Chumps, Marks, Fools And Suckers

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post notes that the right is up in arms over campaign finance reform and political action committees.  Up until now the screaming has been that the Obama administration was using the IRS to somehow “unfairly target” these groups as political motivation, something Republicans held a billion hearings about that were all smoke and mirrors.

Only it turns out Tea Party PACs actually were “legally” defrauding the hell out of their donors the whole time thanks to the Citizens United ruling.

In the last few years, political organizations of various kinds have proliferated, as all kinds of people seek to take advantage of the post-Citizens United world in which money can flow in so many directions. This has provided a splendid opportunity for the participants in an old game, one in which gullible conservatives are scammed out of their money by a seemingly limitless number of con artists.

Some of those con artists are obscure consultants and operators, but some of them are quite famous, which we’ll get to in a bit. But today, John Hawkins of Right Wing News released a report on a group of conservative PACs that took in millions of dollars in contributions in 2014, ostensibly for the purpose of electing Republicans, but spent almost none of it on actual political activity. Instead, the money went into the pockets of the people who run the PACs and their associates. Jonah Goldberg, reacting to the report, calls this the “right wing scam machine.”

Why, one would think these campaign finance groups should be targeted for increased scrutiny or something. Hawkins gives this situation:

For example, let me tell you how conservatives can be (and have been) ripped off by scam groups. Let’s say Ronald Reagan is still alive and someone starts the Re-Elect Ronald Reagan To A Third Term PAC. Because people love Reagan, let’s suppose that conservative donors pony up $500,000 to help the organization. However, the donors don’t know that Ronald Reagan has nothing to do with the PAC. Furthermore, the real goal of the PAC is to line the pockets of its owner, not to help Ronald Reagan. So, the PAC sets up two vendors, both controlled by the PAC owner: Scam Vendor #1 and Scam Vendor #2. Let’s assume it costs $50,000 to raise the half million the PAC takes in. Then, the PAC sends $100,000 to the first company and $100,000 to the second company to “promote Ronald Reagan for President.”

Each of the companies then goes out and spends $1,000 on fliers. The “independent expenditures” that show up on the FEC report? They’re at 40%. That’s because the FEC doesn’t require vendors to disclose how much of the money they receive is eaten up as overhead. The dubious net benefit that Ronald Reagan receives from an organization that raised $500,000 on his name? It’s $2,000. On the other hand, the net profit for the PAC owner is $448,000. Is that legal? The short answer is, “It’s a bit of a grey area, but, yes, it is legal.

Which is exactly what conservatives said they wanted, because when Democrats pointed out after Citizens United “Hey, we should probably then change the rules so that there’s more disclosure transparency in what PACs actually give to candidates” it’s people like Jonah Goldberg who happily called campaign finance reform (and everything else Democrats ever did) “liberal fascism” and an assault on “free speech” and went berserk when the Obama Administration turned to the IRS to try to see what the hell these PACs were up to and Democrats suggested that “Hey, we might want to bring in some regulation here.”

Mitch McConnell killed the DISCLOSE Act real quick last summer.

Now, you see, some conservatives think campaign finance reform might be a good idea.

Hoocoodanode?

87 replies
  1. 1
    WereBear says:

    It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that they impoverish us innocent bystanders… by other means.

  2. 2
    pluege says:

    just reinforces a bunch of axioms. For example:

    * republicans/conservatives are mostly dumb as stumps and the ones that aren’t are soulless, integrity-less, greed-obsessed scabs selling snake oil to idiots.

    * there is a sucker born every minute destined to become a conservative.

  3. 3
    debbie says:

    Nothing will end Citizens United more quickly than allowing these shenanigans to continue.

    Similarly, there was a PAC in Iowa (America Future Fund, I think) that ran an ad on television in 2012 that was nothing more than a declaration (in an ominous voice) that Obama supported Wall Street and Wall Street supported Obama. I can’t imagine that cheered Romney much.

    There was another ad from a wealthy Russian Jewish immigrant who insisted Democrats were destroying America and American business. In a thick accent, he ended with, “Believe me, I know from anti-Semitism.” No telling what that had to do with business.

    It must have killed the GOP not to be able to control the messages. I say, leave them alone and let them be.

