Conservatism Has Become A Haven For Grifters And Frauds. No Wonder We Got Trump

At some point, what we call conservatism turned into a racket. It's not surprising that this led directly to Trump.

Max Boot, who has been among the most prominent of the formerly Republican “Never Trump” movement online and on cable news, writes in The Washington Post about the extent to which modern conservatism has become a haven for grifters and frauds:

You can debate when the conservative movement became a racket — I nominate 1996, the year Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes created Fox News Channel to monetize right-wing outrage — but there is no doubt it has long since passed that point. If you have any doubt, look at the recent revelations about the National Rifle Association, probably the single most powerful conservative lobbying group in America.

The NRA’s long-serving executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told his followers: “It’s up to us to speak out against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.” So LaPierre must be a man of the people, selflessly dedicated to the goal of two assault weapons in every house and a bazooka in every garage, right?

Actually, protecting the “right” of anyone to buy any gun at any time turns out to be a lucrative racket. The NRA paid LaPierre $927,863 in 2014, $5,051,249 in 2015 and $1,358,966 in 2016, according to the group’s tax returns. In 2016, eight other NRA executives also made more than $500,000. But that is only the beginning of their compensation.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a leaked accounting of LaPierre’s expenses. These include “$39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe,” “$17,550 for ‘Air Charter’ between Budapest and the Italian city of Brescia,” “air transportation charges” of nearly $70,000 for one trip to and from the Bahamas, and “$13,800 in rent” for an apartment for a female intern. LaPierre even billed $1,096 for “Frankfurt Airport Assistance.” Funny, I’ve been to Frankfurt airport many times and never paid a euro for any assistance. (The NRA responded by saying, “It is troubling and pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas.” Not exactly a denial.)

LaPierre’s reported compensation is just part of a larger, troubling pattern at the NRA that could threaten its tax-exempt status. An investigation by the New Yorker and the Trace found that “a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements. Memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object.”

As Boot goes on to note, the grifting isn’t limited to the NRA:

A similar culture of impunity exists across the right. Leaders are being lavishly rewarded, and their misdeeds are being covered up as long as they rile up the rubes. Fox News host Sean Hannity makes a reported $36 million a year and owns his own airplane while railing, like LaPierre, against “elites.” Fox News’s parent company, meanwhile, became notorious for paying tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits regarding sexual harassment charges brought against some of its biggest stars, including Ailes and then-anchor Bill O’Reilly.

President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen — now in prison for, among other offenses, helping the evangelicals’ favorite president cover up an affair with an adult-film actress — also claims to have helped Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. by preventing the release of embarrassing photographs that would normally be kept “between husband [and] wife.” (Falwell denies the story.) Then there are mysterious news reports that Falwell loaned $1.8 million to a Miami hotel pool attendant. Tellingly, Falwell worships Trump as an exemplar of his values; he recently tweeted that “Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.”

And then, of course, there’s the Grifter In Chief, who has perfected what could be called the ‘art of the steal’ over forty years in business:

The grifter in chief is Trump himself. He marketed himself as a fabulously successful businessman. Except — oops — the New York Times revealed that he received much of his wealth from his father — more than $400 million — and that he had more than $1.1 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994. “Year after year,” the Times reported, “Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.”

So it turns out that Trump is a big loser. But his followers were not remotely fazed by the news. On “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite show, co-host Ainsley Earhardt marveled, “Wow, it’s pretty impressive, all the things that he’s done in his life. It’s beyond what most of us could ever achieve.”

It’s as though Bernie Madoff’s clients were congratulating him for being so successful at swindling them. 

Grifting isn’t a new thing on the right, of course. One of the better examples of this, aside from the N.R.A. Fox News Channel, and the President. These types of grifters have been prominent on the right since at least the 1990s, when many people made a lot of money helping to perpetuate what came to be called Clinton Derangement Syndrome by spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories about President Clinton and his wife and using fundraising efforts linked to the rise of talk radio, Fox News Channel, and the Internet. It quickly became apparent that, for the most part, these organizations were basically in business to enrich themselves and their leadership, something that continued well into the 21st Century.

The height of the new grifters, though, came in the wake of the 2008 election. At nearly the same time that President Obama came into office, organization that came to call themselves part of the “Tea Party” movement emerged and used both the movement itself and direct marketing campaigns to raise millions of dollars off of opposition to the President and, of course, to what eventually became the Affordable Care Act. Many of these organizations, such as FreedomWorks, originally founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, stepped in to exploit the movement for their own purposes. Eventually, that led to the creation of a massive fundraising network that could raise millions of dollars in short periods of time, although as we eventually found out those funds were being used in highly questionable ways that made it apparent that there were a lot of people out there who were exploiting politics to enrich themselves. Some of the more interesting examples of that grifting came in a 2013 Buzzfeed report on the financial status of FreedomWorks several years after Armey was forced out and replaced by a new generation of leaders. Additionally, it became clear that many Tea Party organizations were scamming their donors and not using the money they did raise for the purposes that they claimed they were being used for.

