Armey's Army Marches Against Obama

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Richard K. Armey has been an economics professor, House leader, corporate lobbyist and a blunt-talking critic of his fellow Republicans. Now, at the vanguard of a loosely-knit band of opponents of President Obama's agenda, Armey has morphed into a role Obama himself held years ago: a grass-roots organizer.

From the raucous town hall meetings of August to the Sept. 12 protests that brought thousands of conservatives to Washington, Armey and the group he heads, FreedomWorks, have spent their summer battling Democrats on health-care reform.

The idea for a conservative march on Washington was born in a conference room at FreedomWorks' headquarters. Staffers picked the date, secured the permits and handled all the other logistics. The group teamed up with several other organizations, including the Tea Party Patriots, to pull off the event.

To Armey, the entire Obama agenda -- from health-care reform to the stimulus package, the auto bailout and climate-change bill -- represents an unacceptable expansion of government

"My life's work is protecting liberty," Armey, 69, said in a recent interview. "I have never seen a greater threat to liberty in America as that which is imminent."

Critics see Armey -- and FreedomWorks -- in less lofty terms, accusing them of shilling for the pharmaceutical industry and health-insurance companies.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, said the organization has "not accepted a single dollar" from either industry during the health-care battle, and that FreedomWorks agrees with liberal groups such as that such corporate special interests have had too much influence over the bill-drafting process.

FreedomWorks is not required by law to disclose the identity of its donors, but the organization says that more than 50 percent of its donations come from individuals, 15 to 20 percent from corporations, and the remainder from foundations.

'Too Colorful'

Armey, of Texas, has built a career on contradictions.

He's a professional political organizer who claims politics "is kind of an aggravation for me."

He is a crusader for fiscal discipline who has lobbied for earmarks. And he is a key leader of a populist, anti-Washington movement who has simultaneously worked for and accepted contributions from deep-pocketed corporations and interest groups.

In August, he quit his job with DLA Piper, the law and lobbying firm where he had been a senior adviser since 2003.

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