  4. 4

    No one ever went broke by exploiting the greed, fear, and paranoia of the American electorate.

  5. 5
    Tommy T says:

    If it matters, the Freeperati are going berserk over this revelation.
    Nothing is more angry than a mark who’s just realized that he’s a mark.

  6. 6
    Aimai says:

    It doesnt mean a thing. The big money donors like koch or adelson are oerfectly willing to bankroll their prefereed candidates entirely.

  7. 7
    greennotGreen says:

    There’s a part of me that’s okay with money on the right not going to elect their minions, but the liberal part of me, the part with a heart, feels bad that some old fools are sending their Social Security money to scam artists milking their fears.

  8. 8
    Redshift says:

    Now, you see, some conservatives think campaign finance reform might be a good idea.

    Facts not in evidence. Yes, they’re outraged that they’re being scammed, but had any of them said the government should do anything about it?

    My bet is that they’ll continue to be certain that government would only make it worse, and that *now* they’ll be smart enough not to get scammed (despite having no more real-time information to let them avoid it.)

    I’m reminded of the declarations of Republican governors when years of pro bono research gets an innocent person freed from death row: “the system works.”

    Why yes, yes it does.

  9. 9
    RSA says:

    Interesting! Some conservative commenters on RWN and elsewhere have said, “Oh yeah? How about looking at liberal PACs!” That’s a dumb reaction, seeing Hawkins’s article as a hit piece, but I’d actually be interested to see similar data.

  10. 10
    chopper says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    and this scam is as old as the hills. easier now to be sure tho.

    it’s the political equivalent of the televangelist begging for dollars in the name of baby jesus. and the same general crew of idiot rubes opening their check books.

  11. 11
    chopper says:

    @RSA:

    i’m sure the difference in overall grift size is pretty notable. the conservative mailing list business is huge for a reason – those schmucks give and give big.

  12. 12
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    The National Review covered the very same thing happening during the 2012 election and the conservatives yawned, so they will yawn about this. After all, the money is going to the right people, is it not? But the real thing here is the Right is mainly driven by fear, and fearful people don’t think.

    And Chopper is right many of them are conditioned to do this by the Evangelists

  13. 13
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @RSA: @RSA

    : Interesting! Some conservative commenters on RWN and elsewhere have said, “Oh yeah? How about looking at liberal PACs!”

    That money would buy a lot of people to just play thought police in conservative forums, like Fox News was caught doing.

  14. 14
    rikyrah says:

    they are nothing but marks..the entire lot of them.

  15. 15

    @Aimai:
    The conservative big money boys like the Kochs and Adelson are the biggest marks getting taken the hardest.

    @Tommy T:
    Yep. They’ll take all their money and give it to the next con man, because this guy is a True Conservative.

  16. 16
    rikyrah says:

    when you have a Presidential Primary that is nothing but a Grifter’s Paradise….

    what do you expect?

  17. 17
    Buffalo Rude says:

    How long until Bammerz get blamed for not cracking down hard enough on these scams? What did the IRS know, when did they know it, and why didn’t they do enough to stop it?

  18. 18
    Kay says:

    @debbie:

    Nothing will end Citizens United more quickly than allowing these shenanigans to continue.

    That would be true, I think, except that it creates a huge group of people and entities who will be heavily invested in it continuing.

    Even if you had a campaign group that wasn’t skimming the whole pile, they spend the money and that keeps the circus rolling. There’s then a lot of politically-connected people and entities who want to keep the money flowing-to consultants, to pollsters, to PR and marketing people, and probably most critically to media.

    How much money spent in a big Ohio race goes directly to media companies? There’s absolutely no incentive to re-regulate once it’s deregulated,

    A lot of people are benefiting from this. More every cycle.

  19. 19
    chopper says:

    @Enhanced Voting Techniques:

    many of them are conditioned to do this by the Evangelists

    they’ve been spending most their lives livin’ in a grifter’s paradise.

  20. 20
    RSA says:

    @chopper:

    i’m sure the difference in overall grift size is pretty notable.

    I’m thinking you’re right. I know this has come up before, why conservatives seem to be more easily grifted… I’m still puzzling over that.

  21. 21
    Kay says:

    @RSA:

    but I’d actually be interested to see similar data.

