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WATCH: The Failed “Freedom” Foundation’s Full Embrace of COVID-Denialism

 

The extremist “Freedom” Foundation has spent millions trying and failing to take away the rights of workers over the last five years. Instead of showing patriotism and joining together with other Americans to reopen our schools and economy safely, they are raising money by pushing misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. Absolutely shameful.

Crucial Victories Unfolding In Favor of Working People on the West Coast

For the last five years, right-wing organizations have engaged in a $200 million campaign to tear down the so-called “blue wall” that is the West Coast. While Joe Biden looks more and more likely to win, national results remain unclear. What is clear: Biden would not be able to win the Presidency without the West Coast, which has become an even stronger blue wall for progressives and pro-worker candidates since these regressive organizations began their campaign.

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The architects of the political attack on coastal blue states fund “dark money,” tax-exempt nonprofits to carry out this agenda. The so-called “Freedom” Foundation is one of these groups, pushing a partisan mission in violation of their 501(c)3 status. The “Freedom” Foundation has spent at least $20 million since 2015 in a failed campaign to destroy unions, hoping to turn the “blue states” of Oregon, Washington, and California into “red states.”

Instead, these states have grown their Democrat super majorities in the legislatures, elected pro-worker Democrats to the Governorship and passed the strongest slate of pro-worker legislation and ballot measures in the entire country including increases in the minimum wage, paid sick leave laws and fair scheduling laws. In Oregon, they even passed a corporate tax that would generate a billion dollars per year for public schools. Organized workers have played a key role in passing these ground-breaking, pro-labor policies.

The 2020 election (much like the 2018 and 2016 elections) is sending a clear message that organizations like the “Freedom” Foundation just aren’t effective.

Here’s a look at the crucial victories unfolding in favor of working people on the West Coast:

  • Washington, California and Oregon voters went to Joe Biden in 2020 at much higher rates than Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. In Oregon, Biden is on track to increase the Democrat vote share — an already substantial difference — by 6 points. In California there’s an increase of 3 points and in Washington, 7 points.
  • WA Governor Jay Inslee easily won re-election to a third term, backed by the state’s labor unions. Voters approve of his leadership on a science-based, decisive strategy against the COVID pandemic, his support of climate solutions and his unwavering commitment to working families in Washington.
  • In Oregon, union ally Shemia Fagan handily defeated longtime Republican Sen. Kim Thatcher for Oregon’s powerful Secretary of State race, flipping the seat from Republican to Democrat. Fagan entered the primary late but won on an impressive grassroots victory, backed by Oregon’s largest unions. Her crushing defeat of Sen. Thatcher proves just how powerful Oregon unions actually are.
  • In Washington legislative races, two allies of the anti-worker “Freedom” Foundation look poised for defeat. Incumbents Vicki Kraft (R-17), also a former employee of that extremist group, and Steve O’ban (R-28) are currently losing to labor-endorsed candidates T’wina Nobles and Tanisha Harris. Meanwhile, several labor-endorsed challengers appear poised to increase the Democratic majority in the Washington State House of Representatives.
  • Voters rejected austerity measures and voted for union-backed measures to fund schools, libraries, construction projects, universal pre-k, drug prevention, medical facilities and so much more.
  • Oregon and Washington are also leading the way on progressive social reform. Washington citizens have made history by overwhelmingly approving Referendum 90, which mandates comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual health education for public school students. Oregon has become the first state in the country to decriminalize drug possession with Measure 110, showing leniency for non-violent offenders while also legalizing psilocybin therapy.

It’s difficult to imagine a more colossal failure for the out-of-state billionaires and their anti-worker front groups who are waging a partisan war on our blue states. Each election it gets worse for them, and better for working families and pro-labor Democrats. Regardless of the national results we see this week, the West Coast remains a blue wall of hope and progress that guards our livelihoods.

A Divided America Enriches Billionaires

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on every aspect of our country and no one is immune to it, except for one class of Americans: billionaires. While millions of working families struggle without a job, billionaires have seen their net wealth skyrocket during this accelerated time of wealth disparity. They’ve enjoyed an explosion in net worth of nearly a trillion dollars, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. Maintaining that wealth disparity means keeping working families away from the most shocking of truths – our economy is only serving the ultra-wealthy, and it’s become much worse with tax breaks and handouts during the pandemic.

