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Fri Dec 7, 2012, 09:57 AM

Rift at Tea Party Group Reveals Questions about Movement’s Direction

Rift at Tea Party Group Reveals Questions about Movement’s Direction
By Alex Altman
Dec. 07, 2012

The messy split this week between Dick Armey and the Tea Party organization FreedomWorks may be a harbinger of things to come. Armey, the former majority leader of the House GOP, left the conservative group with an $8 million payout and a line of questions in his wake. Among them: what prompted the apparently acrimonious rift? And is the movement FreedomWorks helped foment — and which it rode to relevance and riches in return — headed for a similar breakup?


FreedomWorks is one of two offshoots of the Koch-backed conservative group Citizens for a Sound Economy (the other, Americans for Prosperity, still gets funding from the industrialist duo) and it has been a titan of the Tea Party movement since its inception. Headquartered in airy offices a few blocks from the Capitol, it has flourished under the Obama Administration by positioned itself as an organization that can train and educate the conservative grassroots through its nonprofit and social-welfare wings, as well as bankroll candidates who embody its ideology through its political action committees. While it is officially a nonpartisan organization, spending on behalf of Republicans or against Democrats comprised some $18 million of the $19.5 million the group’s super PAC spent in the last campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Much of that money was put toward electing Tea Party Republicans to the House and Senate, with varying degrees of success.

But many conservatives believe FreedomWorks has reaped much more from its relationship with the Tea Party than it has given back. The outfit’s membership and revenues have soared as the army of grassroots activists opposed to Obama emerged, with its fundraising reportedly spiking to $40 million this year. Several sources in the conservative movement questioned what the group had to show for its outlays in 2012 except efforts at self-promotion. “Where the hell did that $40 million go?” asks one conservative strategist aligned with the Tea Party. “With that kind of money, their presence in the field was anemic.”

FreedomWorks’ high profile, the strategist argues, hampers the impact of other conservative organizations, who are competing for a finite pool of donors and dollars. Ineffective national Tea Party groups “might have sucked the movement dry,” says the strategist. “This fall the tea party movement was tired, it was drained…It’s certainly not what it was in 2010. It was almost, in some ways, like the Tea Party never happened.”

The Tea Party isn’t over; it has ushered into Congress a brigade of arch-conservatives who will keep its ideology alive in the Capitol. But the days when the Republican Establishment were grateful for the grassroots movement’s energy seem finished. Many GOP strategists blame the Tea Party for yanking Republican candidates out of the mainstream and toward the political fringe during Obama’s first term. The brand is in tatters, prompting Republicans who proudly ran under its banner in 2010 to edge away this fall. The freshman class of House Tea Partyers is back in Congress en masse, but Republican leaders no longer tolerate their truculence; this week House Speaker John Boehner booted several congressmen from committee posts for their refusal to toe the party line. And the patron saint of Senate Tea Partyers, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, announced Thursday he would be quitting the chamber in January for a new gig at a conservative think tank.



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Reply Rift at Tea Party Group Reveals Questions about Movement’s Direction (Original post)
babylonsister Dec 2012 OP
David__77 Dec 2012 #1

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 10:56 AM

1. FreedomWorks is a class organization for "new money."

I find it interesting that one of this group's pet peeves is "rent seeking," or non-productive corporate activities to garner wealth - nominal economic activity. It is paradoxical because they have no problem with financial speculation. I want to explore this further because this is where they get their "populist" appeal: "opposing big corporations" while supporting an agenda that could do nothing but further empower big capital. I guess it's nothing new; in fact, there was a certain German who had a version of that right-wing populism...

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