Conservative FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey addresses a health care reform protest on December 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty Images)
Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he has left the prominent conservative Tea Party group FreedomWorks because of what he calls an internal split over the group's future direction.
That split -- which was made official in a resignation letter from November and obtained by the liberal outlet Mother Jones this week -- is now focusing on an $8 million contract that FreedomWorks tells TheBlaze is being misrepresented.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) published a story about a "confidential contract" that it says shows Armey agreed in September to resign from his role as chairman of Washington-based FreedomWorks in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments. Dated Sept. 24, the contract specifies that Armey would resign his position by the end of November.
According to the contract, Armey's consulting fees will be paid by Richard J. Stephenson, the founder and chairman of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a board member at FreedomWorks.
National Media outlets appear to have fixated on Armey's takeaway package, though, a Washington Post headline reading: "FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey quits Tea Party group in secret deal that pays him $8 million."
But TheBlaze spoke with a FreedomWorks representative Tuesday, who clarified that the $8 million sum is a contract between two private parties, and it is not coming from donations to FreedomWorks.
Armey confirmed his departure Tuesday, telling the AP that "my differences with FreedomWorks are a matter of principle." Armey said he made the decision to quit FreedomWorks in August, but that Stephenson and other board members urged him not to leave until after the Nov. 6 election.
The former House majority leader's departure comes as a new sign of potential acrimony between conservatives and Republicans as the party's leadership considers how to best explain its principles and issues over an unexpectedly resilient Democratic Party.
Armey has not described his specific concerns about Freedmworks. In the internal Nov. 30 resignation memo published by Mother Jones, however, Armey told FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe to remove his "name, image and signature" from all of the group's materials and web operations.
Armey, who had been with the Tea Party group since its 2004 founding, is a veteran Texas GOP political figure who was intimately involved in the GOP's conservative "Contract with America" congressional movement in the 1990s. While Armey, 72, was the group's eminence at first, Kibbe has been its most active official, appearing at FreedomWorks' public gatherings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.