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Requiem for An Epic Grift

[ 69 ] February 2, 2016 |

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On conventional terms, Ben Carson’s cosplaying as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination was a failure, with the 9% of the Iowa caucus vote almost certainly the peak. On its own terms, however, it was highly successful:

In the final three months of 2015, the Carson campaign paid:

$4,769,922.68 to Eleventy Marketing Group. Eleventy Marketing Group’s president is Ken Dawson, who is also Carson’s chief marketing officer.
$2,871,229.50 to TMA Direct. TMA’s president and CEO is Mike Murray, who is also Carson’s senior advisor for grassroots marketing.
$1,256,436.09 to Communication Manager Source, which is run by Joanne Parker, wife of the aforementioned Dean Parker.
$138,666.06 to Vita Capital. Vita Capital’s CEO is Dean Parker.

That’s over $9 million siphoned directly to companies owned by Carson staffers, out of a total of $27 million spent by the campaign in that time. A great deal of the campaign’s expenditures went to marketing, which completes the cycle by bringing even more money into the Carson campaign.

Viewed correctly as a front designed to transfer money from rubes to various marketing executives, the Carson “campaign” was a massive success.

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  • kped

    How do they pay him back? is it through sham speaking fees? I mean…dude got them paid, now dude gots to get paid, right?

    • Ahenobarbus

      Speaking fees, consultant work, throw some conjoined twin separation work his way…

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Also, the egotist gets a lot of attention, and he likes that.

    • timb

      They help sell his book. Remember the book he took a hiatus from the campaign to promote? They sell the book and him for speaking to your mega-church. He is so much more a token for Conservatives: he’s a damn talisman! Your mega-church can take a break from lambasting black lives matter to have Carson speak. Your right wing pipeline company can have Varson show up for a speech and explain how authority is God ordained. Your church’s tour group can take an “alt-tour” of Egypt, full of stories of parted seas, burning bushes, technical dream coats, etc

      • NonyNony

        Your church’s tour group can take an “alt-tour” of Egypt, full of stories of parted seas, burning bushes, technical dream coats, etc

        I’m assuming that Carson will be along on these to point out all of the lovely granaries? I hear the ancient Egyptians built some incredibly sturdy granaries back in the day.

        (Also I like the typo Varson – it makes him sound like an evil high priest from a fantasy novel.)

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          “technical dream coat” is good too

          • Yes.

          • timb

            That wasn’t a typo. He wouldn’t show them a technicolor dream coat. That’s for libtards and drug users.

            • “The Bible calls it a coat of many colors, but in those days the only colors were black and white, as you can see in old television footage. My belief is that the coat was black, white and brown – the first time anyone had ever seen brown. That story has yet to be told.”

          • rea

            “That old gray thing? That’s a dream coat, you claim?”

            “Well, technically.”

        • wca

          burning bushes

          You kids stop picking on Jeb!

          • Warren Terra

            The very notion of Jeb Bush setting things on fire, or being himself aflame, is absurd. Now, if you’d said Moldering Bush instead of Burning Bush …

            • wca

              You go with the jokes you have, rather than the jokes you wish you had.

              But to be fair …

              According to ad-buy data collected by Morning Consult, Bush and his super PAC, Right to Rise, have spent about $14.1 million on ads in Iowa. That’s more money than any other presidential candidate has spent in the state.

              … Jeb! apparently burned giant piles of money in Iowa.

    • tsam

      Assuming he knows what he was being used for, yeah. I’m not inclined to believe he was in on the game.

  • Scott P.

    Well, Carson got a lot of exposure and, presumably, book sales. Now he’ll be in even more demand as a motivational speaker.

    • Yankee

      You mean he was just interning as a candidate?

    • random

      He was already in-demand as a speaker. He already was making tons money off of this and already selling boatloads of books. He actually had to resign some lucrative positions to run.

      There’s basically no way Carson’s in on it.

  • Hercules Mulligan

    To be fair, more Iowans caucused for this guy than for anyone else except the Grinning Sociopath, Fascist Clown, and Lab-Grown GOP Candidate.

