Conservative Mailing Lists: Better Than the Glengarry Leads

When you’re dedicated to running a perpetual con, it’s good to have a nearly endless, easily accessible supply of suckers:

The conservative media movement exists primarily as a moneymaking venture. As Rick Perlstein explained in the Baffler, some of the largest conservative media organs are essentially massive email lists of suckers rented to snake oil salesmen. The con isn’t limited to a couple of newsletters and websites: The most prominent conservative organizations in the nation are primarily dedicated to separating conservatives from their money.

FreedomWorks, which is funded primarily by very rich people, solicits donations from non-rich conservative people. More than 80,000 people donated money to FreedomWorks in 2012, and it seems likely that only a small minority of those people were hedge fund millionaires. And what are people who donate to this grass-roots conservative organization funded mostly by a few very rich people getting for their hard-earned money? In addition to paying Dick Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years to stay away, FreedomWorks also apparently spent more than a million dollars paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to say nice things about FreedomWorks, in order to convince listeners to send FreedomWorks money that FreedomWorks would then give to Limbaugh and Beck. It’s a pretty simple con. Beck, meanwhile, also has a subscriber-based media operation, in which people pay his company money for access to programs where Beck expresses opinions that he was paid to hold. He also spent years telling everyone to buy gold from a company that pays him and defrauds consumers.

In conclusion, the TEA party represents a true, original grassroots movement. OUTLAW!

61 comments on this post.
  1. Major Kong:

    Wouldn’t mind getting in on some of that action myself.

    Unfortunately my last remaining shreds of human dignity and self respect prevent me from doing so.

  2. J. Otto Pohl:

    But, the whole point of the Grifters and a lot of Jim Thompson’s other novels was that the criminals who were the protagonists were the real suckers. It is they who lose out. After all of the original three grifters in the novel only Lilly Dillon even physically survives to the end of the novel. Like many Thompson novels there is a karmic payback at the end. That is not really what is happening here. The analogous “grifters” you are writing about are all still alive and evidently quite rich as well.

  3. Bill Altreuter:

    If you can’t tell who the conservative is you arethe conservative.

  4. mark f:

    Beck, meanwhile, also has a subscriber-based media operation, in which people pay his company money for access to programs where Beck expresses opinions that he was paid to hold. He also spent years telling everyone to buy gold from a company that pays him and defrauds consumers.

    Hey, he also sells designer(-priced) jeans.

  5. joe from Lowell:

    If FreedomWorks responded to this by sending out a mailer about Perlstein’s piece, they could bring in $2 million in a heartbeat.

    “Elitist liberals say that you’re a sucker, and conservatism is a con game. Help us FIGHT THE LIBERAL LIES!”

  6. Timb:

    This. We need a finders fee for this idea, say, 10%? I will present it. To Matt Kibbe, soulless bastard and have your cut in a week, joe

  7. mark f:

    The sad part is, this isn’t even really a joke.

  8. Snarki, child of Loki:

    paying Dick Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years to stay away

    That’s an interesting strategy, perhaps it should be extended..

    So, for a mere $400M per year, the USA could pay the top 1000 conservitards to go the fuck away and not bother us? A BARGAIN!

  9. Linnaeus:

    As the protagonist in Layer Cake put it, I’m in the wrong fucking game.

  10. Malaclypse:

    Internet tradition requires me to point out that this blog does, on occasion, use metaphor without making such usage explicit.

  11. joe from Lowell:

    And then, when every liberal media outlet in American spends a solid month pointing and laughing at the suckers, they roll out their next mailer: “Liberals in a Panic After FreedomWorks Unmasks Them!”

    Help us keep the pressure on!

  12. J. Otto Pohl:

    Yes, but I find discussing Jim Thompson novels much more interesting than FreedomWorks. So I was hoping to steer the conversation in that direction. Perhaps an analysis on how Jim Thompson’s left wing political views, he was a CPUSA member in the 1930s, shaped his noir novels. Or maybe just a discussion of the moral universe that permeates all of his noir novels.

  13. herr doktor bimler:

    The owner of FreedomWorks runs one of the US’s most successful cancer scam, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. One description of its business model:

    Their target customer seems to be someone with terminal cancer and a boatload of medical insurance. [...] If your insurance company sold you a policy that has a limit of 1 million dollars on it, they really don’t expect you to spend those all before dying. Few patients do. But now, enter from offstage left, a savvy corporation dedicated to getting paid every single dollar your insurance said you could get.

  14. catclub:

    Of course, Dick Armey is not really going away. He is just going to lobby a little more quietly, for the same (general) side.

