||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (November 2012)|
Jim Babka in 2004
|Born||March 14, 1968|
|Occupation||Writer, Public Policy Expert, Grassroots Activist, Talk-show host|
|Children||Jessica, Stephen, Andrew|
|Parents||James Sr and Joyce|
Early life and education
Jim Babka was born in Cleveland, Ohio to James Sr and Joyce Babka. He was raised in Twinsburg Ohio. His mother died in a car accident in May 1978.
Babka graduated from Baptist Christian School in Orange Village, Ohio, where he had been class President in 10th grade.
Babka's father, an auto-parts company executive, was a conservative Republican who had supported Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Jim was used to hearing politics discussed regularly, and found that social studies classes came easy to him. By ninth grade he recognized that he wanted to go into a career involving political action..
Babka attended the University of Akron where he majored in political science and minored in business management. Early in his college career he became involved in the College Republicans. But he quickly became disillusioned by politics. Favoritism, petty in-fighting, and criminal corruption in the college organization caused Babka to seek other outlets to make a difference.
He took over a virtually defunct and in-debt, independent newspaper called The Buchtel Helm. Working with friends he revived it, and served as Editor-in-Chief for one year. The following year, he turned over editing and publishing responsibilities to two other students, Chet Sutherland and Jeffrey Winter, respectively. But Babka served as President of the non-profit organization that produced the paper, and continued to write for it. The three students renamed the paper The U of A Times.
In 1992, Babka met Susanne DiPuccio. The couple married in March 1994. They lived in Akron as Jim tried a number of business, most notably as a licensed realtor and a real estate investor/landlord. By 1999 they had a daughter and two sons, all of whom have been homeschooled. The family are Christians with Wesleyan and Anabaptist leanings, who have been active in church.
Babka hadn't done anything political for a few years, but he was reinvigorated by the Republican Revolution of 1994, and particularly by a speech Newt Gingrich gave to the incoming freshman Republicans. In that speech, Gingrich, who stood in front of a high-rise, glass back-drop of Washington, DC, pointed out that Article I, Section 7 said that all spending bills originated in the House. That means, Gingrich continued, that if we zero out the funding for these programs, the good people who work in these buildings will go home.
Babka initially tried to get involved in some 1996 campaigns, and he did ultimately volunteer in one. But the Gingrich-led revolution stalled, and Babka was turned off by the GOP when they selected a big-government candidate, Bob Dole, to be the party nominee.
Babka's college friend Chet Sutherland had joined the Libertarian Party. Babka decided to watch his friend's party on C-SPAN as they held their nominating convention. He was impressed by their nominee, Harry Browne. While watching Harry Browne's first media appearance following the convention, Babka realized that he could be a libertarian, and that Harry Browne would get his vote.
Sutherland took Babka to a campaign event where he met Harry Browne for the first time, as well as the Libertarian Party of Ohio Chairman, Jack Matheney. The Chairman invited Babka to start a local chapter for the party. The Summit-Portage Libertarian Party, led by Babka and Sutherland, held their first meeting in October, 1996, with ten people signing the charter. Two years later, the group would have over 50 members.
But Babka rose quickly in the party. Within months he joined the state party executive committee, and then he became state party fundraising director. He co-authored the state party's strategic plan, and launched a ballot access drive, ultimately completed for the year 2000. The party had ballot status only once before, 1982. In late 1997 Matheney announced he would step down from his post, and endorsed Babka to be the new state chair.
Babka was elected state chair in April 1998, and re-elected without opposition in 1999. In the fall of '98, Babka had his first paid campaign job, working for Jim Schrader who was running for Congress. He was paid only $65 for a four-day work week.
As Chair, Babka continued the ballot drive and launched a candidate recruitment drive, which enabled the Libertarians to go from running only one candidate in 1998 (Schrader), to running 70 candidates across the state in 2000. But Babka didn't quite finish either project, nor his term as Chair, when he accepted an offer to work on the national campaign. Babka was the press secretary for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne in 2000.
Babka also worked as a paid consultant for Libertarian Bill Redpath in his run for Virginia Governor in 2001. But bitter party infighting and mud-dragging of the man who had hired him to work on the Browne campaign, Perry Willis, discouraged him once again. Babka became convinced that the party itself was managed in contradiction of its own principles, and he didn't like who he became as a result of playing politics. He also surrendered hope of eventual electoral success. He gave up his Libertarian Party membership in October 2003.
Public policy education
After the 2000 campaign was over, Harry Browne and Perry Willis formed the American Liberty Foundation, and Willis, the President of the organization, asked Babka to come on board as the Vice President. The group produced a series of Hollywood TV ads in defense of the private ownership of firearms as a public good.
