Tea Baggers with guns: The Dick Armey edition

Dick Armey

Dick Armey (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

You know that Dick Armey got $8 million from the Tea Baggers to leave Freedom Works, the lobbying organization that he and others formed under the pretense that it was a grass roots organization. Few people seem to point out that when billionaires, lobbyists and political hacks come up with a plan coordinated with Fox News, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh that gets people in funny hats to hold demonstrations and disrupt town hall meetings, that’s not grassroots.

But how he got it was pretty intimidating.

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. 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.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.

The Washington Post story above has plenty of fascinating detail on the craziness going on at Tea Bagger central and how extreme, and incompetent, Armey was during his brief takeover.

But I can’t get over the fact that Armey bought a guy with a gun with him to fire those five employees. Is that really the mentality of Tea Bagging purists? They just walk in with guns, and people better do what they say? What if someone stood up to Armey and said, “you have nothing to say until that guy with the gun leaves?” Would that person have been shot?

What if someone who was scared called the cops and said, “There’s a guy with a gun in our building, and we don’t know who he is?” What kind of response would the police have made?

Nothing like that happened, but the presence of a gun easily could have made a bad situation a bloodbath.

Show me the money! (The Tea Bagger edition)

Apparently, there was big news in Washington Thursday:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading conservative voice in the Senate, will resign his seat in January to become the next president of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, a sudden move with far-reaching implications.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of South Carolina in the United States Senate for the past eight years, but now it’s time for me to pass the torch to someone else and take on a new role in the fight for America’s future,” DeMint said in a statement Thursday morning. …

The coverage implies that this is significant because it essentially removes the leading Tea Bagger from Congress and puts him in a think tank that will have a major influence on how conservative political policies are formed and carried out.

OK, that sounds ominous. DeMint is somewhat responsible for people like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio getting elected to the Senate, and he wants more Pauls and Rubios in Congress.

But forgive me if I think there’s something more basic here that merits closer attention. I checked out DeMint’s Senate financial disclosure form online:

demintThat’s from 2010. Notice something interesting here? The chart shows the average net worth of a U.S. senator. This chart includes DeMint’s net worth. You don’t see anything on DeMint in this chart, right? That’s because DeMint is poor by Senate standards. His financial record is reflected here, but it’s so close to zero, it doesn’t even register on the chart.

Want to see who the richest people in the Senate were in 2010?

richestThese people are America’s 1%. Some of them are America’s 0.1%. DeMint ranks 98th in terms of wealth in the Senate. In layman’s terms, he’s at the bottom of the 99% bucket. Buried in the Washington Post story linked to above is the fact that this is all about looking to cash in and join the 1%.

According to a Washington Post analysis of congressional wealth, DeMint is among the poorest members of Congress. His estimated wealth in 2010 was $40,501. He could stand to receive a significant bump in pay in his new position. Feulner’s total 2010 compensation package from Heritage was more than $1 million, tax records show.

Ed Feulner was the head of the Heritage Foundation. DeMint is taking his job. That’s not just “a significant bump.” DeMint hopes to enter Scrooge McDuck territory here.


But why would DeMint choose to do this now? Well, another Tea Bagger found a financial windfall this week, and I’ll bet this had DeMint ready to dive off his financial cliff:

From its formation in 2004, it always seemed more than a bit incongruous that the tea party political group FreedomWorks chose as its chairman one of the erstwhile top power players from the halls of Congress.

Nothing Dick Armey did in eight years changed that perception, including the way he exited Washington-based FreedomWorks — with an $8 million payout, according to the Associated Press, the kind of platinum parachute available only to the canniest and coziest of the capital’s inside players.

As one liberal on Twitter taunted those who would contribute to the purportedly grass-roots organization: “You should totally raid Junior’s college fund to donate money to @FreedomWorks because its leaders need new Jags.”

So Jim DeMint is leading the Tea Party from Congress, actually getting people elected (and contributing to the congressional stalemate by upping the quotient of crazy from the right) and gets no financial gain out of the deal. Meanwhile, Dick Armey, the guy who’s telling us that the Tea Party is a group of patriotic Americans concerned about the rise of socialism in America and aren’t being led by anyone, actually heads another group of fire-breathing Tea Baggers, quits on bad terms and gets $8 million when he walks away.

Don’t you think that must have really pissed DeMint off?

And here are the conditions Armey imposed in his departure:

As I resign from all board positions and duties, please see below a list of dispositions on outstanding issues: I expect to be fully compensated through the expiration date (December 31, 2012) of my current consulting contract with FreedomWorks. Henceforth FreedomWorks shall be prohibited from using my name, image, or signature in any way or for any purpose without my written permission or in the event of my death, without my heirs written permission.

Effective immediately I expect that Freedom Works shall remove my name, image, and signature from all its letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter. I expect to receive via email at [redacted] by the close of business, December 4, 2012, all user names, passwords, security questions, and security answers for all accounts, web sites and social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter, created in my name.

Effective immediately FreedomWorks is prohibited from using my booklet or any updated versions of my booklet “Hitting the Ground Running” without my written permission which I innovated while still in congress and trusted to Max Pappas to update for new member orientation. I request that FreedomWorks deliver the copy of my official congressional portrait to my home in Texas.

This has to be the greatest, “Screw you. Give me my money and make sure no one knows I had anything to do with you.”

Jim DeMint reads this and asks, “Why am I here in the Senate scrimping on pennies?”

It’s very simple. When something like this happens in Washington, and people say how shocking and unexpected it is, just follow the money, and everything makes perfect sense.