Dick Armey: A Legend in His Own Mind
Before going all ga-ga with Dick Armey, there are some things you may want to know about the undistinguished congressman from Texas. According to several sources, Dick Armey has been problematic to the Republican party and conservatives from the beginning. Here’s what Wikipedia has documented:
In 1998, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a reporter asked him what he would do if he were in President Bill Clinton’s position. He replied “If I were in the President’s place I would not have gotten a chance to resign. I would be lying in a pool of my own blood, hearing Mrs. Armey standing over me saying, ‘How do I reload this damn thing?’” Several of his former female economics students went public with stories of his sexually harassing them — harassment allegedly so severe that at least one student transferred to another school. He would later divorce his wife and marry one of his students.
After heavy Republican losses in the 1998 elections, Armey had to fend off a bruising challenge for his majority leader post from Steve Largent of Oklahoma, a member of the Republican class of 1994. Although Armey was not popular in the Republican caucus, Largent was thought to be far too conservative for the liking of some moderate Republicans, and Armey won on the third ballot. Soon afterward, Speaker-elect Bob Livingston of Louisiana announced he wouldn’t take the post after the revelation of an extramarital affair, Armey initially seemed to have the inside track to become Speaker. As majority leader, he was the number-two Republican in the chamber. However, he was still badly wounded from Largent’s challenge, and opted not to run. The post eventually went to Chief Deputy Whip Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
Armey served another four years before announcing his retirement in 2002. In his last legislative effort, he was named chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and was the primary sponsor of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security.
According to Armey, he also sparred with Focus on the Family leader James Dobson while in office. Armey wrote, “As Majority Leader, I remember vividly a meeting with the House leadership where Dobson scolded us for having failed to ‘deliver’ for Christian conservatives, that we owed our majority to him, and that he had the power to take our jobs back. This offended me, and I told him so.” Armey states that Focus on the Family targeted him politically after the incident, writing, “Focus on the Family deliberately perpetuates the lie that I am a consultant to the ACLU.”
As a free-market economist influenced by the ideas of Milton Friedman, Armey favored relatively open immigration and the elimination of barriers to the movement of goods and people across national boundaries.
After Armey’s retirement, fellow Texan and Republican Tom DeLay, then House Majority Whip, was elevated to Armey’s Majority Leader position. Armey’s son, Scott, ran for his father’s seat in the 2002 election, but lost in the Republican Party (GOP) runoff to Michael C. Burgess, who would go on to hold the strongly Republican 26th District for the GOP in November.
Then there was this interesting article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News last October:
WASHINGTON – Led by former Republican leader Dick Armey , the conservative group FreedomWorks has attacked the Washington establishment this year, challenging bailouts, health care legislation and other policies that violate the group’s free-market ideology.
But for more than six years, FreedomWorks’ own chairman flourished at the heart of that establishment, earning $750,000 a year to lobby for banks, green-energy producers and companies trying to shape the stimulus package that FreedomWorks opposed.
Even Armey acknowledges that his lobbying career was part of a “curious model.” While FreedomWorks is often “antagonistic to politicians of both parties … the general disposition of the lobbyist is to be sweet to officeholders,” he said.
“This is always a problem, and people have struggled with it in Washington,” the former North Texas representative said. “Few have mastered it as I have.”
A review of lobbying reports and interviews reveals that Armey and his former firm, DLA Piper, sometimes lobbied on behalf of legislation that FreedomWorks would have opposed.
While FreedomWorks asked lawmakers to pledge to stop seeking earmarks, DLA Piper represented clients seeking them. And while Armey represented a New England wind farm seeking tax credits in the stimulus, he wrote on FreedomWorks’ Web site that “billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies have done little to make alternative energy sources more practical.”
“That sort of exposes the contradiction of him being a high-priced, high-powered lobbyist at the same time he’s positioned himself and FreedomWorks as the representatives of the angry, anti-Washington populism,” said Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at the liberal group People for the American Way.
“At least until the arrangement blew up under some scrutiny, it seemed to be working well for him to play both sides of the street,” he said.
Quitting DLA Piper in August caused him to give up his salary of $750,000 a year, which he earned on top of the $550,000 he was paid by FreedomWorks in 2008.
“I hated to walk away from that kind of money,” said Armey, who now lives in Bartonville, near Flower Mound. “How many times in your life, or anybody’s life, do they have an opportunity to earn that kind of money when they are 69 years old?”
But even fellow lobbyists say Armey’s “curious model” was bound to cause problems for FreedomWorks and DLA Piper.
“There are inherent conflicts in running a grass-roots organization and representing clients professionally,” said Vin Weber, a well-known Republican lobbyist who served in Congress with Armey.
“Presumably your grass-roots organization is motivated by principles, ideology and the people who give $25 and $50 or larger sums and believe the decisions are being made based on a commitment to an ideological agenda. When you lobby professionally for a client, that is not necessarily the case. You are motivated by the clients’ interests.”
When it came to other bailouts – of the financial sector in 2008 – Armey and Freedom Works again opposed the legislation, known as TARP. The group called it “unconstitutional” because the law delegated so much power to the executive branch to make over the financial sector.
But between 2005 and 2008, Armey lobbied for Citizens Financial Group, the U.S. banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which received about $34.5 billion from the British government in October 2008, a few months before it posted the largest loss in U.K. corporate history.
Senate lobbying reports indicate Armey lobbied for Citizens Financial on legislation related to student lending and housing, including a law that created a program to help troubled homeowners refinance their mortgages. Some banks, seeking to cut their losses on bad mortgages and related investments, supported the housing legislation.
A spokesman for Citizens Financial said the bank “monitored” the housing legislation but didn’t take a position on it. FreedomWorks strongly opposed the housing legislation, equating it to a bailout of irresponsible borrowers.
In an interview, Armey said he didn’t recall his work for Citizens Financial. “I was very careful with the work I did,” he said. “I just simply don’t remember in any detail what work I did, if any, on behalf of that client.”
DLA Piper reported that its lobbyists, including Armey, lobbied on the $700 billion bailout on behalf of Raytheon. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment about any of the company’s lobbying efforts.
Armey and others also reported lobbying for Cape Wind, a planned offshore wind farm, on tax matters in the stimulus. In February, FreedomWorks said the stimulus was too expensive and would fail to revive the U.S. economy. Soon after Congress approved the $787 billion stimulus package, the conservative group belittled the legislation with “bailout bucks” it distributed on Capitol Hill.
A Cape Wind spokesman declined to talk about Armey’s lobbying for the project, but it appears the company was interested in the stimulus because it extended a valuable tax credit that helped provide financing to many wind-energy developers.
In fact, the credit was often claimed by Wall Street investors who provided capital for the projects. With many of these investors wiped out by the recession, Congress converted the credit to a cash grant in the stimulus. Armey said his lobbying on the issue didn’t run afoul of FreedomWorks’ position because the group always advocates “reducing the burden of taxation on all persons who pay taxes.”
Perhaps a real TEA Party activist may better qualify Dick Armey’s so-called “TEA Party” ties:
“Dick Armey and his group do not and will not represent the tea party movement, and they will not take ownership of it,” said Phillip Dennis, a Little Elm resident and co-coordinator of the Texas Tea Party Patriots. “Too close to the boys in the RNC,” or Republican National Committee, he said.
I guess that one could say that former Congressman Dick Armey is in no position to criticize US Senate candidate, JD Hayworth.