    His campaign is a grift, but people like him– or, at least, they really, really, don’t like anyone else running.

  • Crusty

    I’m curious about the extent to which Carson was in on the grift. I mean, did the marketing CEO’s see him as an unsophisticated candidate who wouldn’t fully understand that the campaign they were running for him was not a campaign but a grift, or does Carson expect to enjoy some of their good fortune as well?

    • timb

      No way he wasn’t in on it. He wrote the book to coincide with the run. I think the only thing which surprised him was that people took him seriously for so long

      • kped

        “Wait…are they seriously trying to bring me down by saying I didn’t try to murder my friend and mother? Do I really have to keep campaigning????”

      • random

        Every single thing about his biography and temperament point to ‘sucker’ and not ‘grifter’.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    How much do we have to pay Dr. Carson to calmly recite the “Fuck you, pay me” section of Goodfellas?

    • Crusty

      Like button pressed!

      • timb

        Twice over

  • yet_another_lawyer

    There’s actually a company called eleventy? I thought jokes about “eleventy dimensional chess” were… well, jokes.

    • wca

      There’s actually a company called eleventy?

      The whole campaign was an obvious troll, right down to the name of the marketing outfit.

      Too bad the fundraising arm of the campaign wasn’t called “I Laugh As I Take Your Money Direct Mailing Group” – then it’d be perfect.

    • Gareth

      “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve…”

  • keta

    Carson hired this clown to run his scam, so of course he knows the primary premise of his primary presence.

    The value of the mailing lists of supporters, alone, during his “campaign” will prove to be very, very lucrative to Carson, and all that rube money finally flowing to him will create A More Perfect Union.

    • osceola

      Yeah, how much is Williams’ skim?

      • keta

        The beauty of the exposure, and especially the mailing lists, is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Post moose snorts for the usual GOP talking points on Facebooger, play coy with your intent to ever run again, become the darling of your own particular niche of credulous pud-pullers and the world’s your halibut steak. Hell, you could even shill for others without ever having to actually get pounded by the sweaty, heavy-breathing electorate.

        The success of this approach has not escaped notice.

    • random

      Carson has a long history of charitable acts, is really gullible, his chosen path out of poverty was ‘become a brain surgeon’, he thinks very highly of himself, and he’s never ran a political campaign in his entire life.

      All that just screams “SUCKER!” and not ‘con man’.

      I’m going to need some pretty stark and non-circumstantial evidence to buy that he didn’t actually think he had a shot at becoming President now or in the future.

      • keta

        I think it’s precious how you continue to believe the call to service is what motivates so many of these shitsticks, random. Naive, but precious.

        Google “Mannatech and Ben Carson”, review his bald-faced lies when questioned about this during the CNBC GOP debate, and then keep telling yourself that Carson just wants to serve his country.

        Maybe one day you will get that pony!

  • ChrisTS

    I’m confused by the quoted material. Who is Dean Parker other than his wife’s husband?

    • Hogan

      Preceding paragraph:

      It is not exactly a secret that one convenient feature of Ben Carson’s political campaign is the amount of money it’s willing to pay its advisors and fundraisers. A few weeks ago, Dean Parker, Carson’s top moneyman, walked the plank after a Politico article detailed frustrations within the campaign regarding the cash funneled to companies owned by Parker and his cohorts. Now the campaign’s new FEC filing details the extent to which senior staffers are plundering the doctor’s war chest.

  • Barry Freed

    That’ll pay for a lot of sets of fresh clothes.

  • petesh

    Thinking of grifters, should Trump actually win the Presidency (I know, I know), someone [ETA: OzarkHillbilly at Balloon Juice] just pointed out that he would have to put his assets in a blind trust, and so would probably do better than if he continued to manage them on his own.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      I don’t think he’ll win, but if he did, how would anyone make Trump put his assets in a blind trust? If he refused, his own AG presumably wouldn’t prosecute him for it, and who would have standing to bring a civil suit over it?

      • efgoldman

        If he refused, his own AG presumably wouldn’t prosecute him for it

        He probably wouldn’t even bother appointing an AG.

