Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey revealed that the Tea Party group paid Glenn Beck about $1 million to say "nice things" about the group on his radio show, and that it got a negative return on that investment, in an interview Friday — with the liberal group Media Matters, of all places. It's the latest strange revelation in the FreedomWorks civil war. Armey reportedly tried to stage an armed coup last fall, but his reign didn't last long, and donor Richard J. Stephenson agreed to pay Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years to go away. Apparently that didn't come with a non-disparagement clause.
After the liberal magazine Mother Jones posted a copy of a FreedomWorks document about its fundraising, Armey reached out to Media Matters to explain how the group wastes money by trying to raise money through radio hosts Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Armey said FreedomWorks paid Beck $1 million to say nice things about the group to raise more cash, but Beck's appeals raised considerably less than that. "The arrangement was simply FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck money and Glenn Beck said nice things about FreedomWorks on the air," Armey said, adding that, initially, Beck's kind words were only supposed to cost $250,000 a year. "Once that was approved by the trustees, it then took on a life of its own, it got bigger than we understood it to be. All of a sudden it was we are paying Limbaugh as well as Beck." The price of Beck's nice words then went up to $1 million a year, Army said. He explained how it was a bad investment:
"If Limbaugh and Beck, if we were using those resources to recruit activists and inform activists and to encourage and enthuse activists, that's one thing... If we are using these things to raise money; one, it's a damned expensive way to raise money; and two, it makes raising money an end on to itself not an instrumental activity to support the foundation work that our organization does...
"It is like federal budgeting... We count the receipts we get from people who have sent in money, and we, meaning they, I am not a part of it anymore, do not count what the funds that are laying out are. They don't say, we paid Beck a million dollars and we had this program where we raised $300,000, you had a net cost of $600,000, or whatever the numbers are."
If you can't quite remember all the twists and turns of the FreedomWorks saga, here are some highlights:
December 3: Mother Jones reports Armey abruptly quit in November, demanding his likeness, signature, and book stop being used to raise money for FreedomWorks, prompting a wave of speculation about what might be going on.
December 5: Armey reveals the fight was over FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe's book, which Armey said Kibbe created with a great deal of FreedomWorks resources but won the rights to personally. That means Kibbe makes money off the book, not FreedomWorks.
December 12: Mother Jones posts FreedomWorks internal memos in which Kibbe claims board members who called for an investigation into his book deal are really part of the GOP establishment trying to control the group. "Republican Insiders Attempt Hostile Takeover of FreedomWorks," the memo is called.
December 25: The Washington Post reveals that Armey was so mad about Kibbe's book that he staged an armed coup. Yes, armed as in guns. The day after Labor Day, Armey had "walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news." The Post reports the details of Armey's exit deal: Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder Richard J. Stephenson, a major FreedomWorks donor, will pay Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years.