In 2009, I spoke to the Williamsport Tea Party at two different events. One of them had 4,000 attendees.
Now, the Williamsport Tea Party (a.k.a., Susquehanna Valley Regional Tea Party) has sent candidates a survey that has only four questions. That's right, just four. This a group focused like a bullet -- trying to target those issues that will give them the most bang in their quest to bring the government into Constitutional limits. You can read the complete questionnaire and cover letter here (pdf).
They ask the candidate to state his level of support (or opposition), to the following proposals...
1) A bill to require Congress to specify the source of authority under the United States Constitution for the enactment of laws. Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act.
2) A bill to require that each bill or amendment hereinafter introduced be limited to only a single subject. No bill or joint resolution shall embrace more than one subject at a time, and that subject shall be clearly and descriptively expressed in the title. If the title of an act or joint resolution addresses two or more unrelated subjects, then the entire act or joint resolution is void. Any provision or provisions concerning the subject but not clearly and descriptively expressed in the title shall also be void.
3) A bill to require that legislative power exclusively vested by Article I, Section I of the United States Constitution in the two houses of Congress be exercised exclusively by Congress and not delegated to administrative agencies of the executive branch. Congress shall not create any administrative agency or other like entity delegating thereto any general rule-making authority or adjudicatory powers. All bills passed by Congress shall contain rules defining the specific conduct to be prohibited or permitted thereby.
4) A bill to require, before final passage of any bill, the printing and full verbatim reading of the text of such bill, and each and every amendment attached thereto, to each house of Congress called to order with a quorum physically assembled throughout, the entry of such a printing and reading in the journal of each house of Congress, and the verbatim publication of every such bill, and each and every amendment thereto, on the official Internet web sites of the Senate and the House of Representatives at least seven days before floor consideration and final passage of any bill by each house of Congress; and to provide for enforcement of the printing, reading, entry, publication, recording and affidavit requirements herein.
If you're keeping score at home, the Williamsport Tea Party is describing...
1) The Enumerated Powers Act
2) The One Subject at a Time Act
3) The Write the Laws Act
4) The Read the Bills Act
DownsizeDC.org's Mail Server Manager, Tom Anderson, is also a local activist, who serves on the board of the Williamsport Tea Party. He explained the thinking of his local group in an email to me, and I share it here because I believe that other local activist groups can benefit from this kind of strategic thinking...
Here are some of the benefits we hope to realize as a result of this endeavor:
1) Even BEFORE any legislator agrees to sponsor our legislation:
a. Gives our group a well-defined near-term goal, not just wishy-washy position statements or pie-in-the-sky demands
b. Furthers our existing ultimate goals outlined in our Statement of Principles
c. Educates members/voters about legislative abuses they're probably not aware of
d. Gives members/voters a concrete reason to contact their legislators and be heard, which makes legislators much more aware of our organization and gives us political pull
e. Makes legislators identify their bias for or against our general principles – puts us in the driver’s seat
f. Serves as a litmus test (without us endorsing) for the November elections
g. Provides a role model to other Tea Parties to create a state-wide or national initiative
2) If or WHEN legislators agree to SPONSOR our legislation:
a. We achieve a major milestone and newsworthy press release
b. We get instant credibility amongst both the citizens and government
c. We give other Tea Parties something to rally around
d. Other legislators are pressured to sign on too in order to woo the Tea Party vote come November and later in 2012
3) If or WHEN the legislation is actually ENACTED into law:
a. We prove without a doubt that we can indeed effect change
b. We gain massive respect and political power
c. Completely stop such things as cap-n-trade in their tracks due to their size and complexity
d. Ensure that only a very few new laws are passed and that Congress dedicates their time only to the most important ones
e. Eliminate tons of waste and earmarks and logrolling
f. Stop the trading of political favors since favors can no longer be easily given
g. Remove the incentive for corruption and thereby stop corrupt people from running for office
h. Largely halt the huge lobbying industry (since there are no favors to be gained)
Since we start benefiting even if none of the legislators plays along (and we've already received support from some), we think this is a no-lose strategy. As you might say, it's not merely a random act of liberty, but builds a base from which to launch additional endeavors.