How to Lose Big and Make Millions

For Tea Party engineers Dick Armey and Jim DeMint, the 2012 elections were a disaster. Take for instance, Richard Mourdock, the U.S. Senate candidate in Indiana, who described a baby conceived in rape as a gift from the Almighty and enjoyed the backing of both FreedomWorks, chaired as of late by former House Majority Leader Armey, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, chaired by Sen. DeMint, R-S.C.

Of the 11 candidates endorsed by DeMint’s PAC, which raised $16.5 million this cycle (according to the SCF Web site), only three won. FreedomWorks got involved in the messy Missouri Senate primary, betting against Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, only to have its millions vanquished by the upstart, who was then pummeled by Democrat Claire McCaskill.

This week, both DeMint and Armey quit their day jobs — Armey, effective immediately, and DeMint resigning his Senate seat come the New Year. Such humility!

Uh, not so fast. You know how, in the corporate world that the right wing serves so well, CEOs are pushed out with golden parachutes? In Armey’s case, at least, that would appear to be the case, while DeMint is poised to make out pretty well, too.

The Associated Press reports that Armey will receive $8 million in “consulting fees” on the condition of his exit from FreedomWorks, with the dough put up by a Republican donor:

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.

Armey’s exit 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.

As Mother Jones reported when it broke the story of Armey’s departure from FreedomWorks, the parting was hardly amicable.

DeMint, for his part, will reap that amount in half the time that Armey will, so long as he holds on to his new gig as top dog at the Heritage Foundation for eight years. That’s right; a cool mil per annum, for which he can be counted on to fight any expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the 1 percent.

And as Brother Kilgore points out, however stunning the DeMint announcement — and it was — it’s a good move for the junior senator from what only a Southerner can get away with calling South Cackalacky, who was never big on legislating to begin with. From the start, DeMint’s game was obstruction, for which he demonstrated great talent.

However, the irony in his new post, Ezra Klein and Dave Weigel suggested on “The Rachel Maddow Show” earlier this week, is that Heritage, being a think tank, is a place where policy is written, and DeMint doesn’t seem to care much about policy. (Or thinking, for that matter. Tanking, well, the results of the 2012 Senate elections displayed a certain penchant for that.)

Time was when the aim of FreedomWorks, under Armey, was to “build a new power center around Sen. DeMint,” Adam Brandon, the organization’s executive vice president, told me in 2010. Even with DeMint’s exit, the senators who formed that “power center” remain in place, their primary purpose being to hold Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s feet to the flames of right-wing rage. Watch for the rise of Rand Paul, whose place as Kentucky’s junior senator was secured with the backing DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks.

It was an audacious and bullying move on the part of DeMint, when he threw his support to Rand Paul, who challenged McConnell’s hand-picked candidate, Trey Grayson, in the Republican primary — and in McConnell’s own state. In the land of the Derby, it was the political equivalent for McConnell of waking up with the proverbial horse’s head at the foot of the bed.

In the end, DeMint’s exit from Senate will likely change little, since his replacement, at least until 2014, will be a Republican, and he will still wield considerable influence over that little Tea-lerious power center.

As for Armey’s FreedomWorks farewell, there’s always another blowhard waiting in the wings, looking for a golden parachute.