June 5, 2013

FreedomWorks seems to be in a deep state of disarray following Dick Armey's attempted coup and effort to oust executive director Matt Kibbe. MotherJones reports that two more high-profile directors have resigned from FreedomWorks' board of directors.

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.

Reading deeper into that article, it appears that the battle lines were drawn by Gray and Burnley and donors aligned with them against Kibbe and his allied donors. Evidently, Kibbe won.

The investigation launched by Burnley and Gray—which covered Kibbe's book deals and other matters—divided the organization and its board into opposing camps, according to former FreedomWorks officials. Several board members, these sources say, sided with Kibbe and urged staffers to view the probe as a hostile act the organization could beat back. Key board members allying themselves with Kibbe—as opposed to Burnley and Gray—included Robert T.E. Lansing, chairman of the Westminster Funds, a real estate partnership; Frank Sands, founder of Sands Capital Management; and Mary Albaugh, who is listed on FreedomWorks' website without any identifying information. Albaugh, though, is better known in Washington as Betsy Fisher, the owner of a high-end and popular woman's clothing store that bears her name and that is visited by prominent DC shoppers. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Board members backing Kibbe conducted their own interviews of FreedomWorks staffers and reported what these staffers said to Kibbe, according to a former FreedomWorks official, who notes this had "a chilling effect" and undermined the probe initiated by Burnley and Gray.

My personal experience with FreedomWorks' "volunteers" is similar to what they describe there. Everything is a war, everything is a battle, and it's all zero sum. They are unafraid to leave bodies strewn across the battlefield and to take aim at innocent people while using strongarm tactics.

This comes at the very same time that conservatives are flogging the specious and untrue claim about the IRS investigation of 501(c)(4) investigations. There is no finer example of how non-profit organizations should NOT behave than FreedomWorks, which has consistently engaged in thug political wars in order to benefit TeaPublicans. It would not surprise me at all to discover misconduct, but it's unlikely we'll ever find out what it was.

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