Former House Majority Leader and Tea Party favorite Dick Armey defended the huge payout he received for leaving FreedomWorks in an interview this weekend with ABC News, saying he, "couldn't leave with empty pockets."
After an acrimonious rift developed between himself and others at FreedomWorks, Armey quietly resigned from the group in December and took an $8 million consulting gig from one of the organization's board members. The deal raised eyebrows at the time, as Armey was guaranteed that huge sum simply to be a consultant with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a for-profit group headed by FreedomWorks board member Richard Stephenson.
In his remarks to ABC, Armey offered the most detailed explanation yet of the reasoning and timing behind his departure. According to Armey, he was prepared to leave FreedomWorks months earlier, but Stephenson and others feared he would sue them and generate terrible press for Republicans immediately before the election.
"[Stephenson] didn't want an uproar. We all understood if I take any action that made it at all public it would be a press nightmare and we didn't want that before the election...So Dick was saying, 'You know, Armey, my family and I have heard your story, about how you can't afford to retire and we want to help with your retirement,'" Armey said."
So when Stephenson offered him the consulting gig, Armey agreed to keep quiet and stick things out until the election was over.
"I can't stay [at FreedomWorks], I can't work with people like this, and I can't afford to leave with empty pockets," Armey told ABC of his thought process at the time.
As a consultant, Armey will receive $400,000 a year until he turns 92, a total of $8 million. The deal will allow him to, as he said, "never have to work again ever."
Armey's recounting of the events that precipitated his departure adds some detail to the story of how he surprisingly split from one of the most powerful Tea Party groups in the nation. Last week, the Washington Post reported that Armey led a failed coup attempt to take control of FreedomWorks in September, and that he did so with an armed aide by his side. Armey disputed that claim in his interview with ABC.
In the interview, Armey also discussed his gripes with FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, saying Kibbe led a "dysfunctional" organization and that he was trying to use FreedomWorks to promote himself above the group's core causes. For instance, Armey claimed that Kibbe used FreedomWorks resources to write and promote his book, and that he then structured royalties from that book to pay out to himself, not to FreedomWorks.