In the following featured article by Scott Shane, Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson was featured in a profile, cover-story in The New York Times on September 25th.
A Critic Finds Obama Policies a Perfect Target
Bill Wilson leads a conservative group that vociferously fights President Obama's proposals.
By SCOTT SHANE
FAIRFAX, Va. - It is the weekly research meeting at Americans for Limited Government, and Bill Wilson is presiding with gusto. The Obama administration is serving up so many rich targets that Mr. Wilson and his crew of young conservatives hardly know where to begin.
There is the small, minority-owned firm with deep ties to President Obama's Chicago backers, made eligible by the Federal Reserve to handle potentially lucrative credit deals.
"I want to know how these firms are picked and who picked them," Mr. Wilson, the group's president, tells his eager researchers.
There is the Georgetown University professor, nominated for a top State Department post, who Mr. Wilson thinks is way too soft on Fidel Castro of Cuba and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. He is pleased that a Republican senator has put a hold on the nomination.
There are three new appointees to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities - in the hunt for political vulnerabilities, no post is too humble to scrutinize.
"Are they for using the arts as propaganda, as opposed to just art?" Mr. Wilson asks. The researchers scribble notes.
Last November, when Mr. Obama won 53 percent of the vote and stirred many Americans with soaring rhetoric about what his administration might achieve, pundits wondered whether the election marked a symbolic end of the "government is the problem" era that Ronald Reagan had started. But eight months into Mr. Obama's presidency, his proposals have hugely energized his opposition.
A longtime Boy Scout leader with a broad light bulb of a forehead, Mr. Wilson, 56, seems to take avuncular pleasure in mentoring his young staff members at Americans for Limited Government, a nonprofit advocacy group with a $4 million budget. In person, he is no obvious firebrand.
But for more than 30 years, migrating through groups pushing right-to-work laws, term limits and school choice, he has been a member of Washington's permanent class of ideological activists. Appointed to no government post, elected to no office, they populate research and advocacy groups with names that often seem to include the word "American," laboring to steer the ship of state to the left or right.
A look at Mr. Wilson and his 18 staff members — one modest island in the sprawling archipelago of conservative groups based in and around Washington — shows how valuable it is proving to have a well-defined enemy.
"Obama has so heightened the debate over the proper role of government that it's inspired a lot of people to get involved," Mr. Wilson said.
"It isn't one issue — health care, or cap and trade, or one or another appointee," he said. "It's that government consumes more and more of what we call personal liberty."
Mr. Wilson's fight is not primarily partisan. For him, President George W. Bush was a decidedly mixed bag; he liked the tax cuts but thought the USA Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare drug program were egregious federal power-grabs. He sat out the 2008 presidential election — while he strongly opposed Mr. Obama, he loathed the campaign finance law of which Senator John McCain was a co-author.
Now, however, with Mr. Obama in the White House, Mr. Wilson has a fully satisfying target. "We face," he wrote shortly after Mr. Obama took office, "what I personally believe is the greatest threat ever to individual freedom and democratic rule."
Since then, Americans for Limited Government has slammed the president, his programs, his aides, his allies and his nominees without restraint. After getting lessons from his Web-savvy son and daughter in 2007, Mr. Wilson has worked to build the group's presence on the Internet.
Today, the group says, its daily barrage of e-mail messages go to more than 90,000 conservative advocates and appear on its main site, GetLiberty.org. Its NetRightNation.com site allows handy access to thousands of local conservative blogs, sorted by state and issue. Together, they feed a ferociously negative view of the administration to talk radio hosts, Web pundits, Congressional aides and small-town newspaper columnists.
Americans for Limited Government does not specialize in nuance. A recent e-mail message labeled Mr. Obama "the biggest liar of all," and a piece on Mr. Obama's enthusiasm for the national volunteer service agency AmeriCorps suggested a parallel with Hitler Youth.
A call for the resignation of Representative Charles B. Rangel, the Democratic House veteran who is under an ethics investigation, included a fake photograph of the congressman behind bars. The seven senators who voted against stripping federal financing from the community-organizing group Acorn were tagged the "Sordid Seven." (And — full disclosure — an item on the financial outlook of The New York Times said the newspaper "makes the Titanic look like the Good Ship Lollipop.")
Mr. Wilson seemed a bit abashed about the vitriol, but he said a more restrained voice would be lost in the political cacophony. "If I need to make my point, I'm going to make it in a provocative manner, because that's how it attracts attention," he said.
While Americans for Limited Government claims 400,000 members in its literature, that turns out to be wishful thinking; that is the number of "conservatives" on an e-mail list it bought from a marketing vendor. And the group cannot claim credit for any single major victory against the administration to date. But its relentless agitation has clearly helped rally the opposition.
A Google search finds the group's commentaries on hundreds of Web sites, and its prolific opposition research turns up in many anti-Obama efforts.
In April, five months before the resignation under fire of Van Jones, a White House environmental official, Americans for Limited Government distributed a detailed "Appointee Alert" compiling his provocative past statements.
"They've done quite a bit to reach out to the blogger community," said Michael Swartz, a writer and out-of-work architect in Salisbury, Md., who runs the conservative Monoblogue.us site. "Sometimes I use their stuff straight up. Sometimes I use it for my own writing."
Mr. Wilson grew up in a military family in rural Maryland, studied political science at the University of Delaware and got his start working for Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Delaware primary. He spent his early career with the National Right to Work Committee, including several years roaming the country in an old Mercury Bobcat.
In 1992, he was contacted by Howard Rich, a New York real estate magnate who has poured much of his fortune into conservative causes.
The relationship has lasted, and Mr. Rich has been a crucial financer of Mr. Wilson's efforts at a series of organizations: U.S. Term Limits, Parents in Charge and Americans for Limited Government.
The antigovernment causes Mr. Wilson has championed are often labeled libertarian. But he shuns the term, saying the Libertarian Party's electoral support is barely detectable. His goal of "rolling back the government," he said, is not the cause of a few cranks.
"I was raised to believe and have always believed that small government is best," he said. "And that is the majority view of the American people."