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American Majority

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

American Majority is a 501(c)(3) right-wing nonprofit political training group established in January, 2008 that "trains and equips a national network of leadership committed to individual freedom through limited government and the free market." Its goal is to train budding Tea Party candidates to run for school board, city council or state senate seats in local areas around the U.S., with the hopes that they will eventually run for Congress. The group's strategy is to raise up a "national farm team of conservative leaders." Ned Ryun, one of the group's founders, says "Today’s county commissioner, tomorrow’s congressman. You’ve got to feed the system." Founders, Drew and Ned Ryun are the sons of former Kansas Republican Representative Jim Ryun, who served in the House of Representatives for 10 years. Drew Ryun was a deputy director at the Republican National Committee, and Ned was a writer in the George W. Bush White House.[1]

Media Trackers

According to Politico, American Majority sponsors Media Trackers, an investigative non-profit that launched in January 2011 in Wisconsin, which "has gotten considerable in-state pick-up on quick-hit videos and pieces aimed at what it says are errors, hypocrisy or offensive behavior by labor unions and their Democratic allies."[2] According to Mother Jones, Ryun formed Media Trackers as a "nimble attack blog . . . that could quickly capitalize on the latest missteps by big-government politicians or the "liberal" media -- essentially hard-hitting, opposition-research-style shops that prize scoops, speed, and scandal over policy briefs and press conferences."[3]

But Media Trackers has a history of "mangl[ing] the truth," according to Mother Jones and such media outlets as PolitiFact and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: An "exclusive" that "a labor-backed progressive group had violated Wisconsin state law by handing out free BBQ to Milwaukee residents in exchange for pledges to vote early in a closely fought state Senate recall election . . . turned out to be dead wrong; the DA found no evidence of wrongdoing." In November 2011, "in another splashy post that was quickly amplified by the right-wing blogosphere, Media Trackers' Wisconsin outlet claimed there were 'no privacy protections' for people who signed a recall petition to recall Walker, leaving them open to harassment and abuse. PolitiFact rated the claim 'Mostly False,' and noted that Media Trackers had given no evidence that harassment was taking place.[4]" And in March 2012, "soon after the Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed an ethics complaint against conservative state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, Media Trackers published a story claiming four of the commission's nine members had signed Walker recall petitions. In fact, none had.[5]"[3]

According to Mother Jones, "After seeing Media Trackers in action, its anonymous donors shelled out enough fresh cash for Ryun to expand into Colorado, Florida, Montana, and Ohio."[3] Indeed, Media Trackers announced its expansion into Colorado and Montana with two similar press releases on May 9, 2012.[6][7] Media Trackers Florida and Ohio seem to have been started in a slightly earlier wave, with organizational "about" pages on each of their websites dated March 16, 2012.[8][9]

Personnel and their activities

Eric O’Keefe, who helps lead American Majority, has been a Koch aide and conservative operative who attends and also helps lead Koch strategy meetings.[10][11]

Austin James, another American Majority official,[12] was filmed teaching Tea Party members to spam Amazon.com profiles of liberal books with negative comments, while admitting he did not read any of the books that he commented on. A YouTube clip shows Austin James of American Majority training tea party activists on guerrilla internet tactics to "control the online dialogue." The footage was shot at the 2009 American Liberty Tour, run by libertarian groups tied to real-estate mogul and Koch associate Howie Rich. The clip is taken from a section of the film showing how libertarian/free-market groups are recruiting tea party protesters to become activists for their cause.[13] [14]

Regional personnel also include Matt Batzel (who opened the Wisconsin office)[15] and Brett Farley (of the Oklahoma office)[16], who ran an activist training session in New Richmond, Wisconsin on April 9, 2011, hosted by Annette Olson of Uninfringed Liberty and Women United for Liberty. "Batzel said the demand for American Majority’s training has grown tremendously since the civil unrest began in Madison.... Saturday’s training session in New Richmond was the first of seven 'Instant Activism' seminars planned across the state in April" and May 2011.[17][18]

Goals and activities

The American Majority states that its goal is to "build a national network of leaders and grassroots advocates who aspire to increase freedom for individuals and freedom in the marketplace." Its headquarters are in Purcellville, Virginia, and the organization has state affiliates in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin (their newest) and plans to open more offices in 2011.[19]

American Majority is involved in organizing protest and the health care "Recess Rallies" occurring in August 2009 in House districts. They also participate in Tea Party rallies, such as an April 15, 2011 rally in Tampa at which "Ken Mayo of American Majority encouraged the crowd to get involved in local elections and stop in-party fighting before the 2012 Republican presidential primary."[20]

Kenneth P. Vogel of Politico.com credited the organization with providing "deep-pocketed backing" of groups involved in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2011, and grouped them with the Tea Party Express.[21]

American Majority works with Michelle Malkin, RedState.com, American Liberty Alliance, Smart Girl Politics, Americans for Limited Government, FreedomWorks, the Sam Adams Alliance and other groups to organize opposition to health care reform. [22]

Funding

According to a 2010 article in AlterNet, and Ned Ryun himself, over 75% of the funding for American Majority comes from the Sam Adams Alliance. In 2008, the year in which American Majority was founded, 88% of the alliance’s money came from a single donation of $3.7 million.[23][24]

http://www.michiganlp.org/

Activism

The American Majority organization encourages followers to:

