How a Former Congressman Staged a Literal Armed Coup of a Tea Party Group, With a Gun and Everything

In September, Dick Armey, the former Republican House Majority Leader, wanted to re-assert control of FreedomWorks, the influential Tea Party political action group of which he was chair. So he did what any old, paranoid Republican would do: he brought a guy with a handgun in to fire everyone.

Armey had accused FreedomWorks' president, Matt Kibbe, of "improperly using FreedomWorks staff resources to produce a book," an accusation that, if true, would jeopardize its tax status as a nonprofit. And bizarrely, he thought the best way to address his concern was with the implied threat of firearm violence, according to The Washington Post's Amy Gardner:

The partnership came to a crashing end when Armey marched into FreedomWorks's office Sept. 4 with his wife, Susan, executive assistant Jean Campbell and the unidentified man with the gun at his waist - who promptly escorted Kibbe and Brandon out of the building.

"This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council," said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. "So when a man with a gun who didn't identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I'd never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?' It was bizarre.' "

"Bizarre" doesn't really even begin to describe Armey's Very Tea Party coup. Immediately after Kibbe was escorted from the building, Armey attempted to fire three employees, only to change his mind when they burst into tears. Armey's wife Susan "passed her husband notes that several employees assumed contained suggestions on what to say"; on a conference call, he demanded more support for Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin.

Ultimately Armey was paid to leave: Richard J. Stephenson, "a reclusive Illinois millionaire" who seems to have donated $12 million to FreedomWorks just before the election, is paying the former congressman a fuck-off fee of $400,000 a year for the next 20 years, and Kibbe has returned as president. The guy with the gun remains unidentified.

[WaPo]