Of course, no conversation about conservative grifters is complete without talking about Sarah Palin. Mere months after being part of the losing ticket in the 2008 Presidential Election, Palin resigned as Governor of Alaska only two years into a four-year first term. While Palin claimed at the time that her resignation was due to the fact that investigations and other proceedings that had begun after the election into her time in office would bankrupt her family if she stayed in office, it soon became clear that the real reason she left office was so she could more easily pursue the money-making opportunities that opened up to her after the 2008 campaign. Over the next four years or so, Palin spent her time writing books, appearing on Fox News, and campaigning for “Tea Party” candidates while promoting and profiting from her political fame. That pattern continued for several years until even Palin ended up overstaying her welcome in conservative circles.

Boot pegs the start of all of this in the mid-90s, and I think he’s about right about that. This also happens to coincide with the point at which conservatism began to transform itself into what we know it to be today. It began with talk radio, the Internet, and Fox News Channel. By the time Barack Obama became President, it had turned into the racket that Boot talks about in his column via the Tea Party, Palin, and candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Herman Cain, Roy Moore, and others.

In that sense, it really isn’t surprising that the end of this process came in the form of the Trump Presidency. Donald Trump represents the apotheosis of many of the forces that Republicans and conservatives have been tapping into for years now in order to invigorate the party and the movement. The populism, the nativism, the anti-immigrant xenophobia, the outright bias against Islam that makes someone think that a proposal to exclude them from entering the country is reasonable, and the anti-intellectual chest beating that epitomizes the Trump supporter can all be traced to different elements of the Tea Party and the GOP base that have been cultivated over the past twenty years or more by politicians eager to grab political power. For the most part, all of these elements of the base and the Tea Party were apparent years ago, but few people on the right said anything about it because they were able to exploit it to win elections. Those who did criticize it were decidedly in the minority at the time and largely ignored or even openly derided. The 2010 elections and the rise of the Tea Party as a force in Congress, though, demonstrated quite clearly what happens when these forces are given political power, and now we’re seeing what happens when someone with the rhetorical skills and media savvy of a Donald Trump taps into those forces, and it’s difficult to see how he’s going to be stopped. In the end, then, Republicans have nobody to blame for Donald Trump but themselves. They opened Pandora’s Box and now they’re paying the price.


FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Politics and corruption go together. No matter what the party is.

    A joke I have been telling for years, and you used to say on my blog all the time when I was doing that regularly, was this-

    Prostitution and Politics are the two oldest professions and they have a lot in common

    1 They both take money for services

    2 They will both #$5! you

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  2. drj says:

    @Bill:

    Politics and corruption go together. No matter what the party is.

    This is a lazy (and very bad) take, to say the least. Because:

    * not all political parties are equally corrupt;
    * you’re implying that it’s useless to fight against political corruption.

    It may sound smart and edgy, but, ultimately, an attitude like this is an open invitation to get fucked over by pretty much every snake oil peddler around.

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  3. Teve says:

    Wayne LaPierre seems to have had a nice little grift going. Being a non-profit, the NRA has to release a little information about how much of their money goes to overhead, and how much of it goes to productive work. So LaPierre couldn’t just bill hundreds of thousands of dollars of fancy clothes and trips and such straight to the NRA because it would count against overhead. So they sent the bills to their PR company, then the NRA paid the PR company for their “work”. That way the NRA overhead officially stayed around 20%.

    In six months or so the New Yorker will write a 10,000 word definitive piece on all the deets and it will be fascinating.

    It surprises me not one iota that the extended family members I have who are hardcore Trump supporters are the same ones who in the 1980s sent Jim Bakker checks for $1,500.

    ETA FWIW I don’t remember the source now but several months ago I read that LaPierre is just the tip of the iceberg, and lots of either his family members or other board members or both or somebody were ripping off the gun humpers for millions a year.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    We cannot continue to view politics thru the same lens that we have been using. The new normal is abnormal. The old labels no longer apply.
    I would argue that Conservatism didn’t become a haven for grifters and frauds, but that Conservatism gave way…was subsumed…by Republicanism. Republicanism as defined by Fox News and the Tea Party and the Alt-Right; a collective idiocracy.
    Conservatism has much to offer our Republic.
    Today’s Republicanism in no way resembles Conservatism. To label it as such is an insult, and a distortion, of an important political movement.
    Buckley threw out the John Birchers. Today we have a Bircher in the White House.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    Well said, Doug.

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    It’s quite true that corruption knows no ideology and can come in all flavors. It is wise to slow down at the moment someone is trying to fan your emotions, particularly your fear or anger. And such skepticism won’t make you popular, which is why not everyone does it.

    And, at any particular time, it’s usually only one of the two parties that has the fertile ground for corruption. This is usually the one with the firmer grasp on power, and the clean, easy pitch to fear and/or anger.

