The Patriot Act is a nearly ten-year old law that permits searches and seizures to be carried out on American soil without the warrants establishing probable cause required by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Patriot Act powers have been used to spy on law-abiding political activist groups exercising their 1st Amendment constitutional rights — to assemble, to speak out and to petition the government for redress of grievances. For a movement like the Tea Party that professes to love freedom, liberty and the Constitution, the Patriot Act should be simply unacceptable.
How have Tea Party members of Congress acted in relation to the Patriot Act? To my knowledge, there are three empirical indicators of whether a member of Congress is a measurable part of the “Tea Party” movement.
Indicator #1: Is the member of Congress part of the Tea Party Caucus headed by Michele Bachmann? On Wednesday, we discovered that only 8 of the 47 members of Congress in the Tea Party Caucus voted against the Patriot Act on February 8, 2011.
Indicator #2: Is the member of Congress endorsed by Tea Party Express? On Thursday, we consulted the Tea Party Express endorsement list and discovered that only 10 of the 83 Tea Party Express endorsees voted against the Patriot Act on February 8.
Indicator #3: Is the member of Congress endorsed by Freedomworks?
FreedomWorks is an old organization started by the old Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, but in the last two years it threw the Tea Party mantle about itself in a big way. The organizing force behind a number of Tea Party-labeled protests in 2009 and 2010, it also created a Tea Party HQ and announced that…
Everyone’s moved over here now! FreedomWorks just launched FreedomConnect, the Tea Party’s new online meetingplace where activists can coordinate, collaborate and conspire at the click of a mouse. It’s a powerful new technology and all the Tea Party leaders are using it.
Yes, Presidents and Members of Congress must respect the restrictions of the Constitution. However, only We the People will force compliance with the Constitution. Without a doubt, this renewed interest in the Constitution has occurred because Americans know the federal government is out of control. Outraged by corruption and special interest politics, Americans want smaller and limited government. Today, Americans’ want to stop the abuse of power for the reasons stated by James Madison: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.
Small-government conservatives believe that if we stick to our values, our best days are still ahead. Look to the Constitution to govern your policy. You do not swear an oath to the Republican Party or the tea party — your pledge is to defend the Constitution. Let this govern your votes. The Constitution was designed to limit government power, so make sure your votes go only to bills that are right and necessary.
FreedomWorks is both identified with the Tea Party and steeped in the rhetoric of supporting the Constitution. FreedomWorks also published a list of 2010 candidates for Congress who had gained its official endorsement. Since the elections, FreedomWorks has taken this list off of its website, but the names on that list are preserved here.
If the Tea Party group FreedomWorks has been sincere in its undying support for the Constitution and in its calls to resist the power of Big Government, then we should expect that its list of endorsed candidates should also be infused with small-government, pro-constitution thinking. We should expect those FreedomWorks-endorsed candidates who won a seat to have voted against H.R. 514 (a bill to reauthorize the anti-constitution big-government Patriot Act without any reforms) on February 8 2011. If FreedomWorks’ endorsees largely voted for H.R. 514, then either FreedomWorks’ endorsement committee is completely incompetent, or all that “constitution” business from FreedomWorks was empty rhetoric.
Enough of the drumroll. Here’s what actually went down.
|Members of Congress Endorsed by FreedomWorks in the 2010 Elections who voted FOR reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions on February 8 2011:
Rep. Dan Benishek (Republican-MI, District 1)
|Members of Congress Endorsed by FreedomWorks in the 2010 Elections who voted AGAINST reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions on February 8 2011:|
35 FreedomWorks endorsees voted FOR Patriot Act reauthorization.
Only 4 FreedomWorks endorsees voted AGAINST Patriot Act reauthorization.
2 FreedomWorks endorsees — Rick Crawford and Richard Hanna — didn’t even bother to show up for the vote.
Justin Amash, Michael Fitzpatrick, Tom Graves and David Schweikert should be recognized for their courage in voting against the continuation of invasive, intrusive, unconstitutional big government surveillance, search and seizure. They are a model of actual small-government conservatism. But they are also exceptions to the rule.
Since the vote, FreedomWorks hasn’t written a word to criticize Patriot Act reauthorization, which suggests to me that FreedomWorks knew exactly what it was doing when it chose its endorsees. It overwhelmingly chose Big Government authoritarians. All that business about “freedom” and “small government” was no more than a distracting whistle.