  • Run for local office
  • Be an activist
  • Support freedom
  • They say "use these phrases to spread the word onTwitter"[25]

Examples of their political training programs

  • Candidate training, "If you are looking to move beyond protests and rallies"
  • Activist training, learn to organize and communicate
  • Patriot 2.0 Webinars, learn to use the web, for novices or experts
  • Campus Majority, learn to organize students[26]

In April 2011, the Wisconsin planned "seven 'Instant Activism' seminars... across the state," the first taking place in New Richmond, Wisconsin on April 9, 2011, attended by State Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) as well as local American Majority personnel and representatives of other local conservative activist groups.[27] American Majority's Matt Batzel explained, "We do the training in a non-partisan way.... We want to help organizations achieve their political goals. The training sessions have been very well received.”[28]

Brett Farley, executive director of the Oklahoma office, said with regard to the 2011 local Tulsa election, "We intend to play a role in the Tulsa election.... I don't think there's going to be anything like this again in our lifetimes." The Oklahoma affiliate claims to have "trained more than 125 candidates last year, including state Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Olney, and state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi."[29]

Shaping online content and discussions

According to George Monbiot, in the film (Astro)Turf Wars, Taki Oldham secretly recorded a training session organized by American Majority. The trainer, Austin James, was instructing Tea Party members on how to “manipulate the medium” of the Internet: “Here’s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in “Liberal Books”. I go through and I say “one star, one star, one star”. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. … This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in “Movies on Healthcare”, I don’t want Michael Moore’s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. … If there’s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. That’s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.”[23]

Mobile application to identify voter fraud

They have created an application for use on a cell phone to identify voter fraud at polling places. They "created the nation's first mobile application to help identify, report and track suspected incidents of voter fraud and intimidation. This free, cutting edge system will enable voters to take action to help defend their right to vote."[30]

Personnel

Contact details

P.O. Box 87
Purcellville, Virginia 20134
Phone: 540-338-1251
Fax: 540-338-2326
Email: info AT americanmajority.org
Website: http://americanmajority.org

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Alex Pappas American Majority Wants to Infuse New Tea Party Blood in System, The Daily Caller, December 21, 2010
  2. Kenneth P. Vogel, Right seeks edge in opposition wars, Politico.com, April 3, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Andy Kroll, Media Trackers, the Right's New Oppo-Research Attack Dog, Mother Jones, May 21, 2012
  4. Conservative group says signers of petitions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are at risk, PolitiFact, November 17, 2011
  5. Daniel Bice, Charges against Judicial Commission fall apart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 24, 2012
  6. Media Trackers Colorado, MEDIA TRACKERS: CO SENATE DEMS SHILLING FOR OBAMACARE WITH UNION BILL, organizational press release, May 9, 2012
  7. Media Trackers Montana, Media Trackers: Taxpayers take $3 Million Loss in Sale of Story Mansion to Org Led by Former City Planner Epple, organizational press release, May 9, 2012
  8. Media Trackers Florida, About, organizational website, March 16, 2012, accessed May 2012
  9. Media Trackers Ohio, About, organizational website, March 16, 2012, accessed May 2012
  10. "Proud American," (The 9-12 Project) A Recap of the American Majority Post-Party Summit in Kansas City, accessed February 18, 2011
  11. Lee Fang Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest, ThinkProgress.org, February 18, 2011
  12. American Majority Staff, organizational Web site, accessed February 18, 2011
  13. AstroTurfWars.com Training Tea Party Activists In Geurilla Internet Tactics, Video, accessed February 18, 2011
  14. Lee Fang Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest, ThinkProgress.org, February 18, 2011
  15. American Majority Staff for Wisconsin, organization website, accessed April 29, 2011
  16. American Majority Staff for Oklahoma, organization website, accessed April 29, 2011
  17. Jeff Holmquist Activists seek help with promoting their causes, New Richmond News, April 14, 2011, Google cached copy accessed April 29, 2011
  18. American Majority Events in Wisconsin, organization website, accessed April 29, 2011
  19. American Majority, About American Majority Web page, accessed April 29, 2011
  20. Robbyn Mitchell Spending rules the day as Rubio rallies tea party crowd in Tampa, St. Petersburg Times, April 16, 2011
  21. Kenneth P. Vogel Big money, union fight shape Wisconsin court race, Politico.com, April 4, 2011
  22. American Majority, American Majority Web Site, accessed August 15, 2009.
  23. 23.0 23.1 George Monbiot, "Are Right-Wing Libertarian Internet Trolls Getting Paid to Dumb Down Online Conversations?" AlterNet, Dec. 15, 2010.
  24. Alex Pappas American Majority Wants to Infuse New Tea Party Blood in System, The Daily Caller, December 21, 2010
  25. Now What?, AfterTheTeaParty.com, accessed November 2010.
  26. Political training, American Majority, accessed November 2010.
  27. Jeff Holmquist Activists seek help with promoting their causes, New Richmond News, April 14, 2011, Google cached copy accessed April 29, 2011
  28. Ibid.
  29. Wayne Greene Potential candidates for council emerging, Tulsa World, April 24, 2011
  30. Voter fraud app, American Majority Action, accessed November 2010.
  31. Staff, American Majority, accessed April 2011.

External resources

External articles