Late Night Open Thread: Nice “Work” If You Can Get It…

Jon Chait, NYMag, “Why Are Republican Small Donors So Easy to Swindle?”:

Republicans have long complained, usually in private, that their fundraising apparatus is overrun with fraudsters. National Review’s Jim Geraghty has a column, “The Right’s Grifter Problem,” saying what many of them have been whispering. Many of President Trump’s most publicly strident loyalists are in the business of raising money for political projects that spend virtually all their funds on operating expenses…

Grifters go where the marks are:

A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $400,000 by the group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training. Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum.

The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members — the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances.

In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.

The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members…


And Donald J. Trump is the King of Grifters!

50 replies
  1. 1
    TomatoQueen says:

    they deserve to be eaten by woodchucks. speaking of which, from the now deceased zen thread:

    @Sab: No. Woodchucks are the world’s expert varmints at undermining the foundations of your dwelling by digging and nesting. Once they become established they can do a helluva lot of damage. Bastards were instrumental in the closure of Newington Children’s Hospital, Newington, CT because the woodchucks, visible in daylight with whole families taking the air, essentially made the place fall over. Cute little bastards tho’. Just don’t let it stay.

  2. 2
    chris says:

    Although it is not true that all Republicans are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are Republican.

    H/t John Stuart Mill

  3. 3
    ThresherK says:

    “Petty, dick-swinging revanchism against the media.”

    Are the comma and hyphen in the right place?

  4. 4
    NotMax says:

    The trash masher walls are inexorably closing in.

    And R2-D2 has fled the building.

  5. 5
    ThresherK says:

    @TomatoQueen: Was that old Newington Children’s Hospital up on Russel Rd, past the CT Humane Society?

  6. 6
    JaySinWA says:

    Is that meat clown supposed to be Boris Johnson?

  7. 7
    Amir Khalid says:

    Why does the NRA have seventy-six directors in the first place? That alone smells fishy.

  8. 8
    Amir Khalid says:

    @TomatoQueen:
    So you’re saying that woodchucks can chuck a heck of a lot of wood?

  9. 9
    Adam L Silverman says:

    I’ll just leave this here.

    From November 2012:
    https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con

    But the New Right’s business model was dishonest in more than its revenue structure. Its very message—the alarmist vision of White Protestant Civilization Besieged that propelled fundraising pitch after fundraising pitch—was confabulatory too. The typical ploy ran a little something like this, from Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Research and Education Foundation:

    Dear Friend: Do you believe that children should have the right to sue their parents for being “forced” to attend church? Should children be eligible for minimum wage if they are being asked to do household chores? Do you believe that children should have the right to choose their own family? As incredible as they might sound, these are just a few of the new “children’s rights laws” that could become a reality under a new United Nations program if fully implemented by the Carter administration. If radical anti-family forces have their way, this UN sponsored program is likely to become an all-out assault on our traditional family structure.

    Following the standard scare-mongering playbook of the fundraising Right, Weyrich launched his appeal with some horrifying eventuality that sounded both entirely specific and hair-raisingly imminent (“all-out assault on our traditional family structure”—or, in the case of a 1976 pitch signed by Senator Jesse Helms, taxpayer-supported “grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior”; or, to take one from not too long ago, the white-slavery style claim that “babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood”). Closer inspection reveals the looming horror to be built on a non-falsifiable foundation (“could become”; “is likely to become”). This conditional prospect, which might prove discouraging to a skeptically minded mark, is all the more useful to reach those inclined to divide the moral universe in two—between the realm of the wicked, populated by secretive, conspiratorial elites, and the realm of the normal, orderly, safe, and sane.

    Weyrich’s letter concludes by proposing an entirely specific, real-world remedy: slaying the wicked can easily be hastened for the low, low price of a $5, $10, or $25 contribution from you, the humble citizen-warrior.

    These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.

    Dishonesty is demanded by the alarmist fundraising appeal because the real world doesn’t work anything like this. The distance from observable reality is rhetorically required; indeed, that you haven’t quite seen anything resembling any of this in your everyday life is a kind of evidence all by itself. It just goes to show how diabolical the enemy has become. He is unseen; but the redeemer, the hero who tells you the tale, can see the innermost details of the most baleful conspiracies. Trust him. Send him your money. Surrender your will—and the monster shall be banished for good.

    This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    And, in an intersection that is utterly crucial, this same theology of fear is how a certain sort of commercial appeal—a snake-oil-selling one—works as well. This is where the retail political lying practiced by Romney links up with the universe in which 23-cent miracle cures exist (absent the hero’s intervention) just out of reach, thanks to the conspiracy of some powerful cabal—a cabal that, wouldn’t you know it in these late-model hustles, perfectly resembles the ur-villain of the conservative mind: liberals.

