And the Grift Goes On

Sad, but not surprising:

In February 2013, Move America Forward announced an ambitious fundraising goal. The charity, launched in part by one of the most prominent figures in the Tea Party movement, had adopted the 800 Marines in a battalion fighting in Afghanistan and wanted to send them all care packages.

“For some troops, these care packages are the only mail they will receive all year,” the group said in one email solicitation.

The charity later described the fundraising drive as a rousing success: In less than five weeks, all 800 Marines in a 1st Marine Division battalion nicknamed Geronimo were sent care packages and notes in Afghanistan, it claimed.

But that couldn’t have been true. The Marines of Geronimo weren’t even in Afghanistan during Move America Forward’s fund drive. Instead, they were deployed more than 3,000 miles away, in Okinawa, Japan.

Move America Forward calls itself the nation’s “largest grassroots pro-troop organization,” and has recruited a bevy of Republican luminaries, including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, to support its efforts.

Yet an examination of its fundraising appeals, tax records and other documents shows that Move America Forward has repeatedly misled donors and inflated its charitable accomplishments, while funneling millions of dollars in revenue to the men behind the group and their political consulting firms.

Who are the men behind the group:

The driving force behind Move America Forward is Sal Russo, 67, the longtime political consultant who is listed on the 10-year-old charity’s tax returns as chief strategist.

Russo is better known for helping to form the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, also known as the Tea Party Express, one of the largest Tea Party groups in the country. Consultants from his Sacramento-based firm, Russo, Marsh and Associates, also set up two other PACs, the Move America Forward Freedom PAC and the Conservative Campaign Committee, to aid conservative causes and candidates.

Russo and his associates have previously drawn attention for lavishing funds raised through the committees on themselves, using this money on an Alaskan cruise and fancy hotels as well as paying themselves huge consulting fees.

More tea party scum working hard to line their pockets and ruin the country.

69 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    These maggots should be put up against the motherfuckin’ wall.

    AFTER some waterboarding sessions.

  2. 2
    Gin & Tonic says:

    And the scorpion says…

  3. 3
    flukebucket says:

    ♫ and the grift goes on ♫ If I was worth a damn I could write a song for the crazy fucker that does song parodies to the tune of the Sonny and Cher classic

  4. 4
    gogol's wife says:

    It’s fun to have John back.

  5. 5
    Central Planning says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    AFTER some waterboarding sessions.

    Yup. We’ll see if they think waterboarding is torture afterwards, or if it is just an “enhanced interrogation technique”.

  6. 6
    JPL says:

    Are these folks the real patriots, that Sarah Palin mentions?

  7. 7

    More tea party scum working hard to line their pockets and ruin the country.

    Just remember, the more money they’re using to line their pockets, the less they’re using to ruin the country. I’d be very happy if they never spent a penny on anything but grift.

  8. 8
    Mnemosyne says:

    If you want to donate to help “the troops,” I recommend Fisher House. It’s basically a Ronald McDonald House for the families of veterans who are undergoing treatment at VA hospitals. They have a very high score from Charity Watch and seem to spend the majority of their money on programs, not fundraising.

  9. 9
    GregB says:

    A man in an Afghan military uniform has attacked and killed a number of allied troops in Afghanistan, including a U.S. General.

  10. 10
    Tone In DC says:

    These g00pers have more scumbags per square inch than I thought possible.

    The Koch heads are gonna sue Russo for horning in on their racket.

  11. 11
    Belafon says:

    Can anyone find that level of grift/fraud on the left.

  12. 12
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    John Cole +0

    Nicest sig I’ve ever seen.

  13. 13
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne: I come from a military family. Fisher House is a great place.

  14. 14
    p.a. says:

    1) welcome back
    2) best wishes for the future
    3) re:the link: dog bites man
    4) except for screwing the troops, I don’t get upset at stories like this: I would rather have wingnut donors’ money going to grifters than to wingnut organizations that might be effective. The crazy uncles’ and scared grandmas’ money would be gone in either case.

  15. 15
    Belafon says:

    @Belafon: Actually, I take that back. We have our own guy here in Dallas for that example.

  16. 16
    Pogonip says:

    John, congrats on your +0.

