In late July, ThinkProgress first reported on a memo detailing how conservative activists can successfully disrupt Democratic health care town halls. The memo, authored by a Tea Party Patriots volunteer named Bob MacGuffie, was distributed on a listserv controlled by FreedomWorks — the corporate front group run by Dick Armey that is dedicated to organizing tea parties and other anti-Obama efforts around the country. A member of the listserv, Jenny Beth Martin, blasted out the memo on June 13th, declaring, “We here in CT have developed a strategy for holding our elected officials accountable. We show up en mass at the ‘town hall’ meetings they have!” The tactics included:
– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
In town hall after town hall during August, the strategy was used to target members of Congress who are considering support of health care reform. Although Armey disputes his relation to the memo, both Rolling Stone and Talking Points Memo have verified that FreedomWorks staffers, like FreedomWorks Florida coordinator Tom Gaitens, control the Tea Party Patriots listserv which distributed the memo. Armey has gone so far as denying even knowing Gaitens, who has worked for FreedomWorks for years and can be seen in the last ten seconds of this ABC News segment handing a microphone to Armey.
Now, the Courant is reporting that Armey plans to go to Fairfield, CT on November 11th for a “strategy session” with conservative activists and MacGuffie, the original author of the town hall harassment strategy.
An announcement sent out by MacGuffie proclaimed that he, like Armey, has actively supported Doug Hoffman’s bid to rid the NY-23 special election of moderate Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R-NY). Now, both Armey and MacGuffie are planning to purge the Republican Party of more moderate politicians.
MacGuffie has declared that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are RINOs (Republicans in name only) who “have routinely abandoned or betrayed us.” Similarly, the next step of Armey’s agenda appears to be an intensified crusade to challenge moderate Republicans in primaries. The Politico reports that Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) and other Republicans who have strayed from rigid party-line positions face primaries from candidates inspired by the tea parties and town hall disruption type tactics.