WASHINGTON — Eased out with an $8 million payout provided by an influential GOP fundraiser, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he has left a conservative Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, because of an internal split over the group’s future direction.
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A confidential contract obtained by The Associated Press shows that Armey agreed in September to resign from his role as chairman of Washington-based FreedomWorks in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments. Dated Sept. 24, the contract specifies that Armey would resign his position at both FreedomWorks and its sister organization, the FreedomWorks Foundation, by the end of November.
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.
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Armey’s departure 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.
Armey confirmed his departure Tuesday, telling the AP that “my differences with FreedomWorks are a matter of principle.” Armey said he made the decision to quit FreedomWorks in August, but Stephenson and other board members urged him not to leave until after the Nov. 6 election. Stephenson did not immediately respond to calls from AP for comment.
Armey would not describe his specific concerns, but the former House majority leader told the Mother Jones website that the Tea Party group was moving in an unproductive direction. He also indicated dissatisfaction with the November election results, in which several GOP candidates supported by FreedomWorks Super PAC donations were beaten by Democratic party rivals.