Free Staters make their mark: Local reps. offer sharp criticisms
[image: Top Photo]
N.H. State House
By Joey Cresta
April 17, 2011 2:00 AM
There are roughly 12 members of the Legislature who came here as part of a
movement to transform New Hampshire into a Free State. While their official
numbers are small, their impact has been undeniable.
Free Staters and other libertarian-leaning individuals swept into the House
amid Tea Party-spurred disavowal of incumbents last fall. Democrats and
moderate Republicans say the Free State movement has mounted a libertarian
invasion of the Legislature in an attempt to dismantle government, but the
Free Staters say they simply bolstered the Granite State's swing toward true
Republican ideals of less government and more personal freedoms and
According to its Web site, the Free State Project is a movement to "recruit
20,000 liberty-loving people" to New Hampshire to get involved in the
creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the
protection of life, liberty and property. They chose New Hampshire in 2003
over several other states as it was considered most conducive to the Free
State philosophy. The Web site lists "101 Reasons to move to New Hampshire,"
from its "famous spirit of independence" and economic advantages to its
geography and quality of life. The list includes numerous constitutional
advantages, such as protection to the "right to revolution," and absence of
a mandate to provide public education.
Freshman legislator Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, moved here in 2007 as part
of the Free State Project. He said there are a dozen Free Staters in the
Legislature, though he would not name them all as some prefer to remain
anonymous, he said.
"Once you move to New Hampshire you're not really a Free Stater anymore," he
said. Manuse said he is flattered if people think the Free State Project has
had a huge impact on the Legislature, but added they are simply part of a
larger, liberty-minded Republican Party.
It is clear the Free Staters have significant influence. Manuse is a founder
of the Natural Rights Council, which promotes the inalienable rights
identified in Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Free Staters were also
involved in forming the N.H. Liberty Alliance, which financially supports
"pro-liberty" candidates and scores legislators on how "liberty-minded" they
are and publishes results on the alliance Web site.
A post on a Yahoo! group for the Free State Project purportedly written by
Tim Condon, an early member of the Free State Project, outlines the extent
of the group's influence. While only about 900 members have moved to New
Hampshire, he wrote, House Speaker Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and Jack
Kimball, state GOP chairman, could not have been elected to their posts
without support of Free Staters in the Republican Party.
"Yes, we've got a Democrat governor. We've also got veto-proof Republican
majorities in the state House, the state Senate and the state Executive
Council," he wrote. "They all believe in the N.H. State GOP platform, which
is pretty damn good. The Democrat governor has become almost irrelevant. In
2012 we'll have a Republican governor, in touch with and supported by
Republican Free Staters from all over."
Condon, of Grafton, did not return a call seeking comment.
Free Staters have sponsored a bevy of bills this session to cut taxes,
loosen regulations and put more emphasis on personal responsibility than on
Speaker O'Brien has said New Hampshire needs more Free Staters and told
Seacoast Sunday the Free Staters are doing good things for the state. He
said they are hard-working representatives who have influence because their
peers see how much time and effort they put into the job.
"If you look at some of the efforts of these representatives, they're just
trying to make government better," he said.
But to those on other points of the political spectrum, Free State ideals
come off as extreme. Some fear they want to dismantle government, legalize
drugs, destroy public education and even form a state militia and secede
from the union. The Free State Project Web site states it is not a
secessionist movement, but adds nonviolent secessionists are welcome to
participate and work toward that goal with other like-minded activists. The
site says the project is for all pro-liberty activists, including agorists,
anarcho-capitalists, classical liberals, constitutionalists, libertarians,
voluntaryists and anyone else who agrees the maximum role of government is
the protection of life, liberty and property.
"There seems to be a number of them that are totally out of control," said
veteran state Rep. Lee Quandt, R-Exeter, who added "old guard Republicans"
fear the party will "implode" due to bickering and loss of civility. "New
Hampshire is not a screwball state," he said. "We're fiscally conservative,
but we're very proud of what we have. We're very proud of trying to keep
government as small as possible" without dismantling it.
"Their basic premise," said freshman state Rep. Tim Copeland, R-Stratham,
"is to not have any government at all. That's what I'm getting from them.
Some of it's scary. I don't understand the rationale of it."
From 2000 to 2002, Quandt co-chaired the House Republican Alliance, a group
committed to ensuring bills are consistent with the state and U.S.
constitutions and embody traditional GOP values. But he said he will not be
affiliated with it much longer due to the "fringe and extremists." "They're
not ... understanding we have to have government and we have to fund
government," he said. "With this new group it's hard to get a handle on
where they're coming from."
However, Free Staters say they identify with New Hampshire's Republican
Party, which recognizes individual liberty, personal responsibility, free
enterprise, low taxes and limited government.
"The Republican Party platform in New Hampshire represents the same ideals
that the founding fathers brought," Manuse said. "The Free State Project
recognized that in New Hampshire. Now that a bunch of us are here and
involved in the process, it shouldn't be a surprise that we're supporting
the same platform that's always been here."
The Republican Party platform for 2010-11 was adopted Sept. 25, 2010. "They
wrote it," Quandt said.
Free Stater Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, co-chairs the HRA. He said the only
areas of conflict between libertarians and moderate Republicans are where
moderates "don't want to follow their own principles."
That's not to say civility has eroded or that they "bully" the moderates to
get their way, he said. "We have very high expectations for ourselves in
terms of what we should be able to accomplish and whether we can meet our
goals. A lot of party activists would think this is the term to get these
big things done and if they see certain members obstructing them, that would
Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, said she has found a "lack of
open-mindedness" when dealing with Free Staters. "They are measuring
everything only by one yardstick. They have very knee-jerk reactions because
their goal is less government."
Some, like Quandt, fear Republicans will lose many seats in 2012 due to a
backlash against some of the more radical votes in the House this session.
However, Free Stater Rep. Seth Cohn, R-Canterbury, said, "We embraced what
New Hampshire stood for, which is personal responsibility and low taxes ...
This is the traditional New Hampshire Republican coming back in."
At a glance
Sampling of bills filed by Free Staters:
HB145: To permit audio and video recording of law enforcement officers while
in the course of their official duties.
HB 240: To eliminate statutory restrictions on the ability of voters to vote
for multiple candidates for the same office.
HB 330: To decriminalize carrying an open or concealed firearm without a
HB 331: To require state agency expenditures be posted on the state
transparency Web site.
HB 442: To permit use of medical marijuana.
HB 446: To repeal regulation of occupations including cosmetology, landscape
architecture, court reporting, athletic training, family mediation, hunting
and fishing guides, massage therapists and hawkers, peddlers and itinerant
HB 519: To repeal New Hampshire's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap and
trade program for controlling carbon dioxide emissions.
HB 569: To establish the domestic union as a valid contract and extend
certain rights to parties to a domestic union.
HB 595: To amend compulsory school attendance statutes to permit
parent-directed instruction programs and repeal the home education statutes.
HB 628: To make touching or viewing with a technological device of a
person's breasts or genitals by a government security agent without probable
cause a sexual assault.
HB 646: To eliminate various taxes and fees and tax and fee increases
enacted in fiscal years 2006 through 2010.
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