  17. 17
    rikyrah says:

    Gov. Scott’s Half True claim about Eric Holder and early voting
    Posted by Amy Sherman at 5:24 PM on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014

    As Florida heads toward a hotly contested governor’s race in November, Attorney General Eric Holder warned Gov. Rick Scott that the feds are “carefully monitoring” voter access in the state.

    “I am deeply disturbed that during your tenure, your state has repeatedly added barriers to voting and restricted access to the polls,” Holder wrote in a July 21 letter to Scott.

    Holder recapped changes in state election law during Scott’s tenure, as well as the state’s attempt to purge noncitizen voters from the rolls, disenfranchisement of felons and a dispute about where voters can return absentee ballots in Pinellas County.

    When the Tampa Bay Times blogged about the letter Aug. 1, Scott’s campaign dismissed Holder’s letter as a “bizarre attempt to help Charlie Crist” — Scott’s likely Democratic opponent in November and an ally of President Barack Obama.

    Holder and Scott’s campaign made some dueling claims about the state’s early voting law.

  18. 18
    NonyNony says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Just remember, the more money they’re using to line their pockets, the less they’re using to ruin the country. I’d be very happy if they never spent a penny on anything but grift.

    Normally that’s a sentiment I’d agree on, but in this case they quite possibly cheated apolitical people out of their money by claiming they were funding care packages for the troops overseas.

    There’s a difference between conning right-wing nutjobs into donating dollars to SarahPAC that might otherwise go to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and do real damage and conning apolitical people into donating dollars to provide care packages for the troops that might otherwise have gone to a local charity or the Red Cross or something. IMO people who do the first should be applauded, people who do the second should be prosecuted.

  19. 19

    @SiubhanDuinne: How were the birthday celebrations?

  20. 20
    wasabi gasp says:

    The post office can’t get anything right.

  21. 21
    Mike G says:

    “Nobody could have expected” that an ideology that sees government as nothing but a massive grifting opportunity would be full of political consultants who are nothing but grifters.

  22. 22
    big ole hound says:

    The fools who donate to these phony charities are just as big a problem when lists of good causes are readily available. A fool and his money…. or a sucker is born…some of the people all the time, etc etc.

  23. 23
    Waynski says:

    A MORAN and his money are easily parted.

  24. 24
    Ben Cisco says:

    @JPL: They’re fake ass “patriots”, plain and simple (and simple-minded). Shamity, Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods Desert, that jackass down in Mississippi (it doesn’t MATTER what his name is!) – all of them, Katie.

    All grifters – psychotic, despotic, dyspeptic, apoplectic, and utterly useless seditionists.

    And they deserve a seditionist’s fate, down to the last one.

  25. 25
    Ben Cisco says:

    Oh, and John, congrats on taking the big step. More power to ya.

  26. 26
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Very nice, thank you! I am kind of stunned to know how many* friends I have. My heart is smiling.

    *(Lots, for you literalists.)

  27. 27
    MattF says:

    Ah, the Grift National Product. Once upon a time, grifters had to work for their money, now it’s just too damn easy.

    ETA: This reminds me. Is there any fundamental reason why there can’t be a ‘rude noise’ unicode character?

  28. 28

    Grifting, I can understand, at least there seems to be a motive. The current GOP stance on immigration makes no sense at all, appealing only to shrinking number of true believers is hardly the path to electoral victory.

  29. 29
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    More tea party scum working hard to line their pockets and ruin the country.

    That’s some serious multi-tasking there.

  30. 30
    lol says:

    Not sure if it’s the case here but a common extra layer of grift to these types of “charities” is that the 70% supposedly being spent on the cause is actually being paid to another similar grift organization to do the work which takes its cut off the top before paying another organization to do the work and so on, with occasionally some portion of the money making its way back to the original one to be grifted again.

    One organization will finally spend what’s left of the cash on the cause and all the middlemen up the food chain will be allowed to take credit for it. So you’ll have dozens of organizations taking credit for delivering the same X tons.

  31. 31
    cermet says:

    Good to see you back and posting – and a good one, too.

  32. 32
    kindness says:

    It’s odd. Teahaddist types are hyper sensitive to any form of fund raising done by Democrats but completely ignore the mange infesting their own furs. Seems they don’t mind the blood sucking one bit then.

    Curious that.