The way to keep people away from that truth is to distract and divide the population. If you can get Americans fearful and fighting amongst themselves, it’s harder to unify and focus on the real problems with our economy. Sparking outrage has become an almost daily occurrence for President Trump and a massive right-wing media apparatus, benefiting the billionaire class they champion. Meanwhile, those manufactured controversies are parroted by a web of anti-worker groups across the country that serve as front groups for the priorities of the uber-rich.

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One of Trump’s most egregious attempts to divide our nation was to call the novel coronavirus a Democrat hoax and publicly cast doubt on its severity, while personally aware of the dangerous truth. A right-wing anti-worker network called the State Policy Network took the same tack, with some affiliates declaring COVID-19 no worse than the flu and that fatality numbers were inflated. Trump later moved on to inflaming racism in our country by calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate. The ultra-regressive Heritage Foundation shared the sentiment by calling BLM  “committed Marxists” and a “destructive movement.” As the election nears, Trump is threatening that a President Biden will destroy the suburbs. Another anti-worker group, “Freedomworks” chimed in that Kamala Harris was “ruthlessly opportunistic” and “wants to end private health insurance.”

None of these things are true, and yet they can set citizens against each other, keeping their eyes off the real problem – structural wealth disparity. What is true are the incredible financial benefits gifted to our nation’s wealthiest companies and citizens while everyone has been distracted. The 2017 tax cut helped billionaires pay a lower tax rate than working families. When the government issued forgivable COVID-relief loans for small businesses, millions of dollars were instead gobbled up by wealthy corporations and even a few of the aforementioned anti-worker groups. Even the recent payroll tax reductions disproportionately benefit the wealthiest. While normal workers might pay $250 less, the top 1% of earners could pocket over $50,000 each in tax dollars that should be going to schools, healthcare, and infrastructure.

On the other end of the spectrum, unionized workers are fighting to unite people and focus on what matters: family income, healthcare, well-funded schools, strong communities, and job safety. The AFL-CIO set out a bold framework for improving all workers’ lives during and after the pandemic. They’re fighting to keep workers employed and protecting the dignity of retirement. They want to protect and expand health insurance for all workers. They’re also committed to keeping frontline workers safe and secure. Unions are the powerful voice of Americans joined together to make our economy work for all of us, not just Wall Street and the billionaires.

The Sarah Huckabee Sanders book tour makes a virtual stop in Washington tonight. We’ll be there and live-tweeting.

Each year at their fundraiser, the failing “Freedom” Foundation tries to stay relevant by picking a fringe right-wing celebrity or pundit to entertain. They’ve hired noxious personalities like Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza, and WA State Rep. Matt Shea in years past. Tonight they bring in seasoned liar Sarah Huckabee Sanders, once a frequent apologist for Donald Trump and his racist policies, notably his calling neo-Nazis “very fine people” and putting migrant children in cages.

But past speakers haven’t seemed interested in the “Freedom” Foundation’s stated mission; they likely just see it as an opportunity to pitch their brand to the few fringe right-wing activists that attend these events. This year is no different, as Sanders will be hawking her new White House memoir book. While we don’t expect much attendance, the Northwest Accountability Project will be watching and live-tweeting the event.

Follow the Northwest Accountability Project HERE tonight on Twitter at 7 pm PDT as we share excerpts and observations from the event. 

So who is Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

When America rose in shock and fury at Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, Sanders was there to defend him. She falsely claimed that the policy preceded the Trump administration, and like a toddler tried to shift shame to others for not fixing it, while citing the Bible as justification for the heinous acts. At a press conference, a reporter pleaded with her: “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent. Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through?” Sanders failed to respond except to tell him to “settle down.”