    At this moment, that space belongs to the R’s. As it did right after the Civil War. You couldn’t run a good racket as a Democrat then, because Democrats held no power. These days, Republicans have most of the money, so that’s where the rackets are.

    There have been, and there will be Democratic rackets. There probably are some right now. In fact, all people are corrupt. We aren’t angels, we’re kind of terrible. Every one of us. We’re beautiful too. I don’t hate people, but humanity as a whole kind of vexes me.

    When I read “all politicians are corrupt” what I hear is “don’t bother to pay attention to what’s going on in the world right now”. Personally, I’m not ok with that.

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  7. michael reynolds says:

    Had I stayed in the criminal life I suspect I’d have eventually gone into grifting. I’ve had to think about it quite a bit in writing my two (not yet released except for a library binding, coming in August) adult thrillers, and researched a bit in my usual haphazard way. The beauty of the con as a criminal enterprise is that it so embarrasses the victim that they don’t report it. They become captive, sort of a Stockholm syndrome I suppose. See also: #Cult45.

    Purely as a criminal enterprise, you kind of have to admire a con that gets working people to give money to rich people to screw working people who are then determined to never admit they’;ve been taken. That is the criminal world’s version of perpetual motion.

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  8. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: What you say is true, but it also raises the question: What is conservatism? Is it governance and behavior based on conservative values? Or is it simply a movement comprised of people that call themselves conservatives?

    There is an exact corollary with Christianity. Jerry Falwell (Sr or Jr), Mike Pence, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, etc obviously don’t represent Christian values. But they are the most vocal of self proclaimed Christians. There is a significant difference with conservatism though, in that Christ actually existed and listed off what his values were. You can measure what the Jeebus people do against those values.

    But it’s seemingly not possible to do that for conservatism, or at least there is little interest in it. I raised that question on another thread: “What are conservative values?” but there was little response. People were willing to shoot down my proposal but no one raised a counter proposal.

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  9. Troy Davis says:

    Yes. I live in Appalachia. Earlier in the decade, I received two robocalls with a recorded message from Wayne LaPierre ominously warning me that Obama and Hillary “teamed up” with North Korea and Iran to take away my guns and asked me for a $200 contribution. The funds for that $39,000 Beverly Hills shopping spree had to come from somewhere!

  10. James Pearce says:

    Seeing things trending this way for the left too. I think we’re all in for a period of decline in the quality of our politics these next few decades. No one’s ready but the grifters.

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  11. reid says:

    An old friend of mine who has apparently lost his mind just re-posted a photo on facebook from someone claiming it wasn’t Woodstock, it was a recent Trump rally. Except it IS Woodstock. It’s insane. He actually believes this stupidity.

  12. HankP says:

    So in other words, everything that liberals and Democrats have been saying about conservatives and Republicans over the past 30 years turned out to be true.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    There is an exact corollary with Christianity. Jerry Falwell (Sr or Jr), Mike Pence, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, etc obviously don’t represent Christian values. But they are the most vocal of self proclaimed Christians.

    People who have to tell you about all the sex they’re getting, are likely involuntarily celibate.
    People who have to tell you they are rich, probably aren’t.
    People who have to tell you how smart they are, probably aren’t.
    I would never call those people, that you listed, Christian. I’m an atheist, but I respect people who try to live by christian ideals; they are incredibly rare.
    We have a problem in this country of allowing people to claim their own mantles; pro-lifers are not any more pro-life than any other person. Who is not pro-life? Jeffrey Dahmer? What they actually are is anti-choice. Change that label, which they have given to themselves, and you change the debate.

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  14. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: I think that’s standard in a con–to either come back with excuses as to why the “big investment” didn’t work (but it will definitely work if you put in another $10k)…or, once they’ve milked as much as they can from you, just vanishing, leaving you with a handful of glossy flyers and a company phone number that goes to a disconnected number.

    The best, of course, is when they can get you involved in something that’s “slightly cutting corners”, or “slightly against the law”–because they know, even beyond your embarrassment, you’ll be worried about “getting into trouble”. The best example I can think of that is health insurance/medical fraud….people get lured into it by the scammer promising “nobody will get hurt….insurance companies have too much money anyway….they’ll never check…”

    Here, given the lack of monitoring of non-profits and the ease of hiding grift in a multitude of ways (especially if you have a “PR firm” handy for laundering payments through), it’s not surprising that political non-profits have now become the typical mechanism by which older Boomers are divested of their retirement cash.

  15. MarkedMan says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    These days, Republicans have most of the money, so that’s where the rackets are.

    I don’t think it is this simple. Look at Fox News, an enterprise whose entire business plan consists of delivering an audience gullible enough and frightened enough to fall for the most blatant scams. They have to avoid raising the bar because it would dilute the audience. And that audience of frightened retirees and conspiracy nuts doesn’t have any more money than their sane counterparts. So it’s not that the money is there, but rather the only people remaining in the Republican Party are the gullible, frightened and conspiracy ridden. Those that left either dropped out of politics or joined the Democrats.