  33. 33

    Speaking of grift and grifters (sorry for OT)

    @EWErickson: Too many Christians have become too wrapped up in politics. There’s more to life than red vs blue

  34. 34
    Carolus says:

    Sounds like Matt ‘Blackfive’ Burden and his Soldier’s Angels scam.

  35. 35
    Betty Cracker says:

    @rikyrah: That “half-true” rating for Scott is a perfect example of why PolitiFact is worse than useless.

  36. 36
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Carolus: The “Blackfive” assholes were involved in a scam? I missed that somehow. But I’m not surprised.

  37. 37
    Elizabelle says:

    JCole’s link is a Pro Publica article by Ms. Kim Barker, reprinted in the Daily Beast, and it’s a carefully researched one.

    I hope Mr. Russo et al are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and Barker writes they may have run afoul of their beloved IRS:

    But experts on campaign finance and taxation say Move America Forward’s practices may trigger more than bad ratings. Its activities could violate tax rules, which prohibit charities from engaging in partisan politics or overly benefiting the people who run them.

    “They’re playing audit roulette,” said Marcus Owens, a lawyer who once ran the division on tax-exempt organizations in the Internal Revenue Service. Owens said Move America Forward reminded him of the Coalition for Freedom, a charity linked to then-Senator Jesse Helms that lost its tax-exempt status with the IRS largely because of its political activities in the mid-1980s. “They’re betting the IRS won’t find them, or won’t find them in time.”

    There’s so much grift that falls into the “yeah, it’s unethical and immoral but it’s not illegal” category.

    Prosecute that which is illegal. Make an example of Sal Russo. Make him spend those ill-gotten gains on legal defense, and keep him miles away from any fundraising or “philanthropy” in the future.

    Maybe the next Democratic president can restore Russo’s voting rights.

  38. 38
    Elizabelle says:

    In moderation. Not sure why. No card games, no boner drugs ….

    ETA: There is a reference to “ROO LETT”. That done it.

  39. 39
    raven says:

    @Betty Cracker: They really got it in for Cole.

  40. 40
    Elizabelle says:

    Economic patriotism. Message could really work this fall, bitchez. From the NY Times:

    A group of Democratic Senate leaders is calling on President Obama to go around Congress and act on his own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas, warning that billions of dollars in tax revenue can be lost if he fails to act.

    Seeking to stanch a recent wave of so-called corporate inversions, the senators wrote a letter to be sent to Mr. Obama on Tuesday urging the president to move quickly to strip away the financial incentives for the deals.

    “The coming flood of corporate inversions justifies immediate executive action,” says the letter, spearheaded by Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, and signed by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

    … [A recent] article referenced a section of the tax code that allows the Treasury secretary to issue rules for determining whether a given financial instrument should be treated as debt or equity. The idea would be to limit the degree to which a foreign parent company could load up a United States subsidiary with debt, which can be deducted for tax purposes, and require that any excess be designated as equity, which is not eligible for deductions.

    [Article author and former Treasury official] Mr. Shay also proposed other administrative moves to reduce the use of offshore earnings without paying United States tax.

    “They have the authority to go after those two incentives to do the deals under existing law,” Mr. Shay said of Mr. Obama’s team.

    A person involved in the deals told Mr. Shay that without those two prospective benefits, 75 percent of the inversions underway would not occur.

    Executive action, bitchez.

    NYTimes reported recently that our beloved Wall Street firms are expecting over a billion in fees for advising US firms to pursue “inversion” (too simply put, locating the corporate HQ overseas to avoid US taxation).

    Cue the guillotines.

  41. 41
    Trollhattan says:

    This isn’t quite as vile, but there’s a surely special corner of hell–even it you have to invent it yourself–for people who do this.

    Emily and Joseph James of Wilton paid $14,000 for a “service dog” that a Yuba County nonprofit group assured them would be highly trained to help their autistic son Sammy with his anxiety and his tendency to wander into dangerous situations.

    What they got in return for their investment in Bolt, a boxer mix, was a “very sweet” family pet incapable of performing the tasks needed to assist their 4-year-old son, they said.

    “Bolt is a very good boy,” said Emily James. “He will always have a home with us. But he’s not a service dog by any means.”

    Others in California and across the country who had similar experiences with Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions are calling the corporation a fraud, and demanding refunds of money that in many cases they raised through emotional appeals to the public.

