Conference focuses on limited government
JANESVILLE Freedom is defined in many ways, but for a group convening in Janesville on Sunday, there was a uniting theme: Freedom means limited government.
One of the speakers at the 2012 Southern Wisconsin Freedom Conference at the Holiday Inn Express and Convention Center, Kirsten Lombard of Madison, defined limited government. About 100 people braved rainy, windy conditions to attend the meeting.
"Section 8 Article 1 of the Constitution spells out the powers of the federal government," said Lombard, the organizer of Wisconsin 9/12 Project, a conservative organization that attempts to educate through the use of constitutional documents and activist training. "If it's not in Article 1, government should not be doing it."
While Lombard focused on the Constitution, Three Percenters emphasized a return to constitutional rights.
"In 1775, 3 percent of the population of our country fought tyranny and King George III for the freedoms we enjoy today," said Sean Anderson of Janesville, the 7th District commander of Three Percenters. The district includes Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota and South Dakota.
"We see ourselves as freedom fighters," said Anderson, who helped at a booth at the convention. "We are the 3 percent who believe that the rights fought for in 1775 are being taken away."
The constitutional violations range from local to national matters, Anderson said.
"We are forced to purchase dog licenses, and farmers can't sell raw milk," Anderson said. "Where is that addressed in the Constitution?
"In 1775, we fought taxation without representation," he said. "That's happening again."
Representing concerns about "smart meters" at the convention was Dolores Kersten of Madison.
"We are very concerned about these utility smart meters that transmit signals that are collected through wireless means and end up in the utility's computer system," Kersten said. "We recently heard a speaker on (information technology) issues at a university forum in Madison reveal the security risks of these systems. He said you can purchase a gizmo on eBay that can hack into this system."
Kersten said she has two main concerns with smart meters.
"First of all is the cost," she said. "The Madison water utility has raised the residential rate 33 percent in the last three years and wants to raise the rate another 12 percent for 2013. Rates go up, in part, to fund these new metering systems."
Kersten is also concerned about privacy.
"The less strangers know about us, the better," she said. "I'm concerned that the third party doctrine will apply, and the utility can sell this information."
Lombard said Sunday's Freedom Convention is part of a movement the media has tried to define as the tea party. She pointed out that there's room for diversity within the organization no matter what it's called.
"There are differences of opinions on specific issues," she said. "There are, however, three basic principles that unite the movement," Lombard said.
"We all believe in a smaller, less intrusive government; the restoration of personal freedoms and a return to economic freedom in which government would simply get out of the way and let a free market function."
Lombard did not hesitate to defend her position when asked about those who want less government but benefit from such programs as Social Security and Medicare.
"I maintain those programs are not in Section 8 and, therefore, should be, over time, abolished," she said. "We are the greatest and most charitable people on Earth, and that's where those programs belong."
Sunday's conference displayed no evidence of any tea party organization and was not a function of the Republican Party.
"By law, we cannot be involved with other political organizations," Jason Mielke, chairman of the Republican Party of Rock County, said earlier. "I know of no members of our organization who are involved in this project."
That doesn't mean Republicans are not interested in or don't attend such gatherings, Mielke said.
"Diversity in thought on issues is important to us," he said. "It's also important that all voices be heard. That why it's important that events like this are held."