But sometimes their backgrounds make some of the establishment-wary grassroots activists skeptical of them, Ned Ryun said
“It has been a little funny – there have been very isolated incidents where people are like, ‘You must be D.C. insiders or something. We’ve looked at your resume and you’re a White House writer.’ It’s like, ‘Really?’ Anybody that knows us that has ever worked with us knows that the Ryans – my dad included – it’s principle first, party second,” Ned Ryun said.
Drew Ryun chimed in: “It’s principle first, party fourth.”
Last month, they announced the formation of their New Leaders project, an effort of a coalition of local Tea Party activists and American Majority who plan to recruit “credible” candidates for office in 2012.
They strongly make the case that their organization — which employs about 30 people — is different from other likeminded groups, such as FreedomWorks or Americans for Prosperity, who have played large roles in organizing Tea Party activists. Some of those groups put a high premium on bolstering their organization’s membership by soliciting phone and e-mail lists from activists.
“We’re not just saying, ‘Come be a part of our grassroots organization.’ We don’t want them to join American Majority,” Ned said. “We want to help them, we want to empower them.”
Drew Ryun, who actually works from Ft. Worth, elaborated: “We don’t want to become a brick-and-mortar institution inside of Washington, D.C.”
Speaking of other groups, Drew Ryun elaborated: “They come to D.C. and set up shop in D.C. And I think the irony is that we as a conservative movement believe in federalism and devolving power, yet these conservative groups come to D.C. and camp out there. I want the exact opposite of that,” Drew said.
American Majority operates a program called “Running for Office 101,” which includes lessons on everything from putting together a campaign plan, fundraising and media relations. “It’s all the basic nuts and bolts that you need to be successful in winning politically,” Ned said.
Drew Ryun elaborated: “We’ll let them give a stump speech and we’ll just drill them, trying to take them down rabbit trails. And then we’ll take that film, usually two or three minutes long, and we’ll critique it for them.”
“Some of these people are so new to the process, they have never written a stump speech,” he said.
The brothers already boast of success stories. Drew mentions a 28-year-old housewife in Arkansas who had never run for office before going through the American Majority training. “She took on a 16-year incumbent on the school board there in Arkansas and she beat him. The cool thing is, she’d never run for office before.”
They also bragged that in Oklahoma, the group identified and trained 27 city council candidates, and 17 ran and won. Of those, 16 had never run for office before.
“The whole idea is to infuse the process with new blood, new leadership,” Ned Ryun said, “and give them the tools to be successful – not only to be successful at that level of government, but to build a farm team for higher office.”