350,000 conservatives pledge to block Obama's 'socialistic' agenda
Muriel Kane
Published: Monday January 19, 2009

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A conservative group, Grassfire.org, announced on Monday that its online petition pledging "patriotic" opposition to President-elect Barack Obama has gathered 350,000 signatures. (By presstime, the groups website was claiming a total of 371,453.)

Grassfire's founder, Steve Elliot, stated, "This is not a personal attack on Barack Obama. On the contrary, this is a call to action for conservatives who profess love for our country and respect for our institutions. Our disagreements with the President are based in ideology and public policy only. From this firm foundation we are mounting a patriotic, resilient, conservative resistance to Obama's agenda."

However, the group's attempt to present itself as moderate and principled is undercut by its own website, which is much shriller in tone and appears designed to create a sense of alarm among conservatives.

Grassfire warns its readers, "The 'transformational' figure who will 'change the world' is now in charge, and he’s on a mission. Emboldened by an overwhelming electoral victory and a near-supermajority in Congress, President-elect Obama and his allies are preparing to implement his liberal, 'post-American' agenda. Simply put, what President-elect Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress have in store has the potential to rapidly move America to the socialist Left."

The site then goes on to list such "threats to our liberties" as "socialistic wealth redistribution," "environmental extremism," and "silencing conservatives through the Fairness Doctrine."

Grassfire's would-be public image of serious-minded conservative opposition is also diminished by its somewhat shadowy nature. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dimitri Vassilaros suggested last spring, "For an organization that claims 'We are grassroots to the core,' Grassfire.org acts as if it is hiding a lot of AstroTurf."

Vassilaros explained that when he attempted to review Grassfire's Steve Elliott by phone, "Mr. Elliott said that he would speak with me only about his petition drive and that any background questions should be handled by spokesman Ron De Jong. Elliott then hung up. ... When asked a few times about the organization's finances, Mr. De Jong first said he didn't know the size of the organization that he speaks for. He also said he 'could ask around' about that 990 form. When I offered to ask the bookkeeper for him, De Jong said, 'She will call, dude. Relax. I'll take care of it for you. I am a man of my word.' As of Thursday noon, no one had called this dude. "

Grassfire was founded in 2000 and became known as a consistent supporter of Bush administration policies and diehard opponent of "radical leftist organizations like MoveOn.org." During the 2003-04 presidential campaign, it was represented by the firm of Shirley & Banister, which at that time was also serving a consultant for the Republican National Committee and handling public relations for the anti-Kerry film Stolen Honor.

Even then, Grassfire was dodgy about its finances, and when the watchdog group Public Citizen asked Shirley & Banister president Craig Shirley for help in getting access to Grassfire's IRS application for tax exempt status, Shirley responded by cc'ing them on a threatening email to one of his staffers:

"Public Citizen is an ultra-leftist, anti-conservative, anti-Bush organization. If they bother you one more time, please advise me soonest and I will have the lawyers alert the FBI and the Virginia Attorney General's office to investigate [Public Citizen Senior Researcher Taylor] Lincoln and Public Citizen for any and all laws they may have broken and to prosecute both Mr. Lincoln and Public Citizen to the fullest extent of the law."

Grassfire's relationship with Shirley & Banister apparnelty ended after the 2004 election, and these days it appears to enjoy no such high-level support. Its current petition asking for "grassroots citizens who will Join The Resistance" originally aimed to garner 500,000 signatures by Inauguration Day but is far short of that goal.

Meanwhile, Grassfire may be losing the support of those who are even further to the right by its insistence that "we will not, like our opponents, reject Barack Obama’s Presidency and dismiss it as somehow unjust, immoral or illegitimate. ... Conservatives are not rebellious – we understand authority."

A site calling itself Freedom Fighter Radio asks, more passionately than grammatically, "What the hell? show respect for Obama? Has Grass fire been smoking some grass? The level of respect a leader should get should be based upon the level of respect they give our country and Constitution which in Hussain Obama’s case is zero. So now Grassfire.org is asking for donations dont give them a damn dime and encourage all patriots to do the same boycott this group which has become PC the time to be nice is over. You hear that Steve Elliot anytime anywhere I challenge you to a debate."