    Me too. There are absolutely grifters on the liberal side. I was disgusted by it in the 2004 presidential race, on the Democrats side. I don’t know what was going on the other side but there was a lot of BS in the Democratic orgs and PACs and such.

  22. 22
    chopper says:

    @RSA:

    meh. without getting into some ‘conservatives bad, liberals good’ shtick, conservatism is known for its adherence to simplistic thought and lack of critical thinking. the old adage that ‘a liberal is a person who won’t even take their own side in an argument’ has a basis to it.

    people of all stripes can be conned, but it takes a certain kind of thinking and a certain kind of outlook to be easily conned and that sort of autopilot is much more prevalent on the right.

  23. 23
    Woodrowfan says:

    they’re not going to catch on, that’s the point. A year or so ago I wandered into a small estate sale at the retirement/nursing home where my Mom lives in NC. The person who died didn’t have much, but there were a bunch of copies of the same DVD by Newt and his latest wife about how to “restore America” or some such. It was one of those freebies that you get for sending in a donation above a certain point. This poor elderly person just kept sending money to line Newt’s pockets and kept getting the same dumb video over and over and over.

    They’ve been told over and over to ignore those that tell them they’re being ripped off. “Oh, that’s just the liebrul media!” “Oh, that’s just the secular media” etc. How many of us have had the experience of pointing out that some stupid chain email is a lie only to be told that “well Snopes says it is, but Snopes is a liberal site!” Most of the rubes will not catch on, and will never catch on…

  24. 24
    blueskies says:

    @Redshift:

    My bet is that they’ll continue to be certain that government would only make it worse, and that *now* they’ll be smart enough not to get scammed (despite having no more real-time information to let them avoid it.)

    Exactly. A new scam will now be a “fact-checking” service that will “rate” these various PACs. It’s activity will be just as shrouded as the PACs they are rating, but they will be trusted because their marketing will include bold (but short!) statements like “We find the scams so you don’t have to!” or “Scamming PACs are scared of us!” etc. Of course, all the same scammers will be behind the new scams, but after all, we’re talking about people who think that FoxNews really is “Fair and balanced.” After all, they couldn’t say it on TV if it wasn’t true. Right?

  25. 25
    Woodrowfan says:

    @RSA: and you find many more people with an authoritarian mental state on the right, and part of being an authoritarian is trust of “authorities” with the accent on “trust.” They are very, very uncomfortable even thinking that someone that they have accepted as an authority is dishonest.

  26. 26
    chopper says:

    @RSA:

    another thing to remember is the age gap. i’m sure, given the age of the average fox viewer/ teabagger, that many of those being bilked are on the older side, similar to those who typically gave to televangelists.

  27. 27
    Bystander says:

    The more they get grifted, the less money gets thru to Willard or NJ Fats, or whomever they name King Grifter.

  28. 28
    chopper says:

    @blueskies:

    my god, a PAC ‘rating agency’. you’re a genius.

    “we’re like S&P, only more opaque”

  29. 29
    Bobby B. says:

    Beware ye: THE CORPORATION shall strike down ye that have blasphemed in My name.

  30. 30
    boatboy_srq says:

    @RSA: That’s a simple case of mistaking a mirror for a window. They’re so convinced the Left is out to scam everyone to collect every last dollar and create the Soshulist Workers’ Paradise (by which they mean that Gubmint has all the money, all the Good Righteous People have to like the pittance and the hovel they’re given, and the Gatherers and Sorters live high on the hog). They forget that the only ones (in the US anyway) intent on scamming the rubes to get rich fall on their side of the aisle.

    @debbie: Not sure I don’t agree. There’s enough libertarian in me to say that folks either too full of hate, or too thick-headed to do their own research, merit no defense when they’re robbed this way: the perps should be pursued, of course, but the victims of the scam are victims of their own hate and ignorance more than the perps’ misuse of those qualities to get rich. Not dissimilar from the stereotypical TV preacher who keeps a massive broadcast church (complete with pastor’s mansion with gilded fixtures, Bentleys in the garage etc etc) runnning on viewers’ donations squeezed from the viewing masses with piteous wails of poverty.

