The anti-worker Freedom Foundation (aka Opt Out Today) attempts to portray themselves as a legitimate, non-partisan think tank. In reality, they are a billionaire-funded extremist group that wants to take away working people’s voices. Look no further than the men and women they’ve lauded and given a platform to over the years to see where their true values lie. As Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
1. Laura Ingraham
For their upcoming 2019 annual banquet, the anti-worker Freedom Foundation has chosen notorious white supremacist and Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham as their keynote speaker. Ingraham has a long history of using her show, The Ingraham Angle, to spread hateful misinformation, race-baiting sentiments, and downright lies. Ingraham made headlines recently for her tirade defending white supremacists, including anti-semite and white nationalist Paul Nehlen, who recently donned a t-shirt celebrating the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting terrorist and the massacre that claimed the lives of 11 people.
The backlash was swift; advertisers responded by removing their ads from her show. While everyone was reeling from her vehement and indefensible promotion of white supremacy, the Freedom Foundation announced her as their keynote speaker the very next day: “We’re delighted and flattered to have someone of her stature share this special evening with us,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe.
2. Dinesh D’Souza
The Freedom Foundation sank to a new low (until their selection of Ingraham) when they hosted bigoted pundit Dinesh D’Souza as the keynote speaker at their 2018 gala. D’Souza has made millions from his racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-working class writings and movies. He has heaped praise on growing income inequality and the strife that working people endure. He opposes the Civil Rights Act, called President Obama a “boy” from “the ghetto”, said that American slaves were treated “pretty well” and African Americans behave differently from other races through negative behavior and dependency. In college, as the editor of the student newspaper, he publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission.
He is so extreme that even other conservatives dislike him. He was once banned from Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual gathering of Republican ideologues, because he mocked teenage survivors of school shootings. Many conservative thought leaders have accused him of being at the center of the intellectual rot occurring on the right.
When the Freedom Foundation announced D’Souza as the keynote for their fundraiser, Freedom Foundation CEO, Tom McCabe said of D’Souza, he’s “…a perfect fit for the Freedom Foundation.” For once, we agree with McCabe’s assessment.
3. Andy Puzder
In 2017, the Freedom Foundation booked Donald Trump-ally and alleged wage thief Andy Puzder to speak at two of their fundraisers. Puzder, a former fast-food CEO, was nominated for Secretary of Labor, but was too extreme for either party in the U.S. Senate to stomach, and he withdrew his nomination after his anti-worker record and a video of his ex-wife making domestic abuse allegations became public.
As the head of CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Puzder called his employees “the best of the worst,” and said he’d prefer hiring robots because “there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” In 2017 alone, current and former Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s workers filed 22 complaints of wage theft with the U.S. Labor Department and state agencies, and four sexual harassment claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Puzder has also been linked to unfair labor practice complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
4. Matt Shea
Extremist Washington State Rep. Matt Shea was an honored guest and speaker at the Freedom Foundation’s 2015 Honors Dinner, and promoted in a Freedom Foundation email as “one of Washington State’s leading conservative voices.” Shea, one of the Freedom Foundation’s only legislative allies in Washington State, has a long history of spewing hate and dangerous rhetoric – from claiming “there’s no difference between Planned Parenthood and what Dr. Josef Mengele did in Germany in the 1940s,” to formalizing his anti-Muslim views by organizing a certified hate group through a chapter of ACT for America.
Late last year, Shea produced and proudly accepted credit for a dangerous 4-page manifesto he calls the “Biblical Basis for War”. This document sets the stage for widespread violence, assassination, use of deception, and waging war to stop same-sex marriage. This manifesto also includes the terrifying step of “If they do not yield – kill all males.”
5. Mike Huckabee
For their upcoming November Oregon banquet in Salem, the Freedom Foundation has selected flagrant homophobe and failed Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as the keynote speaker. Huckabee, like many other Fox News pundits, has made millions of dollars spewing hateful, divisive and dangerous rhetoric.
Earlier this year, Huckabee described LGBTQ equality as “the biggest threat” to America’s “moral fiber.” In 2010, he likened the legalization of same-sex marriage to the legalization of drugs, incest, and polygamy. Huckabee also has an extensive track record of making disparaging comments about women’s rights; while working for Fox News, Huckabee referred to his female colleagues as “trashy” for using profanity he deemed unladylike. Huckabee has long likened abortion to slavery and once referred to abortion as the “incredible Holocaust of our own in America.”
Bonus: Joe Arpaio
The Freedom Foundation’s former Oregon Director Anne Marie Gurney opened for former Maricopa County Sheriff and outspoken racist Joe Arpaio at a right-wing rally in Salem, OR in 2015. Arpaio is infamous for his racial profiling of immigrants and latinx communities during his tenure as sheriff, as well as the abhorrent conditions of the jail facilities under his charge.
