David Corn: The "Smoking Gun" Memo That Triggered the FreedomWorks Feud

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    It was a simple two-page memo—a proposed contract—that ignited the ongoing civil war that threatens FreedomWorks, the prominent conservative outfit that has bolstered and helped shape the tea party movement.

    Last August, former Republican Rep. Dick Armey, then the chairman of FreedomWorks, was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a "Restore Liberty" retreat for the group's donors. According to Armey, he had arrived ready to confront Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, over an issue of much concern to Armey: Kibbe had been poaching Armey's media interviews. The former House majority leader had come to believe that when the media staff at FreedomWorks was contacted by television and radio producers seeking to book Armey they had replied that Armey was unavailable and instead offered Kibbe as a guest. Armey was upset, but his intention, he says, was to privately raise this matter with Kibbe. A fierce election was under way, and he didn't want to create too big of a fuss and distract FreedomWorks, which was supporting conservative candidates in hotly contested races.
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    Yet in Wyoming, according to Armey and other sources connected to FreedomWorks, another issue arose. A FreedomWorks staffer passed to Armey a two-page memo that Kibbe wanted Armey to sign. This proposed agreement—of which Mother Jones obtained a copy—caused Armey to suspect something was amiss at the organization. It began:


    The purpose of this Agreement is to memorialize the pre-existing understandings between the Board of Directors of FreedomWorks and Mr. Kibbe regarding the creation and publication of a book written by Mr. Kibbe during his tenure as President of FreedomWorks, titled, Hostile Takeover.

    Kibbe had published Hostile Takeover two months earlier. Armey, who in 2010 had co-written with Kibbe a best-selling book, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, had assumed that Hostile Takeover had been produced the same way as the one he and Kibbe had crafted. While writing Give Us Liberty, Armey and Kibbe had used the resources of FreedomWorks—staffers on the nonprofit group's payroll, for instance, had conducted research and drafted different chapters—and FreedomWorks had received all the proceeds.

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