One of the heroic survivors of the 2012 Benghazi attack, who held off invading Islamists until rescuers reached the besieged CIA base, has begun a national campaign to counter President Obama’s narrative on the terrorist threat.Yeah, he's become a voice -- and Benghazi appears to be his career now, judging from his slick website and other sources:
Former Army Ranger Kris “Tanto” Paronto has started a nonprofit called Leading From the Front, which he hopes will translate into a national movement to drive home the real threat Islamic extremists pose to America.
“Radical Islam is at war with America, and we are slowly losing,” Mr. Paronto said. “From Benghazi to Orlando, we are seeing the deadly consequences of President Obama and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s ‘leading from behind’ and their willful blindness towards the threat of radical Islam.”...
Mr. Paronto has the celebrity status -- and the war record -- to make people listen.
He served nearly eight years as an Army Ranger before being honorably and medically discharged for Crohn’s disease in 2003. He launched a career as a private security officer stationed throughout the Middle East. He eventually landed a job as one of the CIA’s personal security officers. One assignment took him to Kandahar, Afghanistan....
The CIA shifted him to Benghazi, a hotbed of Islamic activism and gun-running in the post-Moammar Gadhafi era, weeks before the historical events of Sept. 11, 2012, at 9:42 p.m. That was the hour Islamists breached the gate and set fire to the U.S. mission, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and aide Sean Smith....
Mr. Paronto became a voice for those who survived, appearing on Fox News Channel and other outlets.
Paronto continued to be a private security officer until 2013, according to his bio at the site, but he's not doing that anymore. His LinkedIn page says his current job is KPI LLC, the company set up to promote him, as well as 13 Hours, which is the title of a book about Benghazi written by "Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team." (Paronto was as a member of the team, so to gets to claim that he's an "author.") The book was made into a movie, which Paronto has promoted relentlessly, and continues to promote on his site -- go to the merchandise page and you can buy 13 Hours DVDs (regular and Blu-Ray), a 13 Hours autographed poster, and a #BENGHAZI MATTERS T-shirt ("Perfect T-Shirt To Wear To The MOVIE PREMIERE!"). You can also buy men's T-shirts, a "ladies boyfriend T-shirt," and a "ladies racerback tank" with Paronto's John 15:13 logo.
(John 15:13 is "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" -- something Paronto, of course, didn't do. If this is a reference to the Benghazi dead, Paronto has turned their deaths into his trademark)
You can book a Paronto speech through JL Wilkinson Consulting -- although Paronto has also worked with Premiere Speakers Bureau and Keppler Speakers. He gives speeches titled "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi," "Bottom Up Leadership and How It Saved Lives in Benghazi" ("From combat to business, Kris shares techniques, stories, and lessons he learned from having a strong team under fire"), "God and Combat" ("This talk will equip you for your own battles as Kris walks through his faith journey, and shares how the power of God brought him through the toughest fight of his life"), and "Lessons for Leadership in a New World." So he's got a lot of markets covered.
He does get a fair number of gigs -- tomorrow he's speaking at the Texas Police Association Annual Training Conference; in mid-July he'll address a "Private Event in Las Vegas" (cough Adelson cough?) After that he's a keynote speaker at Republican events in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Volusia County, Florida, as well as at a gathering of the South Dakota Federation of Republican Women.
Does all this pay the bills? Paronto's LinkedIn page says that the only "opportunities Kris is looking for" are opportunities in "skills-based volunteering (pro bono consulting)."
Leading from the Front, The Washington Times tells us, is well connected, in a manner of speaking:
Mr. Paronto’s Leading From the Front is one of the first projects under the American Legacy Center. Executive Director Adam Waldeck said the center operates off of a small donor base and will tap former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Donald Trump supporter, for help on campaigns.The American Legacy Center appears to have ties to Ben Carson, jusging from this Baltimore Sun story, which appeared as Carson was gearing up for his presidential run:
Carson is the chairman of Save Our Health Care, a group that supports Republican congressional candidates. The group is funded by the American Legacy PAC, which has raised $7.3 million since last year. The organizers of the group have also formed the American Legacy Center, a nonprofit that can accept unlimited donations and does not have to disclose its donors.Adam Waldeck, according to his LinkedIn page, currently works for American Legacy PAC, and has previously worked for Newt 2012 and Gingrich's American Solutions. In 2013, David Corn and Adam Kroll of Mother Jones reported that American Legacy PAC seemed to be a scam:
This PAC, founded in 2010 and fronted by Gingrich, bags a lot of money from conservative donors, but little of this cash reaches candidates. During the 2012 election cycle, the group took in $515,321 -- most of it from donors contributing less than $200 -- and it doled out a measly $9,000 to seven Republican candidates, including Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, and Gingrich himself.And regarding American Solutions, Open Secrets tells us:
The old American Solutions raised more than $50 million in four years, much of which went to pay Gingrich’s travel expenses and otherwise boost his political profile.Do you understand why I'm posting all this? Conservatives speak of Benghazi as a great tragedy and an outrage. They say they grieve for the dead. They say they want a wrong righted.
But here's a guy for whom Benghazi is a revenue source. He's hooked up with grifters who've made a habit of stoking various fears in order to separate ordinary conservatives from their money.
Nothing surprising about this, if you know how Republicans mingle politics and money-churning. But your uncle who keeps sending you email forwards about Benghazi doesn't realize that Benghazi is a business opportunity for some people.