    It’s more of a feedback loop. The Republicans adopted the Southern Strategy which brought in the racists, and drove out the people who could see what was happening and were disgusted by it. Then they elected Reagan and made him a saint which brought in the people who wanted to paper over problems and pretend they didn’t exist, but drove away people who were interested in actually making things better. And then the Republicans adopted Gingrich’s tactic of constantly repeating the same lies, which brought in the people who wanted a perfect enemy handed to them on a silver platter, but drove away people who were disgusted by the lying. After more than five decades of this, the hobbyist Billionaires found it easy to take it over.

    The Canadian naturalist Farley Mowat once described doing an autopsy on a caribou. A large buck, seemingly strong and healthy, had keeled over dead in the midst of a plentiful and warm spring. He expected to find a disease of some sort but instead found that it had literally choked to death, it’s nasal passages packed shut with parasitic flies and worms. That’s the Republican Party today. It has become host to so many parasites it is slowly suffocating to death.

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  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    Seeing things trending this way for the left too. I think we’re all in for a period of decline in the quality of our politics these next few decades. No one’s ready but the grifters.

    Please discuss how you see this trending for the left?
    Of course you won’t. Can’t.
    It’s just another insipid comment from you.

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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Fair enough. So let me ask you: How would you define conservative values?. Not positions, but the actual values that lead to those positions.

  18. Pylon says:

    Nice article which avoids bothsiderism (though a couple commenters couldn’t resist). I agree with those who say that writing it off as “all politicians are corrupt” or “it’s because the right is in power now” are being intellectually lazy. There are plenty of honest politicians, or at least ones who aren’t grifting. And plenty who retired that way as well.

  19. Kit says:

    @Teve:

    It surprises me not one iota that the extended family members I have who are hardcore Trump supporters are the same ones who in the 1980s sent Jim Bakker checks for $1,500.

    Damn you, Teve, you stole my thunder. Yes, Jim and Tammey Faye were toiling in the vineyard of the Lord well before. I suppose that a real archaeologist of scams could carefully brush aside layers of dirt and history, bringing us back to the first con artist debarking from the Mayflower.

  20. charon says:

    This piece is an oldie but goodie, written in the context of the 2012 election, but still very apropos, maybe even definitive.

    https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con

  21. charon says:
  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Pylon:
    I agree. It’s acquired helplessness syndrome. Power corrupts (feel free to quote me on that totally original thought) and anyone on any side might become corrupt. But at this point in history we’re seeing truly epic levels of corruption in this White House, in large part because they have the corrupt Murdoch media doing the opposite of reporting and indeed aiding and abetting the con.

  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Conservative values are what they always have been–the belief that power and capital need to stay in the hands of those born and appointed by God to rule and manage that capital.

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  24. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: This is interesting. How do you see this finally ending? It always seemed strange to me that the social conservatives and the neo-conservatives ended up in the same party.

    Of course, given that we’re about to get into a war with Iran (the dream of the neocons) and it looks like Roe vs. Wade may be finally overturned (thus fulfilling the dreams of the so-cons), the question is whether they’re going to still hold together or will finally split up.

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  25. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Who is not pro-life? Jeffrey Dahmer?

    Dahmer was a typical elitist DemonCrap. Probly put Dijon mustard on things too.

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  26. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    The Four Horsemen of the Republican Apocalypse. Hopefully not the American apocalypse, though I’m losing hope.

    Roger Ailes: founder of Fox “News”
    Rush Limbaugh: First to really take advantage of modern communication technology merged with outrage-based grifting.
    Newt Gingrich: Destroyed the House as a functioning institution
    Mitch McConnell: Destroyed the Senate as a functioning institution

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  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    How would you define conservative values?

    I always think of Conservatism as being the opposite of the French Revolution, which was about burning the house down and starting over with new radical ideas. (obviously this is not original thinking on my part!)
    As an example, Obamacare was Conservative; it worked within (conserved) the existing system to bring long needed reforms.
    What I personally value from Conservatism is respect for norms and traditions, family values, the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, self-discipline, and moderation. It’s not difficult to see how today’s Republicans exemplify exactly none of those qualities.

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  28. SenyorDave says:

    @James Pearce: Seeing things trending this way for the left too

    Hers; some examples of very prominent GOP’ers who are serious grifters. Please give us some comparable examples of prominent Democrats.

    Mike Huckabee was a pitchman for a shady company that claims it can “reverse diabetes” with cinnamon and chromium picolinate. Also lent his name, face, and reputation to people claiming to have “natural” methods to reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, financial firms that perpetrate blatant fraud upon their customers, and a group that claims to have found the cure for cancer in the Book of Matthew.

    Newt Gingrich – used to give awards from phony groups to doctors as long as they ponied up a few thousand, his GOPAC political action committee scam helped him get removed as Speaker back in the day.

