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Another Phony "Grass-Roots" Group?

Reported by Nancy - October 8, 2005 -

Earlier this week (10/5) on FNL, Bill Hemmer interviewed Colin Hanna, introduced as the president of a group that advocates building a wall along the US-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration. The interview itself was unremarkable (as FNL interviews go), but I wondered why FNL would give a platform to such an obscure group. So I've been searching for more background about Hanna & his organization, but so far it looks like it's just another phony "grass-roots" group with no members other than Hanna, who describes himself as a "conservative activist."

At 12:50pm (EDT) Hemmer showed a clip from the previous night's H&C, then interviewed Hanna (president of We Need a Fence) who advocates building a "multi-element fence" along the US-Mexico border, like the Israeli fence. Hemmer asked how much such a fence would cost; Hanna claimed it would cost $2-$4 million per mile for a total of about $8 billion. Hemmer followed up by asking whether Hanna has found any support in DC for this proposal. Hanna claimed he had, but declined to be specific. Hanna said such a fence would also stop people from "terrorist-harboring & terrorist-sponsoring countries" &, when Hemmer asked about his data, said that his group's website (weneedafence.com) has data supporting his claims.

Comments: I went first to the website for We Need A Fence (note that it's .com & not .org). That website is headed by a graphic stating:

"It's estimated that there are over 20,000,000 illegal aliens in the U.S. today" (source: Bear Stearns Report, January '05)"
but no link is provided.

Clicking on the "learn more" link takes you to a page with some numbers & some claims, but again with no links. At the bottom of that page, there is a link to another page with "ARTICLES and LINKS", which turn out to be quite limited:
1. A press release from Rep Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Chair of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus
2. "Homeland Security Action Against Illegals Lacking" -- a jpg of a 9/21/05 article from the Washington Times
3. "DHS lets go 'other' illegals" -- a jpg of a 9/20/05 article from the Washington Times
4. "Newly Obtained OTM and Special Interest Alien Information" -- a .pdf of an 8/10/04 press release from Tancredo
5. "Statistics for Illegal Aliens, Other than Mexicans (OTMs)" -- an .xls file
6. "Statistics: Illegal Immigrants by Country " -- another .xls file
7. "Homeland security action against illegals lacking" -- a .pdf file of the article reproduced as #1 above
8. "Lethal Immigration" -- Rep John T Doolittle’s (R-CA) newsletter to his constituents, dated 8/26/05
9. "Terrorists at The Border? An NBC4 Special Report" -- a nonworking link to a .pdf of a program apparently aired on an otherwise unidentified NBC affiliate, but the description on this websites includes this:

NBC4 called the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to speak on camera about the issues surrounding "Special Interest Aliens." They declined.
10. "Al Qaida Coming Through!" -- link to an article in the National Review dated 8/24/05
11. "Numbers USA Public Opinion Polls on Immigration Issues" -- a .pdf of various polls from NumbersUSA.com, whose stated goal is "reducing annual legal and illegal immigration to more traditional numerical levels ..."
12. "Agency's illegal immigrant apprehensions and drug seizures continue to rise" -- a .pdf of an article from the Sierra Vista Herald dated 1/1/05
13. "U.S. policy on immigration is a 'tragic joke' " -- a .pdf of a Lou Dobbs op-ed piece (Special for "The Republic") dated 8/28/05

Press releases don't equal "data," nor do congressional newsletters to constituents or polls taken by another anti-immigration group. I can't access to 2 .xls files (readers -- any volunteers to go to that website to review them & report back?). Link #9 is broken & I have no idea which local Channel 4 it references. That leaves 2 articles from the Washington Times, an editorial in the National Review, an article in the Sierra Vista Herald, & a Lou Dobbs op-ed. Hardly the stuff of "data" to back up Hanna's claims.

As usual with these obscure, hard-to-pin-down groups, there's no "about us" info on the website, no list of members, no board of directors -- although there's a great big "CONTRIBUTE" link. At the bottom of the home page is this:

A project of Let Freedom Ring, Inc., a public policy non-profit promoting Constitutional government, economic freedom and traditional values
So I went to Let Freedom Ring & found this:
Let Freedom Ring" is a non-profit, grassroots public-policy organization supporting the Conservative agenda.  We sometimes say that Let Freedom Ring operates "at the intersection of faith and politics."  As a 501 (c)(4) non-profit corporation, donations to Let Freedom Ring, Inc., are not tax-deductible as charitable contributions.

Here's a surprise (not): there's no "about us" info on the website (other than a mission statement full of typical reactionary glurge), no list of members, no board of directors. The "contact us" page gives a mailing address (which is apparently Hanna's home address), phone & fax in West Chester, PA, but no individual is named.

There is, however, a revealing press release:

"Let Freedom Ring, Inc." to Promote Positive Political Agenda, Counter George Soros and Anti-Bush 527's  
5/25/2004 9:53:00 AM  

West Chester, PA -- Conservative activist and former Chester County PA Commissioner Colin A. Hanna announced today the formation of a new national grassroots organization, Let Freedom Ring, Inc., to counter the millions of dollars being spent to attack and discredit President Bush by leftist organizations supported by billionaire George Soros, Hollywood liberals and others.
"We're fortunate to have already received gifts and pledges exceeding one million dollars, and as we seek to raise more, hopefully much more, we think that our positive message will strike a responsive chord in the hearts of Americans everywhere and be uplifting in the entire public policy debate," said Hanna.

Now where would this little group of one get $1 million in funding before it was even publicly announced? My guess would be one or more of the usual suspects: Richard Mellon Scaife, the Olin family, the Coors family. & other prominent & rich members of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Grass-roots org, my ass.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (the prevalence of phony "grassroots" orgs on the reactionary side of the political spectrum, & FNL's attempts to legitimize them by giving them national coverage & exposure). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.