    Four families have filed a lawsuit against Pawsitive in Santa Clara Superior Court, alleging fraud and breach of contract, among other things. More than 20 others may join the lawsuit, said Los Altos attorney Matthew Coleman, who is representing the group. Some of the families received dogs “completely unsuited” to help their children, he said. Others deposited money with Pawsitive and received nothing in return.

    The nonprofit, incorporated in 2011, is in the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, said Chico attorney Doug Jacobs, who is representing the company in the dissolution. Families who invested in the dogs have no guarantee that they will receive reimbursement for their losses, he said.

    Lovely people, I’d like to meet them.

  42. 42
    Elizabelle says:

    PS: an earlier comment about Pro Publica is in moderation, my frontpager friends.

  43. 43
    Matt Smith says:

    Wait – grift and self-serving crap from the leaders of an authoritarian community? No fuckin way!

  44. 44
    Fred says:

    But if the Tea Party Godfathers aren’t prosperous then how will the suckers, eh, faithful know that these are the true leaders that will guide them to The Land of Milk and Honey or something like that?

  45. 45
  46. 46

    @Tone In DC:
    If he runs the Tea Party Patriots, I’m pretty sure the Kochs are the primary marks he’s grifting.

  47. 47
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Gin & Tonic: There’s little that’s more predictable than Reichwing hatemongers making a buck off the rubes.

  48. 48
    ulee says:

    Trump doesn’t want Ebola stricken doctors treated in the US. Sorry asshole, we don’t leave people behind. Randy runs and Steve King grabs a Dreamer by the wrist. Joel Osteen says Jesus wants you to drive a Bentley. What is wrong with these people? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with them?

  49. 49
    shelley says:

    What’s really shocking is tht I saw this same story over at Tucker Carlson’s ‘Daily Caller’ website, word for word. And they hadn’t tried to find a way to blame Obama for it.

  50. 50
    Elizabelle says:

    NYTimes on inversions, July 28: (why yes, it is illustrated with a photo of Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, second only to Goldman Sachs in raking in the fees on inversion advice):

    Banks Cash in on Inversion Deals Intended to Elude Taxes

    … Investment banks are estimated to have collected, or will soon collect, nearly $1 billion in fees over the last three years advising and persuading American companies to move the address of their headquarters abroad (without actually moving). With seven- and eight-figure fees up for grabs, Wall Street bankers — and lawyers, consultants and accountants — have been promoting such deals, known as inversions, to some of the biggest companies in the country, including the American drug giant Pfizer.

    Just last week, President Obama criticized these types of transactions, calling the companies engaged in them “corporate deserters.” “My attitude,” he said, “is I don’t care if it’s legal. It’s wrong.” He has suggested legislation, and Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has proposed to make it more difficult for an American company to renounce its citizenship — and tax bill — by merging with a smaller foreign competitor.

    … All the bankers contacted declined to comment.

    Perhaps most troubling, many Wall Street banks are aggressively promoting these transactions to major corporations, arguing that such deals need to be completed quickly before Washington tries to block them. The proposals by President Obama and Senator Levin, neither of which appear to be gaining traction, seek to prevent inversion deals retroactively.

    … Of course, privately, bankers point out that there is nothing illegal about inversion deals. “This is going to sound cynical, but as much as I may hate these deals and the ramifications for our country, if I don’t do the deal, my competitor across the street will be happy to do it,” one senior banker told me.

    I am ready to throw a brick. Good on PBO for considering executive action; I hope he sticks it to these banksters and their clients.

  51. 51
    Mnemosyne says:


    “This is going to sound cynical, but as much as I may hate these deals and the ramifications for our country, if I don’t do the deal, my competitor across the street will be happy to do it,” one senior banker told me.

    Uh, yeah, dude, that’s why the government should be regulating them — to prevent your competitors from getting an unfair advantage over you. But most jackasses in the financial sector would rather exploit that loophole and then claim to feel, like, real bad about it than encourage the government to level the playing field by closing it.

  52. 52
    chopper says:

    Griftin’ ain’t easy.

  53. 53
    David Hunt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: If you don’t make it through the primary, the rest doesn’t matter. And the real whackjobs show vote in primaries in much higher percentages

    This has been another edition of Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

  54. 54
    stibbert says:

    “Randy runs and Steve King grabs a Dreamer by the wrist.”