    Sarah Palin – award should go her for being dumb as a stump but still recognizing that she had a few assets she could use to grift a few million from the rubes.

    Donald Trump – his whole life is a grift, from Trump U to the phony Trump Foundation (they shut down and basically admitted it was just a Trump family slush fund) to his most amazing grift of all, the presidency.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Please discuss how you see this trending for the left?
    Of course you won’t. Can’t.

    Democrats have 23 presidential candidates in the race, most of whom have NO PRAYER of making it out of Iowa. They’re not grifters? The left also have their own media eco-system that’s becoming as en-bubbled as the right’s. You honestly don’t see it?

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  30. Teve says:

    @SenyorDave: my current fave Televangelist’s show sells $45 gold Trump coin as ‘point of contact’ to God

    He asked God, and God literally told him you should buy that coin.

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    The Four Horsemen of the Republican Apocalypse

    You forgot Ronald Reagan, who made functional government The Enemy.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: running in a political horserace where if the stars align just right you get to place in the top three is one thing. Getting little old ladies to mail you the bulk of their Social Security checks each month “to defend America!” when you know damn well 99% of the money is going into your own pocket is something completely different.

    The fact that you can’t make a distinction between the two is, of course, your own problem.

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  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    Democrats have 23 presidential candidates in the race, most of whom have NO PRAYER of making it out of Iowa.

    Please explain who is being bilked in this alleged con?
    Please explain the benefits derived by the perpetrators of this alleged con?
    While 23 people in a primary may seem like a lot, I believe it is part of this countries Democratic process. Please link to any limiting laws or regulations, other than your own opinion.

    The left also have their own media eco-system that’s becoming as en-bubbled as the right’s.

    Please define what you consider the left’s media eco-system.
    Link to outright lies and conspiracy theories, that have appeared regularly, on what you call the lefts media eco-system?
    Fortunately facts are non-partisan. But, like everything…it’s relative. If you simply lump every outlet, that isn’t as misleading and mendacious as Fox and Dennison, into the left…then I suppose you could call that a bubble???
    Fair coverage, even with a non-neutral stance, is in no way comparable to the symbiotic relationship between the White House and Fox News (and a few others).

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  34. al Ameda says:

    “$39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe,” “$17,550 for ‘Air Charter’ between Budapest and the Italian city of Brescia,” “air transportation charges” of nearly $70,000 for one trip to and from the Bahamas, and “$13,800 in rent” for an apartment for a female intern. … “

    Just think of all the Second Amendment Specials that he could have purchased with that $158,000.
    Also, @michael reynolds:
    Honest question: How do you, as a writer of fiction, compete with this stuff?

  35. Blue Galangal says:

    @MarkedMan:

    That’s the Republican Party today. It has become host to so many parasites it is slowly suffocating to death.

    Apt! Very nice.

    @grumpy realist:

    Getting little old ladies to mail you the bulk of their Social Security checks each month “to defend America!” when you know damn well 99% of the money is going into your own pocket is something completely different.

    Or buying a yacht instead of building that wall (TM). I mean, at least I guess the people who sent that grifter $$ didn’t send it to Trump?

  36. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How do you see this finally ending?

    Honestly, I don’t know enough history to make my guesses worth much, but my bar stool future gazing comes up with two scenarios. Both give most importance to the fact that Republicans simply can’t get anything done anymore, that they can only be against things. So I think one possibility is that the entire US will go down the California path. There, the Republicans became ever more extreme and drove away any members that didn’t accept their “truth”. Eventually anyone who wanted to get something done, even those who didn’t give a hoot about political philosophy, realized the Dems were the only path. At this point the CA Dems are re-forming into factions and faction rivalry is taking the place of the old party rivalry. The Repubs are just unimportant.

    The other possibility starts the same way as the first, but would see some other entity realize the value of the Republican infrastructure (primaries financed by states, donor lists, etc) and plays the very more feckless old guard against each other and effects an internal coup. The takeover group could be of any political persuasion since they won’t care what “brand” they are buying but rather are just stripping it for parts.

  37. Scott F. says:

    They opened Pandora’s Box and now they’re paying the price.

    Nice post, Doug, but I have to challenge you on your closing statement. In 2019, the Republicans hold the White House, the Senate, most governorships, plus a majority of state legislatures and they are odds on favorites to maintain most of that hold on power. In what way are they paying a price?

    Typically in a grift only the mark gets taken. With the GOP, the whole country is on the losing end of the con. It’s like the rubes are paying Three Card Monty with someone else’s money.

    What’s happening right now with one of the two major parties is much more pernicious than a grift. It’s banana republic level corruption and we need to be blunt about the damage being done to the US.

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  38. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I’m pretty much on the same page as you. But if you follow this logically you see that some problems require a conservative solution while others require a more radical one.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @Blue Galangal: yes, that’s one of my reasons for wondering exactly how much we should police the grifters….just think how much more damage the same money could have done had it been donated to someone who used it efficiently to gain actual political power…

    Much better to let it be used on “booze and loose women.”

