FreedomWorks is a conservative and libertarian advocacy group based in Washington D.C., United States. FreedomWorks trains volunteers, assists in campaigns, and encourages them to mobilize, interacting with both fellow citizens and their political representatives. It is widely associated with the Tea Party movement.
|over 1 million in 2010|
President & CEO
|Citizens for a Sound Economy|
FreedomWorks for America,|
|600,000 online activists|
FreedomWorks originated from a conservative political group founded by David H. Koch and Charles Koch called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which in 2004 split into Americans for Prosperity, led by President Nancy Pfotenhauer, and a remainder group which merged with Empower America and was renamed FreedomWorks, led by President and CEO Matt Kibbe. Dick Armey, Jack Kemp, and C. Boyden Gray served as co-chairmen of the new organization with Bill Bennett focusing on school choice as a Senior Fellow. Empower America had been founded in 1993 by Bennett, former Secretary of HUD Jack Kemp, former Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and former Representative Vin Weber. In December 2006, Steve Forbes joined the FreedomWorks board of directors.
On August 14, 2009, after Armey's leadership of FreedomWorks became a problem to his employer, the lobbying and legal firm of DLA Piper, Armey was forced to resign from his job at DLA Piper. DLA Piper chairman Francis Burch responded that the firm serves clients "... who support enactment of effective health care reform this year and encourages responsible national debate."
Armey disagreed with FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe's use of FreedomWorks staff for the research and promotion of Kibbe's book, Hostile Takeover, which according to Armey put FreedomWorks's tax-exempt status in jeopardy. Armey has stated, "what bothered me most ... was that [Kibbe] was asking me to lie, and it was a lie that I thought brought the organization in harm's way."
On November 30, 2012, Armey resigned as chairman of FreedomWorks. Armey told Mother Jones, "The top management team of FreedomWorks was taking a direction I thought was unproductive, and I thought it was time to move on with my life." Armey stipulated that FreedomWorks was to immediately remove his name, image, or signature "from all its letters, print media, postings, web sites, videos, testimonials, endorsements, fund raising materials, and social media." Armey claimed that the split was caused by President and CEO Matt Kibbe's use of FreedomWorks' resources to write a book, Hostile Takeover, which he personally profited from and which he asked Armey and the board to later acknowledge was written without significant resources from FreedomWorks; Kibbe alleged that the split was a result of competing visions for the direction of the organization. The Associated Press reported that in September 2012, Armey agreed to resign by November 2012 in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments, funded by board member Richard J. Stephenson.
Shortly following the split between FreedomWorks and Dick Armey, FreedomWorks again faced public controversy over the creation of a video featuring a panda fellating Hillary Clinton. The video was filmed with two female FreedomWorks employees in costume, one in a panda suit and one wearing a Hillary mask.
Kibbe left FreedomWorks in July 2015 to start a new organization, Free the People. Adam Brandon is the current president and CEO.
FreedomWorks seeks to identify itself with two schools of thought in terms of effective advertising and marketing: the Austrian School of economics and public choice theory. Through public choice theory, FreedomWorks legitimizes its mission and models itself after the Austrian School.
Kibbe, a former aide to Republican Representative Dan Miller and a former staffer at the Republican National Committee, said that the group "will encourage Republicans – and Democrats – to take positions on issues of individual freedom". Armey said, "Ronald Reagan launched a political and intellectual revolution, and the Contract with America expanded it. Today, it's time for the next wave. We have a rare window to make the big ideas of individual ownership and economic opportunity a political reality for all Americans. That's the purpose of FreedomWorks."
FreedomWorks views itself as having eight key issues: Budget and Spending; Health Care Reform; Fundamental Tax Reform, Energy and the Environment; Workplace Freedom; School Choice; RedTape, Hidden Taxes, and Regulation, and Medicare, Social Security and Entitlement Reform. According to the FreedomWorks website, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), is a "multi-trillion-dollar takeover of health care".
FreedomWorks helped foster the Tea Party movement. In 2009, FreedomWorks responded to the growing number of Tea party protests across the United States, and became one of several groups active in the "Tea Party" tax protests. Three national conservative groups, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and DontGo led the tea party movement in April 2009, according to The Atlantic magazine. FreedomWorks was a lead organizer of the September 12, 2009, Taxpayer March on Washington, also known as the 9/12 Tea Party. In February 2010, FreedomWorks, the FreedomWorks Foundation, and the FreedomWorks Political Action Committee were among the twelve most influential groups in the Tea Party movement, according to the National Journal. In September 2010, FreedomWorks was one of the top five most influential organizations in the Tea Party movement, according to The Washington Post. FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity were especially important in creating the Tea Party Movement and in encouraging the movement to focus on climate change, according to the Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. In 2009, FreedomWorks advocated for the defeat of Democratic-sponsored climate change legislation. In 2009, senior reporter Josh Harkinson, writing in Mother Jones magazine, listed FreedomWorks as a significant climate change denier. In 2010, FreedomWorks helped organize Tea Party protests and passed fliers opposing national climate policy. FreedomWorks promoted the Contract from America, a Tea Party manifesto, which included planks in opposition to the Obama administration's initiatives on health care reform and cap and trade. FreedomWorks sponsored campaigns to block climate legislation as well as Obama's broader agenda.