In addition, Willis, Browne, Babka, and Stephanie Yanik started RealCampaignReform.org, Inc. Babka was named the President of this project. The group lobbied against McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, which ultimately passed as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Immediately, Babka went to work with his attorneys to organize a group of plaintiffs to challenge the law. Congressman Ron Paul was the lead plaintiff, making their case, Paul v. FEC. RealCampaignReform.org was joined by Gun Owners of America, Citizens United, Massachusetts candidates Carla Howell and Michael Cloud, and others. Even though the group made a unique "free press" argument, they were consolidated with several other plaintiff groups, and the case was named McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Babka was present during oral arguments at both the District Court and Supreme Court levels. It was during this effort to fight what Babka called "Incumbent Protection Acts" that he wrote his first report, "Liberty for Citizens, or Only for Politicians?"
By September 2001, the combination of party infighting, lingering campaign matters, and a sharp decline in the fortunes of supporters who had been at the forefront of the dot-com bubble left American Liberty Foundation President Perry Willis burnt out and the foundation itself deep in debt. Willis stepped down, and Babka became the president on September 9, 2001. On top of the debt, the ads had yet to air on TV. Two days later the attention of the nation turned to 9/11 and the victims' families. Yet despite these setbacks, by January, the ads aired on national TV.
The American Liberty Foundation launched ArmedAndSecure.org, branding their TV ad campaign, and adding radio spots and an educational website to it. As part of the Armed & Secure educational effort, Harry Browne, the foundation's Director of Public Policy, wrote and recorded a CD titled, "How You Can Make Your Community (Much) Safer." Babka wrote a report titled, "How to Persuade Your Friends & Family Guns Save Lives & Reduce Crime."
After a survey of their supporters, the American Liberty Foundation team began building a new website, DownsizeDC.org—a name suggested by Steve Dasbach. The group had observed that there were tax-and-spend liberals and borrow-and-spend conservatives; the problem in Washington, DC, is the spending. Babka wrote a report in conjunction with this website as well, dedicated to his father who died of cancer in April 2003, and titled, "How the FDA Helped Kill My Father."
However, before the foundation team could complete the new Downsize DC site, they were inspired by Harry Browne, Jude Wanniski, and Attorney Bill Olson to launch a site called TruthAboutWar.org. The site was launched in February, 2003, just a bit more than seven weeks before the United States would invade Iraq. It included several bold claims with a heavy dose of citations, including that assertion that there were no WMDs in Iraq. A series of radio ads, produced by Kristin Overn, were broadcast in several major cities. In most cities, they were chased out after one week of broadcasting because the stations were hearing from angry listeners. In addition, Babka even received a death threat via email. Babka later noted that millions of dollars by major intelligence agencies turned out to be so wrong, while "my little team of roughly a half-dozen folks, nearly all of whom were volunteers, with a budget of a just a few thousand dollars, (could) get so many things so right."
The American Liberty Foundation model wasn't taking off. The group's base was too small to maintain forward momentum and to keep ads on national TV. In addition, RealCampaignReform.org lost both of its claims in the Supreme Court case by 6-3 and 5-4 margins. Babka noted that incumbents had closed the door to change by electoral means, and he began to seek a different way to get the message out to everyone, everywhere, every day. To do that, he recognized an army was needed—a group of people so numerous that they could afford to spread the message of freedom and small government far and wide, so that it would become familiar and comfortable, rather than strange and fringe.
Babka wrote a column published at WorldNetDaily called, "The Deliciously Absurd Plan of the NRA," and was invited on to National Public Radio to talk about it. The NRA had led another plaintiff action in the McConnell v FEC case, and the group's President, Wayne LaPierre had promised that he would build an institutional press empire to retain his group's First Amendment rights to comment on elections. Babka loved LaPierre's response, and began suggesting that perhaps the media itself should be lobbied by the grassroots, "just like Congress is."
Lobbying remained the one, and perhaps best way to effect change. Babka began an inventory of his team's strengths and weaknesses, and Steve Dasbach, who was consulting with Downsize DC at this point, recommended that they set up a small government group that was just like MoveOn.org. Using a system that allowed people to inform and educate their members of Congress, MoveOn grew from an email to 100 people to over 1 million in just a few years time.
