The leading four Republican presidential candidates skipped the PBS televised debate Thursday evening, but will find time in their schedules to woo fiscally conscientious voters at a grassroots conference next week.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson will convene at the Americans for Prosperity's “Defending the American Dream Summit” on October 5 in Washington, D.C. at the Mayflower Hotel. Republican presidential candidates Sen. Sam Brownback (Kans.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) will also appear.
This is the first major event AFP, an advocacy group that focuses on economic issues and the reducing the size of government, has organized.
In an interview at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of AFP, vice president Ed Frank said more than 1,300 people from 35 different states purchased advance tickets to attend the summit. “If members of Congress don’t think there is a constituency for spending restraint, they’ll see there is at the Mayflower next week. We’ll show them,” Frank said.
Along with a steady drumbeat of presidential campaign speeches, the premier fiscal hawks of Capitol Hill will also headline the two-day event, which begins October 4. Republicans Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) are just a few of those expected to mingle with grassroots activists.
“Most of the time, Members of Congress don’t hear from people who care about spending,” Frank said. “They usually only hear from people who want pork-barrel earmarks or favors.”
While in Washington, AFP members plan to meet with their elected representatives to pressure them to support earmark reform.
AFP has more than 200,000 members nationwide. “They are really active,” Frank said. “We only count members who have taken some kind of action in the last 12 months.” He described action as doing things like writing letters to Congress, making phone calls, or making a donation to AFP.
The conference will also offer training sessions and strategy meetings. Rep. Scott Garrett (R.-N.J.) will speak on a panel titled “How to Impact Your Legislator.” Phil Cox, director of development at AFP said, “He’ll be able to tell people, ‘This is what gets my attention when somebody calls me.”
“This conference is different than the Conservative Political Action Conference because the purpose is to better train and prepare our members to fight important policy battles,” Cox explained.
Event activities will begin on Thursday October 4. The first day will be capped off with a rooftop cocktail reception in the Hart Building on Capitol Hill with DeMint.
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