What to learn about the Tea Party from FreedomWorks' tax forms.

What to Learn About the Tea Party From FreedomWorks' Tax Forms

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 26 2013 1:32 AM

What to Learn About the Tea Party From FreedomWorks' Tax Forms

The Center for Responsive Politics has done everyone a solid by pulling FreedomWorks' 2012 990 tax form, and placing it on the Internet gratis. According to the center, the key finding is that FreedomWorks raised more than $15 million in 2012, its PAC raised $25 million, and that "60 percent of the money FreedomWorks raised came from four publicly unnamed donors that each gave at least $1 million," including one donation of $4.9 million.

Here's the context: By all accounts FreedomWorks has not come close to that level of fundraising in the post-election, post-tons-of-negative-stories year of 2013. Like Rosie Gray, I've been hearing that the organization's haul so far as is closer to $10 million, and that a $1 million credit line was taken out. (You lose enough employees in a vicious coup, and you start to generate leakers.) But why was $10 million insufficient?

One clue: Matt Kibbe, president and CEO after the Armey departure, earned $470,000 in total compensation.

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Another: Molly Byrne, VP of membership/marketing for FreedomWorks, was laid off at the end of 2011. Her severance package in 2012 added up to a full salary, $74,285 in compensation and benefits. 

Oh, and: More than $3 million was spent on fundraising, more than $5 million on advertising, more than $1 million on office space—$15.591 million spent overall.

There's a lot of overhead here for an organization that's taken dings in the press and lost donors. But it hasn't hurt what was called, in the tell-alls, the "branding" of FreedomWorks and Kibbe. Throughout the shutdown and after, Kibbe was frequently booked on CNN to give the Tea Party perspective. (A 2011/2012 collaboration between CNN and the Tea Party Express has basically wrapped up.)

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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