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Powerful Tea Party Documents Leaked

Posted by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 9:42 AM
  • 69 Replies

 

Powerful Tea Party Group's Internal Docs Leak-Read Them Here

FreedomWorks bills itself as a grassroots outfit, but it's bankrolled mostly by big-money donors.

-By

| Fri Jan. 4, 2013 3:02 AM PST
FreedomWorks FreedomWorks/Facebook

This story has been updated. Click here for the latest.

FreedomWorks, the national conservative group that helped launch the tea party movement, sells itself as a genuine grassroots operation, and for years it has battled accusations of "astroturfing"-posing as a populist organization while doing the bidding of big-money donors. Yet internal documents obtained by Mother Jones show that FreedomWorks has indeed become dependent on wealthy individual donors to finance its growing operation.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire banker and FreedomWorks board member, and members of his family funneled $12 million in October through two newly created Tennessee corporations to FreedomWorks' super-PAC, which used these funds to support tea party candidates in November's elections. The revelation that a corporate bigwig like Stephenson, who founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and chairs its board, was responsible for more than half of the FreedomWorks super-PAC's haul in 2012 undercuts the group's grassroots image and hands ammunition to critics who say FreedomWorks does the bidding of rich conservative donors.

Big donations like Stephenson's are business as usual for FreedomWorks. According to a 52-page report prepared by FreedomWorks' top brass for a board of directors meeting held in mid-December at the Virginia office of Sands Capital Management, an investment firm run by FreedomWorks board member Frank Sands, the entire FreedomWorks organization-its 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) nonprofit arms and its super-PAC-raised nearly $41 million through mid-December. Of that total, $33 million-or 81 percent of its 2012 fundraising-came in the form of "major gifts," the type of big donations coveted by nonprofits and super-PACs. (FreedomWorks' nonprofit components do not have to disclose their funders.)

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million-or 94 percent-of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000. Corporations once accounted for more of FreedomWorks' hefty donations. In a memo included in the report, David Kirby, FreedomWork's vice president for development, and senior adviser Terry Kibbe wrote, "This year continued our trend of relying less and less on corporate support." At the same time FreedomWorks expanded its small donor ranks from 41,794 in 2011 to 81,081 in 2012. More than 30,000 of those small donors gave between a dollar and $99 this year.

According to ex-FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey, when he joined the organization in 2003, FreedomWorks relied heavily on corporate donations. The group, he says, subsequently weaned itself off such underwriting and used direct-mail lists-some provided by Armey-to build up a base of small donors. But in the last year, there was a "big surge in private individual contributions," most of which Armey says he didn't know about. "The details were kept secret from me," he remarks.

FreedomWorks, flush with wealthy donors' money, took full advantage of the nation's lax campaign finance rules during the 2012 election cycle. The group's nonprofit side shifted millions of dollars in dark money to the FreedomWorks super-PAC, effectively hiding the true source of those funds. One campaign finance reform advocate blasted those internal money transfers as the "laundering of secret money." A FreedomWorks spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The December board report was prepared in the wake of a bitter internal battle between Armey and FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe. As Mother Jones first reported, Armey resigned in November after feuding with Kibbe over the direction of FreedomWorks. Armey accused Kibbe of using FreedomWorks resources to write a book in a deal that awarded Kibbe the sales profits. Two board members allied with Armey in December launched a legal investigation into alleged wrongdoing at FreedomWorks. Kibbe, meanwhile, drafted a memo charging that Armey tried to steer the group away from its tea party roots and toward a more mainstream GOP position. Four FreedomWorks staffers, including vice president for public policy and government affairs Max Pappas, resigned after news broke of Armey's resignation.

In 2012, according to the board book, FreedomWorks hosted 110 current and potential "investors" at a Jackson Hole, Wyoming, hotel for its second annual "Restore Liberty" donor retreat. The event resulted in a source pledging a $10 million matching grant; the board book does not name this source. In August 2013, FreedomWorks plans to fete donors at the four-star St. Regis resort in Aspen, Colorado. (FreedomWorks also treats its board well, holding its August 2012 meeting at the Snake River Lodge and Spa in Teton Village, Wyoming, according to minutes taken at the meeting.)

In 2013, FreedomWorks plans to spend between $25 million and $30 million, according to the board book. Favored causes and projects include the annual Blog-Con convention, the right's answer to Netroots Nation; fly-ins for activists to lobby members of Congress; briefings with lawmakers and their aides; and the recently launched FreedomWorks University. FreedomWorks also plans to continue its financial support for Glenn Beck's media enterprise, including sharing a TV studio with and leasing office space to the Washington bureau of TheBlaze, Beck's website and TV network. 

The board book is chock full of strategy talk by the FreedomWorks' brass. In a memo to the board included in the report, CEO Kibbe panned GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as just another "old white guy." He acknowledged that his group's plan to help flip control of the US Senate to the GOP failed miserably ("We take our lumps with humility"), and he insisted that it's time to replace the aging image of the conservative movement with "younger, more diverse, more substantive voices for freedom in America." Kibbe asked: "Can liberty, personal responsibility, and doing things for yourself be the new 'cool'?"