    • catclub

      I suspect that a lot of his assets have associated liabilities as well, and have to be kept up in the air. A blind trust ( yeah, right) would not work for that kind of organization.

      He was probably the top salesman for Trump-named projects, and that will stop, mostly. So I see this as a big problem.

      OTOH: I think he will demand $500M from the Koch brothers not to run third party – and get it. Fabulous return on investment of maybe $100M in a campaign.

      Best part would be if the Kochs pay up and the Democrat STILL wins.

      • efgoldman

        He was probably the top salesman for Trump-named projects, and that will stop, mostly.

        Hah! He’s already got his buildings and grounds people designing the searchlit, 10-foot high polished brass (or gold-plate, if he can get the gummint to pay for it) “TRUMP” over the portico of the White House. His first executive order will be to change the name to “Trump House.”

      • random

        OTOH: I think he will demand $500M from the Koch brothers not to run third party – and get it. Fabulous return on investment of maybe $100M in a campaign.

        No. This is wildly illegal and impossible to hide from the IRS.

        (I can’t believe there are still people who think Trump is doing this for some reason other than wanting to be President).

        • Origami Isopod

          No. This is wildly illegal and impossible to hide from the IRS.

          You really think people like Koch and Trump can’t hide these kinds of transactions from the IRS? Or, maybe more importantly, that rule of law matters in this country?

        • Donalbain

          Someone, somewhere related to a Koch business suddenly starts to feel the need to build a casino, or a golf course or whatever. At the same time as that, Trump continues not to be a candidate for President. How would that be prosecuted?

    • Richard Gadsden

      Probably not, actually. As long as he discloses his assets under the Ethics in Government Act, the President is in compliance.

      Non-Constitutional officers in the executive branch (ie everyone but the Pres and VP) are required to recuse themselves from participating in anything where they have a financial interest, but the EiG Act cannot override the constitutional authority of the President or VP.

      A blind trust would protect him from disclosure, so he’d probably stick his stock portfolio and other liquid assets into one, but the real estate business would just stay in his own name. It’s not like anyone would really believe that Trump Tower isn’t a Trump business, so why bother?

  • twbb

    I just can’t accept the campaign-as-grift theory that gets floated so much on LGM. Is there any evidence that Carson knows he won’t win? Doesn’t that rely on Carson having an icy grip on reality?

    • timb

      Did you see him campaign? He hired his business manager to be his campaign manager, he filled his senior staff with marketing professionals and not political consultants. He ran few ads, had little staff, etc.

      • tsam

        And showed up to the debates all jacked up on dilaudid.

      • JustRuss

        That could be a case of him sticking with people he knows and trusts…who all happen to be grifters. He wouldn’t be the first clueless front man.

      • twbb

        He wasn’t competent, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t think he had a decent chance to win. All he would have to do is make a strong enough showing that GOP establishment types would join him and actually do the campaigning.

        • NonyNony

          He put his campaign on pause to go promote his book. His campaign has been the most naked use of “I’m going to use a presidential campaign to raise my profile to sell books/speeches/whatever” that we’ve ever seen.

          The only thing I wonder is whether he understood the scope of the amount of money that was being brought in. Also I suspect that when he shot up in the polls last fall he might have switched from “self-promoter” to “self-promoter who could actually win it”, and maybe he’s still in that mode. But the original campaign setup was pretty clearly in the “raise my own profile and sell some books” camp.

          • random

            He put his campaign on pause to go promote his book.

            During which time his poll numbers shot up to 2nd place, ahead of the former President’s brother as well as the highest-profile Senators and governors in the nation.

            Also during this time he was meeting thousands of highly-devoted and bawling fans telling him he was blessed and they were going to vote for him.

            I imagine he thought he was on his way. That he would be consciously grifting and not one of the suckers is 180-degrees the opposite of everything we know about the guy.

          • timb

            I think Cain has him beat as most cynical campaign, but barely

        • efgoldman

          He wasn’t competent, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t think he had a decent chance to win.