    @Aimai: It matters a lot – but only in that by the time the damage is done only Adelson and the Kochs will have the largesse to fund the campaigns. If the Reichwing were intending to recreate Russia circa 1900 they couldn’t find a better tool (or collection of tools).

  31. 31
    Morzer says:

    Just wait until they take a look at Sarah Palin’s series of scams and frauds, Ain’t gonna be starbursts they feel in their nether regions.

  32. 32
    Morzer says:

    @Bobby B.:

    But if ye be one who knoweth a man that knoweth a man that hath lunch with that corporation on Sundays, then shall ye be blessed and your seed shall flourish.

  33. 33
    boatboy_srq says:

    @blueskies: This sounds like a delightful BJ enterprise. I’m all for starting up Johnslist.org to track down the legitimate PACs and expose the grift (for a monthly subscription, of course).

  34. 34

    @boatboy_srq:
    I propose the name ‘Fool Me Twice’ for the service.

  35. 35
    Morzer says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    Johnslist sounds a bit too Heidi Fleiss. Maybe something like the ConConConnection.

  36. 36
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Morzer: Palin isn’t even subtle about hers. I nearly fell off my chair seeing the promo for her Youtube thing. Hitchhiking across Ahmurrca? Really? Even on the tube she can’t get there herself and is thumbing for a free ride.

  37. 37
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Morzer: Modeled after Angieslist.com, where people pay to hear the gossip about the local handyman.

    ETA: Frankensteinbeck’s proposal (FoolMeTwice.com) does sound better.

  38. 38
    gene108 says:

    @Tommy T:

    If it matters, the Freeperati are going berserk over this revelation.
    Nothing is more angry than a mark who’s just realized that he’s a mark.

    Last time I was over there, the guy who runs it was trying to raise 10,000’s of thousands of dollars to meet his quarterly fund raising requirements to keep the website running and people were donating to him.

    I therefore find it ironic that people, who pay to keep that website running by contributing way more than it takes to run a website are complaining about being taken for suckers.

  39. 39
    Morzer says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    I noticed the Palin as potential hooker soliciting rides promo. It’s about as subtle as Newt Gingrich’s views on young, blonde secretaries.

  40. 40
    F says:

    Scamming conservative has always been a lucrative business.

    See John Todd, Mike Warnke, Lauren Stratford, Rebecca Brown, Walid Shoebat, Ergun Caner, Kamal Saleem, Peter Popoff, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, the entire Ex-Gay industry….

    And that’s just off the top of my head.

  41. 41
    gene108 says:

    @greennotGreen:

    feels bad that some old fools are sending their Social Security money to scam artists milking their fears.

    If it wasn’t PACs it’d be televangelists. They feel America needs saving and will pay for someone to save America from illegal brown people, Negroes getting uppity, homosexuals, gun grabbers, etc.

  42. 42
    Morzer says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    I kinda like the idea of They Do Con Con as the theme song.

  43. 43
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    “…when the Obama Administration turned to the IRS to try to see what the hell these PACs were up to…”

    You mean under the then GOP-appointed IRS director, left over from the presidency of He Who Shall Not Be Named? Must have been those Sekret Mind Control rays that went out from the BlahHouse to BlahMinions all through the government, you betcha.

  44. 44
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Morzer: I’m hearing something out of Moulin Rouge! for that…

  45. 45
    RSA says:

    Thanks for all the observations about grifting! Interesting.

    @Morzer:

    Just wait until they take a look at Sarah Palin’s series of scams and frauds

    Hawkins includes SarahPAC in the 17 PACs he and Batman looked at. $3M in, $200K out, for a 7% result. He summarizes,

    How many conservative candidates lost in 2014 because of a lack of funds? … the 10 PACs at the bottom of this list spent $54,318,498 and only paid out $3,621,896 to help get Republicans elected.

  46. 46
    geg6 says:

    @Aimai:

    Not in terms of politics, it doesn’t. But I’m enough of a liberal to feel badly for all the Teabaggers who are on fixed incomes or who are working class who are being ripped off by the Sarah Palins of their world. Which is, based on all the ones I know, all of them. Yes, I despise these stupid, misinformed people who espouse so many ideas that end up hurting themselves and their familes as much as their perceived enemies, but I still feel badly that these evil greedheads take advantage of the stupidity.

