Take it away, David Corn!
When the news broke in early December that former GOP Rep. Dick Armey had abruptly resigned as chairman of FreedomWorks, a powerhouse of the conservative movement and an instrumental force within the tea party, Armey maintained that the nasty split was due to differences he had with the top management of FreedomWorks about the group's operations and future. Immediately, media reports disclosed that Armey had been concerned that Matt Kibbe, the group's president, had used FreedomWorks resources to promote a book he had written (which was released in June) and that Armey himself had received an $8 million payout from a FreedomWorks board member to ease his departure. But internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that the bitter war inside FreedomWorks has also resulted in allegations of staff wrongdoing (prompting an investigation by lawyers) and counter-allegations that Armey and his allies tried to turn FreedomWorks into a partisan outfit backing establishment Republicans over tea party insurgents.
Grab some popcorn and find a comfortable chair, folks. This sordid tale of winger cannibalism is about to begin.
On December 12, James Burnley IV and C. Boyden Gray, two FreedomWorks board members (and allies of Armey), sent Kibbe a letter informing him that they had received "allegations of wrongdoing by the organization or its employees." They notified Kibbe that the group's board of trustees had retained two attorneys, Alfred Regnery and David Martin, to conduct an independent investigation of the allegations. Burnley and Gray ordered Kibbe to cooperate with the lawyers, to make sure no records were "destroyed, deleted, modified or otherwise tampered with," and to send Regnery a check for $25,000 to cover his initial fees. (Regnery, a prominent conservative, is the past president of Regnery Publishing, a right-wing firm that has put out books by Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Pat Buchanan, and other notable conservatives.) The letter did not specify the allegations being investigated. In an interview with Mother Jones, Burnley declined to discuss the alleged wrongdoing at FreedomWorks. "The letter speaks for itself," he says. Gray, Kibbe, and a spokeswoman for FreedomWorks did not respond to requests for comment.
So Dick Armey was shown the door by Matt Kibbe and the Tea Party wing of the organization. As a result, Armey's remaining allies in FreedomWorks accused Matt Kibbe of wrongdoing. But now Kibbe has fired back:
Shortly after receiving the December 12 letter, Kibbe wrote a memo outlining his beef with Armey, Burnley, and Gray. In the document—titled "Republican Insiders Attempt Hostile Takeover of FreedomWorks"—Kibbe accused the three of being shills for the Republican establishment and undercutting the group's standing as an independent, non-partisan, conservative organization. (FreedomWorks has at times endorsed tea party candidates in primary elections against mainstream or incumbent Republicans, drawing the ire of mainline Republicans.) Kibbe charged that the three men were trying to punish him for defying their effort to steer FreedomWorks into the conventional Republican fold. He contended that the divisive fight within FreedomWorks was not really about his book contract or other organizational matters; it was a grand ideological clash pitting those fully loyal to the tea party cause (such as Kibbe) against backroom, Washington-centric pols attempting to wield their influence to benefit their pals.
Now the big question: given the fact that basically nobody FreedomWorks got money to actually won in November, if you're a big-time GOP donor, are you going to give these clowns another $100 million to blow in 2014?
I'm thinking FreedomWorks won't be the only GOP dark money operation to implode before November 2014, either. Watch the bonfire, kids. It'll keep you warm this winter, as the long-predicted GOP civil war is about to break into the open.