Tea Party group FreedomWorks close with John Birch Society, study finds

The Institute for Research and Education and Human Rights has a report on the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, led by Dick Armey, and their increasing association with the John Birch Society.

The article notes that FreedomWorks had, for a while, avoided some of the crazier Tea Party ideas and groups:

As noted in Tea Party Nationalism, of all the national Tea Party factions, FreedomWorks had been the organization least entangled with overt bigotry. For instance, FreedomWorks was the only faction who did not have a “birther” as a national staff member. It was the only group that had not jumped on to the nativist bandwagon and supported Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. It had steered clear of most of the outlandish conspiracy theories and far-right machinations that have consumed other Tea Party groups. Now, that has changed.

And it mentions one example from Michigan along with dozens of other examples of the two groups being increasingly entangled:

But after making a big push for new members, they are more and more pushing for involvement with the John Birch Society:

Dick Armey need look no further than the front-page of his FreedomConnector site to see John Birch Society (JBS) activism in Tea Party ranks. Numerous JBS events have shown up in “Latest Activities” section on homepage of FreedomConnector. Most notably, the FreedomWorks staff has been busy promoting the Birchers on their social networking site.

Since the launch of the site, FreedomWorks staff and the FreedomConnector web team have posted at least fifty-nine different announcements that advertised John Birch Society events across the country. (See list in Appendix). Even a cursory look at this list of meetings, forums and protests demonstrates quite clearly that this is not an isolated incident or simple mistake that can be easily dismissed. FreedomWorks staff and the web team have posted an average of ten Birch events a month since the launch of this site. They have advertised Birch events in California, Florida, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

In addition to the fifty-nine added by FreedomWorks team members, another twenty-two Bircher happenings have been posted by FreedomConnector members like Dawn Epson, the Tucson facilitator for the John Birch Society. Epson even has been allowed to create a Tucson Bircher “group”–a hub for area Birchers to gather on the FreedomConnector site. In total, 80 different JBS events were advertised on the FreedomWorks FreedomConnector site between the site launch and June 1, 2011.

Tonya Woodruff, a Michigan activist, provided a perfect example of the problem of the missing firewall when she posted a question on FreedomConnector to a participant in the Ludington Area Tea Party: “I was at the John Birch Society Meeting last night and the Birchers wanted to know if the Tea Party was still interested in a presentation? I will send you an e-mail today about this topic.” Opposition to the JBS presence inside the FreedomWorks social network has been virtually non-existent. Instead, these posts have received a warm reception.

The report then offers a long history of the Birchers and their more than 50 years of bizarre conspiracy theories, like claiming that President Eisenhower was a communist spy.

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