          Gawd-uh’s Weeyill!

      • random

        Did you see him campaign?

        You mean whip a bunch of much more-experienced politicians and more-experienced campaigns that also had tons of funding?

        Yeah, yeah I saw that. Just not sure how that’s evidence that he wasn’t serious about running for President.

        • timb

          He did not. He ran no ads, had no organization. He had talk radio hosts supporting him for 2 years and Trump did not attack him. Not sure what you think a campaign is, but finishing above Chris Christie in a state where Christie didn’t try at all is not as impressive as you make it sound

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            somewhere Jeb? is reading this and muttering to himself, “*I* was there. $2,800 freaking dollars a vote I was there”

    • Feathers

      You are overthinking the word “grift.” It’s not people sitting in a room saying “Hey, let’s run a presidential campaign and pocket all the money.” So much of modern charity and/or consulting is set up on the grift model – getting people to pay you money for something you aren’t going to give them.

      a) the “motivational speaker” circuit/racket. It’s all about someone pretending to want to come to speak to a group just out of the goodness of their heart and their belief in the worthiness of the group. In reality, a shitton of cash is changing hands.

      b) consultancy itself – as the Demotivation (TM) poster says: “If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.”

      c) campaign finance laws that prevent any sort of true accountability for where the money goes/is spent. Go back and watch/read about the Colbert SuperPAC from the last election. Imagine how tempting that is. I fully believe some people took notes for this election from that series. Also, it gives an incentive for staying in the game.

      d) the fact that losing elections is a fully expected consequence of running in elections and can be leveraged.

      e) the known reality that believing you are a “good person” causes you to overlook the bad things that you do. (The I had a diet soda, therefore I deserve an ice cream sundae for desert fallacy.)

      f) the I deserve a good life and if these suckers are willing to give me money it means they don’t deserve to have it.

      And remember – the best way to rob a bank is to own one.

      As to Carson – I think he sees himself as doing good. Believes his wealth is sign of God’s grace. Others are willing to help him in those beliefs. So not guilty, but far from innocent.

      ETA – See Bitter Scribe below.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Being a motivational speaker isn’t “grift” unless either (a) the speaker doesn’t actually show up to talk after you’ve paid them, or (b) the speaker claims that they will make the speech free of charge and then tries to bill you afterwards. If someone says, “I will give a speech to your organization in exchange for $100,000,” and does give such a speech after you pay them, then that’s about as honest and above-board a transaction as you can get.

        • The Dark God of Time

          Even if the speaker lives down by the river in a trailer?

          • random

            HAH!

      • random

        Yeah, I also find it really hard to believe that Carson is one of the grifters and not one of the suckers. A griftacular campaign is one expected result of a sincere neophyte getting in way over his head anyway.

    • djw

      Doesn’t that rely on Carson having an icy grip on reality?

      Not at all. It relies on his actual financial conduct during the campaign.

  • dl

    Eleventy Marketing Group” ???

    • tsam

      I KNOW–THAT’S THE COOLEST NAME EVER

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Carl Sagan had five children… one of them could become a political consultant and top that with ease.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Carson is now going around saying Cruz ratfucked him in Iowa by spreading the word he was about to quit. Cruz even confirmed this by apologizing for it.

    Regarding his PAC money, weren’t there some PACs that were straight-up ripping off everyone, including Carson himself, by implying they were helping him but keeping all the money for themselves? IIRC, Cruz got victimized by this too, and probably some of the other Republicans. It’s like the Wild West out there.

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  • random

    Political newcomer Ben Carson’s campaign slightly over-performed his polling in IA, giving him around 10% of the GOP’s vote against a very crowded field.

    Both son and brother of former Presidents and former governor of one of the biggest states Jeb Bush’s campaign spent over $80 million and slightly under-performed their polling in IA.

    Ben Carson’s campaign beat Governor Bush’s by a 6.5-point margin.

    Question: If Ben Carson’s campaign is run by conscious con-artists with no intention of actually winning primaries and a vested interest in diverting funds away from GOTV, what does this say about Jeb Bush’s?