Sanders and Trump also spent a lot of time demonizing the Muslim community. She defended Trump when he spread unverified anti-Muslim propaganda online, saying, “whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.” Sanders frequently lied to cover Trump’s conspiracy theories linking Muslims with terrorist threats. After the October 2017 terrorist attack in New York City, Sanders falsely claimed that immigrants coming to the U.S. through the diversity visa program are not vetted. She also lied that 4,000 suspected or known terrorists had tried to enter the country through the southern border. The real number was 6.

After fascist James A. Fields killed a counter-protester at the “Unite in the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, Trump infamously said there were “some very fine people” on both sides. Even as ultra-conservative allies like Sen. McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham denounced neo-Nazis, Sanders carried Trump’s water, dismissing claims he had honored fascists at the rally. Instead, she promised the president had “been very outspoken” against racism and hate. Pressed by a journalist to explain when exactly Trump had condemned neo-Nazis, Sanders deflected to accusing Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) of a neo-Nazi type of hate.

Staffers at the right-wing “Freedom” Foundation have their own sordid history of bigotry and anti-immigrant hate speech. But, it could be the ease and frequency with which Sanders can lie that drew them to her for this event. They’re an organization that drops millions of dollars pretending to care about workers’ rights while in the shadows doing everything they can to slash jobs, lower wages, and cut benefits. Not surprisingly, their daily deceptions have failed to convince much of anyone, just like Sanders experienced from the White House press room.

Drowning in Covid Denialism

With the shocking news that President Trump and the First Lady have both tested positive for COVID-19, it’s clear that the effort to manufacture doubt about the seriousness of COVID-19 has been a monumental disaster. Poll after poll shows a bi-partisan majority of people in America support mask mandates and believe the Coronavirus to be a real threat. In fact, the day the President and First Lady announced their diagnosis, 45,694 fellow Americans were also diagnosed, and 847 other Americans died. The Northwest Accountability Project wishes all those diagnosed a speedy recovery, and our thoughts are with the families of those who did not recover.

In an interview recorded earlier this year with renowned reporter Bob Woodward, the President said the disease was “deadly” but that he also wanted to “play it down.” 

“Play[ing] it down” apparently meant a deluge of lies about the pandemic.

Right-wing organizations, pundits, and other elected officials followed suit and trumpeted the lies and doubt. They called into question public health expert’s integrity, promoted unproven drugs, made the simple act of wearing a mask a divisive political battle, sued state governments over public safety measures, and some even minimized the significance of the death of elderly people.

They pushed pseudoscience that is akin to arguing that cigarettes don’t cause cancer, or climate change isn’t caused by human behavior. Billionaires astroturfed protests with faux militia members standing outside Capitol buildings with large guns calling on Democratic Governors to prematurely reopen their economy. These protests rarely, if ever, happened in states where Republicans were in charge, even though similar measures were in place.

Now, the President — the leader of this anti-science barrage — is sick with just 4.5 weeks to go until Election Day. His health and age put him in a category to potentially develop severe symptoms. Some foreign policy experts have warned that this could be a national security threat. All of this is just days after he mocked his opponent for wearing masks regularly during their first debate while the First Family sat indoors maskless.

As the President flounders in the polls and begins the path to recovery, American’s are overwhelmingly concerned about their health and safety, their jobs and their kid’s schools while the families of more than 200,000 Americans grieve.

Covid denialism has been a monumental failure.

In the Northwest, one of the leaders of the Covid-denial movement is the extremist “Freedom” Foundation, a far-right political organization that has been engaged in a failed, five year, $20+ million campaign to try to destroy unions and elect right-wing candidates. They have failed miserably and have resorted to even more extreme Covid-denial tactics than the President. They’ve sued states over mask mandates and business and school closures. They have pushed pseudoscience and baseless internet talking points to call into question safety measures that protect people. They even sent a fundraising letter, minimizing the Covid deaths of children, in an attempt to prematurely reopen our schools.

But now Trump, the leader of their movement, is sick and his future is unknown. Will their tone change? Will they realize how dangerous they all have been? That remains to be seen. For now, all we can do is take safety measures seriously and try to get past this once -in-a-century pandemic — it’s the only way to safely reopen our economy and schools, protect frontline workers, and prevent as many deaths as possible.

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