Tea Party Activists Unveil 'Contract from America'

Democratic Party spokesman says contract amounts to 'slogans not a plan'.

April 14, 2010, 5:21 PM

April 15, 2010 -- Tea Party activists are once again descending on Washington, D.C., and this time they have a 10-point "Contract From America" that they want the next Congress to follow.

"We want them to listen to us," Ryan Hecker, the conservative activist who spearheaded the contract, told ABC News. "We want to restructure our relationship with elected officials. This is a bottom-up, grassroots, transparent effort to call for real economic conservative reform."

The Contract From America, which was produced through an online voting process, will be unveiled officially at a 7:30 p.m. ET "Tax Day" rally taking place on Thursday, April 15 at the Washington Monument.

The preamble to the Contract From America states that it is based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom.

It then enumerates 10 agenda items that it wants congressional candidates to follow. It also lists the vote percentages that each agenda item received in the online balloting that generated the planks:

"(1) Protect the Constitution: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does (82.03 percent).

"(2) Reject Cap & Trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumers prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures (72.20 percent).

"(3) Demand a Balanced Budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69 percent)

"(4) Enact Fundamental Tax Reform: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words -- the length of the original Constitution. (64.90 percent).

"(5) Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the U.S. Constitution's meaning. (63.37 percent)

"(6) End Runaway Government Spending: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57 percent).

"(7) Defund, Repeal & Replace Government-run Health Care: Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn't restricted by state boundaries. (56.39 percent).

"(8) Pass an 'All-of-the-Above' Energy Policy: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51 percent).

"(9) Stop the Pork: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47 percent).

"(10) Stop the Tax Hikes: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38 percent)."

One item conspicuously absent from the list is term limits.

Back in February, when ABC News first reported that the contract was in development, Hecker pointed to congressional term limits as the type of proposal that Tea Party activists would likely put in their contract that established politicians would not include in the official Republican Party agenda that is being developed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

"It actually didn't make the top 10 in voting," Hecker told ABC News. "It placed 11th. I can't explain why it didn't make it. I'm guessing that it was a more divisive issue than others on the voting list. While my personal top 10 list had term limits, we obviously have to follow the vote."

Hecker said he came up with the contract idea shortly after Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008. Hecker, a 29-year old lawyer from Houston, spent the 2008 GOP primaries working as an opposition researcher for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign.

To get his idea off the ground, he launched a Web site, "ContractFromAmerica.com," which encouraged activists to offer possible planks for the contract.

From the original 1,000 ideas that were submitted, Hecker whittled it down to about 50 based on popularity. He then narrowed the list down to 21. He was aided in this process by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey, whose conservative group, FreedomWorks, is the sponsor of Thursday's event at the Washington Monument.

The Contract From America, which was inspired by Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract for America, has Gingrich's backing, and Hecker said he is proud to have it. He noted, however, that the new contract differs from the 1994 contract in that it used online balloting.

"These are principles and ideas every candidate for office should make part of their campaign," Gingrich told ABC News in a statement when asked about the Contract from America. "They are even more powerful because they are generated from the people."

Thursday's unveiling of the Tea Party contract comes at a time when Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national Republican Party chairman who currently chairs the Republican Governors Association, is imploring his fellow Republicans to embrace Tea Party activists.

"How do we win in 2010?" Barbour asked the Southern Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend. "We stick together."

"The Democrats' fondest hope is to see the Tea Party or other conservatives split off and start a third party," Barbour said. "Barack Obama is ... praying for the conservative vote to be split in 2010. We can't let that happen. We've got to stay unified."

The "Contract From America" came under harsh criticism on Wednesday from a Democratic Party spokesman.

"These are bumper sticker slogans -- not a plan," Brad Woodhouse, the communications director of the Democratic National Committee, told ABC News.

"If the Tea Party activists would put aside their rhetoric and rage long enough to look at facts, they would see that the president and Democrats have done more for working families, more to reduce the deficit, more to provide tax relief to average Americans, and more to make government work for the middle class in the past 15 months than Republicans did in eight years," Woodhouse said.

"The energy of Tea Party protesters would be better channeled towards Republicans in Congress who continue to stand with insurance companies, banks and Wall Street lobbyists over American families and small businesses."

ABC News' Matt Loffman contributed to this report.