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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Empower America

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The now-defunct Empower America was a right-wing pressure group cofounded in 1993 by Reagan administration Education Secretary William Bennett and former congressman Jack Kemp that championed conservative domestic policies and hawkish foreign policies. Other former Empower notables included Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mitt Romney’s 2012 vice presidential running mate who at one time worked as a speechwriter for the group,[1] as well as long-standing Republican Party stalwarts Vin Weber and Jeane Kirkpatrick, who served as directors of the group.[2]

After the 9/11 attacks, Empower America became part of a network of neoconservative-aligned groups that helped promote militarist “war on terror” policies. Empower merged in 2004 with Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a rightist pro-free market think tank, to create a new group called FreedomWorks.[3] FreedomWorks, which focuses largely on U.S. domestic policy, promoting smaller government and less taxes, has served as one of the key promoters of establishment “Tea Party” politics in the United States.

According to its mission statement, Empower America was "devoted to ensuring that government actions foster growth, economic well-being, freedom, and individual responsibility. The ideas that have fueled America's stunning economic expansion—opportunity, competition, ownership, and freedom—must be the framework for reform of century-old public systems such as K-12 education, the tax code, and social security. Uniquely positioned in Washington, Empower America bridges the gap between the array of think tanks that produce white papers on the public-policy debate and the actual enactment of policy. In implementing our free-market, entrepreneurial principles into law, we are convinced, through actual experience, that we are the most effective 'delivery' system in existence."[4]

On national security, the group pushed for a "strong and proactive—but distinctively American—foreign policy, one that rejects both short-sighted isolationism and imprudent multilateralism. We believe that the federal government is primarily responsible for guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. Therefore, our goals are twofold: to insure that the U.S. military is prepared for any challenge it may face, and to rapidly deploy an effective missile defense to protect American citizens and allies."

Among Empower's more notable efforts during the early years of the "war on terror" was its creation of Americans for Victory over Terrorism (AVOT), an advocacy outfit closely aligned with pro-war neoconservative groups that helped push public opinion to support the invasion of Iraq. AVOT eventually merged with the conservative Claremont Institute.

According to writer James D'Entremont, while Empower America billed “itself as a 'nonpartisan, nonprofit organization,'” its board of directors was “a blue-ribbon panel of right-wing pro-corporate Republicans, and the organization itself is a kind of stepchild of the Heritage Foundation.”[5]

Among Empower America's main outputs was its yearly publication of “The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators,” which billed itself as a “compilation of facts and figures about the state of American society.”[6] Bennett's introduction to the 2001 index stated: "By many measures, the state of our union is extraordinarily strong. We live in a time of peace and unprecedented prosperity. Citizens of America live longer, and more comfortably, than any other citizens in history. The average American today enjoys luxuries undreamed of by the richest and most powerful of kings in the last century."

The report also celebrated the country's unrivalled leadership in the world, likening the United States to a "colossus." Wrote Bennett: "In terms of military and foreign affairs, we bestride the world like Colossus. Our military dominance is arguably as great as any other nation's in history. No nation is perfect, but to a degree unlike any other nation, we have used our power to advance the causes of liberty, human rights, and democracy worldwide."

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Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

Sources


[1] Boston Globe, “Paul Ryan Biography,” August 12, 2012, http://articles.boston.com/2012-08-12/politics/33154929_1_gop-response-key-votes-speechwriter.



[2] Wall Street Journal CIO Network, “Vin Weber,” http://cionetwork.wsj.com/?speakers=vin-weber.



[3] “Citizens for a Sound Economy and Empower America Merge as FreedomWorks,” National Review, September 13, 2004.



[4] Empower America Mission Statement (Web Archive), http://web.archive.org/web/20030622093625/www.empoweramerica.org/stories/storyReader$2.



[5] James D'Entremont, "Empower America Profile," MediaTransparency, http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientprofile.php?recipientID=523.



[6] Empower.org, White Papers and Supplemental Reports (Web Archive), http://web.archive.org/web/20021111111850/http://www.empower.org/pubs.htm.


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Empower America Résumé


Selected Principles

  • William Bennett, former director

  • Jack Kemp, former director

  • Jeane Kirkpatrick, former director

  • Paul Ryan, former speechwriter

  • Vin Weber, former director




Mission Statement



"The ideas that have fueled America's stunning economic expansion—opportunity, competition, ownership, and freedom—must be the framework for reform of century-old public systems such as K-12 education, the tax code, and social security. Uniquely positioned in Washington, Empower America bridges the gap between the array of think tanks that produce white papers on the public-policy debate and the actual enactment of policy. In implementing our free-market, entrepreneurial principles into law, we are convinced, through actual experience, that we are the most effective 'delivery' system in existence."


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