Freeze Voter Records
Scope and Contents
The Freeze Voter collection documents the defeats and victories of a political pressure group which grew out of the nuclear freeze movement, a phenomenon that largely began, flourished and died out in the decade of the 1980s, with Freeze Voter following the same pattern. The collection includes minutes of Board meetings; legal and financial records; material that documents the organization's fundraising, training, and get-out-the-vote efforts in various states; analysis of the political situation from 1984 to 1988 in different forms; and, the surviving records of the Freeze Voter Training Institute and the Freeze Voter Education Fund. These files belonged to Chip Reynolds and Joe Sternlieb. Though there are memos from these two men to Board members and state affiliate staff, there is a great lack of correspondence with the general public and with other nuclear freeze groups. It is difficult to know if this material was lost at some point, or if letters were simply not the preferred mode of communication by Freeze Voter staff. It is also hard to discern whether the lack of material generated by the Institute meant that that entity had little activity, or whether certain of its files were not sent to the Peace Collection.
Included in the accession of Freeze Voter papers, was a box related to the work of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. These were the 1982-1984 files of Chip Reynolds, who was on the staff there at that time. A small amount of primary material (that which includes notes taken by Chip Reynolds at meetings and a few letters) has been sent to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri (St. Louis) to be included in their NWFC collection; the rest was discarded.
- Freeze Voter (Organization)
Language of Materials
Materials are in English.
Limitations on Accessing the Collection
The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access Note
All or part of this collection is stored off-site. Contact Swarthmore College Peace Collection staff at firstname.lastname@example.org at least two weeks in advance of visit to request boxes.
Copyright and Rights Information
At the fourth convention of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, which met in St. Louis in June 1983, supporters of the nuclear freeze founded Freeze Voter '84, an independent Political Action Committee (PAC). In response to the growing threat of nuclear war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the PAC's main goal was to "elect a President and Congress who will enact a nuclear weapons Freeze between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The Committee [will] achieve this goal through the electoral process." At the time of the PAC's inception, the elections were only 18 months away. It had no operating budget, no office, no staff, no press lists, and no network of politically savvy volunteers. This picture changed quickly, however. William (Chip) Reynolds took a leave of absence from the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign to help guide the new PAC, until Bill Curry was hired in November 1983 as the executive director (he stayed one year, after which Chip Reynolds took his place). By election time in 1984, the national office had 20 full-time staff members, and 40 affiliated political action committees in 32 states, each with its own director and staff. There was a volunteer work force of 20,000. Nearly $3.5 million had been raised, making it the 13 largest non-union and non-corporate PAC in the country.
As a writer for Mother Jones magazine (June 1985) reported: "Freeze Voter represented a significant departure from the peace movement's traditional avoidance of electoral politics." Instead, Freeze Voter plunged deeply into the political scene nationwide, providing expert analysis of the presidential and congressional races. It also differed from other PACs by not merely giving money to candidates. Instead, it worked on the grass-roots level to identify supporters of a nuclear freeze and encourage them to vote for pro-freeze candidates as endorsed by Freeze Voter '84. It established the Freeze Corps, a cadre of people who committed several months to doing full-time volunteering. These volunteers, and others from the state Freeze Voter affiliates, held fund-raisers, passed out leaflets, ran mass mailings, and did door-to-door and telephone canvassing.
These efforts of Freeze Voter '84 were a major factor in the development of a strong arms control component in the 1984 Democratic party platform. In addition, over 150 Freeze Voter '84 activists were delegates at the 1984 Democratic Convention. Freeze Voter '84 waged an "all-out attempt to replace the champion on the arms race, President Ronald Reagan, with a President dedicated to a leadership for peace, Walter Mondale." Freeze Voter also heavily supported the races of pro-freeze Senatorial candidates such as Paul Simon, Tom Harkin, Lloyd Doggett, Norman D'Amours, Libby Mitchell, Carl Levin, and Joan Growe, as well as the Congressional races of Bill Ratchford, Skip Schwerdtfeger, Richard Durbin, Gerry Studds, Don Albosta, Tom Stewart, Tim Penny, Gerry Sikorski, Stan Lundine, Marcy Kaptur, and Don Burford, among others. Of the races of Freeze Voter '84 targeted, four out of eight won Senatorial seats, and 25 out of 35 won seats in the House. Later, Chip Reynolds commended Freeze Voter's huge network of activists for making the nuclear arms race a headline issue which influenced voters across the country.
