|Secrets of the Tea Party: The Troubling History of Tea Party Leader Dick Armey
Friday 26 March 2010
As the Tea Party movement has gained momentum during the last 12 months, it seems few Tea Partiers have caught on to the troubling past of the man at the center of their movement: FreedomWorks chairman, former House Majority Leader and recently-retired lobbyist extraordinaire, Dick Armey.
As chairman of FreedomWorks, the group credited with mobilizing the Tea Party movement, Armey is the movement's de facto leader. Yet Armey's years spent lobbying for a group recognized by the State Department as being a terrorist organization--should give Tea Partiers pause.
Only one month before that populist moment on Capitol Hill, Armey was employed as a lobbyist by leading international "consulting firm" DLA Piper. In that capacity, from 2005 to 2009, Armey promoted the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, otherwise known as Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department has branded a terrorist group. Armey lobbied his former colleagues on behalf of legislation that would have provided taxpayer support to the MEK.
Armey's work as a lobbyist--during which time he also served as chairman of FreedomWorks and organized Tea Party protests--is not mentioned in his FreedomWorks biography. This omission can perhaps be explained by the anti-lobbyist sentiments held by so many Tea Partiers. At the first national Tea Party Convention held in Nashville in February, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin spouted off on the Obama administration's failure to eliminate lobbyists and cronyism in D.C. during her keynote speech and the crowd burst into loud applause.
As a lobbyist, Armey has not let his stated ideology stand in the way of his paycheck. In 2008, as corporations and banks across the nation were being bailed out with billions of tax dollars, Armey was lobbying on provisions of the TARP Reform and Accountability Act of 2009 for CarMax, a Fortune 500 company that went on to issue $1.5 billion in asset-backed securities eligible for investor loans under the TARP and Federal Reserve-subsidized Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF).
However, the most interesting set of clients Armey represented during his career as a lobbyist were two Iranian-American businessmen: Akbar Nikooie and Saied Ghaemi.
From 2005 to 2008, Ghaemi paid out $910,000 to DLA Piper for the service of Armey, his former staffer Jean Campbell, and a handful of other lobbyists to bring issues relating to Iranian "foreign relations" and "human rights" to the attention of Congress, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the White House, the National Security Council and the Department of the Treasury.