In the latest sign of turmoil at FreedomWorks, two prominent board members have resigned following the completion of an investigation they launched into possible misconduct within the conservative group, which has been an instrumental force in the tea party movement.
In December, these two board members, James Burnley IV and C. Boyden Gray, sent a letter to FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe informing him that they had received "allegations of wrongdoing by the organization or its employees." They noted they had retained two attorneys, Alfred Regnery and David Martin, to conduct an independent investigation into the accusations. Burnley and Gray, both of them high-profile veterans of Republican administrations, ordered Kibbe to cooperate with the lawyers, to ensure that no records were "destroyed, deleted, modified or otherwise tampered with" and to send Regnery a check for $25,000 to cover his initial fees. The investigation followed several months of conflict inside the group that included the surprise resignation of FreedomWorks' longtime chairman, Dick Armey, a former Republican congressman and onetime House majority leader. Armey accused Kibbe of improperly using FreedomWorks resources to promote a book Kibbe had written.
After the investigation was launched, Kibbe penned a private memo—titled "Republican Insiders Attempt Hostile Takeover of FreedomWorks"—accusing Armey, Burnley, and Gray of being shills for the Republican establishment and undercutting the group's standing as an independent, nonpartisan, conservative organization. Kibbe maintained they were trying to punish him for defying their supposed effort to steer FreedomWorks into the conventional Republican fold. He claimed that the divisive fight within FreedomWorks was not really about his book contract or other organizational matters; it was about politics and control of a key right-wing resource.
<>The battle inside FreedomWorks produced bizarre tales of internal clashes and odd political intrigue. There was the story that Armey—who received an $8 million payout from a FreedomWorks board member to ease his departure—had shown up at the group's offices with a gun-wielding assistant to confront Kibbe and Adam Brandon, the organization's senior vice president. Armey maintained that this tale was hyped up by his FreedomWorks foes and that he had arrived at the office with a former Capitol Hill cop who had been volunteering his security services to Armey and FreedomWorks for years. In February, Mother Jones broke the news that FreedomWorks produced a promotional video last year that included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulated performing oral sex on another intern who was wearing a Hillary Clinton mask. (The video was spiked after several staffers complained.) Former FreedomWorks officials have said that the place was in tumult, with employees departing or looking to leave.