Among other activities, FreedomWorks runs boot camps for supporters of Republican candidates. FreedomWorks spent over $10 million on the 2010 elections on campaign paraphernalia alone. The required reading list for new employees includes Saul Alinsky, Frédéric Bastiat and Ayn Rand. Rolling Stone and Talking Points Memo allege that FreedomWorks helps run the Tea Party Patriots. Tea Party Patriots denies this claim. According to a 2010 article in The New York Times, FreedomWorks "has done more than any other organization to build the Tea Party movement".
In the 2010 congressional elections, FreedomWorks endorsed a number of candidates, including Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul. In addition to the aforementioned United States Senate candidates, FreedomWorks endorsed 114 candidates for federal office, of whom seventy won election, an independent study performed by Brigham Young University showed that only FreedomWorks's endorsement had a statistically significant impact on the success of a candidate in the General Election (U.S.).
In 2011, FreedomWorks ran a number of campaigns targeted at corporate rent-seeking behavior. They campaigned against GE CEO Jeff Immelt who they argue has made GE a rent-seeking corporation. FreedomWorks ran a campaign with the goal of getting Duke Energy to fire their CEO Jim Rodgers, accusing Duke Energy of lobbying for a "progressive agenda" to ensure that the company would receive green energy subsidies.
In addition to their anti-rent seeking campaigns, FreedomWorks has also been active in a number of issue campaigns at the state and national levels. One of these campaigns is the school choice SB1 campaign in Pennsylvania. Additionally, FreedomWorks ran an active grassroots campaign in support of Ohio Governor John Kasich's union reforms. FreedomWorks delivered thousands of yard signs, door-hangers, handouts, and registered conservative voters.
In 2011, FreedomWorks launched a Super PAC called FreedomWorks for America. The stated purpose of this PAC is to "empower the leaderless, decentralized community of the tea party movement as it continues its hostile takeover of the GOP establishment". Its endorsed candidates included Don Stenberg, Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, and Richard Mourdock.
In February 2013, FreedomWorks signed onto a memo which said, "Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare." On August 14, 2013, Joshua Withrow of FreedomWorks mentioned the continuing resolution set to expire September 30 which "must be renewed in order for the doors to stay open in Washington. The CR is the best chance we will get to withdraw funds from ObamaCare. This can be done by attaching bills by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) or Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA) to the CR, which will totally defund ObamaCare." Withrow also wrote "Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) are leading the charge to get their colleagues to commit to this approach, by putting their signatures to a letter affirming that they will refuse to vote for a CR that contains ObamaCare funding." Withrow wrote, "Support for the Cruz/Graves bills is absolutely meaningless without also signing the Lee/Meadows letter."
In September 2013, FreedomWorks opposed the legislation called Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons. This was the first time FreedomWorks took an official stance on foreign policy.
On February 12, 2014, FreedomWorks joined with Rand Paul as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration concerning reports of NSA domestic wiretapping. The lawsuit names President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is representing Paul and FreedomWorks in the case.
FreedomWorks supported the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826; 113th Congress), which was into the House on January 9, 2014. The bill would repeal a pending rule published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 8, 2014. The proposed rule would establish uniform national limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new electricity-generating facilities that use coal or natural gas. The rule also sets new standards of performance for those power plants, including the requirement to install carbon capture and sequestration technology. In a blog post, then FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe said that the bill would go a "long way in curbing the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) radical war on affordable and reliable energy from fossil fuels". Kibbe argued that the EPA's proposed rule was "an obvious backdoor attempt to effectively outlaw coal" because the standards were set "well below the emissions levels achieved by even the most advanced coal facilities".
According to John Broder of The New York Times, FreedomWorks has been supported by the oil industry. According to the liberal advocacy group Common Cause, FreedomWorks has also received funding from Verizon and SBC (now AT&T). Other FreedomWorks donors have included Philip Morris and foundations controlled by the Scaife family, according to tax filings and other records. FreedomWorks also receives funding through the sale of insurance policies through which policyholders automatically become members of FreedomWorks. In 2012, FreedomWorks had revenue of $15 million, with nearly 60% coming from four donors. In 2012, $12 million in donations from William S. Rose (via two of his companies) were scrutinized by some members of the media. Watchdog groups asked for investigations of the donations, alleging that the companies were created merely to hide the identity of contributors.