    I feel confident that grifters willing to con the conservative rubes are a highly renewable resource. Think fox and fleas.

  15. catclub:

    Link? I am interested.

    Somehow CCA seems like the University of Phoenix of healthcare.
    Lots of advertising, using their success stories. No matter how rare they may be overall.

  16. LosGatosCA:

    The two reasons Trump got in the 2012 race:

    1. mailing list
    2. ratings

    These people are very slick, very polished, and prepared.

    I have some acquaintances who are huge fans of Trump and his wealth building seminars. They make some money from having learned the system and they think he is genuine. The interesting thing is why they think he is genuine.

    Apparently at the Trump event they attended an advance man comes into the room and tells them that Trump is a bit of a germaphobe and no one should be offended when he doesn’t shake anyone’s hand. It’s not personal, just a precaution because he meets so many people and doesn’t want to get sick. Sorry for any inconvenience.

    Then he comes into the room, makes his canned presentation and then engages the audience with some charm (that’s what they told me) and then comes down to talk to them at a personal level. Finally, he shakes everyone’s hand. Because he’s just that touched by meeting them, the whole germaphobic thing can just be ignored. And it worked. They think he overcame his fears just to befriend them.

    Grifting is an art form.

  17. herr doktor bimler:

    Googling for “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” + complementary is instructive. They do not have any unique defining scam of their own, preferring to combine acupuncture, naturopathy, “Mind-Body Medicine”… any form of snake oil that has already been field-tested by other people for its appeal to the desperate and the credulous.

    For coverage of CTCA among health skeptics, see here — or google “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” scam.

    So when Scott links FreedomWorks with snake-oil salesmen, this is true in the original sense of the term.

    Apparently what alerted FreedomWorks’ owner to the fact that dying people and their money are soon parted was the death of his own mother from cancer. There was a lot of money being made in cancer fraud, and he was entitled to a share of it, inspiring him to start up CTCA. Hence his present fortune.

  18. DrDick:

    Start your own blog and stop bitching that this one does not write about what you want.

  19. S_noe:

    Thanks for the info on CCTA. Minor point: isn’t the owner of CCTA a major donor to Freedomworks, not the latter’s owner? I think FW is a nonprofit, with no “owner” per se.

  20. catclub:

    Thanks.

    “Apparently what alerted FreedomWorks’ owner to the fact that dying people and their money are soon parted was the death of his own mother from cancer.”

    Normal people respond to this by trying to cure cancer.
    I had a friend who went to medical school and into oncology for that reason.

    He realizes there is a different set of rubes to be fleeced.

  21. The_Melvinator:

    Can we, perhaps, add in some countrapuntal discussion of Hammett’s noirs, in light of his experience with and eventual separation from the Pinkertons after several labor-related actions?

  22. TT:

    “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    Except that the cause of conservatism in America has always been to make its business into a racket. And its cause has always been a hell of a lot closer to degenerate than to great.

  23. Bill Murray:

    he does have his own blog

  24. M. Bouffant:

    These people should receive the traditional snake-oil salesman’s treatment; tarred, feathered & run out of the country on a rail.

  25. Anna in PDX:

    Yes please! I just finished reading all of them!

  26. herr doktor bimler:

    He is described as one of a three-man board, but his personal action in signing the cheque for Armey’s pay-out suggests a special role.

  27. J. Otto Pohl:

    Yes I do. But, it has a very small readership compared to LGM and gets almost no comments. I keep it mainly as notebook for myself.

  28. Malaclypse:

    I keep it mainly as notebook for myself.

    I understand blog-post reviews of dissertations are all the rage nowadays.

  29. herr doktor bimler:

    FreedomWorks also apparently spent more than a million dollars paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to say nice things about FreedomWorks, in order to convince listeners to send FreedomWorks money that FreedomWorks would then give to Limbaugh and Beck.

    Dick Armey complained that the payola deal initially only involved Beck, to the tune of $250000, but Limbaugh wanted in on the deal, and the price kept going up. People these days do not stay bought.

  30. J. Otto Pohl:

    Yes, I reviewed one on the history midwives and family planning in Ghana on my blog on 26 November 2012.

    jpohl.blogspot.com/2012/11/my-knowledge-on-midwives-and-family.html

  31. Hogan:

    Red Harvest: socialist realism done right.

  32. laslo:

    Americans have this innate need to be sold and are brought up to be suckers to ads for beer, cars, fast food, and telecommunications gadgets. Then there’s the bi-annual charade we call elections. If that weren’t about adverts and sales jobs, nobody would pay attention.

