'Contract From America' Rose From Obscurity

Tuesday, 23 Feb 2010 03:01 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ryan Hecker got the idea while he was shaving: Why not hold politicians accountable to conservative principles with a "Contract from America"?

Bookish and intense, Hecker, 29, is hardly the sort of person you would expect to galvanize a political movement. But as a Harvard Law School graduate and a lawyer with Vinson and Elkins in Houston, Hecker has impressive credentials.

He has another thing going for him: outrage.

Outrage was what he was feeling about the Bush administration’s plan to bail out banks when he thought up the Contract from America in December 2008. In contrast to Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the new contract would bubble up from the grass roots, setting forth principles that politicians would be asked to embrace.

Now, tens of thousands of activists have voted on what they consider the top 10 principles.

At a press conference at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, Hecker and other Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, Sen. Jim DeMint, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, Liberty Central, and Regular Folks United announced plans to unveil the final document on April 15.

Despite the growing power of his concept, until now, no one in the media has interviewed Hecker about his background and how he arrived at the idea for the contract.

Hecker tells Newsmax he grew up in a liberal family in Manalapan, N.J. His father taught math at a middle school and at the College of Staten Island, where his mother also taught math. Hecker’s uncle, Democrat Marty Markowitz, is Brooklyn’s borough president.

When Hecker was 16, Hecker’s congressman, Republican Michael J. Pappas, got him a page job, which exposed him to the arguments of Republicans on the Hill.

“A lot of the pages were running around delivering packages all day, but my job was to sit in the cloakroom and wait for phone calls and go on the floor,” Hecker says. “So I witnessed a lot of debates.”

While attending New York University, Hecker joined a debate team and was impressed by the arguments of conservatives who leaned toward being libertarian.

“The strongest arguments, especially on economic and individual rights issues, were for me always the conservative position,” Hecker recalls.
Hecker was not shy about letting his parents know that he had become a Republican.

“My mom still thinks like, Oh, you’re doing what you’re doing, and it’s not what I agree with, but I’m proud of you,” Hecker says.

Hecker had no problem breaking the news to his future wife, Niru. Born in the U.S. of parents from India, she is a conservative who met Hecker when she was attending Bryn Mawr and debated him.

In 2005, Hecker graduated cum laude from Harvard and was hired by Sullivan and Cromwell in New York. After two years, he left the law firm to join the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani as an opposition researcher.

When the campaign was over, Hecker joined the law firm of Vinson and Elkins in Houston, where his wife had begun a residency in neurosurgery.

Last Feb. 27, Hecker was on his way to lunch and ran into a rally of conservatives. He joined them and helped organize a rally on April 15 by the Houston Tea Party Society, where he became an executive board member. Hecker later became a board member of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the leading tea party groups in the country.

In September 2009, Hecker launched the ContractfromAmerica.com Web site. The idea is to enlist candidates from both parties to subscribe to such goals as “Stop the Tax Hikes,” “Stop the Pork,” and “End Runaway Government Spending.”

“The Contract from America is based on the principles of individual liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government,” Hecker says. “The goal is to really create a grass-roots feeling that we can make a difference, that individuals can make a difference, and that it’s time for the Republicans and the Democrats and politicians in general to listen to the people.

Obviously, the contract is not legally binding, but the idea is we’re holding you accountable to it.”

One of the more controversial proposed principles is “Audit the Fed.” As with other federal agencies, the General Accountability Office audits the Fed but has no audit authority over the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, foreign transactions, and Federal Open Market Committee operations.

When asked about that, Hecker says, “These were ideas that were submitted by the people on this Web site. More than 100,000 people visited and submitted over a thousand ideas, and then we did a series of very tedious surveys to narrow all those ideas down to 22 ideas. The final document is not what I want, necessarily, personally, and I really can’t speak to whether I would want to audit the Fed. Right now it’s up to a vote, and if the people don’t want ‘Audit the Fed,’ then it won’t be in there.”

Asked which possible presidential contender he favors, Hecker hems and haws. He finally says he is partial to Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana or “someone like him.”

Now a national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, Hecker eschews being known as a leader of the grass-roots movement.

“My dream, at least for the Contract from America, is that no one knows by the end who was the person who promoted it or who the project leader was,” Hecker says. “This document is most powerful if it’s faceless and comes from the grass roots. When we unveil the final document on April 15, everyone should feel that they own it.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.

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