    In this respect, it’s not really useful, or possible, to specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins. They are two facets of the same coin—where the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself. The proof is in the pitches—the come-ons in which the ideological and the transactional share the exact same vocabulary, moral claims, and cast of heroes and villains.

    Dear Fellow Conservative, Do you know which special interest has given more money to the Obama and Clinton campaigns than any other? If you guessed “trial lawyers”—well, okay, that’s too easy. But can you guess which special interest came in second? Labor unions? Nope. The Green Lobby? Nope. AARP? Wrong, again. NEA? Nyet. Give up? Okay, here’s the answer: Wall Street. That’s right. According to CNNMoney.com, Wall Street securities and investment firms have given over $35 million to Democratic candidates this election cycle. . . . If you’ve been wondering why the financial industry has been in meltdown—and taking your 401(k) or investment portfolio down with it—now you know. Let’s face it: The former frat boys who populate Wall Street today understand economics about as well as the pinko professors whose courses they snored through. . . . Trusting them with your money is like trusting Bill Clinton to babysit your underage niece. But I know someone you can trust to manage your investments. . . . His name is Dr. Mark Skousen—that’s “Dr.” as in “Ph.D. in Economics and Monetary History,” something you don’t get by playing Beer Pong with your frat buddies. For the past 28 years, subscribers to his investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies, have profited enormously from his uncanny ability to predict major market trends before they happen. . . . For instance: In the early ’80s, Dr. Skousen predicted that “Reaganomics will work” and said “a long decade of profits is coming.” . . . The “bottom line,” as they say? Don’t let the Democrats run the country. And don’t let Wall Street frat boys manage your investments. Do it yourself, with the genuinely expert guidance of freedom-loving economist Mark Skousen in Forecasts & Strategies. Click here to learn more.

    That letter is signed by Ann Coulter—and, truth be told, it reads like she wrote it. It is a perfect portrait of the nether region of the right-wing con, figure (politics) trading places with ground (commerce) a dizzying dozen times over in the space of just these several paragraphs. There is the bizarre linguistic operation that turns “liberal” (or, in Coulterese, “pinko”) into a merely opportunistic synonym for “stuff you don’t like.” There’s the sloganeering alchemy that conflates political and economic magical thinking (“freedom”!). There’s shorthand invocation of Reagan hagiography. And then, presto: The suggestible readers on the receiving end of Coulter’s come-on are meant to realize that they are holding the abracadabra solution to every human dilemma (vote out the Democrats—oh, and also, subscribe to Mark Skousen’s newsletter for investors, while you’re at it).

    Once, I gave a speech to a marquee assemblage of true members of the conservative elite, from William Bennett to Midge Decter to Alf Regnery, at the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, a conservative think tank that rich donors convinced Princeton University to house under its auspices. (Karl Rove made a cameo appearance, during which he bragged about making a Republican congressman cry.) In my remarks, I laid out what I took to be a disturbing moral pattern, what I naively thought would stir these folks into something like shame. Why was it, I asked, that whenever Richard Nixon needed someone to brazen out some patently immoral, illegal, or dishonest act, he frequently and explicitly sought out a veteran of the conservative movement—the same conservatives whose ideology in policy contexts he usually derided? Because, I said, “Nixon knew that if you had a dirty job to get done, you got people who answered the description he made of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy: ‘good, healthy, right-wing exuberants.’”

    I gave half a dozen examples of latter-day conservative exuberance, in my own admitted exuberance to rain down the shame: the phony “middle of the road caucus” formed to secretly take over a National Student Association meeting from the right; the fliers the RNC put out during the 2004 election announcing that a President John Kerry would institute a plan to ban the Bible; the time Jerry Falwell lied that he’d never argued for the elimination of the public school system—“lying for the Lord,” as Mormons call it. Then, as the question-and-answer period approached, I trembled, anticipating the conservative elite’s chastened response. Yes, reader: I was once just that naive.

    M. Stanton Evans, a legendary movement godfather, stood up. He said my invocation of Richard Nixon was inappropriate because Richard Nixon had never been a conservative. He proceeded, though, to make a striking admission: “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate”—at which point, apparently, Nixon finally convinced conservatives he could be one of them.

    And that, at last, may be the explanation for Mitt Romney’s apparently bottomless penchant for lying in public. If the 2012 GOP nominee lied louder than most—and even more astoundingly than he has during his prior campaigns—it’s just because he felt like he had more to prove to his core following. Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. In this respect, as in so many others, it’s like multilayer marketing: the ones at the top reap the reward—and then they preen, pleased with themselves for mastering the game. Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher. Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers—“we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as one Romney aide put it—is another part of closing the deal. For years now, the story in the mainstream political press has been Romney’s difficulty in convincing conservatives, finally, that he is truly one of them. For these elites, his lying—so dismaying to the opinion-makers at the New York Times, who act like this is something new—is how he has pulled it off once and for all. And at the grassroots, his fluidity with their preferred fables helps them forget why they never trusted the guy in the first place.

