Commentary: FreedomWorks doesn't seem to be working very well

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramJanuary 9, 2013 

Dick Armey says buying $1 million in ads from Glenn Beck was a waste of campaign money.

Heck, I could have told him that.

In one of the sharpest heel turns this side of the old Sportatorium wrestling, Armey has gone on relentless attack against both Beck and his own old allies at FreedomWorks, the money machine behind fake-grassroots Tea Party groups across Tarrant County and America.

Paid $8 million by a donor to leave FreedomWorks' board chairmanship after he tried and failed to steer the organization back to principles and away from both the political and ethical fringe, Armey has not gone quietly home to Denton County.

In his latest blast, the former nine-term U.S. representative told the progressive website that FreedomWorks spent $1 million with Beck last year. That includes ads for a July Dallas arena rally that Beck, a Westlake resident, called "the beginning of a global movement for freedom for all mankind."

Armey said he didn't even know about the rally, which featured now-U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaking to a scattered crowd at the American Airlines Center, until he saw emails.

When he looked into it, he said, FreedomWorks was spending more than four times what he had authorized for ads by Beck and also Rush Limbaugh.

"It had come to the point," he told Washington-based Media Matters, "where I don't know how much we are spending on Beck and Limbaugh, but we are spending too damn much and getting too little value out of it."

FreedomWorks lost money on ads compared with what it earned back in memberships, he said. He also criticized the group for selling rally tickets for $15 to $971: "You don't charge activists to attend rallies. I would consider that totally inappropriate."

This was only the latest skirmish between Armey and FreedomWorks, which he left Nov. 30 after a messy takeover attempt.

Armey, 72, of Bartonville, has written that the sides differed over staff assignments on a book.

For FreedomWorks' part, executive Matt Kibbe has accused Armey and "Republican insiders" of trying to take over the Tea Party support group, funded in large part by Chicago-area hospital investor Dick Stephenson. (He's paying Armey.)

FreedomWorks has been hurt most and has been "significantly tarnished" by the split, political science professor Mark P. Jones of Rice University wrote by email.

At best, Jones wrote, the dust will settle and FreedomWorks can rebuild. At worst, it will become "an increasingly irrelevant political force, existing more to support the personal agendas of its leadership."

Armey has also been talking. He said FreedomWorks gave too little time and money to electable candidates and instead "spent its time monkeying around with Glenn Beck."

That's $1 million worth of monkeying.

Twitter: @budkennedy

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