A right-wing convention scheduled to take place in Tampa in March bears an ambitious title, and an equally ambitious goal: “Save America.”
“Can America Be Saved?” asks the homepage of the Save America Convention, before rattling off a host of challenges facing the country: “the debt crisis, decline of the U.S. dollar, talk of hyperinflation and the erosion of our personal liberties.” Luckily, the Save America event will offer “solutions” to the “crisis,” and promises nothing less than “a blueprint to save both our economy and our country.”
“The country’s been taken over,” says John Michael Chambers, the Florida man organizing the event, “and we have to take it back.”
The Save America Convention is the largest event yet undertaken by Chambers and the Florida nonprofit he founded in 2009, the Save America Foundation. Save America is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4), a “social welfare organization” that is prohibited from “direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns.”
Chambers says the group’s mission rests on three “pillars”: education (informing the public), unification (bringing together like-minded groups), and implementation (“turning what we’ve learned into action”).
Pursuing its “education” mission, Save America maintains an information database for paying members, hosts free monthly public forums in Clearwater — the next is scheduled for Feb. 1 — and is bringing in national speakers to address the crowd at its March convention. Former presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano are listed as “confirmed speakers.”
“Invited speakers” include Rush Limbaugh; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Florida resident and likely 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale; and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Chambers says the money going to convention speakers all comes from donations made by individual supporters, companies, and Save America board members. Since the organization is relatively young, the IRS has no data (.xls) about the group’s assets and financial information about the group is not available via GuideStar.
“We’re not like George Soros, with a deep well of money,” Chambers says. “It’s volunteers working for nothing.”
Save America held a smaller event in Colorado last August — coinciding with Glenn Beck’s event in front of the Lincoln Memorial — that also featured Tancredo. Chambers used to live in Colorado and worked with contacts there to put on the event as a test runs for the March convention. Save America’s website says it has a “charter office” in Grand Junction, Colo.
According to Chambers, in trying to fulfill its “unification” mission, Save America is reaching out to a wide range of Florida tea parties, 912, and other “freedom-minded” groups in an effort to bring them together in March.
“I think the tea parties are doing great work because it’s Joe and Susie Lunch Bucket getting off the couch,” Chambers says. “That’s America. That’s what we are. I respect tea party groups.” Nevertheless, Chambers stresses that Save America does not consider itself a tea party organization, saying he has “opinions that tea parties don’t want to hear.”
The convention’s “implementation” piece will come in a variety of action items Chambers says speakers will propose. Many of them are standard right-wing fare: audit and sue the Federal Reserve, replace Congress with “citizen” legislators, set up “a new monetary system.”
Chambers also says that a chunk of convention time will be dedicated to showing “individuals how they can protect and preserve their assets” — a specialty of the Asset Preservation Institute, “an education and consulting firm” Chambers runs. The company in fact shares an address — 10300 N. 49th St., Clearwater — with the Save America Foundation. The same address is listed on Chambers’ personal website.
“They’re two separate entities,” Chambers says when asked about the overlap between Save America and Asset Preservation. “API is a company that’s been around for some years. It’s a for-profit business, but is not an investment firm.”
Asset Preservation’s website says its mission is to prepare “Americans for the transformation of America, the collapse of the currency and a prolonged hyperinflationary depression.” It is listed as a “corporate sponsor” on the Save America site.
Chamber says that “if people don’t get their own assets and their own income streams protected” they won’t be able to work to implement Save America’s action items. “So by all means,” he says, “there’ll be at least 30, 40 minutes of this two-day event dedicated to that.”
Despite all the challenges Chambers says the country is facing, he remains “hopeful.”
“This country is God’s country,” he says. “There’s always hope because we were born into freedom.”
Religious leaders sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott today, urging him to veto a bill that would allow school boards to adopt policies allowing “inspirational messages,” including prayers, to be given during any school event. The bill is currently awaiting Scott's signature.