A report from Hank Hayes:
Amid the roar from engines inside Bristol Motor Speedway, a grass-roots conservative group tried outside the track to put the pedal to the metal on increasing voter turnout.
American Majority distributed printed information attacking the federal government’s debt only steps away from its NASCAR Nationwide series show car and five driving simulators inside its tent on BMS’ Vendor Row.
One American Majority card distributed from the tent read: “For too long, the media, Hollywood and entrenched politicians have had a louder voice in shaping the future of this nation than the American people. It’s time to put Americans back in the driver’s seat!”
The Purcellville, Va.-based group is sponsoring a Nationwide series car for more than 30 NASCAR races this year with rookie driver Jason Bowles behind the wheel of a red, white and blue Dodge Challenger.
“He had a few mechanical problems at one of the races, but that’s behind us,” American Majority National Executive Director Matt Robbins said of Bowles.
The nonprofit 501 group wants Bowles to win, but Robbins said its grand plan is to get the NASCAR nation registered to vote “and support fiscally conservative policies” in the November general election.
“We don’t care if they are Democrats, Republicans or independents,” Robbins said. “We believe they are a conservative and fiscally responsible audience. We need to get them registered and remind them this election matters.”
Of NASCAR’s estimated 76 million fans, Robbins said: “We think there’s about 35 to 40 percent who don’t vote regularly and are apathetic.”
At its BMS tent, American Majority was offering free NASCAR tickets in exchange for a pledge to vote for less spending. That same offer exists on one of its Web sites — www. pledgetovote.com .
The driving simulators, said Robbins, give the organization an informal introduction to NASCAR fans.
“We get to talk to them one on one, and they don’t mind giving us their e-mail address or a phone number. We can get them to volunteer later in the year,” Robbins explained.
To date, the political group says it has conducted 564 training sessions in 44 different states and worked with nearly 20,000 people and about 1,900 political candidates.
Robbins said American Majority gets money for its $2 million to $3 million operating budget from individual and not corporate donors.
Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a campaign finance tracking organization, says American Majority does not disclose those individual donors. Nonprofit 501 groups aren’t legally required to disclose information about their donors, CRP adds.
Robbins acknowledged American Majority does support Tea Party groups, but he pointed out it was founded “before the Tea Party was a whisper in anybody’s brain.”
American Majority was founded in early 2008 by Ned Ryun, a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the son of ex-Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun.
CRP describes American Majority as a group “that has both supported Republicans and opposed Democrats” running for political office.
“We’re anti anybody who has blown the deficit up so high,” Robbins stressed.