Former congressman Dick Armey has quit FreedomWorks, the conservative group he helped bring to national tea party prominence.
Armey confirms that he wrote a letter to FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe on Nov. 30, resigning from the group, as first reported by Mother Jones. He told the Post that he does not know who leaked his resignation letter.
“We accepted his letter of resignation and we wish him well,” FreedomWorks press secretary Jackie Bodnar said.
Max Pappas, the group’s former vice president for public policy and government affairs, has also left, along with campaign director Brendan Steinhauser, who traveled the country training activists for the group.
“As I resign from all board positions and duties, please see below a list of dispositions on outstanding issues: I expect to be fully compensated through the expiration date (December 31, 2012) of my current consulting contract with FreedomWorks,” he wrote. “Henceforth FreedomWorks shall be prohibited from using my name, image, or signature in any way or for any purpose without my written permission or in the event of my death, without my heirs written permission.”
He asked for his name, image, and signature to be removed from all FreedomWorks materials — “letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media.”
Armey’s annual salary – from FreedomWorks Inc., a “social welfare” 501(c)(4), and the FreedomWorks Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable institution — was $500,000 in 2010. According to the AP, Armey’s agreed to resign with $8 million in consulting fees, paid in annual $400,000 installments by FreedomWorks donor and board member Richard Stephenson.
Armey also barred the group from using ”Hitting the Ground Running,” a guide he wrote for House freshmen.
A former House majority leader who represented Texas from 1985 to 2003, Armey started his post-congressional career at the anti-regulation Citizens for a Sound Economy. When the Koch-backed group split in 2004, he took over FreedomWorks. (The other offshoot is Americans for Prosperity, which David Koch continued to lead.)
In 2009, FreedomWorks rode the tea party wave to national clout, building a grassroots network to train conservative activists around the country. That same year the group cost Armey his other job at the law and lobbying firm DLA Piper. FreedomWorks’ activism against Democratic health-care reform pitted the group against DLA Piper’s drug industry clients, who backed the legislation.
Some tea party activists questioned Armey’s role in the movement, given his establishment origins. But the group amassed a membership in the hundreds of thousands and worked carefully to avoid the perception that Washington bureaucrats were calling the shots. FreedomWorks helped unseat Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) in a 2010 primary convention. Months later, they helped Republicans take back the House.
After that election, Armey used the group to pressure new members of Congress and state legislators around the country to stick to conservative principles. Initially resistant to Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, the group softened toward the eventual Republican nominee in April.* The group’s affiliated super PAC, FreedomWorks for America spent $19 million in 2012. About a quarter of that money went to winning candidates, according to the Sunlight Foundation — a decent return on investment compared to other conservative outside groups.
An attempted repeat of the 2010 victory in Utah was unsuccessful, as FreedomWorks failed to unseat Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) in 2012 despite a heavy investment in the race. The veteran senator’s campaign effectively demonized FreedomWorks as an out-of-state interloper.
But the group backed two winning upstarts in 2012 — Ted Cruz, who defeated Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a primary runoff and went on to win a Senate seat, and Richard Mourdock, who took down Sen. Dick Lugar in a primary but lost the general election.
In recent months, the group has pushed reporters to speak with Kibbe — an economist from the libertarian wing of the GOP — over Armey. According to Politico, Armey was concerned that the organization was being used to enrich Kibbe through promotion of his recent book, “Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America.”
“The top management team of FreedomWorks was taking a direction I thought was unproductive, and I thought it was time to move on with my life,” Armey told Mother Jones. “At this point, I don’t want to get into the details. I just want to go on with my life.”
* FreedomWorks never officially endorsed Romney; this post has been corrected.