  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    @pluege:
    I believe the birth rate/infant survival rate is higher than in the original writers lifetime so maybe we should re-phrase that to “Two suckers are born every minute that could turn out to be conservative.” Yes it is more disgusting a thought but it does explain the continued existence of idiotic conservative ideals.

  48. 48
    PIGL says:

    @RSA: because they like hurting people more than they like money.

  49. 49
    Morzer says:

    @RSA:

    It’s going to be interesting to hear conservatives howling that Sarah Palin was and is a liberal plant by the wicked Kenyan usurper, even as Romanov in Portland explains that Barack Obama is a Nazi and only the gentle liberalism of Vladimir Nipple-Rings Putin can save the world.

  50. 50
    GregB says:

    I just read a Benen article about Rick Perry wherein Perry claimed ideological kinship with Abe Lincoln because Lincoln was a big supporter of states rights over the union.

    What say we start a PAC:

    Unmitigated Morons for Rick Perry.

    In the by laws we state that we are created solely for the purpose of taking money from the pockets of idiots.

    I bet we’d make a bundle.

  51. 51
    mtiffany says:

    If it’s not technically illegal, then why don’t we make a quick buck fleecing their chumps? Committe to Reanimate the Corpse of Saint Ronaldus? Zombie Reagan for President!

  52. 52
    boatboy_srq says:

    @geg6: Reason to go after the “evil greedheads” for their scamming. Not a reason to feel bad that the willingly gullible keep getting had.

    @gene108: Somehow it seemed less threatening when the televangelists were scamming for their 6000 sq ft homes and gold-plated Rolls Royces and their missionary trips to heathen places like Denmark, and not getting into politics and running for public office where they could impose their Divine Free Market End Times Heterosexual Caucasian Capitalism on the rest of us.

  53. 53
    Tommy T says:

    @gene108:

    Yep – Here’s the incredible amount they’re wringing out of their members:

    ********************************************
    Free Republic Monthly Budget
    Once we get our monthly donations to the point where they will cover all of our expenses, we will not need to have fundraisers.
    Est. Recurring Monthly Contributions
    $10,069.00

    Monthly Expenses
     
    Bandwidth and Colocation
    $2,430
     
     
    System Administation and Programming
    7,000
     
     
    Administrative and Taxes
    10,500
     
     
    Legal and Accounting
    1,000
     
     
    Bank Fees, Credit Card Fees, Processing Fees
    800
     
     
    Equip, Maintenance and Repairs
    300
     
     
    Office Expenses, Rents, Insurance, Telephone, ISP, Supplies, Misc.
    2,500
     
     
    Travel Expenses
    800
    25,330.00
     

    Est. Monthly Shortfall
    ($15,261.00)
    ***************************

    Now, all this money (after paltry expenses) goes to Jim Robinson and his son.
    All of it.

  54. 54
    kindness says:

    What is that smell? Oh…smells like some fresh grift. How about starting

    Balloon-Juice PAC for Sarah Palin
    or
    Sarah Palin Wants You For BJ

    Oh yea…..

  55. 55
    mai naem mobile says:

    I’ve had several conservative coworkers and a lot of them are really good((good in the best way)hardworking people good at their jobs.These are people when I find out that they’re conservative, I’m just really disappointed but then you figure out they are generally really easily taken in and they don’t connect the dots. They know an employer is screwing them but unions are bad. They don’t understand the intricacies of taxes beyond x is going to raise taxes and y is going to lower taxes. There’ll be budget cuts affecting.them personally but they don’t realize it was.pushed through by a Republican legislature and Republican governor. Its just sad.

  56. 56

    @RSA:

    Conservatives may be more easily grifted by politicians, but you can’t look at all of the health woo on the market (supplements! colonics! juice fasting with our organic gluten-free juice!) and think that liberals are magically immune from grifters. We just fall for different ones.

    ETA: And, of course, the most influential grifters of all — anti-vaxxers and their fellow travelers who “cure” autism with hyperbaric oxygen and chelated something or other.

  57. 57
    blueskies says:

    @mai naem mobile: Yep. A couple I know had to file for unemployment benefits last year. They simply could not believe how little money and other resources were available. I didn’t know what to tell them, other than “this is exactly what you’ve been voting for for all the years that I’ve known you.”