    Most Americans are sheep and want to be lead to the slaughter. Give them something shiny or what they think is insider info, then they’ll line up with cash in hand.

  33. JoyfulA:

    I copyedited one of the Trump self-promoting “business” books, and it was total crap. And I’m the sort of easily interested person who’d find “Midwives in Ghana,” should the dissertation became a book, highly worthwhile.

    And my reading for myself is always crime fiction (noir and hardboiled), except right now I’m reading horror, Diamond’s “Collapse.”

  34. DrDick:

    From the perspective of someone who was actually here (as a Pinkerton).

  35. LeeEsq:

    FreedomWorks seems to operate in the same way that Tammany Hall and the other political machines operated in terms of paying people off. The difference is that the political machines provided real goods and services to the poor and gave the public some very nice infrastructure and public buildings.

  36. LeeEsq:

    Does this mean that we can RICO FreedomWorks and other conservative organizations? There has to be something we can nail them on.

  37. Sev:

    Freedom to loot with the protection but not the meddling of almighty government definitely Works for me. FreedomWorks for short.

  38. prufrock:

    Given global warming, the Easter Island chapter scared the shit out of me.

    I wonder if we can carve faces on our McMansions before we pass.

  39. Cody:

    This is obviously a feature, not a bug, of libertarian government.

  40. Fats Durston:

    Maybe it shouldn’t (at least for Diamond’s reasons):
    http://www.marklynas.org/2011/10/the-easter-island-ecocide-never-happened-response-to-jared-diamond/

  41. catclub:

    I guess I am still not very hardboiled then.
    I am not seeing it in these.

    Civil rights.
    Slavery abolition.
    Eradicating smallpox and polio worldwide.
    Landmine treaties.

  42. zombie rotten mcdonald:

    If only they would knock over a bank….

  43. The Dark Avenger:

    “Down those mean streets a man must go, a man who himself is no Stalinist.”

  44. Captain Splendid:

    Most people are sheep and want to be lead to the slaughter. Give them something shiny or what they think is insider info, then they’ll line up with cash in hand.

    Fixed that for you.

  45. BigHank53:

    Wait and see if the RICO statues survive Penn State’s suit against the NCAA. You just know some chucklewit congressman is getting ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  46. Woodrowfan:

    while visiting my Mom in her “retirement community” this summer I stopped by an estate sale to see what was up. The recently-deceased had a lot of DVDs. Among them were numerous copies of the same one, “Rediscovering God in America” or some such by Newt and Calista Gingrich. I suspect the person who had lived there had kept getting mail begging for money to stop the “liebrul menace” or some such and kept getting the same DVD over and over again for each new donation.

    There’s no ring of hell hot enough for people like Newt and his crooked buddies..

  47. Mike:

    “health skeptics”?

  48. Jess Sane:

    The biggest suckers are usually the ones who think they’re above all that.

  49. Davis X. Machina:

    Or run out of town on the tail of a wagon between Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson….

  50. Bitter Scribe:

    FWIW, I loved the movie and thought it underrated.

    That’s as good as you’re probably going to get here.

  51. Bitter Scribe:

    Sometimes I wonder if seniors with mild dementia are especially susceptible to this bullshit. I suspect so.

  52. JoyfulA:

    Has the U.S. finally signed the landmine treaty? I missed that one, but I’m glad.

  53. JoyfulA:

    Not in vinyl siding.

  54. JoyfulA:

    I’m at the Maya chapter now, and I’ve been muttering about lack of detail all along so far (except the Montana part). I want more archaeology to be persuaded.

  55. Pestilence:

    To defend laslo, this has seemed a lot more noticeable here in the US than in other places I’ve lived: I surmise the greater focus on winner-takes-all in american society encourages it as an attitude.

  56. Eli Rabett:

    from personal experience no

  57. wengler:

    I’m Ghana go there someday I swear.

  58. ajay:

    Slavery abolition has become a business/racket in some places: look at those US evangelicals that go to Africa and buy children out of slavery. Some of those kids have been liberated six or seven times.
    See here:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/99jul/9907sudanslaves.htm

    Eradicating polio is a business – companies manufacture polio vaccine for profit. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not saying that they’re making excessive profits or anything.) And a “polio vaccination” scam was part of the plan to find bin Laden.

  59. IM:

    I also want to put in a word for James Ellroy.

    And in the Big Nowhere he depicts with Red Crosscurrents an actual right-wing grift of the McCarthy area.

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