After the 1984 elections, the Board of Directors voted to change the PAC's name to Freeze Voter. Chip Reynolds remained as the only full-time staff person. The priorities set for future work were to strengthen Freeze Voter's financial base, bolster state and regional PACs, and build momentum in targeted races for electing a pro-freeze Senate in 1986. This hoped-for Senate would have enough votes to ratify treaties that might be negotiated, be able to influence decisions regarding nuclear weapons spending, and work towards the ultimate goal of ending the nuclear arms race.
Freeze Voter created two new programs to carry out its goals. The Freeze Voter Training Institute , later called Freeze Voter Institute, was a 501(c)(4) organization that could only accept non-tax-deductible contributions, and which could not have a membership base. It was prohibited by tax and election laws from attempting to influence the outcome of elections. Instead, it was set up to train field organizers to "more effectively identify, educate, and organize many more Americans to become involved in the Freeze movement through the legislative and electoral process by: 1) building lists of supporters; 2) recruiting and training new leaders; 3) establishing relations with the news media; and 4) building visibility for the issue and for Freeze organizations." Board members of the Institute included Bill Curry, Paul Gocker, Pam Solo, Steve Coleman, Lindsay Mattison, Claire Greensfelder, and Anne Zill. Staff members were Chip Reynolds, Susan Hunter and Toni Buckley.
The records that exist of the Training Institute are sparse. There are reports from field researchers who looked into the political situation in South Dakota in 1985. Staff members also sent out legislative alerts, which were comprised of newspaper reports of congressional races, and developed briefing manuals about the nuclear freeze. They also spent some months negotiating to provide a Peace (credit) Card that would have the FVI logo on it, but this never materialized.
There is some indication that Freeze Voter had trouble raising money for its Training Institute. It had much better luck with fundraising for the Freeze Voter Education Fund, which had essentially the same goals as the Training Institute. It had begun in 1983 as an informal grouping of consultants and field trainers, and was incorporated in 1985. It was a 501(c)(3) organization that could only accept tax-deductible contributions, most of which later came from foundation grants. Its starting objective was to train grassroots leaders who could expand the pro-freeze network in their home states. To do this, professional organizers were placed in a number of areas; regional training sessions were offered; national conferences were held; how-to manuals were produced; analysis of candidates and congressional/presidential races was provided; and coalition work was undertaken to coordinate the activities of the arms control community. The Education Fund also helped its supporters become delegates to their political party's election conventions, and worked to have arms control as a major component in each party's election platform by holding briefings for congressional candidates.
The Freeze Voter Education Fund's Board of Directors included Virginia Foote, Doyle Niemann and William Oldaker. Staff members were Chip Reynolds, Director; Joe Sternlieb, National Field Director; Susan Hunter, National Development Director (replaced by Nada Seide in 1988); and, Jeff Balch, Communications Director. State organizers were Kurt Ehrenberg (in New Hampshire) and Chris Magoc (in Pennsylvania).
From 1985 to 1988, the work of Freeze Voter ebbed and flowed according to the election season. Through its Training Institute and Education Fund, its ongoing effort to build up a national network of concerned, informed and active nuclear freeze supporters/voters continued. Congressional races were targeted after concentrated analysis by political experts. In 1986, Freeze Voter worked diligently to get Bob Edgar the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania. It also supported the races of Alan Cranston, Paula Hawkins, Harriet Woods, Alfonse D'Amato, Tom Daschle, Patrick Leahy, and opposed those of Jeremiah Denton, Mark Mattingly, Steve Symms, Robert Kasten, and Charles Grassley, among others. In 1988, Freeze Voter worked to have Howard Metzenbaum, James Sassar, Frank Lautenberg, Patrick Moynihan, Pete Wilson, Hubert "Skip" Humphrey, and Robert Kerry elected, among others.
By 1987, Chip Reynolds, National Director, acknowledged that some of the momentum of the nuclear freeze movement was dissipating. The issue was no longer burning its way into the public conscience. Freeze groups were spending a lot of their time on internal problems and reorganization. The general public was confused by the proliferation of peace groups asking for money. All of these factors had led to decreased financial support. Therefore, new avenues for influencing elections were sought. The staff perceived a need to provide accurate and pertinent information on the arms race to political consultants, press contacts, candidates, and elected officials. In 1988, Freeze Voter worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists on an issues mailing to Republican and Democratic convention delegates, and together they also conducted an opinion poll of Republican candidates among a wide range of groups. Freeze Voter cooperated with the Council for a Livable World to produce a brochure about the presidential candidates. Freeze Voter also prepared a delegate organizing manual in consultation with the Sierra Club and the Vietnam Veterans.