    Not helpful, but then, I’ve never claimed to be all that nice of a guy.

  58. 58
    Couldn't Stand the Weather says:

    @GregB:

    Perry claimed ideological kinship with Abe Lincoln because Lincoln was a big supporter of states rights over the union.

    What say we start a PAC:

    Unmitigated Morons for Rick Perry.

    In the by laws we state that we are created solely for the purpose of taking money from the pockets of idiots.

    You’re right, I’d say. You’d clean up.
    These people are willfully, completely and irredeemably ignorant (but you knew that). And they’re happy about it.

  59. 59
    boatboy_srq says:

    @blueskies: Believe it or not that’s a very effective argument. My mum was a Maine Republican: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, big environmentalist. She was WWF and Nature Conservancy and Sierra and all – and still voted GOP. She didn’t wake up until I mentioned: “You do know that all the money you send these environmental outfits is going to deal with issues caused by the people you’re voting for, right?” Next election she voted party-line – Democrat.

  60. 60

    @blueskies:

    A new scam will now be a “fact-checking” service that will “rate” these various PACs.

    I assume the real money is in shaking down the PACs for good ratings.

  61. 61

    @Couldn’t Stand the Weather: Exactly, which is why the phone scammers for quick credit fixes, car warranties, and home security systems keep calling my landline. The Do Not Call List is a joke.

    My favorite is the guy with the Indian accent who claims that my Microsoft computer is infected and he is calling to repair it. He asks what kind of computer I have. I reply “Apple IIc.” Click.

  62. 62

    @boatboy_srq: Yes, but I know from personal experience that your mum was smarter than 99.9% of the GOP, so she was an outlier. (And a charming person to boot.)

  63. 63
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    My favorite is the guy with the Indian accent who claims the my Microsoft computer is infected and he is calling to repair it.

    I know somebody who (with some spare time) amused himself with this by having the guy interact with a locked down virtual machine running Windows. That takes a bit of nerve.

  64. 64
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Mustang Bobby: The Do Not Call list does exactly what it says: gives you a recourse against legitimate businesses that call you. I have a copy of a letter from the NCDOJ to someone who called me recently, demanding that they respond to my complaint. I had the time and patience and sufficient (if meager) con artist abilities to track a particularly annoying robocaller back to a live person and got the real company name out of them. They closed up shop after the first DOJ letter.

    The thing to remember is that the DNC is a law. Why would you expect criminals like phone scammers to follow any law?

    Oh, and I love getting the “Microsoft” calls. My current record for keeping them occupied is 22 min. They’re not bright enough to catch on that I know more about computers than they do.

  65. 65
    Bill Arnold says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    My mum was a Maine Republican: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, big environmentalist. She was WWF and Nature Conservancy and Sierra and all – and still voted GOP. She didn’t wake up until I mentioned:

    My dad was a Republican from a family that was Republican since there were Republicans.
    He switched in the 1992 election to voting for Democrats at the national level, primarily for the same reasons, that the Republicans were anti-environmentists. Newt Gingrich sealed the deal when my father and mother were doing a national parks tour in a camper van, and the government was shut down, and they were politely forced to leave Death Valley.

  66. 66
    NonyNony says:

    @GregB:

    I bet we’d make a bundle.

    My takeaway from Waldman’s article is that 1) a lot of people are already doing that and 2) it’s a great way to make a shitton of money if you’ve got no scruples.

    @Roger Moore:

    I assume the real money is in shaking down the PACs for good ratings.

    This is also brilliant.

    What’s interesting to me about this is that I don’t think there’s a way for the right-wing to break this cycle. There can’t be an honest broker who steps up to fight for the people getting screwed over because the right wing has worked so damn bloody hard to cultivate a mindset that anyone who steps up to help people from getting screwed over by people with money must be a liberal bleeding heart type. So anyone who steps up to do that is going to immediately be suspect, unless they can show a profit motive. And if they can show a profit motive, it’s likely that they’re working their own grift.

    Their activist base is nothing but a collection of either marks or grifters – some of them are both – mixed in with paid advocates for specific industries. The next actual conservative activist I see who isn’t working his/her own angle will be the first. There may be folks like that on the left but it doesn’t seem as pervasive among left-leaning political groups.

