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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FreedomWorks for America

Political leanings: Conservative/Tea Party

Spending target: Unknown

FreedomWorks for America is a super PAC formed in July 2011. It’s a project of FreedomWorks Inc., a conservative 501(c)(4) advocacy group that helped foster the Tea Party movement.

Ryan Hecker, a Houston-based Tea Party activist who organized the movement’s “Contract from America,” serves as the super PAC’s treasurer, chief operating officer and legal counsel. Matt Kibbe is the president and chief executive of the parent advocacy organization, FreedomWorks, and former Texas Rep. Dick Armey serves as its chairman. Kibbe and Armey wrote a book called “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.”

With the agenda of “lower taxes, less government, and more freedom,” FreedomWorks played a significant role as an early benefactor of the Tea Party movement. Its super PAC — which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — shares the political agendas of its parent organization but focuses on campaigning for or against congressional candidates. In particular, the group targets for defeat moderate Republicans in primaries.

As of June 30, FreedomWorks for America had raised $4.8 million and spent $3.7 million in the 2012 campaign cycle. The super PAC is spending money in several House and Senate elections. Most notably, it spent $700,000 trying to deny GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch his party’s nomination at the Utah Republican convention in April. Hatch was forced into a June 26 primary after failing to secure enough votes at the state’s GOP convention to win the nomination outright. Hatch, however, easily won the primary in June. The super PAC also launched ads against Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, who lost a primary challenge to Richard Mourdock. We wrote about some misleading claims in the group’s TV ads attacking Hatch and Lugar.

FreedomWorks also has spent money to bolster several other Republican Senate candidates in the primary elections. They include Don Stenberg, who lost to Deb Fischer in Nebraska, and Josh Mandel, who won the party’s nomination in Ohio. It also supports Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite who is running against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Texas.

The super PAC’s major source of funding comes from its nonprofit affiliate FreedomWorks, which has provided nearly $2 million in funding and in-kind contributions such as staffing, legal services, and travel expenses since the PAC’s inception.

Its private donors include some of the biggest names in conservative circles — including Crow Holdings, LLC, a private real estate investment management firm headed by Harlan Crow. Crow Holdings gave $250,000 on Nov. 15, 2011. Crow and/or his company have also contributed to other conservative super PACs — including American Crossroads, the group formed with the help of former Bush adviser Karl Rove,  and Restore Our Future, which supports Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president. Crow also has contributed to the pet projects of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia.

Other major donors include Richard Uihlein, the chief executive of the Wisconsin supply shipping company Uline, and Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based investment banker. Uihlein contributed $250,000, and Friess contributed $100,000. Uihlein has been a significant donor to the conservative super PAC Club for Growth Action. Friess contributed heavily to the Red White and Blue Fund, which was created to support Rick Santorum’s attempt to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

Update, July 26: We updated this item to reflect campaign finance data through June 30, 2012.