The former Arizona director of a leading tea party group says he has scrapped plans to deliver Valentine’s Day cards that featured murderous dictators, including Adolf Hitler, to Republican lawmakers believed to oppose anti-union legislation.
This morning, Stephen Viramontes, the state director of FreedomWorks in Arizona in 2012, wrote on his Twitter page that he would “be down at the Capitol shortly to give a few legislators some (Valentine’s Day) cards.” The post included a photo of a card that featured a drawing of Hitler along with the words “Be Mein.”
He later posted that Hitler was one of six different dictators featured on a set of cards he planned to distribute to “all those (lawmakers) needing some help in supporting and passing #PaycheckProtection.”
The cards were designed by Ben Kling, a Boston-area artist who has created Valentine’s Day cards using the likenesses of famous dictators, philosophers, U.S. statesmen, celebrities and other historical figures.
The other cards in the set Viramontes indicated he planned to distribute featured dictators Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. Two other political philosophers, Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky, were also featured on cards.
In an interview an hour after he first posted a picture of the card featuring Hitler, Viramontes said he had decided against actually delivering the cards to lawmakers. He said the cards were “funny, but distasteful.”
Viramontes said FreedomWorks is considering a large-scale grassroots effort in Arizona to pass legislation designed to limit the ability of public employee unions to collect money from their members for use in political efforts.
Though he was the group’s Arizona director in 2012, Viramontes said he has been working with the group on an informal basis since his contract expired. He characterized his current role as the interim director, and said he will fill that role in an official capacity if FreedomWorks opts to get involved in any Arizona issues.
However, he stressed that his actions regarding the Valentine’s Day cards were not affiliated with FreedomWorks, as his employment contract with the organization ended in November 2012.
Several Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require government employees to annually authorize automatic paycheck deductions to unions. A similar law approved in 2011 was struck down by the courts because it exempted police officers and firefighters. The new legislation would apply to all government employees.
In 2012, similar legislation won approval in the Senate, but was never debated on the floor of the House of Representatives. House Speaker Andy Tobin said he prevented the bill from being debated and voted on by the entire body because it didn’t have the support of his Republican members it needed to pass.
Tobin says this year’s legislation won’t be considered in the House unless the Senate approves its own bills.
Viramontes said FreedomWorks will initially focus on the Senate, where SB1182 is awaiting floor debate. He said there are at least three Republicans – Majority Leader John McComish, Rich Crandall and Bob Worsley – who have “hinted that they’re wavering on the issue of supporting it.
Viramontes’ planned use of cards featuring Hitler, Stalin and other leaders who are estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of more than 65 million people comes on the same day that nonprofit liberal news magazine Mother Jones posted a story on its website about an internal investigation that was sparked after FreedomWorks’ executives made a video of a woman wearing a Hillary Clinton mask having sex with a woman in a panda suit.
The video was intended to be shown at FreePac, a July 2012 conference in Dallas, but was scrapped after FreedomWorks employees complained.
Although he sent out a series of tweets about the cards, some of which showed pictures of them, Viramontes said after an initial version of this story was published that he never planned to give the cards to lawmakers and said he doesn’t support the actions or beliefs of any of the dictators on the cards.
“It was never something I was really, seriously going to do,” he said. “It was probably bad judgment on my part to even joke about it.
“Those that know me get the humor.”