    I suspect that part of this is because getting people to pony up money out of fear and despair is easier than getting people to pony up money out of hope. And because liberals in this country when made afraid and hopeless tend to turn away from politics and toward other causes whereas conservatives in this country when made afraid and hopeless tend to give money to people who promise to make it stop. So a left-wing group doing something similar would need to keep things positive while not actually making any progress – but no progress causes donors to fall into despair and move their money to Doctors Without Borders or something. A right-wing group doing this uses fear to motivate the donations and, when things get worse for the donors, can keep using that fear to get more money. Even a donor who figures out that that group is a con will probably move to a different political group, so the money stays in play for the con artists – especially those that can hide behind multiple group names.

  67. 67
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Rick Perlstein talked about the deep history of this stuff: Birchers first, then the Goldwater supporters; Richard Viguerie pioneering direct-mail techniques, Paul Weyrich. David Brock was part of that, and described exactly how it worked, along with the money-laundering of wingnut welfare.

    (I find it hilarious that Jonah Goldberg is up in arms about this, given that his entire career is dependent upon it to one degree or another.)

    The marks are already in the what about the liberal PACs mode? And yes, there’s some grift on the liberal side, because a system with that amount of money sloshing around is going to attract grifters. But grift is the concrete and rebar foundation of modern movement conservatism. Grift is essential. So they’ll shrug and go to their mailboxes and read about Muslim indoctrination from teachers’ unions and the plan to import ten million Mexicans to run the FEMA camps and sign over that $25 check.

  68. 68

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    I find it hilarious that Jonah Goldberg is up in arms about this, given that his entire career is dependent upon it to one degree or another.

    Me thinks the pantload doth protest too much. The people who are going to be most vocal about how awful this is are the ones trying to hide their own guilt in the process.

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    catclub says:

    @mtiffany:

    then why don’t we make a quick buck fleecing their chumps?

    Can you afford to buy a mailing list from Newt? It won’t be cheap.

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    Couldn't Stand the Weather says:

    @Mustang Bobby:

    He asks what kind of computer I have. I reply “Apple IIc.” Click.

    Heh. Indeed.

  71. 71
    catclub says:

    @NonyNony:

    So a left-wing group doing something similar would need to keep things positive while not actually making any progress – but no progress causes donors to fall into despair and move their money to Doctors Without Borders or something.

    No, they look for rich people to support their cause. And then This is why the Democratic party cannot crack down on wall street – they know all their big donors will disappear.

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    Villago Delenda Est says:

    They deserve to be scammed. They deserve to be serfs. They are stupid beyond the dreams of Newt Gingrich’s and Sarah Palin’s bank accounts

  73. 73

    @Mustang Bobby:

    He asks what kind of computer I have.

    If they’re able to tell your computer is infected, shouldn’t they already know what kind you have? It seems like the classic rejoinder to psychics asking you about your problems: shouldn’t they be able to tell you about them without needing to ask questions?

  74. 74
    Couldn't Stand the Weather says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism:

    Oh, and I love getting the “Microsoft” calls. My current record for keeping them occupied is 22 minutes. They’re not bright enough to catch on that I know more about computers than they do.

    I know enough to be a bit dangerous. I need to get a Commodore 64 and install a 14.4 baud modem on it. I’d let these refugees from CompUSA go to town on that old standalone. They probably don’t have books in print pertaining to that operating system.

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    chopper says:

    @Couldn’t Stand the Weather:

    that’d be great. “okay, it says press play on tape. waddya want me to do now?”

  76. 76
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Morzer: Yet if you mention that Sarah Palin dresses like a streetwalker as part of her scam, there are those commenters on this blog who will be OUTRAGED that you talk about how she’s doing that.

  77. 77
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Roger Moore: “Psychic consultation terminated due to unforeseen circumstances.”

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    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    @mtiffany: Seriously and spend $2,000 on the Regan flyers and the rest on ads bashing Republicans. We can use their money against them. Or just keep the money, no real harm done to Democrats and I could use a vacation home somewhere.

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    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Roger Moore:

    If they’re able to tell your computer is infected, shouldn’t they already know what kind you have?

    That’s my exact question when they call. The conversation usually starts something like this:

    Scammer: Hello, I am from Microsoft, and your computer has alerted us that you have a virus. We can help you with that.

