Thursday, July 22, 2004

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray are joining forces to counter MoveOn.Org and other liberal Democrat groups in the November elections.

Mr. Armey, chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), and Mr. Kemp, a co-founder of Empower America, are merging their two organizations into FreedomWorks to foster a “freedom agenda.”

Billionaire currency speculator George Soros has pledged $15 million to liberal campaign groups, including those known as 527s for the tax-code section that regulates them, seeking to defeat President Bush in November.

“We believe that hard work beats daddy’s money,” Mr. Armey said. “MoveOn is doing all kinds of high-profile, big-dollar deals with money from George Soros and other rich Democrats.”

“We can match that with people on the street who really care about Social Security retirement accounts, tax simplification, smaller government and freedom from frivolous lawsuits,” Mr. Armey said.

The merger gives FreedomWorks the CSE membership of 360,000 activists and donors across the country. It also brings Empower America’s donor network.

The merged group “will encourage Republicans — and Democrats — to take positions on issues of individual freedom that many of them have been reluctant to take publicly before,” said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president and chief operating officer and CSE president.

Like many other “independent-expenditure” organizations formed to deal with the complicated provisions of last year’s McCain-Feingold campaign-finance rules, FreedomWorks will have a complicated legal structure giving it nonprofit status as a 501(c)3, a 501(c)4, a 527 and a federal political action committee.

The new group, headquartered in Washington, will have a full-time campaign staff on the ground in the presidential battleground states of Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in Illinois and Texas.

Mr. Kibbe said the new organization will house “a sophisticated conservative political database containing over 600,000 activist names in all 50 states.”

William Bennett, a former Cabinet official in Republican administrations and an Empower America co-founder, will be a senior adviser to FreedomWorks and will focus on school choice, another of the new group’s policy priorities.

Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatick, who was the third co-founder of Empower America, has not indicated what role she will play in the new group.

Mr. Kemp, who for more than 25 years has been one of the nation’s leading advocates of economic growth through low tax rates, said that with the merger, FreedomWorks “builds on over 30 years of combined organizational experience.”

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