PAC spent just $1,862 on 2006 candidates by September 30.
Publications: Congressional scorecard, candidate survey, FreedomTalks (blog), various reports and opinion columns
Affiliate Groups: FreedomWorks Foundation, FreedomWorks PAC
Read the latest news on FreedomWorks on the group's Right Wing Watch index page
FreedomWorks avows that its mission is to advocate for "lower taxes, less government and more economic freedom for all Americans," by "combin[ing] the stature and experience of America's greatest policy entrepreneurs with the grassroots power of hundreds of thousands of volunteer activists."
Its "freedom agenda" is headed by privatizing Social Security, implementing a flat tax and abolishing the estate tax, limiting tort liability, and expanding school vouchers. Other issues FreedomWorks is involved in include judicial nominations (it favors eliminating the filibuster), industrial and environmental regulation, immigration, and welfare.
FreedomWorks claims full-time staff in ten states and "over 800,000 grassroots volunteers nationwide." The group puts together a variety of campaigns both nationally and in individual states.
In 2003, FreedomWorks' predecessor organization Citizens for a Sound Economy orchestrated a major campaign to fight a tax increase in Alabama, proposed by the state's Republican governor, who cited a Christian duty to aid the poor. "The 7,000 members of Alabama CSE made defeating Gov. Bob Riley's tax increase their top priority," Armey wrote after the referendum failed. "In a 100 day campaign CSE members and staff crisscrossed the state, distributed literature, yard signs, bumper stickers and flooded talk radio and local papers with our voice for lower taxes, less government and more freedom."
Shortly after the 2004 elections, abortion opponents lobbied against incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania), who is pro-choice. Although not involved in the abortion issue, FreedomWorks, then co-chaired by former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray (who formed the Committee for Justice to push Bush's judicial nominees) joined the effort with a web site NotArlen.com, calling for a chairman who "will enthusiastically back the president's judicial nominees and domestic economic agenda."
The group heavily lobbied for carving "personal retirement accounts" out of Social Security. A few months before the merger of their two groups to form FreedomWorks, Dick Armey and Jack Kemp formed a separate 501(c)4 group, the Alliance for Retirement Prosperity, to advocate privatization. During President Bush's national tour in early 2005 promoting his Social Security reform plan, FreedomWorks bused in members to town hall meetings, and its activists— such as Sandra Jacques, FreedomWorks' Iowa state director— even appeared on stage with the president as "regular folks." Although Bush's legislative effort appears to have collapsed, FreedomWorks continues its campaign, pressing potential 2008 presidential candidates to take a position on the issue.
In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and Empower America merged to form FreedomWorks.
CSE was founded by prominent right-wing funder David Koch in 1984. In the 1990s the group "won plaudits from both the business community and GOP leaders" for its role in mobilizing grassroots opposition against Clinton administration proposals on an energy tax and health care, according to National Journal, which noted that "Even some business lobbyists acknowledged that CSE has at times served as a fig leaf for corporate lobbying efforts." CSE spent $1 million on a 1993 campaign against the proposed energy tax, including advertising and bringing grassroots pressure on Congress; most of the money came from corporations and trade groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers. CSE spent $5 million against Clinton's health care proposal, dogging the White House's nationwide bus tour with its own bus and rallies. For a 1997 campaign, CSE spent hundreds of thousands of dollars per week running radio ads in 20 markets against proposed new EPA air standards.
An internal CSE document obtained by The Washington Post in 2000 outlined the close correlation between corporate donations and issue advocacy.
Empower America was founded in 1993, after Bill Clinton's election to the presidency, as a kind of "shadow government" of policy advocacy, in the words of co-founder Jack Kemp, a former congressman and Housing secretary and future vice-presidential candidate. Gathering Kemp, Bush "drug czar" William Bennett, former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, and former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, The Wall Street Journal said the group "illustrates how such tax-exempt nonprofits have become safe harbors for elite figures in the conservative movement." Leading up to Kemp's 1996 bid, the group provided a "base" for him "to make $1 million to $2 million a year" giving speeches, and it played a key role in the Dole-Kemp campaign.
Its early activities included operating "candidate schools" for Republicans in the 1994 elections, running attack ads against Clinton's health plan, and opposing from the right an early Republican plan for welfare reform.
President George W. Bush: "Folks, you've got to get to know this organization ... They have been doing a great job all over the country educating people."
FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey on the Religious Right: "Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? There's not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor. … Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid."
FreedomWorks honorary co-chair Jack Kemp on the "golden opportunity" to implement a right-wing economic "blueprint" after Katrina: "[T]he capital gains tax is not a tax on the rich, it's a tax on the poor who want to get rich."
Updated: December 2006
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