    Me: Really? Oh dear…. I supposed you’d better tell me which computer.

    S: The one running Windows.

    M: Which version of Windows?

    S: Microsoft Windows.

    M: Yes, but which version? I have at least one computer in the house with every version from XP through 8.1. I kind of like working from the same operating system as the person I’m trying to do phone support for, and our office has quite a mishmash.”

    S: The one that’s connected to the internet.

    M: They’re all connected to the network. Yanno, the computer that sent you the alert should have also sent you some identifying information, usually the computer name. So just tell me the computer name, and I’ll get to the right computer.

    And they just won’t grok that I’m on to them and hang up. I’ve even had a “supervisor” call me back and keep going after the first “technician” got frustrated and hung up.

  80. 80
    RSA says:

    @Mustang Bobby: When I taught an artificial intelligence class, one of the project suggestions for my students was to develop a chatbot, with a voice synthesizer, that could keep a telemarketer or scammer on the line for as long as possible without committing to anything. A little bit too ambitious for a class project, but still a fun idea, I thought.

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    Brandon says:

    Rick Perlstein’s The Long Con was mentioned above, here’s the link:
    http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con

    Politico (!) also had a piece on this last month:
    http://www.politico.com/story/.....14581.html

    On the one hand, I don’t like seeing anybody getting scammed. On the other hand, I’m perfectly fine with conservatives dumping all of the political donations into PACs designed to do nothing but grift grift grift. It prevents this wave of money from actually doing anything useful, and the outright denials that many of their PACs are frauds and that this is all just another liberal plot are amusing.

  82. 82
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism: I get as far as “What’s the MAC address?” Usually stops them in their tracks. I also love the ones “from your credit card company” because a) that would be a bank which has strict policies about customer communications and b) I don’t have a single credit card so “scam” is written all over the communication before they even get to the pitch.

  83. 83
    tam1MI says:

    @Roger Moore: Back in the days of the”Psychic Hotline”, a big punch line was”If they’re such fabulous psychics, why aren’t they calling you?”

  84. 84
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @boatboy_srq: I’m on the DNC list. That means that I get very few calls from anyone other than criminals and politicians (but I repeat myself), so I assume that anyone who calls is a scammer. Rachel/Carol/Bridget from Card Services, well, my only goal there is to tie up the line as long as possible with minimal effort. I get into the “next available representative” queue, start playing a recording of a talking baby on loop, and put the phone down.

    The virus guys, though, are a lot of fun.

  85. 85
    AMinNC says:

    I just posted a comment at NRO (I know, I know) lamenting the fact that, if only Mitch McConnell hadn’t killed the DISCLOSE Act last year, we would know how donated money was being used, and good people wouldn’t be able to be scammed. Then I put in a line about how if we, as citizens, are going to support the unfettered flow of sweet sweet cash into electoral politics, the least we can do is have some laws mandating that we get to see how that cash flows. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone responds.

  86. 86
    lou says:

    Yep, yep, yep. My 96-year-old grandmother is one of these suckers who was sending out $10 here and $20 there to these scam artists warning her that the evil Democrats were trying to take away her Social Security, and she was “supporting the troops,” (I’m looking at you, Ollie North, a grifter who makes Sarah Palin look small time), and other such mailers. It added up to real money after a while, something like $100 a month. I imagine if you get $10 here or $20 there from senile oldsters like her, you could become a millionaire real quick.

  87. 87
    artem1s says:

    Ron Paul has been pulling this for years. Citizen’s United just let everyone else in on the scam. anyone who believes that Rand is actually running for President is a rube. He’s just trying to work the laws in KY so he can grift the glibertarian, bitcoin crowd now that his dad has retired. Same with Fred Thompson, Teh Donald and all the other ‘celebrity’ candidates. Big salaries to admins grifting off someone’s name recognition. It happens on the Dem side too but I don’t think with nearly the same numbers. No way in hell I’d send any money to ReadyforHillary or RunLizRun either. When a candidate has declared, hired an actual staff, has an office in Iowa and NH and has a paid volunteer coordinator, then maybe send some money. Before that, you might as well send your money to the Bernie Madoff defense fund.

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