Looks Like Boehner Booted Justin Amash And Tim Huelskamp Off Their Committees As Part Of A Policy Of Payback Against A FreedomWorks Faction
In a new exposé on the shenanigans inside one of the most well-funded arms of the Tea Party, FreedomWorks, Mother Jones ace reporter David Corn has uncovered the genesis of Boehner's decision to kick several Republican members off key committee positions-- part of "a purge aimed at tea party lawmakers." The corrupt Beltway GOP Establishment made a move to infiltrate and take over FreedomWorks but when thwarted reacted against Justin Amash (R-MI), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and other independent-minded GOP congressmen. There's a vicious and desperate civil war raging inside FreedomWorks and the bulk of contributions to the group is going right into the pockets of high-priced, white shoe legal firms as the battle moves towards expensive law suits and counter suits.
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.No wonder all the big shots on the conservative cruise of a lifetime were so despondent! And it's no wonder so many House Republicans are feeling out opportunities to defeat Boehner's bid for another term as Speaker!
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.
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.
Noting Armey's habit of coining maxims-- and Armey's complaint that Kibbe had hijacked media requests for Armey-- Kibbe began his memo with a blast referencing a September 4 meeting at which Armey and Gray had voted Kibbe off the board of trustees and replaced him with Burnley, a secretary of transportation in the Reagan administration:
Our favorite "Armey's Axiom" goes something like this: "Every argument in Washington, like in a marriage, is really about something else." So it goes with the attempted hostile takeover of FreedomWorks by three Republican insiders from the old guard. Is it about a book contract, or a pilfered appearance on CNBC? No, it is not. As it turns out, the fight for lower taxes, less government and more freedom is all well and good until it is Republicans-- "old friends"-- that are the ones needing to be held to account. It is our sense that the irresponsible acts of the so-called Trustees of FreedomWorks-- Dick Armey, C. Boyden Gray, and James C. Burnley-- on September 4th, and their continued hostile acts today, are all about retribution for our willingness to take a strictly nonpartisan approach to politics, our willingness to hold both Republicans and Democrats to the standards set out by our freedom philosophy and the clear limits on government power delineated in our U.S. Constitution.Kibbe then presented a timeline seeking to demonstrate that Armey, Gray, and Burnley had sold out the tea party cause to help less conservative Republicans.
His first example: the Republican primary contest earlier this year pitting Rep. Ben Quayle against Rep. David Schweikert, two House freshmen thrown into the same congressional district after redistricting in Arizona. In May, FreedomWorks endorsed Schweikert, who, Kibbe wrote, "had been willing to stand on principle even under tremendous pressure" from the GOP top brass. Quayle, according to Kibbe, had been too "reliable" a vote for the House Republican leadership, which FreedomWorks occasionally has opposed from the right. Yet Gray, the memo noted, was sending donations to Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. (Gray was White House counsel during the Bush-Quayle administration.) And Gray, Kibbe wrote, called him several times last summer "wondering why we were engaged in this primary fight."
In the memo, Kibbe pointed out other conflicts as well. When Rep. John Mica, the Republican chair of the House transportation and infrastructure committee, was challenged by tea party freshman Rep. Sandy Adams in Florida in another primary race caused by redistricting, Kibbe wrote, Burnley, a transportation lobbyist, called Kibbe and "made it very clear…that he had a dog in this race." And on June 16, when FreedomWorks announced its "Retire Hatch" campaign against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Gray endorsed Hatch. A month later, Gray held a fundraiser for Wisconsin senatorial candidate Tommy Thompson-- two days before FreedomWorks endorsed tea party favorite Eric Hovde, who was challenging Thompson in the GOP primary.
All of these conflicts, Kibbe maintained in the memo, led to that September meeting when he was booted off the board. Referring to himself in the third person, Kibbe described that confrontation: "It is eight weeks out from the most important election in our lifetime. 'Do you have any idea,' Kibbe asks, 'how much your actions will damage FreedomWorks efforts?' No answer is given."
The memo went on, with Kibbe taking Armey to task for having urged FreedomWorks to assist Thompson, who won the primary but whom the group had declined to endorse in the general election due to his "full-throated advocacy of ObamaCare," and Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who had come under fire for his "legitimate rape" remarks:
One of the first actions taken by Dick Armey [after the September meeting] is his attempt to reassess our political priorities. "We have to help my friend Tommy Thompson," he tells the staff in his first meeting with them. He later tells the staff that he has discussed the Missouri Senate race with "my friend [Senator] Roy Blunt, and he says they really need grassroots cover for Todd Akin." FreedomWorks PAC had endorsed John Brunner, who barely lost to Akin [in the GOP primary]. We had declined to endorse Akin, even before "legitimate rape" became a late night punch line.At the conclusion of his memo, Kibbe linked Mother Jones’ December 3 disclosure of Armey's departure from FreedomWorks-- one of several media reports supposedly featuring Armey "trashing the senior management of FreedomWorks"-- to House Speaker John Boehner stripping FreedomWorks-backed legislators of key committee assignments in what conservative pundits denounced as a purge aimed at tea party lawmakers. And Kibbe ended with this broad swipe:
Bottom Line: The Actions of the Trustees Put FreedomWorks Values and Mission at Risk. They have put personal and political agendas above the agenda of freedom.