On Wednesday, the Washington Post published a riveting account of the feud within FreedomWorks, disclosing that arch-libertarian Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire, was the secret source of $12 million the tea party group used to help Republican candidates in the fall election.
But what grabbed the most attention was the story's recounting of a contentious September 4 meeting in which former GOP Rep. Dick Armey, then the chair of FreedomWorks, brought a gun-wielding "assistant" to the offices of FreedomWorks. Referring to Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, and Adam Brandon, its senior vice president, the newspaper reported:
Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.
This sort of drama does not happen often in Washington, and the Post did not identify the guy with the gun. But Armey tells Mother Jones that this episode has been hyped up by his FreedomWorks foes, and he says the not-so-mysterious gun-touting assistant was a former Capitol Hill police officer named Beau Singleton, who used to be part of Armey's congressional security detail and who has volunteered his security services to Armey and FreedomWorks for years. "He was well-known to the people at FreedomWorks," Armey says. "He has provided me personal security on many occasions when I was in Washington." Singleton also oversaw security for FreedomWorks in September 2009 when it organized a large rally in Washington. Singleton, Armey says, is authorized to carry a gun, but he does so in a back holster that cannot be seen by an onlooker. "I was unaware he had a gun [at the meeting]," Armey maintains. "He kept it under his coat in the back....But the news looks like Armey came in there like John Dillinger, all guns a-blazing. That was false."
Armey says that his wife, Susan, and his assistant, Jean Campbell, were concerned about a FreedomWorks official losing his temper at this meeting and suggested that Singleton join Armey and the two of them on this trip to the group's office. But he insists there was nothing odd with him showing up at FreedomWorks with Singleton by his side.
Singleton, 56, confirms Armey's account. He says that he has known Kibbe and Brandon for years and that he had often "been around" at FreedomWorks. He adds that during the meeting between Armey and Kibbe, he "just observed. I was just kind of there....I can't see why they would act like I was menacing." In the Post's account, the unnamed gunman escorted Kibbe and Brandon off the premises, but Singleton says he did no such thing. "Whatever problem they had with FreedomWorks, I had no issues with them....I was not used to get them out of the office."
This latest tale of the war at FreedomWorks is an indication of how bad the blood has become. This man-with-a-gun story, which would seem to benefit Kibbe's side, comes after Mother Jones revealed that board members C. Boyden Gray and James Burnley IV recently initiated a legal investigation of alleged wrongdoing at FreedomWorks and that Kibbe, in response, drafted a memo accusing Armey, Gray, and Burnley of mounting a "hostile takeover" of the group in order to make it part of the Republican establishment. There's no telling if FreedomWorks, an important outfit for the tea party, can survive this civil war. But there probably are more leaks to come.