    Much, much more at the link. Including several examples of these letters.
    https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con

  10. 10
    Tenar Arha says:

    I always end up referring back to the article by Rick Perlstein called The Long Con from 2012.

    The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

    ETA LOL or what Adam said

  11. 11
    H.E.Wolf says:

    The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members

    This is known as self-dealing. It’s a major ethics violation; and I believe it’s a rules violation as well.

    Per Wikipedia:

    Repeated self-dealing by a private foundation can result in the involuntary termination of its tax-exempt status.[4] See also: Emoluments clause
    Reference [4]:
    Fremont-Smith, Marion (2009). Governing Nonprofit Organizations: Federal and State Law and Regulation. Harvard University Press. p. 271.

    (Yutsano, are you around? I think this is in your area of expertise.)

  12. 12
    mrmoshpotato says:

    they deserve to be eaten by woodchucks

    Are you ready for woodchuck explosive diarrhea?

  13. 13
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Tenar Arha:

    or what Adam said

    Words to live by.

  14. 14
    dnfree says:

    My dad (who died in 2014) suffered from dementia in his later years. He was a lifelong Republican who always believed that Nixon had been framed by the media, so he was a natural target for these letters, sadly. He took them seriously and to heart and would send off whatever he felt he could to help the cause. It took me a long time to get him unsubscribed after he died, and he kept reappearing on new lists. It was like whack-a-mole. It made me angry that they were targeting him and so many like him, and making them feel angry and afraid just to make money off them. But at least, I thought to myself, eventually the targets would all die as my father had. But now it’s people in my age group (70s) falling for the same stuff. There apparently is an endless supply of marks.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    plato says:

    Bryan Cranston dedicated his #TonyAwards win to journalists around the world: "The media isn't the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 10, 2019

  17. 17
    Jay says:

    @dnfree:

    Once a rw grifter has a list of marks, they sell that list on to other grifters.

  18. 18
    ruemara says:

    I, personally, am glad that they’re a pack of grifters and swindlers because it means 1. their marks won’t have money to donate to real causes. 2. their con artist lifestyles mean they won’t have money to donate to causes.

  19. 19
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Where are the member/contributor lawsuits?

  20. 20
    plato says:

    @Quaker in a Basement: Cultists suing is an oxymoron.

  21. 21
    dnfree says:

    @Jay: you’ve got that right. The bulk of his mail and email was from these scammers, and he read them so carefully and dutifully.

  22. 22
    JaySinWA says:

    @Amir Khalid: I believe the woodchucks were not just chucking wood.

  23. 23
    Terry chay says:

    @dnfree: the question that needs to be asked is not WHY there is an endless supply of marks but HOW that endless supply has money to give to that gaping maw. On the other end of the political spectrum these same people don’t have the resources to donate and spend their time just surviving.

    The HOW is supported by an economy that can’t be sustained. Being a right wing Republican mark is a luxury.

  24. 24
    JaySinWA says:

    @ruemara: So they are part of the Republican Donor Liberation Front? “The RDLF is dedicated to separating Republican suckers from their money and insuring it is profligately pissed away.”

  25. 25
    Jay says:

    @Terry chay:

    Send $1 and a self addressed , postage paid envelope to PO Box 291 @ V0E 2A0 and I’ll send you a proven path to becoming a Millionaire.

  26. 26
    JaySinWA says:

    @Terry chay: Don’t fall for @Jay: ‘s Canadian treachery. Visit Super PAC’s ‘r US for a completely safe introductory offer.
    ETA we will teach you the secrets of milking money from the weak and impoverished.

  27. 27
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @Jay:

    and I’ll send you a proven path to becoming a Millionaire.

    AKA a 2 centaire in US money.

    Boom! Canadian currency slam!

  28. 28
    Jay says:

    @JaySinWA:

    You asshole, we agreed we would split the marks, you would run your con on alternate threads,

    It makes me think I can’t trust you,

    Proof that Obama’s Birth Certificate is fake?

    Okay, $5, but this is the last time, I swear.

  29. 29
    Yutsano says:

    @H.E.Wolf: While the Tax Exempt/Government Entities division is a bit outside my wheelhouse, I can tell you this is EXACTLY why the Republicans attacked the IRS. The more I learned about what happened with the Lois Lerner mishegas, the more I’m being led to think the front line workers were making the right calls here. Yes these organisations should have faced tighter scrutiny and even outright denials regardless of conservative screeching. The result was to make the division that enforces these runes (already the smallest division of the IRS) even more toothless by defunding the IRS in whole. None of this is an accident. This was a planned attack so the grifters could keep on grifting.