Such a makeover, Kibbe wrote, can begin if FreedomWorks courts so-called "Ron Paul Millennials," the loud, loyal twentysomethings who in 2008 and 2012 followed the GOP libertarian presidential candidate from one stump speech to the next. Kibbe noted that FreedomWorks plans to reach out to blacks and Hispanics with a new "Black and Brown" tour, starring a Brazilian immigrant and tea party activist named Ana Puig. And he touted FreedomWorks' growing online presence, with 2.1 million members on its email list and 4 million Facebook fans.

Despite his organization's reliance on big-money donors, Kibbe stressed that the future of conservative politics is at the grassroots level. "Freedom is trending," he wrote to the board, "thanks to your willingness to keep up the fight."

UPDATE: In an interview with Media Matters for America's Joe Strupp, Dick Armey shed more light on FreedomWorks' financial arrangements with Glenn Beck's media network and Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Those deals were first reported by Mother Jones. Armey said FreedomWorks paid Beck upwards of $1 million to promote Freedomwork last year, calling the deal with Beck "basically paid advertising for FreedomWorks." But Armey questioned that deal, saying it provided "too little value" to FreedomWorks. Read the entire Media Matters story here.

by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 9:42 AM
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Replies (1-10):
imamomzilla
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It's been a while!
Yesterday at 3:01 PM
by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 9:49 AM
7 moms liked this

 *yawns, stretches...........scrolls by*

blues_pagan
by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 9:57 AM
2 moms liked this

 So you see no issue that a "grassroots" organization like the Tea Party, and one of their largest and more powerful groups, has basically been bought by millionaires?  Don't you think that this may sway their platform away from the real grassroots movements and more towards benefiting only a few, rich corporate elite?

Quoting imamomzilla:

 *yawns, stretches...........scrolls by*

 

gsprofval
by Gold Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:09 AM
6 moms liked this

No big deal--not any different than any other political party or group.

mikiemom
by Silver Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:14 AM

I think in their hearts they know they are being controlled by the megacorporations. They know they couldn't raise the kind-of money it takes. They are all fundementally ok with that.

Quoting blues_pagan:

 So you see no issue that a "grassroots" organization like the Tea Party, and one of their largest and more powerful groups, has basically been bought by millionaires?  Don't you think that this may sway their platform away from the real grassroots movements and more towards benefiting only a few, rich corporate elite?

Quoting imamomzilla:

 *yawns, stretches...........scrolls by*

 


blues_pagan
by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:20 AM
1 mom liked this

 So you are completely ok with knowing that millionairs are in control of a group they are disguising as a grassroots organization? You are ok with the fact that our government and even those who are supposed ot be protesting for the betterment of America have been put into the pocketbooks of the most wealthy in this country?

Why?  I know I am not ok with it.  It is wrong when the few are in control of the many.  Way too much like a lordship to me.

Quoting gsprofval:

No big deal--not any different than any other political party or group.

 

mikiemom
by Silver Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM
2 moms liked this

Just one example, they don't care, they know they are being controlled by big corporate business. They forgive those folks when they send their blue-collar jobs overseas, they forgive those corporations when they commit theft and hide their money in Swiss bank accounts so as to not pay taxes. It's easier for them to blame the poor person down the street on welfare because of their other character flaw of being absolutely judgemental and hypocritical.

Quoting gsprofval:

No big deal--not any different than any other political party or group.


gsprofval
by Gold Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM
9 moms liked this

How is the Tea Party any different than the Democrats, Republicans, Liberatarians?

At least the Tea Party has funds legally contributed from and American.

Your precious obama can't say that since he has accepted illegal FOREIGN contributions.

gsprofval
by Gold Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:28 AM
4 moms liked this

Some of you might need to reign in the anger about big businesses moving jobs overseas.

obama bailed out General Motors and the CEO of General Motors, along with obama, brag about how 7 out of 10 GM vehicles are made OUTSIDE of the U.S.

And how many so-called "green" companies has obama given billions to knowing full well every one of those companies was bankrupt?

 

mikiemom
by Silver Member on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:34 AM
2 moms liked this

Just like everything else, you might want to clean up your own house before going around judging others. That is the root of the entire problem. Your camp is so consumed with controlling everyone else and trying to force your morals and ideals that you lose site of what is important, and you forget to worry about your own souls. Many of you are hatefull and nasty but rationalize that as being christian and then sit back and wonder why christianity is attacked.

Quoting gsprofval:

How is the Tea Party any different than the Democrats, Republicans, Liberatarians?

At least the Tea Party has funds legally contributed from and American.

Your precious obama can't say that since he has accepted illegal FOREIGN contributions.


blues_pagan
by on Jan. 6, 2013 at 10:36 AM

 Ok first off, proof GS.  You can say that all you want but there needs to be actual proof (and don't pull up the Drudge report lol).

And the issue here is that this is supposed to be a grassroots organization.  They have given themselves this name.

Grassroots: 

the common or ordinary people, especially as contrasted with the leadership or elite of a political party, social organization, etc.; the rank and file.
 
So they are basically lying.  They are making themselves something that they are very obviously not.  And you are ok with that?
Quoting gsprofval:

How is the Tea Party any different than the Democrats, Republicans, Liberatarians?

At least the Tea Party has funds legally contributed from and American.

Your precious obama can't say that since he has accepted illegal FOREIGN contributions.

 

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