Reorganization began. American Liberty Foundation became Downsize DC Foundation, and the Foundation invited RealCampaignReform.org, Inc. to be an online public and Congressional education organization and website called DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
The new website, built by Magdalena Donea, one of the 100 people who received the first MoveOn message, launched on July 14, 2004. A new and more robust version of the site was built by Robert O'Gwynn and launched four years later to the day. As of mid-December, 2008, 31,358 users have registered to use the site, and sent more than 1,350,316 messages to Congress. The group claims to have won 16 victories in Congress, primarily by working in coalition with other groups, be they liberal-progressive, conservative, populist, green, or libertarian. As of July 31, 2009, the Downsize DC Army, the number of subscribers to the free e-mail newsletter, the Downsizer-Dispatch, is 27,615.
Babka described Downsize DC and its objectives to Wikinews:
"DownsizeDC.org is an organization that makes it easy for every day citizens, with jobs and busy lives, to express their wishes to their two Senators and Representative. It's free and quite easy to use. The DownsizeDC.org system combines education, recruitment, and activism into one simple, seamless process. And once someone sends a message, they begin receiving our free email newsletter, or as we prefer to describe it, they become part of the Downsize DC Army. Voltaire said, "God tends to be on the side of the bigger battalions." And we're looking to build the Downsize DC Army so large that Congress cannot afford to ignore us – so big that we can get our message of small, Constitutionally-limited government out everywhere."
In late 2007, Jim Babka co-authored his fourth report. Along with Perry Willis, he wrote "The Downsize DC Vision." The Vision report describes the strategy behind Downsize DC, inviting the reader to "ignore the axiom" that we have to get the right people elected to public office in order to change government.
The group has also assembled a reform plan, the Downsize DC Agenda, crafting and backing bills like, The Read the Bills Act, The Write the Laws Act, and the One Subject at a Time Act. Grover Norquist gave Downsize DC and the Read the Bills Act a plug in his latest book, "Leave Us Alone," and the transpartisan bill has attracted interest from major talk shows and too many blogs to count.
Jim Babka regularly appears on radio talk shows, and in April 2005, began hosting his own one hour radio talk show, each Sunday afternoon, on the Genesis Communications Network. Over time, the popularity of the show expanded, and in January 2008, the network expanded Jim's show to two hours. For one year it was sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project. And for the entire time it aired, it was sponsored by Gun Owners of America. Jim's final broadcast was August 24, 2008. He would sign-off his show by saying, "Support the troops -- by bringing them home. Bye, bye!"
Babka has guest-hosted other programs, including Harry Browne's political show for all but two of the last eight months of Mr. Browne's life. He conducted two weeks of tribute episodes after Mr. Browne's passing that featured live guests and recorded memorials friends and associates, as well as figures like Larry Elder, David Nolan, Lew Rockwell, and Ron Paul.
In 2004, Babka also launched a website, CultureRepair.com, with one product—a CD titled, "Why Conservative Christians Are Re-evaluating George W. Bush." The CD sold more than 600 copies. Other CDs were planned, but he never found the time to get back to the project.
Babka joined the group blog PositiveLiberty.com in November 2007. This outlet gives him a chance to write about his political interests and much more. Babka had his own blog from 2003 to 2005. He shocked many of his friends when he came out in opposition to Intelligent Design, and in favor of Theistic Evolution.
Babka has deep interests in several subjects, and he told radio host Gary Nolan that since he was freed of his radio show hosting responsibility, he's begun working on writing his own books.
- [dead link]
- Linked-In bio of Jim Babka http://www.linkedin.com/pub/3/ba8/359
- Referenced on page 48 of a paper for the National Council for Research on Women http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/13/34/5d.pdf
- Archived page of America's 1st Choice, Richard Hughes Realty http://web.archive.org/web/19990424145625/http://www.americas1st.com/
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- LPO Press Release, June 1999 http://web.archive.org/web/20041101192438/http://lpo.org/pressreleases/LibertarianLeadersSelected%206-8-1999.pdf
- "Home". American Liberty Foundation. 2004-05-28. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "Armed & Secure - Home". Armedandsecure.org. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "washingtonpost.com". Washingtonpost.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "Rcr - Liberty For Citizens, Or Only For Politicians?". Realcampaignreform.org. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "Truth About War [intro]". Truthaboutwar.org. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "The deliciously absurd plan of the NRA". Worldnetdaily.com. 2003-12-10. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "The Right to Air Arms Transcript". On The Media. 2003-12-13. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- Wilson, James (2008-12-17). "Do you want my $25,000?". Downsizedc.org. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- Final numbers for July, Aug. 3, 2009
- "Wikinews interviews Jim Babka, chair of Libertarian organization Downsize DC - Wikinews, the free news source". En.wikinews.org. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
- "Babka Blog". Jimbabka.com. 2005-08-17. Retrieved 2013-12-10.