He reinstituted chain gangs and operated a tent city jail that he referred to as a “concentration camp”, where temperatures inside the tents would reach upwards of 145 degrees during the summer months. In 2014, after years of implementing discriminatory policies, Arpaio was charged and later found guilty of criminal contempt of court for failing to stop racial profiling practices. He was later pardoned by President Trump in a move that the American Civil Liberties Union declared “a presidential endorsement of racism”.
Hyatt Regency Bellevue: Don’t Give Hate a Platform. Cancel Laura Ingraham’s Appearance.August 14, 2019
While American families are grieving and coming to terms with recent mass shootings, including the white supremacist terrorist attack in El Paso, the Freedom Foundation is doubling down on promoting fringe ideology.
The Freedom Foundation has invited white nationalist and Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham to be the keynote speaker at their annual high-dollar fundraising banquet. This celebration is scheduled to take place on September 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, WA.
The Freedom Foundation is an anti-union organization that works to elect Republicans and push a far-right agenda. By celebrating and raising money off of Ingraham’s deadly brand of white supremacy, the Freedom Foundation has exposed the extremism at their core.
Ingraham has made a profitable career of promoting antisemitism, homophobia, and white supremacy. She has said that immigrants are coming to replace “old America with new America,” and that Mexican immigrants “have come here to murder and rape our people.” She said immigration is pushing “western civilization” to “tipping over a cliff.” This particular brand of white supremacist rhetoric inspired the recent mass shooting terrorist attack in El Paso that killed 22 people.
Ingraham is mainstreaming white supremacy not only through her own speech but also by elevating the voices of other white nationalists, such as Paul Nehlen. Nehlen is a known anti-Semite who was seen in a T-shirt that celebrated the shooter of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were murdered. Ingraham gave national attention to Nehlen by listing him as one of the “prominent voices censored on social media.”
Ingraham’s record on LGBTQ issues is also abysmal, and she has compared same-sex marriage rights to state-validated incest and polygamy.
In many ways, the Freedom Foundation’s alliance with Laura Ingraham comes as no surprise. Ingraham and the Freedom Foundation both sow hatred, division and bigotry. Both are funded by billionaires and are attempting to divide working-class people. In Ingraham’s case, she uses her TV pulpit to mainstream white nationalism through hyperbolic accusations against immigrant populations, communities of color and non-Christians. The Freedom Foundation does its dirty work on a local level, fighting to keep wages low, arguing against paid sick leave, and pushing to slash crucial funding for quality education.
But much like with Ingraham, elected officials and the public are rejecting the Freedom Foundation’s campaign. Even as their efforts to divide workers and further enrich their billionaire funders are failing, there is no denying that their embrace of toxic white supremacy could do lasting damage in the Northwest.
We’re asking the Hyatt Regency Bellevue to be a voice of reason in this dangerous time.
Ten Things You Should Know About the Freedom Foundation’s New Oregon Director, Mike NearmanAugust 13, 2019
The anti-worker Freedom Foundation (aka Opt-Out Today) recently announced that they hired Oregon State Representative Mike Nearman to head their failing Oregon effort. Here are the top ten things you need to know about Mike Nearman:
The Southern Poverty Law Center designated OFIR as “the most prominent anti-immigrant group in [Oregon]” which has pushed for extreme anti-immigrant policies, made disparaging comments about immigrants and has ties to white supremacists. In one of its many stark positions, OFIR claimed giving drivers cards to undocumented immigrants would aid the spread of Ebola and terrorism.
2) Nearman regularly demonizes immigrants.
Using his platform, Nearman has regularly demonized immigrants, at one point making a speech in the Oregon State House saying that the body needed to protect Oregonians “from diseases carried by illegal aliens, especially those from third world countries where one would expect the diseases are more readily carried.”
3) Nearman is too extreme even for Republicans.
Nearman was elected to the Oregon State House in 2014. After his primary contest against a more moderate Republican, two Republican State Senators immediately built a website disparaging Nearman for his extreme views. Additionally, a group called The Conservative Republican Defense Fund found fault with Nearman and warned voters in a mailer that “electing Mike Nearman for our state representative is bad for our health.”
4) Nearman opposed expanding health care for low-income Oregonians.
Nearman opposed expanding healthcare to low-income Oregonians by coming out strongly against Medicaid expansion. He also opposed compelling insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, equating it with auto insurance companies forced to cover “junk cars.”
5) Nearman regularly voted against working families.
He has opposed nearly all legislation that would help working families in Oregon. His dismal record includes voting against mandatory paid sick leave for employees, voting against providing school lunches to children from low-income families and voting against increased education funding. He also spoke against legislation that would increase the minimum wage for working families.
