AUDIO OBTAINED FROM SOURCE WHO WAS PRESENT.
June 16, 2014
P R O C E E D I N G S
KEVIN GENTRY: Okay. So just as a reminder, if we do need to enforce the time discipline, we do have that new device. Just so everybody and our speakers are aware, if you go over time, this is what you will hear, let’s be clear. (Inaudible) wakeup call tomorrow morning. If you want it on your cell phones as a ringtone, we can do that, too.
KEVIN GENTRY: So one of the key capabilities I know that you all helped build a group called Concerned Veterans for America. And obviously there are a lot of folks who have had military service that quite obviously are very patriotic, love this country, but are no longer actively engaged as they may be into this process. And this has been a really helpful effort. But not surprisingly, too, is the whole crazy debacle of the Veterans Administration. Concerned Veterans for America has arisen to the forefront. In fact, you all may recall them bringing this issue up last fall and really driving hard on it and continuing the drive as well.
We’ll have Pete Hegseth come up in just a minute. Pete is the — well, he was at Princeton, was editor of the conservative newspaper there, the Princeton Tory. He went on into the Army, served three tours of duty as an infantry officer in Iraq, Afghanistan, and also Guantanamo Bay.
So I’m going to have Pete come up after we watch this little video to show a little bit about what they’re doing, and we’ll hear from Pete Hegseth.
PETE HEGSETH: I don’t think he wanted to accept. I want to thank Kevin for that introduction and for this opportunity. My name is Pete Hegseth. I’m the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. It’s an absolute honor to be here. And I’m excited to share some of the things Concerned Veterans for America has accomplished over the last year with the help of this network and how we’re building for the future.
Concerned Veterans for America is an organization this network literally created to empower veterans and military families to fight for the freedom and prosperity here at home that we fought for in uniform on the battlefield. Quite simply, to fight for the well-being of veterans, their families, and all Americans.
Which brings me to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you know about the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. What you probably don’t know is the central role that Concerned Veterans for America played in exposing and driving this crisis from the very beginning.
After years of effort behind the scenes privately and publicly, the scandal eventually made national headlines when initially in Phoenix it was exposed that veterans were waiting on secret lists that were meant to hide the real wait times veterans had at VA facilities of months and months and months. Veterans literally dying while waiting on secret lists that benefitted only bureaucrats.
In driving (inaudible) and monitoring this crisis, we utilized the competitive advantage that only this network provides: the long-term vision to invest and the resources to back it up. We focused relentlessly on both exposing the failures of VA bureaucracy and improving the lives of veterans, meeting our people where they’re at.
The Concerned Veterans for America issue campaign pushing for systemic reform of VA bureaucracy is of critical importance, we think, for three key reasons. First, it is going — it has produced and will produce more market-based public policy victories that will improve the lives of veterans and their families; second, it provides the perfect opportunity to educate the American people about the failures of big government; and three, to position us for the long term as a trusted, effective, and credible grassroots organization we can build upon.
A perfect example of this approach has been what we call our VA Accountability Project, which was launched earlier this year to highlight the problems at VA. Before the scandal broke we launched this project to highlight the problems, talk about market-based solutions, and then organize veterans to take tangible actions to do something about it.
Now, when veterans and military families aggressively and professionally made their charge on Capitol Hill and in their communities, the status quo in Washington literally had no ammunition to fight back. The emperor has no clothes. Credible, intellectually-armed, motivated veterans are a formidable force, and a lesson that Nancy Pelosi herself and her friend Harry Reid learned firsthand.
Now, case in point. Two pieces of groundbreaking VA reform legislation passed the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority. Now, most bills that pass 390 to 33 or the other one (inaudible) passed 426 to nothing are nothing-burgers, they’re insignificant. They’re the name of a post office because that’s all they can bring up. But both of these bills that were passed were real reform, and I’ll go into that in a second. And Nancy Pelosi and the majority of collectivists voted for them. They didn’t like the bills, but they had to vote for the bills because they were outnumbered by a new, nimble, and principled movement of veterans.
But those bills didn’t just die, shockingly enough, in the do-nothing Harry Reid Senate. Ten days ago, the Senate struck a historic deal, a deal that Concerned Veterans for America was central to in every aspect literally ensuring that the language stay focused on real market-based reform, and we pushed the ball across the finish line.
Now usually deals in the Senate include only one thing: billions and billions of dollars in more spending. Not this one. This deal, as with the legislation in the House, was instead built on two market-based reforms that were injected by Concerned Veterans for America and advanced the entire point, the entire way. The first is accountability, the central belief that you can fire, and should be able to fire quickly under-performing VA managers for cause, restoring basic accountability in the Department. (Inaudible) Ronald Reagan said the closest thing to eternal life is a government program.
