FreedomWorks VP quits over endorsement switch

FreedomWorks' former vice president for public policy, Dean Clancy resigned from the organization on Friday due to the group’s decision to switch endorsements in the Nebraska Senate Republican primary, sources tell The Hill.

On Friday afternoon, the group announced it was withdrawing support from former Nebraska Treasurer Shane Osborn and backing Midland University President Ben Sasse in the race instead, due to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) implied support for Osborn.

"At this point, it is clear that Shane Osborn formed allegiances with Mitch McConnell and the K Street lobbying class. For us, that progression away from the grassroots has tipped the balance,” FreedomWorks' President Matt Kibbe said in a statement.

McConnell is reportedly opposed to Sasse’s candidacy and his allies have been helping Osborn in the race.

Clancy declined to comment on the split, but his Twitter bio now reads “Ex-FreedomWorks VP.” A blog post he penned in February titled, "Will the Real Ben Sasse Please Stand Up?" that defended the group’s opposition to Sasse has been taken down from the FreedomWorks site. Clancy also penned a post, which is still live on the site, outlining "The trouble with Sasse."

Clancy's user profile on the site, which typically features blog posts and other content produced by staff, has been scrubbed clean of his previous posts as well.

Clancy was, as he is with many of the group’s endorsements, a primary driver behind the initial endorsement for Osborn.

At issue for Clancy and FreedomWorks with Sasse was his previous support for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits program.

The group has pointed in particular to an op-ed Sasse wrote for US News in 2009 that lauded the program, which has drawn heavy criticism from conservatives, as a model for health care reform.

Sasse’s campaign has since said he opposes the program.

In the post removed from FreedomWorks’ website, per a cached copy, Clancy outlines a number of ways in which he believes Sasse has not been entirely supportive of conservative solutions for health care reform.

“Or to put it more simply: Which Ben Sasse is the real one? The anti-Obamacare firebrand? Or the Part D-admiring technocrat? The Sasse who claims to reject the entire “Obamacare worldview”? Or the Sasse who extolled Medicare Part D as “the answer to health reform” and a “patient-empowering solution”?” Clancy writes.

He also offered a $1,000 “bounty” at the end of the blog to “the first person who persuades an objective judge that all four of my main claims about Ben Sasse (above) are false.”

Kibbe, the group's current president, did not respond to a request for comment on Clancy’s departure.

It's not the first FreedomWorks rift over the Nebraska Senate race, however — Dick Armey, formerly the group's chairman, backed Sasse soon after his former employer came out with its endorsement for Osborn.

Osborn’s loss of the FreedomWorks endorsement was a serious blow to his candidacy, as it means that now nearly all of the major national conservative groups — including the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth — are aligned behind Sasse’s candidacy.

Osborn does have the backing of social conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly and the anti-abortion Concerned Women PAC, among others. The most recent survey of the race, conducted by Breitbart News and the Polling Company, showed Sasse down by 11 to Osborn — though Sasse has gained ground since launching his campaign.

The seat, which is open due to Sen. Mike Johanns' (R-Neb.) retirement, is expected to easily remain in Republican hands this fall.