  40. Gustopher says:

    Of course, no conversation about conservative grifters is complete without talking about Sarah Palin.

    I think I need to defend Sarah Palin. Once McCain lost and she started her grafting career, she mostly stayed on the sidelines of politics, and she didn’t make things progressively worse. She slurped up all the money she could, and then just lined her pockets with it.

    She’s the equivalent of the pillow guy, or the people who sell gold — she extracts money, but does little to continue the radicalization of the right wing. She may just be lazy, or incompetent, but she would appear just often enough to glom onto the existing crazy, and siphon some of the money for herself. Where she put in effort, it was on things like the nature show, where she probably complained about the caribou being socialist or something, but was basically innocuous.

    Every dollar Sarah Palin extracted was a dollar that could have gone somewhere else to effectively oppose progressive values. I kind of love Sarah Palin for this.

    The NRA, on the other hand, puts in the effort to ensure that the fertile fields of crazy are regularly refreshed, and they also use some of the money to affect policy, so they can show “success.” The NRA completes the cycle — they don’t just want money, they want power, and they want to do things with that power. Donald Trump also completes the cycle.

    Sarah Palin is a benign tumor upon the far right. Donald Trump is cancer upon America.

  41. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Getting little old ladies to mail you the bulk of their Social Security checks each month “to defend America!” when you know damn well 99% of the money is going into your own pocket is something completely different.

    You think this is something only Republicans do? Don’t give any money to Dem candidates then.

    They’ll sell your info to the Ricky Romas and Shelley Levines of the world.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Please explain who is being bilked in this alleged con?

    You are.

    Please define what you consider the left’s media eco-system.

    From SNL to the NY Times to Twitter, the left does have their own eco-system. You can say it’s smaller and less influential, but you can’t really say it doesn’t exist.

    Link to outright lies and conspiracy theories, that have appeared regularly, on what you call the lefts media eco-system?

    If you’re asking about “outright lies and conspiracy theories,” you need to talk to Rachel Maddow or, maybe, Michael Reynolds.

    Fair coverage, even with a non-neutral stance, is in no way comparable to the symbiotic relationship between the White House and Fox News

    Does anyone on the left even really want “fair” coverage?

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  42. Andrew says:

    If grifters are naturally attracted to a certain political party, one could make the argument it is because conservatives want things that are no longer part of the present or future. Leading people to want to be sold on hearing about how these ARE actually possible. When they are being sold false hope.
    Say what you want about liberals or progressives. At least their main political ideals are actually possible.
    Healthcare, Climate Change, things that actually help every American.
    Instead the GOP sells coal, and automotive jobs, and manufacturing jobs…to only get elected to cut taxes, refuse to defend the ACA, and tariffs/a trade war that’s hurting these same people.

    If you want to be sold, your are going to be sold. Does not matter how shitty of a deal, you want what you can’t have. And the America these Trump voters want will never exist again.

  43. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    You are.

    Oh please…do tell me how I’m being bilked?

    From SNL to the NY Times to Twitter, the left does have their own eco-system.

    You are claiming that everyone who isn’t Fox News is part of an alternative eco-system? You do realize how nonsensical that is, correct?

    If you’re asking about “outright lies and conspiracy theories,” you need to talk to Rachel Maddow or, maybe, Michael Reynolds.

    No…you made the claim that the left wing eco-chamber (everyone from SNL to the NYT to Twitter) is the same as Fox, which is rampant with lies and conspiracies…so back it up fer chrisakes.

    Does anyone on the left even really want “fair” coverage?

    Were you dropped on your head, as a child?

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  44. dmichael says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: While I frequently agree with or find interesting your posts, not this one. You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts (history). William Buckley, Jr. was a racist (see the early issues of the National Review) and a homophobe (see his debate with Gore Vidal on Firing Line). The John Birch Society was virulently anti-communist and the current occupant is under Putin’s thumb and does his bidding. (Putin was a KGB officer in the Soviet Union and still has fantasies about domination of other conntries).

  45. Scott F. says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Holy cow! Pearce seriously CAN’T make the distinction between politicians with delusions of grandeur and politicians with their hands in the till. And the best he can do when naming notorious hustlers of the left is to identify two characters from a David Mamet play.

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  46. Mister Bluster says:

    @James Pearce:..outright lies and conspiracy theories,..

    Please post these “outright lies and conspiracy theories” that you attribute to Michael Reynolds.

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  47. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @dmichael:
    I guess. OK.
    I will only say that in Buckley’s heyday nearly everyone was a racist and a homophobe.
    And Putin is not a Communist.
    But I get your point.

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  48. Stormy Dragon says:

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

  49. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: You asked me three questions, but you’re only getting one answer and it’s in response to the rudest one:

    No.

    Don’t ask me anything else.

