Abraham Lincoln said “It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” In the 2010 election voters were fooled into electing a candidate whose campaign was largely financed with corporate money coming from outside this district. This money financed an attack campaign to smear his opponent, misrepresenting his record. Are local voters going to be fooled again in 2012? Will they vote for candidates whose campaigns outspend their opponents with money coming from outsiders? Will experienced candidates devoted to serving our community be defeated by big money again in this election cycle?
FreedomWorks, a national organization, funds local candidates for election who will promote its agenda. It evolved in 2004 from a merger of an organization funded by David Koch and a group founded by members of the first Bush administration. The chairman of FreedomWorks is Dick Armey. Armey presents himself as a political “outsider,” but he is not. A Texas Republican, he served in the House of Representatives and later as a Washington lobbyist. Armey wrote a book, “Give Us Liberty-A Tea Party Manifesto”, and inserted himself into the Tea Party movement as its de facto leader. He is the main author of The Contract with America, which numerous Tea Partiers have signed. Dick Armey visited Franklin in August 2010, to speak and sign his book, at a gathering dominated by Tea Party supporters.
Armey’s FreedomWorks participates in ALEC, a group of corporate leaders, lobbyists and Republican legislators. ALEC’s goal is to influence lawmakers to enact legislation reflecting corporate interests. Legislation supported by ALEC includes tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, privatizing Social Security, eliminating federally funded health care and elimination of regulations to protect our environment. One example of ALEC initiated legislation, already adopted in some states and currently being pushed by Republicans in the N.C. state legislature, is the Voter ID Bill. This bill has the potential to disenfranchise minorities, students and the elderly.
The Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, allows corporations to contribute unlimited campaign funds to candidates running for public offices. Candidates winning elections with corporate financing represent corporate interests and not “We the people…” Traditionally, candidates running for local offices relied on funding from donations generated by supporters in their home communities. FreedomWorks dollars are used in elections to purchase billboard space, bumper stickers, yard signs, and advertising for local candidates who will represent FreedomWorks interests. Most candidates for local offices don’t have the resources to fund expensive election campaigns.
Supporting evidence points to individuals locally connected to FreedomWorks contacting area Democrats to recruit a candidate for the upcoming primary election. Local candidates with financial backing from a national organization have a tremendous advantage. In election campaigns where one candidate has an overwhelming financial advantage the candidate with limited funding usually loses. Financial disclosure laws clearly illustrate an example of this. In 2010 Jim Davis, backed by corporate funding, defeated John Snow funded mainly by local donations. Do we care about the future of this community? Are we going to vote for the candidates with the most billboards and advertising backed by outsiders with national agendas? Or do we want elected officials with proven records of love for and service to our local community? The choice is ours to make.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Margery Abel — Franklin, NC