Political Animal


December 08, 2012 12:31 PM How to Lose Big and Make Millions

By Adele Stan

For Tea Party engineers Dick Armey and Jim DeMint, the 2012 elections were a disaster. Take for instance, Richard Mourdock, the U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, who described a baby conceived in rape as a gift from the Almighty and enjoyed the backing of both FreedomWorks, chaired as of late by former House Majority Leader Armey, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, chaired by Sen. DeMint, R-S.C.

Of the 11 candidates endorsed by DeMint’s PAC, which raised $16.5 million this cycle (according to the SCF Web site), only three won. FreedomWorks got involved in the messy Missouri Senate primary, betting against Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, only to have its millions vanquished by the upstart, who was then pummeled by Democrat Claire McCaskill.

This week, both DeMint and Armey quit their day jobs — Armey, effective immediately, and DeMint resigning his Senate seat come the New Year. Such humility!

Uh, not so fast. You know how, in the corporate world that the right wing serves so well, CEOs are pushed out with golden parachutes? In Armey’s case, at least, that would appear to be the case, while DeMint is poised to make out pretty well, too.

The Associated Press reports that Armey will receive $8 million in “consulting fees” on the condition of his exit from FreedomWorks, with the dough put up by a Republican donor:

According to the contract, Armey’s consulting fees will be paid by Richard J. Stephenson, a prominent fundraiser and founder and chairman of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a national cancer treatment network. Stephenson is on the board of directors of FreedomWorks.
Armey’s exit comes as a new sign of acrimony in conservative and Republican ranks as the party’s bruised leadership struggles with its November electoral losses and uncertainty over how to recast its principles and issues to compete with an ascendant Democratic Party.

As Mother Jones reported when it broke the story of Armey’s departure from FreedomWorks, the parting was hardly amicable.

DeMint, for his part, will reap that amount in half the time that Armey will, so long as he holds on to his new gig as top dog at the Heritage Foundation for eight years. That’s right; a cool mil per annum, for which he can be counted on to fight any expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the 1 percent.

And as Brother Kilgore points out, however stunning the DeMint announcement — and it was — it’s a good move for the junior senator from what only a Southerner can get away with calling South Cackalacky, who was never big on legislating to begin with. From the start, DeMint’s game was obstruction, for which he demonstrated great talent.

However, the irony in his new post, Ezra Klein and Dave Weigel suggested on “The Rachel Maddow Show” earlier this week, is that Heritage, being a think tank, is a place where policy is written, and DeMint doesn’t seem to care much about policy. (Or thinking, for that matter. Tanking, well, the results of the 2012 Senate elections displayed a certain penchant for that.)

Time was when the aim of FreedomWorks, under Armey, was to “build a new power center around Sen. DeMint,” Adam Brandon, the organization’s executive vice president, told me in 2010. Even with DeMint’s exit, the senators who formed that “power center” remain in place, their primary purpose being to hold Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s feet to the flames of right-wing rage. Watch for the rise of Rand Paul, whose place as Kentucky’s junior senator was secured with the backing DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks.

It was an audacious and bullying move on the part of DeMint, when he threw his support to Rand Paul, who challenged McConnell’s hand-picked candidate, Trey Grayson, in the Republican primary — and in McConnell’s own state. In the land of the Derby, it was the political equivalent for McConnell of waking up with the proverbial horse’s head at the foot of the bed.

In the end, DeMint’s exit from Senate will likely change little, since his replacement, at least until 2014, will be a Republican, and he will still wield considerable influence over that little Tea-lerious power center.

As for Armey’s FreedomWorks farewell, there’s always another blowhard waiting in the wings, looking for a golden parachute.


  • martin on December 08, 2012 1:25 PM:

    Just goes to show how much better private enterprise works than the Gov't. No wonder they want to get rid of unemployment, pensions, social security, etc. Unemployment is the best thing that ever happens to them.

  • c u n d gulag on December 08, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Nice "tanking" gag, Ma'am!

    Ah, so, Freedom Works is Dick-less, and the Senate a tad less DeMint-ed.

    Now, Armey is free to do his evil magic somewhere else, $8 million richer, and The Heritage Foundation will have an extra-large heaping helping of Dominionist Evangelical Christianity - all for the bargain price of just $1 million a year.
    What a bargain!
    Just what an already Manichean organization needs - "No Shades of Gray" DeMint.

    Not enough bad sh*t can happen to these two.
    And sadly, not enough will.

  • MuddyLee on December 08, 2012 2:00 PM:

    Nice to see Armey and DeMint changing jobs - except they are both being rewarded a little too much. Interesting how conservatives like to rant about people with overly generous "food stamp" benefits who are dependent on government - you never hear a rant about guys who are dependent on donations from crazy conservative rich people who got that way due to favorable treatment from tax law changes and who plan for their heirs never to do any honest work. The biggest downside to this may be that Nikki Haley gets to pick a senator - nice prize for a woman who couldn't have come close to being a governor without Sarah Palin's endorsement.

  • Matt on December 08, 2012 2:16 PM:

    Interesting how conservatives like to rant about people with overly generous "food stamp" benefits who are dependent on government - you never hear a rant about guys who are dependent on donations from crazy conservative rich people who got that way due to favorable treatment from tax law changes and who plan for their heirs never to do any honest work.

    To be fair, $8,000,000 as a parting gift from people who you're leaving on such incredibly bad terms is probably better characterized as "hush money" than "welfare."

    If you read that MJ link, it sounds like $8M was either the price they paid to be rid of him, or the price that he charged not to tell the world WHY he was telling them to go fuck themselves, or both.

    Nice work, if you can get it!

  • beejeez on December 08, 2012 2:33 PM:

    Does this mean we can't call the Tea Party the Dick Army any more?

  • David on December 08, 2012 2:43 PM:

    GOP politics is less about winning elections than raising money. Both of these guys did really well at that. Elections are for the little people.

  • DRF on December 08, 2012 3:27 PM:

    Not to quibble, but the report is that Armey is to be paid $400,000 per year for the next 20 years. The present value of that is probably less than $4 Million, and presumably Armey would have to live 20 more years in order to be paid the full amount. It's still an extremely generous golden parachute but not quite as rich as one might think.

  • Bo on December 08, 2012 6:17 PM:

    Well, if this pattern of rewarding failure continues on the right wing, I suppose we will soon be reading that Reince Priebus has been signed to a three-year $50 million contract to play quarterback for the Jets or something.