For nearly a decade, the House Freedom Caucus has disrupted the way business is done in Congress. Now, that same model is spreading to state capitals across America.

State Freedom Caucus Network President Andy Roth is no stranger to Washington’s policy fights after spending years with the Club for Growth. A few years ago, he decided it was time to turn his attention to the states. Today, the State Freedom Caucus Network is growing and currently active in 11 states that span the country.

On this episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast,” we talk about the how these conservative lawmakers are challenging the status quo and shaking up the establishment. The transcript was edited for length.

Rob Bluey: You spent nearly two decades in Washington at the Club for Growth. You and I got to know each other fighting earmarks and all sorts of other bad things that Congress was doing. What inspired you to refocus your attention on state legislatures?

Andy Roth: The network was based on the House Freedom Caucus business model. The House Freedom Caucus launched in 2015 and almost immediately—because of my position at the Club for Growth—I had a lot of state lawmakers come to me and say gosh, “I wish we had that at the state level.” So we’ve been talking about this for years.

In 2019, we were like, we’ve got to make this happen because there are 50 swamps in the 50 states that people don’t know about. And they’re arguably, I would say they are worse than the swamp in D.C.

Because of the COVID stuff, school choice, there are so many issues that impact people and their families at the state level, and no attention was paid on them. So in 2019, we launched the network.

The Georgia Freedom Caucus was the first one. Then we went to South Carolina, South Dakota, Illinois, on and on. And now we have 11 of them.

Bluey: What’s your strategy in terms of how you identify a state?

Roth: These state Freedom Caucuses have to originate organically, meaning that the lawmakers themselves have to come to us and say, “We’ve got the members. We’ve got the desire. We have the principles. Let’s do it.”

We then talk to them and we help put it together and then we launch. We found the members in Georgia, South Carolina, and elsewhere because they were ready to go. That’s the process now going forward.

A lot of state lawmakers all across the country know about us, but there are some that still don’t. But once they do, they come to us and then we go through the process and hopefully we’re able to launch.

Bluey: Could you speak to some of those characteristics of people who are involved?

Roth: They are full-spectrum conservatives, but more importantly than that, they are conservatives before they’re Republicans.

If there are Republican leaders—whether it’s the governor, whether it’s the speaker of the State House or the Senate majority leader—if they’re pushing policies that are not conservative, we only want lawmakers who are willing to fight back against them.

Not only do they have to be great on policy, but they have to be willing to fight Republicans and Democrats at every turn.

Bluey: Some of those politicians haven’t exactly welcomed the State Freedom Caucus Network. What are some of the conflicts that are playing out right now in the states?

Roth: The best example is Wyoming. It is the reddest state in the union based on Trump-Biden numbers. [Donald] Trump won that state more than any other state.

The Wyoming House has 57 Republicans to only five Democrats. So you would think that they could pass school choice, ban transgender surgeries on minors, and get pornography out of the classroom.

But when you look at the actual voting records, instead of 57 to 5, it’s 26 conservatives to 36 liberals.

Liberals are in charge of the Wyoming House and the Senate, frankly. And that’s because big-government liberals know that they cannot win in Wyoming with a D after their name. So they simply put an R after their name, run, get elected, and then vote like liberals.

Wyoming is not an outlier. Every red state is like that. And that’s why you’re seeing headlines in South Carolina, Missouri, Idaho, all the states that we’re in where we are provoking the establishment and exposing their conceit.

Bluey: What are some of the tactics that you use to achieve your goals?

Roth: In Missouri, our most recent state, we launched on Jan. 5, and in two weeks, our lawmakers got kicked off their committees, had their parking spots taken, and even some of their staff got pay deducted because they committed the horrible sin of pushing leadership to pass the conservative priorities that the entire state GOP has advocated for.

Our lawmakers in Missouri merely said, “We’re going to filibuster all gubernatorial appointments until you guys commit to actually putting good legislation on the floor.” Well, they didn’t like that, so they kicked them off committees and took their parking spots away, and so on.

In South Carolina, it was even worse than that. At the very beginning of last year’s session, leadership required every member of the Republican House to sign a loyalty pledge. And this loyalty pledge had a lot of stipulations in it, but one of them said, you cannot criticize any of your Republican colleagues.

One of our South Carolina Freedom Caucus members raised their hand and said, “So if I take a picture of the vote board after a big vote, vote and tweet that out, am I criticizing my colleagues?” And they said, “Yes.” So our South Carolina Freedom Caucus members refused to sign the loyalty pledge.

Within a couple of days, they got kicked out of the House Republican Caucus. They’re now off on an island. And I’ll tell you candidly, our Freedom Caucus members were kind of wringing their hands when leadership was threatening them. But ever since they’ve been kicked out, it’s been liberating for them because they don’t have to attend the stupid meetings where leadership finger wags at you and says, “We have to pass this huge corporate welfare bill.” They don’t have to listen to any of that anymore.

Bluey: You’ve mentioned some of the issues that they’ve confronted in the states. What are some of the other policy debates that are coming up?

Roth: In red states, budgets pass almost unanimously. If you’ve got Republicans and Democrats voting for budgets, you should be worried and the data bears that out. States are increasing their budgets year after year after year.

We fight on the budget first and foremost. And we use every opportunity to offer amendments to cut this or that. And, unfortunately, we’re still losing because the state Freedom Caucus only has a small number of members compared to the overall legislature. But in South Carolina, last year’s budget had more no votes than any time in the last 50 years.

All of the big hot topic issues that you see in the headlines our guys are fighting on—like school choice, banning transgender surgeries for minors. We really like are hitting every issue possible.

Bluey: What motivates these conservative leaders to keep the fight going and recruit others to the cause?

Roth: Honestly, each other. I knew that the establishment would retaliate. What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time is that these members really love and respect each other and they stick together.

And they do that not just on the floor of the chamber when they vote, but they meet a lot of time, they pray a lot of time with each other. And when you know you’re in a trench, fighting against somebody, knowing that the person to your left and to your right have your back, that motivates everything.

In a lot of these red states, the grassroots are kind of demoralized. They see what’s going on in D.C. They see that nothing’s going on in their state capital. But now, for the first time, they have a Freedom Caucus at their state capital not only voting with them, but being very loud and vocal.

Bluey: Can you share any thoughts on where you might go next?

Roth: Texas just had their big primaries last week. It was beautiful. The governor, the attorney general, the lieutenant governor, even President Trump endorsed candidates against liberal Republican incumbents, and in a lot of cases they won.

We have had our eye on Texas for a long time, but things were so corrupt there and so bad in Austin, I joke that it’s like a Spanish soap opera because it’s not only policy disputes, it’s personalities disputes.

Then there’s other states like Oklahoma and Ohio that I think we could be in fairly quickly.

I am worried about Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis has done such a great job there that there’s almost an attitude of we don’t need a Florida Freedom Caucus.

My argument to them is DeSantis isn’t going to be there forever and the great thing about state Freedom Caucuses is that they live in perpetuity. Lawmakers will come and go but you can always count on a state Freedom Caucus to advance conservative policies.

Bluey: How can people support your organization?

Roth: I love that question. We are a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4), so what that means is that we have an educational arm and an advocacy arm. The State Freedom Caucus Network is our mothership. And then State Freedom Caucus Foundation is our educational arm. Just go to our website and you can give to either one.

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