    @Scott F.:

    Pearce seriously CAN’T make the distinction between politicians with delusions of grandeur and politicians with their hands in the till.

    “Delusions of grandeur” fits Bernie, but the 21 candidates traveling in his wake…they know exactly what they’re doing and are not suffering under any delusion.

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  50. James Pearce says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Please post these “outright lies and conspiracy theories” that you attribute to Michael Reynolds.

    Why don’t you ask him about Trump’s money laundering? He’s not shy about discussing it.

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  51. Gustopher says:
  52. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Delusions of grandeur” fits Bernie, but the 21 candidates traveling in his wake…they know exactly what they’re doing and are not suffering under any delusion.

    When the two front runners have a collective age of 150, and there’s a long history of early front runners fading quickly even if they don’t drop dead, I cannot really say any of the 21, other than Tulsi Gabbard, is out of the running.

    That’s not grift. That’s early primary season, trying to see what will catch people’s attention. Most will go away before the first primaries.

    My bold prediction: one of the septuagenarians has a major medical event before the 2020 election — heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism or cancer.

  53. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Seeing things trending this way for the left too.

    Because of course you are. That’s the only tune one string can play.

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  54. Mister Bluster says:

    @James Pearce:..Why don’t you ask him about Trump’s money laundering?

    So you are not going to post any evidence of “outright lies and conspiracy theories” attributable to Michael Reynolds.

  55. Pylon says:

    Running for the nomination is not grift unless the candidate somehow keeps the donation money for personal gain (a la Jill Stein). Most candidates re-invest the unused donations to the party or perhaps their own campaign for lesser office, if that option is still available.

  56. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    Mr. Reynolds is not the only one concerned about Trump money laundering…

    A couple newspapers are too?

    That’s not grift. That’s early primary season

    This many candidates, a new joker jumping in every other week, is not early primary season. It’s the sign of a very sick and ailing political environment. It’s exactly the conditions that gave Donald J. Trump a political career.

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  57. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: Only you would look at an abundance of qualified applicants as being absolutely the worst thing ever.

    It’s amusing to me because during the last presidential election I was worried that the Democratic party had no up and coming youngsters to even try to run. So naturally I’m super stoked that we’ve got so much talent available to pick from this time. Not so stoked that the party will probably default to Biden because he’s bland as can be aka safe.

  58. wr says:

    @Mister Bluster: “So you are not going to post any evidence of “outright lies and conspiracy theories” attributable to Michael Reynolds.”

    It’s pretty obvious that Pearce was feeling lonely and down and desperately wanted some strangers to pay attention to him. He got what he wanted — so can we drop this and move on to talking to people who actually have something to say more interesting than “Pay attention to meeeee!!!!”

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  59. michael reynolds says:

    @al Ameda:
    I thank my lucky stars I’ve never written satire for a living.

    And I lash out with easter eggs. VILLAIN takes place in Vegas. The ‘Triunfo’, a notably gold-colored hotel without a casino gets burned down in spectacular fashion. Of course the downside of writing for YA: as far as I know, none of them have followed the careful street directions and figured it out.

  60. Mister Bluster says:

    @wr:..so can we drop this and move on

    aww, gee mom do I have to?

  61. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Trump pleaded to violating anti money laundering laws at his Atlantic City casino.

    WASHINGTON, DC – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today imposed a $10 million civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort (Trump Taj Mahal), for willful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). In addition to the civil money penalty, the casino is required to conduct periodic external audits to examine its anti-money laundering (AML) BSA compliance program and provide those audit reports to FinCEN and the casino’s Board of Directors.

    Once you’ve copped a plea to money-laundering you can’t really pretend it’s a crazy conspiracy theory.

    Add that to the fact that he is desperately trying to hide his bank statements, tax returns, etc… and that the bank in question is the notorious Deutsche Bank, and it becomes even more absurd to dismiss money laundering as a crazy conspiracy theory.

    Now add in the fact that one of his idiot kids spilled the beans, talking about all the Russian cash they had gotten. So again. . .

    And his campaign manager, Manfort, clearly a money-launderer. . .

    As ‘conspiracy theories’ go it certainly does seem to be grounded in reality.

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  62. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    There are lots of grifters on the left and people that tries to play the same game as grifters on the right. But all these people driving around Iowa and South Carolina are not among them, and it’s much more difficult to make money with people on the left. The left never managed to do the type of direct mail campaign that is so common in the right since the 80’s(And there were already issues with seniors emailing large checks at that time).

  63. Sleeping Dog says:

    While the tipping point for conservatism degenerating into graft may have been the mid 90’s, the start was with the direct mail fund raising operations that went back to the late 70’s.

  64. James Pearce says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    So you are not going to post any evidence of “outright lies and conspiracy theories” attributable to Michael Reynolds.

    Nope. If you can’t find them yourself, you can just wait to hear the next one.

    @Matt:

    Only you would look at an abundance of qualified applicants as being absolutely the worst thing ever.

