Conduct unbecoming a senator

Matt Kibbe President, FreedomWorks
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“I despise these people,” Orrin Hatch told NPR last week, “and I’m not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth.” What would make the powerful 36-year incumbent senator from Utah say such a hostile thing? Who does he “despise”? What did they do? Who, exactly, does he want to punch “in the mouth”?

The answer: Americans participating in the democratic process. Hatch’s threat was directed at the citizen activists — some 15,000 in Utah and 1.5 million around the country — who are shining a bright light on his record in the Senate and raising serious questions about Hatch’s commitment to economic freedom.

Some of Hatch’s attacks have been aimed directly at FreedomWorks, the grassroots group I’m the president of, which he insults as being “run by two libertarians who don’t really believe in the Republican Party.” I’ve been called far worse than “libertarian,” and I know FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey has too. It happens when you come from the Republican wing of the Republican Party. And we can take it.

But when the senator turns his fire on his own constituents, everyday Americans who are disappointed in their elected official’s record, he’s gone too far.

“Some of their disciples here who are Utahn say they’re not Republicans but they are going to take over the Republican Party,” Hatch has said. “We don’t want radicals to take over our party.” Radicals? Isn’t that what Nancy Pelosi and President Obama call us?

Presumably, Sen. Hatch is not threatening actual physical violence against his own constituents, who have done nothing more than raise questions about his record. But it is an intimidating threat, nonetheless, and terribly unbecoming of a 36-year senior senator who is running for re-election on the promise that only he, as the next chairman of the prestigious and powerful Senate Finance Committee, can dig us out of the deep budget hole caused by entitlements, and repeal government-run health care. Given his history, Hatch’s constituents are wise to be skeptical.

Sen. Hatch single-handedly rescued Hillarycare from the dustbin of history by working with Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1997 to create SCHIP, an expensive entitlement program and essential building block for Obamacare. The progressive left’s strategy, then and now, is to add populations young and old to the ranks of government care until the system reaches critical mass. SCHIP paved the way for the final push — Obamacare. Indeed, Hatch in 1993 sponsored the same individual health care mandate that we are now battling in the Supreme Court. He also voted for Medicare Part D, a massive unfunded liability now totaling near $10 trillion.

Sen. Hatch also has a penchant for bailouts and spending earmarks. He voted for TARP, the bailout of Wall Street. He supported the bailouts of GM and Chrysler and the housing bailout that rewarded Fannie and Freddie’s bad behavior. He even voted to protect the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.”

In spite of the spin coming from the Hatch campaign, the people of Utah now have easy access to the senator’s voting record, and they don’t like what they see. They are looking to bring Sen. Hatch home, and replace him with a new, principled senator who better reflects the values of limited government and individual freedom just as they did trading up for Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Senator Mike Lee.

Why does Senator Hatch want to punch his constituents “in the mouth”? Because he thinks they just may succeed. Because for the first time in 36 years Hatch is facing a legitimate challenge for his Senate seat. Because he fundamentally disagrees with the belief that government shouldn’t spend money it does not have and should not get involved in things like running car companies, mortgage banks or your health care. His voting record is proof.

A mom came up to me at a gathering of Utahns soon after the swearing in of the 2010 freshman class of Congress, which included Utah’s new senator, Mike Lee, who unseated longtime incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett. “Is FreedomWorks willing to stand up and help us finish this fight?” she asked me. “It looks like many groups are already falling in line under pressure from Hatch.”

We’re committed to this fight because we won’t change the way Washington works unless we are willing to change the personnel in Washington. And we won’t accomplish that if we crumble under personal attacks and threats from the entrenched power. As if his voting record weren’t enough, Hatch’s immature attacks on the constituents who dare question his conservative credentials are further proof that it’s time for him to be called home.

Matt Kibbe @mkibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, co-author of “Give Us Liberty: a Tea Party Manifesto” and author of the upcoming book, “Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America.