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

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 Slate political reporter. 

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