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Coup d’FreedomWorks

[ 44 ] December 26, 2012 |

What the what?

Until this year, the partnership between Kibbe and Armey worked well. Armey’s renown as a former House member drew media attention and crowds of conservative activists — most of them old enough to remember Armey’s role in the Republican revolution in Congress in 1994. And Kibbe’s youthful intellectualism drew a new generation of libertarian soldiers into the FreedomWorks fold. In 2010, the two co-wrote a book, “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto,” that became a New York Times bestseller and a successful marketing tool for FreedomWorks, which collected the book’s proceeds and used it to attract donations.

The partnership came to a crashing end when Armey marched into FreedomWorks’s office Sept. 4 with his wife, Susan, executive assistant Jean Campbell and the unidentified man with the gun at his waist — who promptly escorted Kibbe and Brandon out of the building.

“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.’ ”

By nearly all accounts, including from those loyal to him, Armey handled his attempted coup badly. Armey says he was stepping in because of ethical breaches by Kibbe and Brandon, accusing them of improperly using FreedomWorks staff resources to produce a book — ironically, named “Hostile Takeover” — for which Kibbe claimed sole credit and was collecting royalties. The use of internal resources for Kibbe’s benefit could jeopardize the group’s nonprofit tax status; the group denies any impropriety.

“This is not only about this one incident,” Armey said. “But that one incident was a matter of grievous concern.”

Armey also accused Brandon, Kibbe and other staff members loyal to them of squeezing him out of media appearances and management decisions while using his name to market the group.

Armey appeared out of touch and unsure of how FreedomWorks operated when he took over that Tuesday morning, according to interviews with more than a dozen employees on both sides who witnessed the takeover. Sitting in a glass-walled conference room visible to much of the staff, he placed three young female employees on administrative leave, then reversed himself when they burst into tears; his wife lamented aloud that maybe they had “jumped the gun.”

Jumped the gun indeed. Of course, given the reality of gun-nut power-hungry conservatives, the idea that Dick Armey would lead an armed rebellion against the leadership of his own organization makes sense. Unfortunately for him, he seems to have read the Guidebook to Overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev before doing so.

Comments (44)

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  1. Jameson Quinn says:

    Do you remember those heady days before 2000 when this sort of thing seemed to belong only in overbroad satire? What happened? Was that ever true, or was I just too innocent?

  2. Aaron Morrow says:

    I thought conservatives said that unnamed men with guns would SAVE us …

  3. Todd says:

    The only thing that can stop bad non-profits with guns is good non-profits with guns.

  4. bradP says:

    Not surprised that I hadn’t heard about that shooting at the Family Research Council.

    As to the topic, it seems like every major libertarian-leaning political organization is going through this sort of nastiness.

    Establishment republicans are working extremely hard to keep the more grassroots portions on message.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Not surprised that I hadn’t heard about that shooting at the Family Research Council.


      It was hardly a secret.

      • Vance Maverick says:

        If I hear a reference to some news event that’s unfamiliar to me, I often wonder, “Should I look it up? Or should I just make a tendentious remark about the fact that I hadn’t heard of it?”

    • Hogan says:

      It was in August. You may have heard about it at the time.

      • bradP says:

        I don’t know where I was that week.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          Um…care to explicate your point?

          I had forgotten about this episode already. So many shootings to keep track of. But evidently, the enemy of my enemy turns out not to be my friend!

          • bradP says:

            Um…care to explicate your point?

            There was no point. It got media play, and I completely missed it.

            • Warren Terra says:

              But surely a point was intended? I mean, if it wasn’t a comment meaninglessly just about you, why bother to make it? It seemed obvious that you were implying a malign conspiracy to downplay an event victimizing and institution of The Right. Caught being Wrong, you don’t backtrack but instead simply harrumph about how you had no purpose at all in making a comment.

              • bradP says:

                Inbetween my first comment and my response to Hogan I realized I didn’t hear about it because of my internet reading habits rather than lack of coverage.

                A less interesting topic.

    • greylocks says:

      it seems like every major libertarian-leaning political organization is going through this sort of nastiness.

