Libertarian FreedomWorks Group Closing, Leader, Politico Blame Trump, but Insiders say Donors Orchestrated Org Suicide

FreedomWorks, critical to building the Tea Party movement of 2011, which became nationally known for fighting ObamaCare, announced it was closing today. Its 12-member board of directors voted unanimously to close the 20-year-old conservative organization.

Politico’s Luke Mullins ran an ‘exclusive’ piece setting a warped narrative about what caused the FreedomWorks implosion: divisions between MAGA vs. the GOP. Here’s the key takeaway:

FreedomWorks, the once-swaggering conservative organization that helped turn tea party protesters into a national political force, is shutting down, according to its president Adam Brandon, a casualty of the ideological split in a Republican Party dominated by former President Donald Trump.

Other outlets like the Hill, FoxNews, Washington Post, have simply lazily repeated the same Politico framing. Multiple insiders say, however, the Politico piece is all wrong.

Former Grassroots Director Merissa Hamilton tells the Gateway Pundit, “The Politico story is simply not true. The collapse of FreedomWorks wasn’t a rift between MAGA and non-MAGA; it was colossal bad management by CEO Adam Brandon who created a toxic internal culture and who doesn’t understand voters or donors.”

Former FreedomWorks Grassroots Director Merissa Hamilton

Politico tried to blame ‘right-wing nutjobs’ for promoting so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ about well-documented evidence of systemic election fraud as driving the organization into the ground. Politico also tried to frame the story as part of Trump’s policy failures, related to massive increases in the national debt.

Here’s what Politico said in their article to that effect:

Increasingly, however, those positions clashed with a Trump-aligned membership who called for tariffs on imported goods and a wall to keep immigrants out but were willing, in Brandon’s view, to remain silent as Trump’s administration added $8 trillion to the national debt.

The Politico piece is just anti-Trump fake news spin, according to multiple insiders, driven to protect the reputation of the outgoing CEO. FreedomWorks’ CEO Adam Brandon tried last September to refashion the organization as progressive on climate change and promoting abortion. This was six months after firing most of the MAGA-aligned lower-level staff in a purge.

The Gateway Pundit spoke with multiple insiders, some on and some off the record. One former Senior Executive at FreedomWorks who was willing to talk anonymously because it was breaking a Non-Disclosure Agreement but felt compelled to tell activists and donors their side of the story.

This was an organizational suicide. Big donors and an Anti-Trump board made this all happen on purpose.”

“Adam Brandon and his allies willfully orchestrated the means to end this organization. Adam had his priorities the entire time on starting another organization to succeed FreedomWorks, spent money on frivolous things, alienated donors, took money from the wrong donors, and alienated our grassroots networks,” the source said. “Adam’s been fleecing FreedomWorks from 2022 to present to build a parallel organization.”

FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon, according to multiple sources, was engaged in significant financial mismanagement of the libertarian organization. Several insist $300,000 was spent acquiring one donor phone list that only had 1,200 names. This is one example, they say, in a string of horrible financial moves that a former Executive said felt ‘orchestrated to bring down the organization.’

The Senior Executive said, “I watched him take $250,000 from a donor, philanthropist Frayda Levin, to do anti-Trump grassroots work to MAGA people in Florida. It was all about money and power to Adam. Adam took the money and wanted to hurt Trump using a differently-branded organization to protect the FreedomWorks brand. It was the height of unethical behavior, deceiving both donors and activists. It left me very jaded. I realized that conservative movement leaders often hate actual conservative voters.” Contacted to confirm this detail, Levin said she did not recall this donation but that it may be accurate.

The Senior Executive said further, “The prostitution for big donors at FreedomWorks and in many conservative groups, regardless of what they believe, was just staggering. It’s just disgusting. It’s all about whoring yourself out for the money. It doesn’t matter what the small donors say, they just cater to big donors who are obsessed with Nikki Haley.”

The Senior Executive continued, “Adam Brandon brought in Margaret Iuculano as the Chief Development Officer, or CDO, who served as the head of fundraising. She had no fundraising experience and was completely unqualified. She was a ReMax real estate agent in Florida prior to running an 8-figure fundraising operation. The consulting agency that brought her in was given a quid-pro-quo $10k a month ‘consulting’ contract after she was hired, to perform a ‘cross-department audit’ that was reportedly used to justify the Trump firings.”

Margaret Iuculano, former Chief Development Officer of FreedomWorks

“She bragged to me that the consultants agreed with her on everything. She told me with a smile that ‘everything I wanted to be wrong, they also thought was wrong.’ She knew nothing about fundraising, and her performance matched her experience.”

Hamilton echoes that sense of Brandon’s financial failure: “Adam Brandon laid off the grassroots staffers with actual field experience, fired his VP, didn’t fundraise for the organization’s key FreedomTeams program until potentially after the founders of the program were removed. It was organizational suicide.”

