WASHINGTON -- A four-day conference for conservative activists organized by FreedomWorks was capped off Monday with a boisterous press conference.
"Welcome to the hostile takeover," said Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of the Tea Party group. "We, as shareholders of the American enterprise, feel like it's far past time that we beat the Washington establishment. In case you've read otherwise, we have not gone away."
The DC Fly-In & Activist Training Boot Camp brought in grassroots conservative activists from across the country, many of them affiliated with Tea Party groups and their local Republican Party, to network and learn campaign skills for the fall election. In the spirit of FreedomWorks' motto, "Lower taxes, less government, more freedom," the conference featured such talks as "Fighting the Unions: School Choice," "Washington Unbound Spending, Taxes & Regulation," and "Taming the EPA: Unleashing America's Energy."
On Monday afternoon, FreedomWorks, which was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) in 2004, organized a lobbying walkabout on Capitol Hill to push Democratic senators to oppose tighter coal ash restrictions.
"It's primarily a family gathering where we share ideas," Kibbe told HuffPost about the June 8-11 conference. "We try to bring the most active leaders together. For instance, everyone wanted to hear about [what went right] in Indiana so that they could take that model and apply those lessons to their own states … You'll see a lot of these guys will cross state lines to work on other projects too."
FreedomWorks helped Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock in his successful GOP primary fight against Sen. Richard Lugar last month. It has also invested heavily in supporting former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in Utah's June 26 GOP primary against Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz in his July 31 GOP primary runoff against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the state's open Senate seat.
Many of those gathered at the conference said they were feeling energized by the senatorial campaigns as well as by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's comfortable margin of victory in the June 5 recall election against Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.
Four activists from South Carolina involved in a campaign to gut the state's public education system -- by giving tax breaks to families who send their children to private school or educate them from home -- said they hoped Walker’s victory was just the beginning of the end for labor unions in the United States.
"Back when there were sewing machine women, stitching and all that, and they didn’t have any rights, and the [bosses] made them work 24 hours a day, that was one thing, but now ... the [unions] have long outlived their necessity," said Charlotte Hendrix, an organizer with the Tea Party Patriots of Florence, S.C.
D.J. Schanz, founder of the Austrian Economic Society of Utah who is hoping to unseat Orrin Hatch, said he felt his side was already winning the longer-term war of ideas -- whatever ultimately happens this election season.
"Everybody is speaking that language. You don't hear people saying we need to increase pensions. It's all talk of limiting government, all talk [about] the budget, all talk of cutting government -- so regardless of who wins these races, everybody's taking up this limited-government jargon," Schanz said. "In a sense, we've won that battle. We've won the narrative of what issues are important. Now it's about who's gonna follow through on that jargon."
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