      Because libertarianism, or what passes for it in these closet-authoritarians’ minds, is nasty. It attracts nasty, selfish people.

  5. MAJeff says:

    Armey’s renown as a former House member drew media attention and crowds of conservative activists — most of them old enough to remember Armey’s role in the Republican revolution in Congress in 1994.

    And most of whom think that his “Barney Fag” joke was the height of wittiness.

  6. John Protevi says:

    he placed three young female employees on administrative leave, then reversed himself when they burst into tears; his wife lamented aloud that maybe they had “jumped the gun.”

    I think “administrative leave” as well as “jumped the gun” should be in quotation marks, for I can only imagine that seeing the true dimensions of Dick Armey would be enough to cause anyone to burst into tears.

  7. DocAmazing says:

    Night of the Long Sporks

  8. Pinko Punko says:

    If you read the article carefully it really comes across as spin laundering- for example, why not investigate allegations of financial impropriety? I mean the entire conservative network is a giant scam.It is interesting all the same, but perhaps kind of marginalizes the Armey angle that these guys were just raking in the dough. Of course they were. That section is written like “two sides” and then the rest paints Armey as a nut job. But this is a nut in a bag of nuts.

    • Hogan says:

      I think the real impropriety was denying Armey what he thought was his rightful share of the loot.

      • Pinko Punko says:

        True- but my main point I think just got echoed at TPM- this story is clearly a one-sided source laundering, and it was annoying in that regard. They are likely all scumbags, but why should the Post carry water for either side? Yuck.

  9. witless chum says:

    A note to conservatives:
    The Guidebook to Overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev is not a real book and, as such, cannot be literally read by you or anyone else. Erik Loomis appears to be writing metaphorically here, because if such a book existed and could be read, it would provide a fairly comic opera set of instructions for lauching a coup. He was making fun of Dick Armey’s coup by comparing it to the failed attempt by Soviet hardliners to overthrown Mikhail Gorbachev’s government in 1991.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      We may need to hire you to provide discussions of every metaphor I use in the future.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Sorry, Robert Stacy McCain has spoken — the fact that Erik once used the word “fuck” means that nothing he says going forward could be a metaphor. (Note: this point is even more illogical and incoherent in its raw form.)

      • Mike Schilling says:

        I could answer this myself by looking up the McCain column, but in order to avoid having to pull my eyes out, I’ll just ask: did Erik use “fuck” to describe the act of sexual intercourse, or metaphorically?

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      When Dick Armey attempts a putsch it is indeed a literal putsch,* so one can understand the difficulty with figures of speech.

      * Were any beer-halls involved?

  10. RepubAnon says:

    One wonders what would have happened if everyone at FreedomWorks had carried concealed weapons.

    If this anecdote has any basis in fact, I’d also be intrigued to know what authorization Dick Armey (like “Goodheart”, a truly Dickensian name for the name of a Republican leader) took an armed man onto the premises and started telling people that they’d been fired. Was there a vote of the board of directors? If so, was that decision reversed?

    It’s a pity things worked out this way – I’d prefer to see the infighting paralyze these astroturf organizations rather than watch them metastasize into aggressively growing cancers within the body politic.

    • Uncle Kvetch says:

      Dick Armey (like “Goodheart”, a truly Dickensian name for the name of a Republican leader)

      I’ve always thought of him as the greatest gay porn superstar who never was.

  11. Warren Terra says:

    So: “Jumped the gun”: an obvious admission of unsportsmanlike treachery in racing? Or perhaps one of those cliched metaphors the Right have never heard of?

  12. herr doktor bimler says:

    So the new owner of FreedomWorks made his money through an ‘integrative oncology’ snake-oil scam. No wonder he opposes govt. regulation.

    • M. Bouffant says:

      Adverts for CTCofA have been popping up on my tee vee for some time now. I always found them even creepier than most telebision advertising; now I know why.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Apparently Stephenson’s mother died of cancer, and his immediate response was to think “Hey, there’s a lot of money to be made by pretending to cure cancer! I need my share!”

  13. heckblazer says:

    “We’re taking over this organization.”
    “Oh yeah, you and what Armey?”

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