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.That's right, the details Armey didn't want to get into included him showing up with a gun-toting aide, which an anonymous staffer points out happened just a couple weeks after the shooting at the Family Research Council. Armey contends that he was responding to unethical behavior by the president of FreedomWorks; specifically, that he used the group's resources to write a book which he then collected royalties on.
The coup lasted all of six days.
But then, Armey found out where the real power was, and it wasn't with the former House majority leader and his armed flunky, it was with the big donors. Richard Stephenson, founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, pushed Armey out and brought the staff he'd fired back, paying Armey off with a promise of $400,000 a year for 20 years and pouring millions more into FreedomWorks. Stephenson was well hidden as a source of the money, of course:
According to public records, FreedomWorks received more than $12 million before the election from two corporations based in Knoxville, Tenn.: Specialty Investments Group and Kingston Pike Development. The firms were established within a day of each other by William S. Rose III, a local bankruptcy lawyer.One of the conditions for the contributions was that FreedomWorks spend liberally on Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Deadbeat dad). Walsh was headed for a 10-point defeat, so we should be glad that even as Stephenson was giving the money, he was insisting it be thrown away.
Rose, who could not be reached for comment, has said publicly he would not answer questions about the donations. But according to three current and former FreedomWorks employees with knowledge of the donations, the money originated with Stephenson and his family, who arranged for the contributions from the Tennessee firms to the super PAC.
To recap: a major tea party group, which claims to be totally grassroots and not at all astroturfy, went through a coup carried out by a former House majority leader, his wife, and a gun-wielding aide, only to have the coup reversed through millions funneled through secret "corporations" by a donor whose business is for-profit cancer treatment (which is in no way related to FreedomWorks' fierce opposition to health care reform). Republicans certainly do put the fun in dysfunctional.