6) Nearman is supported by a fringe anti-choice group.
Nearman’s key supporters are extreme right-wing organizations, including the largest anti-choice organization in Oregon, Oregon Right to Life. Oregon Right to Life vehemently opposes in vitro fertilization and has asserted that abortion causes breast cancer. For his part, Nearman has compared his support of anti-choice policies to the movement to abolish slavery.
7) Nearman is funded by an extreme anti-LGBTQ group.
Another extremist group that supports Nearman is the Oregon Family Council (OFC), the largest anti-LGBTQ group in the state. OFC opposes same-gender marriage and parenting in the LGBTQ community, saying “marriage between a man and a woman is the optimal environment for raising children.” Nearman was one of two representatives to oppose bi-partisan legislation that would update anti-LGBTQ language in Oregon Statute.
8) Nearman opposed funding for public safety.
Nearman opposed a local levy that would have increased funding for public safety including the Polk County sheriff’s department. The local newspaper called Nearman’s position “unconscionable,” and that Nearman’s politics “have already proved destructive to Polk County.”
9) Nearman opposes common sense gun reform.
Nearman strongly opposes all attempts at gun control and voted against a popular Oregon bill that would expand background checks to private firearm sales. Nearman spoke at the “I Will Not Comply” Rally at the Oregon State Capitol in support of recalling legislators who voted for the bill. He made his speech in front of a flag that read “2nd Amendment—America’s Original Homeland Security,”
10) Nearman has a history of ethics complaints filed against him.
Nearman has had multiple ethics complaints filed against him including one by his Republican Colleague, Brian Boquist, for improperly coordinating with Oregon Right to Life, an extreme anti-choice advocacy group.
Bonus: Even though Mike Nearman works for a group that wants to take away worker’s voices on the job, lower their wages and gut their benefits, he and his wife enjoy all the benefits of the union including wage increases and a pension but do not pay any of the dues.
In light of Rep. Mike Nearman’s appointment as Oregon state director of the Freedom Foundation, Peter Starzynski, Executive Director of the Northwest Accountability Project issued the following statement
“It’s not surprising that the Freedom Foundation would pick someone like Rep. Mike Nearman to head their failed Oregon operation. In addition to being rabidly anti-worker, he sits on the fringe of Oregon politics and has been a key leader of an anti-immigrant hate group. He once called developmentally disabled workers “subsidized workers,” has opposed expanding healthcare to low-income Oregonians referring to it as “candy” and even opposed making insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions. He has openly defended racist Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and called for the privatization of education. His key donors are veritable who’s who of extreme right-wing organizations like the anti-LGBTQ Oregon Family Council. He is so extreme that after he won his first primary, Republican State Senators Brian Boquist and Larry George created a website attacking his credentials. The Freedom Foundation claims to care about workers but this hire confirms exactly what the Freedom Foundation’s values are and where their priorities lie.
But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who leads the Freedom Foundation as their entire campaign has been a failure and will continue to be. Working families in Oregon remain strong, continuing to win at the ballot box and on the issues that matter most like increased wages, benefits, more funding for education and better working conditions.”
VIDEO: One Year After Janus, Working Families Have Plenty of Reasons to Feel OptimisticJuly 25, 2019
The Freedom Foundation is failing miserably.
This isn’t how the Koch-funded anti-union organization expect the past year to go for them. In fact, one year ago this week, anti-worker organizations like the Freedom Foundation were celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME. They incorrectly assumed the decision would lead to the end of public sector unions and worker power in the United States.
Here are the facts about what has happened in the past year: Union membership is on the rise (in Washington State it grew by 10% in 2018), and states in the Northwest have collectively passed one of the most pro-working families agendas in history. The unions attacked most by the Freedom Foundation remain a powerful voice for working families.
Please watch and share our new video about how the Freedom Foundation’s billionaire-funded effort to convince workers to drop their union membership has failed.
Despite the anti-worker Freedom Foundation’s tax-exempt status which prohibits political spending, their CEO Tom McCabe made it very clear that their true mission is to win elections for Republicans and to push the right wing’s agenda. With pro-worker leaders and policies now in place up and down the West Coast, it’s clear that their grand scheme to turn the blue states of Washington, Oregon, and California red has been a fool’s errand. Workers are rejecting the Freedom Foundation as a cog in the extremist, right-wing machine.
The Freedom Foundation and their funders just don’t get it. Working families want — and are demanding — higher wages, pensions, affordable health care, and increased funding for education. We know that organizing and standing together is the best way to help our families and our communities.
The Freedom Foundation and their billionaire allies may have deep pockets, but their failures over the past five years make it clear that their money is no match for the power of working people.
While it’s important to remain vigilant, one year after the Janus decision, working families have plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the future of the labor movement.