  30. 30
    JaySinWA says:

    @Jay: It’s about time. I still haven’t received your “Fifty ways to hide your booty (offshore)”

  31. 31
    Jay says:

    @JaySinWA:

    Have you checked your spam folder?

  32. 32
    JaySinWA says:

    @Yutsano:

    the division that enforces these runes

    Ah ha caught you IRS types admitting you have inscrutably encrypted the tax code. @Jay: I think we may have a joint venture here.

  33. 33
    Jay says:

    @JaySinWA:

    Turbo Runes?

    On it.

  34. 34
    mrmoshpotato says:

    @JaySinWA: “Booty goes inside it!” -Adam Savage referring to a pirate treasure chest

  35. 35
    JaySinWA says:

    @mrmoshpotato: Are you part of @Jay: ‘s check your spam folder group?

  36. 36
    JaySinWA says:

    @Jay: We can split the fees.

  37. 37
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    “The media is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people.”

    Brian Cranston — accepting his Tony Award tonight (link)

  38. 38
    Yutsano says:

    @JaySinWA: I ADMIT NOTHING!!!
    Although one could interpret government acronyms in such a way. We actually have a crib sheet for them. Oi…

  39. 39
    JaySinWA says:

    @Yutsano: Don’t equivocate, you are well and truly caught, Acronyms, runes, a rose by any name would still make me sneeze.

  40. 40
    PST says:

    @dnfree:

    you’ve got that right. The bulk of his mail and email was from these scammers, and he read them so carefully and dutifully.

    My experience with my late father was much like dnfree’s. I was likewise struck by how carefully and dutifully he read this stream of lies, and even complained at times about the burden of doing so. But at least the effort he put into a decision to write a check for $5 or $10 meant that he didn’t contribute as much in a lifetime as a DeVos does before breakfast. Unfortunately, most of the damage is done by these pitches themselves. Even if the take only pays for the next mailing with something left over for the grifter’s hookers and blow, they’ve helped keep a generation of old white men on the edge of madness.

  41. 41

    @Amir Khalid:

    Because many of the grifters wouldn’t leave such an easy meal ticket.

  42. 42
    dnfree says:

    @PST: Thank you for sharing. These scammers truly are callous.

  43. 43
    dnfree says:

    @Terry chay: at my dad’s end of the political spectrum, like PST’s dad, a $25 donation was a big deal and he had to decide which desperate cause of the many he received most needed his help.

  44. 44
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @JaySinWA: Square off that loaf, make the eyes squinty, flip the grin into a snarl, voila: Trump Baloney!

    Loaded with fat, salt & sulfites – but better for you & yours than his Twitter baloney!

  45. 45
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Amir Khalid: Seventy-six old crones led the Shit Parade
    With a hundred and ten nimrods right behind…

  46. 46
    Raoul says:

    From WaPo:

    “But the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organization is serving,” [Douglas Varley, a DC attorney who specializes in tax-exempt organizations] said. “Is it being run for the benefit of the gun owners in the country and the public? Or is it being run as a business generating enterprise for officers and employees of the organization?”

    it’s a grift, Doug. A huge one. Also a manufacturer’s lobby, paid for by the end users. But mostly the former.

    One can only hope that with the publicity the NRA is finally receiving, they’ll have some serious losses in membership. “If it’s correct [the money his fellow board members received], the members who pay their dues should be damn concerned, too,” NBA star and NRA board member Karl Malone said.

  47. 47
    J R in WV says:

    My Great Aunt Rose lived until her mid-90s has a pacemaker that would not stop. She was sweet, a widow with a tiny pension after a career as a bank teller, Her late husband, Uncle Archie made wine 40 years before that was a thing, and trained his basset hounds to do tricks.

    She donated tiny pittances to make good causes, and some that were less obviously good, but with names very similar to the good causes. After donating $5 to the ASPCA, she got dunned by the APSAC, etc. Mostly kindness to animals, the local humane society, etc.

    Even as Rose had faded beyond any awareness, she had a tiny dog who stayed beside her on her bed. Pup was adopted by the last caretaker lady, who was a great help to Rose.

    Not long after she died we started just discarding all her mail, it was 90% con artists, and the 10% weren’t much better.

  48. 48
    TomatoQueen says:

    @ThresherK: Yes it was, top of that long long hill.

  49. 49
    TomatoQueen says:

    @Amir Khalid: They can, and they do, at the least opportune moments.

  50. 50
    Uncle Omar says:

    @dnfree: As Pappy Maverick said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time and those are pretty good odds.”

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