Thursday, January 07, 2010

"The Producers" as a Campaign Strategy

Digby calls it "Ann Stone's Psychic Friends...," which is also pretty much on point. Basically, Center for American Progress reports that Roger Stone's ex-wife (the apple not falling far from the rotten grocer on this one) has been running a rather classic con on the wealthy, upper class, socially liberal Republican base. That is, there remains a sliver of a portion of a mite of the country that is Republican and also pro-choice. They have seen their party fall into the hands of the most rabid anti-choice factions but they still held out hope, somehow, that they could have tax cuts, permanent war, and abortions for their wayward children.

The Republican "pro-choice" scam is the flip side of the Tea Bagger scam, one raises money off the gullibility and alienation of wealthy donors, while the other skims it off the poor and working class. Both are selling hope in the form of letterhead, supposed campaign savvy, TV time, and a vow to push what the donors see as natural, desirable, and underserved political interests in a party that seems to have its power base locked up and its energies directed elsewhere. The whole thing, on all sides, reminds me of nothing so much as the selling of indulgences and it works in much the same way: take money from the faithful for an unverifiable reward that will come posthumously. Meanwhile, live large on the proceeds. Lather, rinse, repeat. But its always been this way. You wouldn't believe what comes up when you plug in "Republican Fund Raising Scams..." But I did find this one

As ABC's new ace investigative reporter Justin Rood reports today in his story on Alishtari, "the NRCC 'Businessperson of the Year' fundraising campaign, which gave such 'awards' to at least 1,900 GOP donors, has been derided as a telemarketing scam by political watchdogs."

Here's how it works, as reported in The Washington Post back in 2003:

The call starts with flattery: You have been named businessman of the year, or physician of the year, or state chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Business Advisory Council.

Then comes the fundraising hook: a request for as much as $500 to help pay for a full-page Wall Street Journal advertisement, then a request for $5,000 to reserve a seat at a banquet thrown in your honor. Can't handle that? How about $1,250 for the no-frills package?

Back then, the calls frequently featured a recording of ex-Majority Leader's Tom DeLay (R-TX). But the program is a long-time fixture of the NRCC's fundraising apparatus, dating back to 1998 and still going strong. And that's despite several news stories exposing the award as a sham. Apparently there are plenty of people who don't mind being hit up for thousands of dollars in order to receive an award: As NRCC spokesman told the Post back in 2003, "There are many, many happy members of the Business Advisory Council."

And then who could forget this one?

The College Republican National Committee has raised $6.3 million this year through an aggressive and misleading fund-raising campaign that collected money from senior citizens who thought they were giving to the election efforts of President Bush and other top Republicans.

Many of the top donors were in their 80s and 90s. The donors wrote checks — sometimes hundreds and, in at least one case, totaling more than $100,000 — to groups with official sounding-names such as "Republican Headquarters 2004," "Republican Elections Committee" and the "National Republican Campaign Fund."

But all of those groups, according to the small print on the letters, were simply projects of the College Republicans, who collected all of the checks.

And little of the money went to election efforts.

Of the money spent by the group this year, nearly 90 percent went to direct-mail vendors and postage expenses, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

And then I found the one I was looking for (here in the Boston Globe, here in Pro Publica, and here at TPM)

The handling of Chavez-Ochoa's campaign is another example of BMW Direct's questionable fundraising practices that were highlighted in a Boston Globe piece earlier this week. That story focused on Charles Morse, the long shot challenger to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) whose committee raised more than $700,000, with all but four percent consumed by fundraising costs.

Representatives of the firm fiercely deny any wrongdoing and argue that the high cost of direct mail fundraising, particularly for little-known candidates, necessitates such expenses. Both Chavez-Ochoa and Morse dropped out before the candidates could reap the benefit of the early fundraising, they said.

In every case money was raised by marketing groups, on behalf of "The Republican Party" or its representatives or its imagined potential representatives (in the case of the Tea Baggers) and that money was diverted into the pockets of the corporations doing the fundraising. Its basically a version of "The Producers" where the play is supposed to flop and the proceeds, unaudited, stay with the producer. This latest version--the selling of a pro-choice agenda to a patently hostile Republican base--is simply brilliant.

No comments: