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Secret money fuels Freedomworks

by Jacob Fenton and Keenan Steiner

Freedomworks logoTwo Knoxville companies set up in late September gave just over $12 million to FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-aligned super PAC that's in the midst of a messy breakup between former Chairman Dick Armey and President Matt Kibbe. Together, the two mystery groups underwrote more than half of the $23.2 million that FreedomWorks reported raising this election cycle.

The two companies--Specialty Group Inc and Kingston Pike Development LLC--are both registered to William S. Rose Jr., a lawyer who lists the same residential address in Knoxville for both of them. Even before the newest round of contributions, Specialty Group was already this campaign cycle's biggest corporate donor, according to the Center for Public Integrity. But the company's sources of funding remain shadowy and if it has any reason for existence other than making campaign contributions, it's not immediately apparent.

In November, when FreedomWorks first disclosed receiving $5.3 million from Specialty Group Inc., Rose said in a statement that he was CEO, President and General Counsel of Specialty Group, and planned to develop land owned by his family. He also pledged not to say where the money came from. "The business of Specialty Group is my 'family secret,' a secret that will be kept - as allowed by applicable law - for at least another 50 years," he wrote. The millions helped fund a $1.7 million TV ad buy aimed at reelecting Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., but it failed as he lost to Tammy Duckworth.

In his statement, he was critical of how open the Obama Admininstration has been in handling the crisis in Benghazi, Libya and the border gun-running operation dubbed Fast and Furious, both of which resulted in American deaths. Regarding Fast and Furtious, he wrote that the administration “has done everything in its power to frustrate and obfuscate the truth, ranging from claims of ‘executive priviledge,’ to Attorney General Holder’s refusing to comply with a lawful Congressional subpoena.

Specialty Group changed its name to Specialty Investments Group Inc. on Nov. 28, according to Tennessee corporate records. Online records say Rose's law office is on Kingston Pike in Knoxville, though the phone number given for that address was not working.

As for FreedomWorks, the group has spent nearly $20 million on the 2012 election and it is still playing in one House race, an all-GOP runoff on Dec. 8 between Reps. Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany. The super PAC is supporting Landry, and has spent nearly $800,000 on the race, more than it has dropped on any other race besides Walsh's. FreedomWorks reported it had $1.2 million in cash on hand as of Nov. 26. 

FreedomWorks did not immediately return a call for comment. In the past, spokesman Russ Walker has said that the super PAC does not comment on its donors.

 

Correction, 5:35 p.m.: The amount of FreedomWorks's anti-Tammy Duckworth ad has been revised to $1.7 million from $1.6 million.