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FreedomWorks, the organization dedicated to lower taxes and less government that is led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), will announce this week that it is spending $4 million on get-out-the-vote operations in several key Congressional races between now and Election Day.
Given its status as a nonprofit and educational organization — even though it has a political action committee and a 527 fundraising arm, which are all but dormant — FreedomWorks cannot directly endorse candidates. So most of the group’s money will be spent on grass-roots and publicity campaigns to educate voters about candidates’ views, rather than on seeding its political operations.
“We can get a lot further plugging that money into grass-roots activity than we can if we contribute the money directly to candidates,” said Rob Jordan, FreedomWorks’ director for federal and state campaigns.
So far, FreedomWorks’ leaders have zeroed in on 16 Congressional races they hope to influence. Some are among the most competitive elections in the country, while others are less so.
Jordan said the decision on where to play was based in part on the answers candidates gave to a FreedomWorks issue survey, in part on where the organization already has a strong grass-roots presence and in part on where the organization could make the biggest difference. He held open the possibility that more races — including gubernatorial contests — would be added to the list as Election Day approaches.
The issue surveys are meant to gauge a candidate’s position on tax cuts, Social Security privatization, government regulation and pension reform, among other issues.
“My concern this campaign season is that there is not enough conversation on the major fiscal issues,” said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks’ president.
While the group is not formally endorsing candidates or coordinating activities with their campaigns, it will make clear, by publicizing its candidate surveys and making other educational materials available to voters, where its sentiments lie. So far, only Republicans stand to benefit from FreedomWorks’ activities.
In the battle for control of the Senate, the group will be involved in three states: Michigan, where Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R) is challenging Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D); Nebraska, where business executive Pete Ricketts (R) is taking on Sen. Ben Nelson (D); and Washington, where former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick (R) is running against Sen. Maria Cantwell (D).
The organization also will be active in races involving two vulnerable House Republicans — Rep. Charles Taylor (N.C.), who is fending off a challenge from former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler (D), and Rep. Clay Shaw (Fla.), who is being challenged by state Sen. Ron Klein (D).
And FreedomWorks will be active in four competitive open-seat House races — in Colorado’s 7th district, Iowa’s 1st district, Wisconsin’s 8th district and Vermont’s at-large seat, where the group will be touting the record of state Sen. Mark Shepard, the heavy underdog in the Sept. 12 GOP primary against former state Adjutant General Martha Rainville.