Said Hamilton, “This is all a product of an epic failure of leadership by Adam Brandon.”

The tension in management was between Adam Brandon, whom some describe as a ‘grifter,’ and the Executive Vice President Noah Wall, who was seen by staff as more aligned with Trump voters. Wall was purged in March 2023, along with 40% of the entire staff, focused on the ones who were more Trump-friendly, without any severance. Some of these were later re-hired because, again, according to insiders, the organization could not function without its internal Trump-aligned workers.

The Senior Executive said, “I was in a meeting where an outside auditor realized our accounting department, at Adam’s direction, had been entering donations in twice causing a major problem. It ended up being a 6-figure mistake, and I noticed that Adam and Margaret were very defensive. Just from how they were acting about the problem, I knew something dodgy was going on. The demise of FreedomWorks was planned from the beginning: they wanted to dismantle the place and then get out.”

Brandon was planning to set up his own spin-off group, tentatively named “The Center for Independence” that would use a combination of A.I. and ChatGPT to communicate more effectively to African-American voters about libertarian principles in battleground states. Brandon allegedly told staffers on repeated occasions that he had planned to dissolve the organization in order to move its assets to his new group. Donor Levin confirmed that Brandon had planned this organization.

“Call me old school, but A.I. is never gonna replace basic grassroots, and that’s what Adam Brandon never understood,” Hamilton told the Gateway Pundit. “Brandon was also on the verge of leaving the organization in early 2023 to run his new project, with a search underway for his replacement shortly before they laid off staff. Brandon stayed, but a little over a year later the decision to shutter the organization came through as a result of a unanimous board decision.”

The FreedomWorks board was composed of: Adam Brandon, Joan Carter, Paul Beckner, Carl Knudsen, Peter Copses, Stephen Modzelewski, Richard Stephenson, Frank Tsamoutales, Betsy Albaugh, Robert Lansing, Marilyn Hayden, and Ted Abram.

The former FreedomWorks senior executive said, “There were board members who not only hated Trump, but hated conservatives in general. It all reminded me of the ‘long march through the institutions’ and I realized I was watching everything lurch to the left, the same way the Koch network and Americans for Prosperity has done.”

“Many of these organizations talk a good game about conservative principles, but behind closed doors, it’s not what they believe.”

Philanthropist Frayda Levin had similar thoughts on the collapse of FreedomWorks, Levin mentioned that CEO Brandon was in the process of changing the organization’s mission and that its new outlook was “incoherent.” Levin did not recall the $250,000 Florida donation but noted that she stopped donating along with several other donors two years ago and has mentally moved on. “I deleted all their emails. Adam was trying to get independents elected, it didn’t make any sense,” Levin told the Gateway Pundit.

Levin continued, “It’s certainly difficult to manage the pro and anti-Trump factions of the political right, but there are many other problems with grassroots activism, chronic problems that FreedomWorks was running into,” Levin said. “Activism has become my computer is talking to your computer, and legislators and powerful people see it for what it is. A large part of the problem is that government has gotten so large, there are so many issues to fight about, that it’s very difficult to maintain a grassroots network. Americans for Prosperity, where I was the Chair, doesn’t have a grassroots network to speak of anymore. I wish I had the answer, I don’t.”

FreedomWorks was an organizational component of center-right grassroots activism, educating thousands each year in the principles of libertarian philosophy and practical recommendations on how to act on those principles.

The organization’s remaining 25 employees are being laid off. Hamilton says they might not be properly compensated, even though many would likely be under Non-Disclosure Agreements and unable to publicly voice their grievances. Hamilton claims this was a deliberate decision not to pay employees reimbursements or other owed compensation. “I’m still owed thousands of dollars, and I know many others who are as well, including a great activist from Michigan who was never paid thousands owed from mileage reimbursements over a year ago. The grassroots workers got stiffed, and where did all the money go?” said Hamilton.

“The definition of grifting is taking money for a program you aren’t really running. And Adam Brandon definitely raised funds and did not spend them on FreedomTeams, the grassroots division of FreedomWorks. He kept the name, but they kept stringing along donors even after they perverted the program to something they knew was never going to work. It turned into a controlled opposition operation, completely abandoning the mission of making freedom work,” said Hamilton.

“The real tragedy in all of this is that populism needs libertarian ideas, Trump and Trumpism would only be strengthened by a principled freedom ideology, and now there’s one less group serving that critical need. Liberty and Populism can, and must, coexist.”

Adam Brandon, Margaret Luculano, and Noah Wall were asked for comment and did not respond.

Photo of author
Former writer for Human Events, Morris NorthStar, and The Federalist. 2023 ISI George Washington Statesman Fellow. Featured in the Washington City Paper, Washington Post, New York Times, and Playboy.

You can email Benjamin Wetmore here, and read more of Benjamin Wetmore's articles here.

 

Thanks for sharing!