In 1985, talks began concerning a possible merger of Freeze Voter with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (NWFC). As mentioned above, Freeze Voter was started at a NWFC conference; Chip Reynolds had been a staff member there and always attempted to keep communications open between the two groups. Merger talks grew out of a concern that Freeze Voter and the NWFC were often seen by the public as two competing organizations (for money and volunteers), when in actuality they were part of the same freeze movement. However, it was eventually decided that Freeze Voter - an independent PAC - and the NWFC - a corporation which could only raise money from its members - could not legally be joined without significantly lessening the impact of the network and financial base already established by Freeze Voter. Instead the NWFC merged with SANE Inc. in December 1987. Initially in this latter merger process, it was again hoped that Freeze Voter could be included. Once again, however, legal questions kept this from becoming reality.
By 1988, enthusiasm for continuing Freeze Voter as a separate entity had waned. All its staff members had announced their intention to resign after the elections. The Board decided that Freeze Voter's unique role as the political and lobbying arm of the nuclear freeze movement could best be continued by dissolving the PAC, and turning the assets of the Training Institute and the Education Fund over to the Professionals' Coalition for Nuclear Arms Control (which operated until 1992). This took place on February 1, 1989.
The board members of Freeze Voter included Robert Chlopak, John Cox, Noel Day, Elizabeth Fisher, (Ms.) Randall Forsberg, Paul Gocker, John Hirschi, Carla Johnston, Helena Knapp, Ann Krumboltz, Richard Mark, Kathy McCaughin, Midge Miller, Richard Moskalik, Steve Perry, Gale Picker, Maya Porter, Pam Solo, Thomas Stephenson, Jessie Stratton and Michael Wells. Staff members were Chip Reynolds, National Director, Toni Buckley, Administrative Director; Jeff Balch, Communications Director; David Crampton, Freeze Corps Director; Joe Sternlieb, and Bob Brown.
5 Linear Feet (5 linear ft.)
In 1983, supporters of the nuclear freeze founded Freeze Voter, an independent Political Action Committee (PAC). In response to the growing threat of nuclear war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the PAC's main goal was to "elect a President and Congress who will enact a nuclear weapons Freeze between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The Committee [will] achieve this goal through the electoral process." The organization worked on the grass-roots level to identify supporters of a nuclear freeze and encourage them to vote for pro-freeze candidates. By 1984 over $3 million had been raised and Freeze Voter was the 13 largest non0union, non-corporate PAC in the U.S. By 1988, with the ending of the Cold War, the Freeze Voter board decide to close down the organization. Remaining assets were turned over to the Professionals' Coalition for Nuclear Arms Control (which operated until 1992).
For the most part, the papers in the Freeze Voter collection were in good order. There was a certain amount of duplication between the files of Chip Reynolds and Joe Sternlieb, and in most cases the duplicate copy was discarded. However, in general, Joe Sternlieb's papers dealt only with the Freeze Voter Education Fund, in particular the training events he arranged and led.
Financial reports found in the Board meeting minutes were removed to Series B. Two posters, a balloon, six photographs, a computer disc, and four stickers/bumperstickes were removed to the appropriate SCPC special collection.
Re-File Box miscellaneous material received after the collection was processed.
The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these records.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Professionals' Coalition for Nuclear Arms Control, 1990-1991.
- Photographs: See Photograph Collection (4" x 5" and 5" x 7")
- Balloon: See Memorabilia Collection
- Posters: See Poster Collection
- Stickers/Bumperstickers: See Stamp/Sticker/Seal Collection
- Computer Disc: See Audiovisual Collection
Copyright to the Freeze Voter records created by the organization has been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Copyright to all other materials is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Checklist prepared by Anne Yoder, October 1995. This version of the finding aid was prepared by Chloe Lucchesi- Malone, July 2009.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2018: The file list was standardized in Summer 2017 by Mary Olesnavich in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace. Tessa Chambers added the notes in Fall 2017. Wendy Chmielewski made corrections and updated it in January 2019.
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