In the 2010 cycle, FreedomWorks’ top targets included Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter, who left the GOP to become a Democrat in the face of a primary challenge from Patrick Toomey; Florida governor Charlie Crist, who left the GOP to run as an independent in the Senate race against Marco Rubio; Bob Bennett, a relatively little-known incumbent Utah senator who lost his nomination at the Utah GOP convention to Mike Lee; and a slew of incumbent House Democrats. Because Specter and Crist were no longer members of the GOP during their 2010 bids, almost none of the FreedomWorks money was classified as being spent against Republicans.
When examining the group’s spending in recent cycles, it is important to note that FreedomWorks is actually several entities; they have similar missions and ideologies, but they operate under different tax laws. There is FreedomWorks Inc., a 501(c) 4, which is allowed to participate in elections and lobby for legislation, although certain contributions are subject to the gift tax and its income spent on political activities is taxable. Then there is the FreedomWorks Foundation, a 501(c) 3; this group is not permitted to participate in political campaigning, and its supporters can deduct donations on their taxes. Additionally, FreedomWorks PAC (largely inactive in the 2012 cycle
) and FreedomWorks for America Super PAC (whose primary activity is supporting the group’s endorsed candidates) function as separate entities.
Expenditures of independent groups such as FreedomWorks for America Super PAC are itemized and classified in filings with the Federal Election Commission as either for or against a particular candidate.
In 2012, FreedomWorks started targeting incumbent Republicans with relatively high profiles and voting records that Washington Republicans considered at least fairly conservative: Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, former governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, and a pair of incumbent GOP House members.