    Totes unfair for random takers to confront Our Elected Representatives in the presence of the media. OERs shilling for support in Iowa need clean air to get their msg out, w/o the non-advantaged getting in their way.

  55. 55

    @David Hunt: Good point, but isn’t it shortsighted? What is the point of winning the primary if you can’t win the general.

  56. 56
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: That’s some catch, that Catch 22.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Elizabelle says:


    Yeah. You cannot expect Wall Street (or most corporations) to police themselves.

    Too many perverse incentives.

  59. 59
    Gus says:

    Meh, at least they’re not spending the money they grifted on the tea party.

  60. 60
    Rasputin's Evil Twin says:

    “Inversion”? That’s when we string a bankster up by his ankles and slowly lower him headfirst into boiling oil, right?

  61. 61
    David Hunt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: There’s still a bunch of heavily leaning GOP districts/states. In those areas, the primary is the real election for all intents and purposes and the general election is barely more than a formality. There is a demographic timebomb ticking out there, but it isn’t evenly distributed. Plus the point of wining the primary even if you can’t win the general is that you might win. Anything can happen. The press is much more forgiving of GOP sins than it is of Democrats so your opponent might screw up in some fashion. Plus, there’s a Democrat in the White House, so you can get some synergy out of the constant mud that’s being flung his way by trying to associate you opponent to him, all the while secure in the knowledge that you don’t have to defend anything, because as GOP member of Congress, you haven’t done anything in four years and the press is letting you get away with that too.

    This is related to the phenomenon that Congress has a favorability rating that’s worse than cockroaches, but there’s a massive advantage to incumbency. What the voters in your district think of Congress in general is irrelevant. What matters is their view of their individual congressman. I’d (conservatively) give even odds that there is not a single district in the country where the Representative has individual poll ratings as low as Congress’ general rating.

  62. 62
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with them?

    Nothing that can’t be cured by a final tumbrel ride.

  63. 63
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): The best there is!

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:

    @David Hunt:

    There’s still a bunch of heavily leaning GOP districts/states. In those areas, the primary is the real election for all intents and purposes and the general election is barely more than a formality.

    Heck, that’s how it works in Chicago — the Democratic primary is the “real” race and the November election is just a formality. Though Mayor Emmanuel may end being shocked to find out that his fellow Democrats are going to be perfectly willing to run hard against him in the primary (because why not, there’s no long-term consequences for the party since the Democrat always wins).

  65. 65
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @Belafon: St Ralph? Mark Penn? The fucking DCCC?

    The American Red Cross? The Susan Komen Foundation? The Teamsters?

    “No-kill” shelters? Invisible Children? Save the Children? The United Way? The Shriners?

    Note: some of these scams to enrich the owners are in fact owned by Republicans but freely steal from gullible liberals. And the Teamsters steal dues from their bus driver members because they completely fail to assist them in negotiations or strikes. They’re a company union, where the company is the US Gov, bought and paid for by corporate America. Go look up how Jimmy Hoffa, Jr became their president. They go on about how they get new members but it’s a lie, they never organize, they just raid other union’s locals, then turn around and do sweet fuck all for them. TDU is the only good thing to ever come out of the Teamsters in the last 50 years and they are basically a radical (leftie) cell within the Teamsters that has been trying unsuccessfully since the early 70s to reform the fucking Teamsters from within. Oh, and just look at the trucking industry. Like it’s not even unionized at all.

  66. 66
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:


    One organization will finally spend what’s left of the cash on the cause and all the middlemen up the food chain will be allowed to take credit for it. So you’ll have dozens of organizations taking credit for delivering the same X tons.

    Ah, kind of like USDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise requirements.

  67. 67
    Another Holocene Human (now with new computer) says:

    @Trollhattan: This is extremely vile indeed.

  68. 68
    moderateindy says:

    @Belafon: This kind of crap will go on anywhere there is cash to be made. It knows no boundaries, left or right. It’s just with the advent of CU, and the ample cash that is flowing around via the Koch boys and the like, most of the easy grift is on the right. But I assure you that there are plenty of consultants getting rich doing jack squat for democratic, and liberal organizations. Remember, just because someone establishes, or works for a liberal non-profit, doesn’t mean that they share those values.

  69. 69
    WaynersT says:

    Russo has been exposed before – – yet keeps grifting on.

    He’s been a well known crook for years.

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