Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dr. Ben-- A GOP Darwinian Racket To Separate The Naive From Their Cash


I've always assumed that many of Dr. Ben's followers are also in a medicated state. And they are certainly ripe for the plucking by a campaign being run by slick, unscrupulous hustlers. This week Reid Epstein of the Wall Street Journal took a deeper dive into the inner workings of the small-contribution-funded Dr. Ben campaign. Dr. Ben is already on the road to being just a footnote but before being exposed as a crackpot, he looked, at least superficially, like he could actually be a contender. He's raised over $38 million, much of it in small contributions-- more like the Bernie model than the Jeb or Hillary model that depends of people in the business of systemic corruption. 63% of the contributions that have come directly to Dr. Ben's campaign, rather than to his relatively small superPACs, comes from small donors. How does that compare with other candidates? I know it's a tangent, but I'm off and running now. These are the candidates who have raised serious money and what percent comes from small contributions (not even counting the tens of millions flowing into SuperPACs for the sordid Establishment candidates) :
Bernie- 74%
Dr. Ben- 63%
Rand Paul- 48%
Herr Trumpf- 48%
Fiorina- 47%
Cruz- 42%
Huckabee- 40%
Rubio- 21%
Hillary- 17%
Kasich- 12%
O'Malley- 7%
Jeb- 5%
Christie- 3%
OK, as you see, unlike the establishment candidates at the bottom of the chart who are getting big contributions from the wealthy, Dr. Ben is almost in Bernie territory in terms of lots and lots of true believers scraping together small contributions. In Bernie's case, they believe in his policy agenda and his vision of a progressive agenda. What do they see in Dr. B? A snake oil salesman? A lot of small contributions were flowing in but, unlike Bernie's campaign, these were contributions that were costing the campaign a lot of money to get. "Carson’s team," wrote Epstein, "raised $8.8 million in October and spent $9.5 million-- putting the retired neurosurgeon’s effort under water months before the first early-state voters caucus and cast ballots."
The Carson budget documents reveal a campaign spending almost all of its financial resources to reach new donors. In October alone, the campaign listed $7.4 million of finance costs, including $1.9 million for social media, $1.9 million for direct mail, $1.3 million for telemarketing and $608,000 each for “email marketing” and “search display advertising.”

Although expensive, the spending on social media and small-dollar fundraising has shown some tangible results. Mr. Carson has more than 5 million Facebook followers, more than Republican front-runner Donald Trump and twice as many as the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Some of Mr. Carson’s biggest donors, for weeks furious about the rate at which his campaign has spent money, have begun to air their grievances publicly.

Earlier this month, Bill Millis, a sock-manufacturing heir who sat on the campaign’s board, quit after failing to install new leadership. Harold Doley, a former Reagan administration official who hosted an Oct. 4 Carson fundraiser at Villa Lewaro, his Irvington, N.Y., home, accused Carson campaign aides of working solely to enrich themselves in a Wall Street Journal interview this month.

“They didn’t want to hear any strategy other than their own, which is a very expensive strategy,” Mr. Doley said. “It costs 55 cents in the Carson campaign to raise a dollar. So if you look at, ‘Oh, he raised $20 million, what is the net to the campaign?’ Most of that is going out every month in consulting fees to these guys.”

And Jeff Reeter, a former Carson finance chairman who now runs the large-donor Carson super PAC Our Children’s Future PAC, was circumspect when asked about his confidence in the current Carson campaign hierarchy.

“I seek to be highly positive and supportive of everything that’s happening in the entire Carson campaign,” Mr. Reeter said. “But my certainty is about Ben Carson and his heart and his character.”
The fish rots from the... well, we don't know. Dr. Ben could be the crooked mastermind or he could be as much a victim as his contributors are. Someone-- many someones-- is making a lot of money for themselves. It's an even more direct kind of rip off scheme than the corrupt Beltway organizations like the DCCC use to steal from the true believers, but at least it aligns ideologically with what the Republican Party base believes.

Nothing he says is true or even mostly true, so integrity... maybe not

Meanwhile, in case you missed it today, George Will wrote an OpEd for the Washington Post about how a Trumpf nomination will sound the death knell of the Republican Party. How dramatic! And let's hope he's right! "Conservatives’ highest priority," he insists, "now must be to prevent Trump from winning the Republican nomination."
If you look beyond Donald Trump’s comprehensive unpleasantness-- is there a disagreeable human trait he does not have?-- you might see this: He is a fundamentally sad figure. His compulsive boasting is evidence of insecurity. His unassuageable neediness suggests an aching hunger for others’ approval to ratify his self-admiration. His incessant announcements of his self-esteem indicate that he is not self-persuaded. Now, panting with a puppy’s insatiable eagerness to be petted, Trump has reveled in the approval of Vladimir Putin, murderer and war criminal.

In 2016, a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of what Taft and then Goldwater made possible-- a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics.

It is possible Trump will not win any primary, and that by the middle of March our long national embarrassment will be over. But this avatar of unfettered government and executive authoritarianism has mesmerized a large portion of Republicans for six months. The larger portion should understand this:

One hundred and four years of history is in the balance. If Trump is the Republican nominee in 2016, there might not be a conservative party in 2020 either.

UPDATE: Happy New Year, Dr. B, The Party's Almost Over

Dr. Ben's campaign manager, Barry Bennett, Deputy Campaign Manager Lisa Cohen and Communications Director, Doug Watts, all suddenly quit the crackpot campaign without notice. Hate Talk Radio nut Armstrong Williams, a long-time crony of Carson's seems to have been behind the shakeup in the campaign which really is nothing now but a desperate rush to suck up as much money as it can before Republican donors realize Carson is a fraud.

Labels: , , ,


At 8:36 PM, Blogger Theo said...

Your title reminded me of this quote from George Eliot's The Impressions of Theophrastus Such:

"I found [Melissa] disposed to speak pathetically of the disgrace which had fallen on Sir Gavial Mantrap, because of his conduct in relation to ... companies ingeniously devised by him for the punishment of ignorance in people of small means ..."


Post a Comment

<< Home