The petition delivered Monday by the Tea Party of Southern Colorado to the offices of U.S. Rep. John Salazar and U.S. Sens Mark Udall and Michael Bennet was a garbled screed signed by nearly 300 people. In the section reprinted by the Pueblo Chieftain, the petition warns of future “enslavement” and “forced submission” and “dictatorial bureaucracy.” There are a few commas but there isn’t a period to be found in any of that bit. The signatories are seeking to encourage their lawmakers to oppose health reform legislation, but 66-year-old Jerry Denney, the author of the petition, says it’s not about health care; it’s about socialism.
“This health care bill isn’t about health care. It’s about the destruction of the constitutional republic we’ve lived in for the past 200 or so years.”
Did Denney get that line from Virginia-based Americans for Limited Government, a conservative advocacy group with a $4 million budget? Yes, one way or another and whether he knows it or not, that’s probably exactly where he got it.
Contacted by the Colorado Independent, retired steel worker Denney said he essentially sat down and banged out the petition and submitted it for review to the Southern Colorado Tea Party petition committee.
“They took out some of the wordiness and shortened some of the sentences,” he said.
Here’s the section of the petition printed by the Pueblo Chieftain:
The planned health care legislation will “cost taxpayers trillions of dollars, enslave us to a dictatorial bureaucracy, from which you will be exempt, that will end our right to choose our own medical care, and, foremost, that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to pass a law that will force Americans into submission to a government-run health care plan.”
You might say the work doesn’t specialize in nuance. In fact, that’s what the New York Times said in September about Americans for Limited Government.
The group says, its daily barrage of e-mail messages go to more than 90,000 conservative advocates and appear on its main site, GetLiberty.org. Its NetRightNation.com site allows handy access to thousands of local conservative blogs, sorted by state and issue. Together, they feed a ferociously negative view of the administration to talk radio hosts, Web pundits, Congressional aides and small-town newspaper columnists.
Americans for Limited Government does not specialize in nuance. A recent e-mail message labeled Mr. Obama “the biggest liar of all,” and a piece on Mr. Obama’s enthusiasm for the national volunteer service agency AmeriCorps suggested a parallel with Hitler Youth.
A call for the resignation of Representative Charles B. Rangel, the Democratic House veteran who is under an ethics investigation, included a fake photograph of the congressman behind bars. The seven senators who voted against stripping federal financing from the community-organizing group Acorn were tagged the “Sordid Seven…”
[ALG head Bill] Wilson seemed a bit abashed about the vitriol, but he said a more restrained voice would be lost in the political cacophony. “If I need to make my point, I’m going to make it in a provocative manner, because that’s how it attracts attention,” he said.
Two weeks ago, on 13 November, a couple hundred miles straight north from Pueblo where Denney drafted his petition, the Tea Party of Northern Colorado held a candidate forum in Loveland. Five hundred people attended, including candidates for the U.S. House and Senate and for governor. There were maybe three people under 30 years old in the large conference hall and those three were children ineligible to vote. There were maybe fifteen people under 40. The rhetoric from the stage was fiery.
Candidate for U.S. House District 4 Tom Lucero said Americans’ “freedoms and liberties are under assault” and that the “constitution was being kicked to the curb.”
U.S. Senate candidate Cleve Tidwell told the crowd he had lived in two socialist countries. “I know it when I see it. I know what it looks like. I know it can happen…. this country will be socialist in three years unless we make change.”
On each of the tables at the event– roughly fifty tables– were spread ten or so postcards addressed to Sens Udall and Bennet and 4th District U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey. The cards asked the Congressmen and woman to oppose health care reform because it was bad legislation that was bad for the economy and bad for Americans. More than a few times, the forum hosts asked the crowd to fill out their names and addresses on the cards and turn them in at the door. No need to attach postage.
Event organizer Lesley Hollywood told the Colorado Independent that “an individual, a man named Rick Hicks” distributed the cards.
“I said, ‘Hey if you want to spend your own personal money on that, you go ahead,'” said Hollywood.
But Rick Hicks didn’t spend his own money printing or mailing the postcards. Rick Hicks is an Americans for Limited Government spokesman who, in addition apparently to dropping in at Tea Party of Northern Colorado events, is working “in the congressional district” of Arkansas U.S. Rep. Mike Ross.
Here’s what Hicks told conservative site OneNewsNow in July:
“I don’t want the IRS fining me $2,500, telling me I have to be in the public option — so it’s really coming down to this is not healthcare reform. It’s government takeover of our lives and control of our lives, when you’re telling people that they have to be in the public option.”
Hicks adds it is possible under the proposal that taxpayers would be paying for abortions and sex-change operations.
“It’s this catering to these specific groups where we come in and we give them what they want, almost as a payoff,” he notes. “It’s insulting Christians. It’s insulting to people of faith.”
Has Jerry Denney met Rick Hicks?
Denney is now 66, so I asked if he was on Medicare, the government-run health care system.
“I’m not prepared to comment on that,” he said. He was fixing his wife’s car and didn’t want to get into it. “I’m holding this phone in my greasy hands. Maybe you could come and help me fix this thing….
“Answering your question, really,” he said, “it would just take us away from the point. That would take us away from the meat of the matter, it would get us into the hair or the tale or the hoof,” he said.