PETE HEGSETH: The closest thing to an eternal job is being a manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans died in it, and no one has been fired still. This bill would empower the Secretary to actually fire a manager for cause, a reform the new Secretary said he needed immediately.
The second is choice — and that’s the crown jewel of this — the choice to see a private doctor if they cannot be seen in a timely manner in the VA. Veterans will literally get a card and the ability to visit a private doctor if they need.
The latter reform, which seems like a no-brainer to everyone in this audience, is a huge development, rocking the core of big government status quo in Washington. The option for veterans to choose private care upends how the VA has fundamentally done business for the last seventy years, attacking the very heart of the failed top-down government-run single payer healthcare system that’s failed veterans.
Now, frustrated veterans across the country have been clamoring for this choice for decades, but Washington special interests have squashed their pleas. Not anymore. As a result, we hope to improve the lives of nine million veterans in America and their families, while at the same time stopping bad legislation of just throwing more money at a dysfunctional department.
Now, not surprising, as has been a theme of this couple of days, during Senate negotiations between John McCain and the (inaudible) of the toadie bill and our favorite socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, Concerned Veterans for America’s name explicitly came up, both in private and on the floor of the Senate. But their shallow name-calling didn’t work. (Inaudible) Senator McCain, and Senator Burr, and Senator Rubio and others called them out. The merits of our cause and the credibility of veterans leading the charge have carried the day. Judge us by our work. It speaks for itself.
Perhaps most importantly to this effort, we have created a new line of defense against the march towards socialized medicine, educating veterans and Americans in the process. Veterans have had government-run healthcare for decades. We’ve had the preview of Obamacare, and the scandal has exposed the inevitable result of central planning for all Americans: massive wait times, impenetrable bureaucracy, de facto rationing, wasted tax dollars. It goes on and on.
Throughout this effort, Concerned Veterans for America, along with our network partners, have intentionally broadened the debate to include big government dysfunction generally, further fortifying a new skepticism that AFP and others have brought to what government-run healthcare does.
Now finally, Concerned Veterans for America’s efforts have been successful because they’re based on a multi-year outlook that requires time, time and investment that only this network and our incredible partners in this network can provide. Our tangible and targeted grassroots efforts have worked because we’ve been on the ground day in and day out, and not just in an election cycle, investing in the community. The same activists calling congressional offices about VA accountability, then pick up the phone with the i360 database and call their fellow voters to engage them in garnering data. That’s useful now, in 2016, and into the future.
To that end, we’re doing a Defend Freedom Summer Concert Tour in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia with a patriotic rock band that vets just love. It’s been amazing to watch hundreds and hundreds of folks come out for these events, clamoring for something that fights the status quo and gives them an opportunity to get back into it. And they’re not just there to clap and (inaudible). They’re taking action, signing up to be volunteers to make phone calls and knock on doors. They want to be part of something greater than themselves. They’re tied not just to us, but also the success that we have. What started as an organization (inaudible).
In closing, it’s not just the VA. We’re also fighting out-of-control spending and mounting debt, both of which present a clear and present national security threat, not to mention pushing for reform in defense spending and fighting burdensome regulations on business.
—CUT IN AUDIO—
We are Concerned Veterans for America, not Concerned Veterans of America or for Veterans. We had to raise their right hand to defend the Constitution of this country. And there’s no reason why that service should ever stop. When you’ve seen the fragile nature of freedom on the battlefield, it motivates you to say there’s something I’ve got to do about it here and that’s what I’m trying to do with Concerned Veterans for America.
Our recent legislative victories, as historic as they may be, is really just a first step for us. Now, when I say “us,” I mean us. I include you in this entire network in what we’ve accomplished. And I want to include every single supportive element of this fantastic network that helps us do what we do and they in government do what they do. This win for accountability and choice at the VA is a tangible return on investment, for our assets. And the central role that Concerned Veterans for America plays gives us priceless private and public credibility with veterans and citizens who are looking for a challenge to that status quo and are ready to be activated in countless ways.
I want to thank you for this opportunity. I thank Charles and David, Marc Short, Kevin Gentry, everyone that puts in the sweat equity that makes this possible. And I want to thank you for your courage for standing up and being here. Thank you for your incredible commitment to a free society. This network is making history, and we’re just getting started. Thank you.
KEVIN GENTRY: (Inaudible) Libre Initiative and Generation Opportunity, Concerned Vets is something that came out of this network, and you all as investors are the ones who made this happen.