    A bunch of Senators and Mayors who can’t even get two points are “qualified applicants?” Not in this country.

    @michael reynolds:

    Add that to the fact that he is desperately trying to hide his bank statements, tax returns, etc… and that the bank in question is the notorious Deutsche Bank, and it becomes even more absurd to dismiss money laundering as a crazy conspiracy theory.

    In other words, “This Mayan stela hasn’t been deciphered yet but based on the iconography it depicts, it can only describe the emperor’s ascent on the space ship.”

    Do you find it ironic that the SDNY is going to be indicting Michael Avenatti? I do. I thought they were supposed to indict someone else…

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  65. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank flagged multiple transactions involving Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from 2016 and 2017. Those specialists recommended the activity be reported to the federal government’s financial crimes unit, The New York Times reported Sunday.

    But top executives at the global financial giant rejected that advice, current and former employees told The Times.

    The transactions that came under review “set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity,” five current and former Deutsche Bank employees told The Times. Those transactions were then reviewed by the bank’s compliance staff, who prepared suspicious activity reports that they felt should be sent to the U.S. Treasury Department.

    probly just false alarms. 🙂 😛 😀

  66. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Dude, an investigation is under way. You started off accusing me of conspiracy theories, now you’re down to accusing me of not having final proof. You’re right: I don’t, and never said I did.

    But I’m right.

    You, on the other hand, have told us you sort of psychically absorb opinion from the people on light rail who are avoiding you. And yet, you are almost always wrong.

    Now, can you explain why Avenatti is getting hit for his crimes is ‘irony?’ It’s the way things are supposed to work, you know? Even I know that. Do crime, get busted, get prosecuted. I’m missing the irony.

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  67. James Pearce says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    The left never managed to do the type of direct mail campaign that is so common in the right since the 80’s

    And the right never made as many inroads with rich Hollywood liberals. It kinda evens out, and if it doesn’t, the 1%ers would have the edge, don’t you think?

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  68. Christopher Osborne says:

    For the love of god will you people stop responding to James Pearce?

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  69. Teve says:

    look, there are grifters on the right and left and they’re all equal. On the right you have the Trump Foundation, where Trump used his fake charity to buy $10,000 portraits of himself, steal from its petty cash, and finally dissolve in what investigators called a “shocking pattern of illegality.”

    On the other side, you have the Clinton Foundation, which last year spent 250 million dollars helping millions of people worldwide with HIV medications and encouraging entrepreneurs in third world countries.

    Six of one, half dozen of the other.

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  70. Teve says:

    @Christopher Osborne: no they won’t. Trolls like him make easy punching bags, people can’t resist. 🙂

  71. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You, on the other hand, have told us you sort of psychically absorb opinion from the people on light rail who are avoiding you.

    That is NOT what you were told about my experiences on the train and every time you bring it up in this mocking manner, it assures me of your intellectual integrity.

    As for Avenatti, I didn’t forget how you, and all these beloved non-bubbled news sources, embraced him when it was pretty clear he was just some skeevy lawyer trying to get on TV.

    @Christopher Osborne: Nice to meet you too.

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  72. An Interested Party says:

    You think this is something only Republicans do? Don’t give any money to Dem candidates then.
    They’ll sell your info to the Ricky Romas and Shelley Levines of the world.

    Nice moving of the goalposts, as the original comparison was different than how you want to frame it…of course, the goalpost ploy is what you are famous for…

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  73. Modulo Myself says:

    I’d go with 1992 when Bush lost and Buchanan and Perot signaled the new direction of the GOP. Uncoded racism and cultural war plus deranged personal theories plus incoherent capitalist resentment about trade without ever mentioning capitalism. The Whitewater stuff against Clinton was such a fiasco of obvious liars and frauds held to no account by a well-off base of Republicans who lacked all critical thinking skills and believed what they wanted to believe because it made them feel good. Most of the people (at least the ones I encountered) were like Kavanaugh–exactly like Bill Clinton, but filled with BS morality because they lacked ethics and self-awareness. Tons of cultural rage against liberal who mocked them and greed, but cloaked in the memory of normality.

    Fast-forward twenty or so years and you have Trump–pussy-grabber and pro-life Christian icon, and Brett Kavanaugh screaming about the Clintons setting him up. And you know what? Lacking self-awareness and ethics works, at least if you want money. But it sucks as a way to live. Trump is living proof of how bad the scam is for a human being.

  74. rachel says:

    [Republicans] opened Pandora’s Box and now they’re paying the price.

    We are all paying the price.

    (I note with exasperation that once again James Pearce is still insisting on his nihilistic both-siderism. Bleah.)

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  75. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    And the right never made as many inroads with rich Hollywood liberals. It kinda evens out,

    Democrats have more limited access to money, they never managed to really succeed in talk radio nor with direct mail fundraising.

  76. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: So the only thing that matters when it comes to being qualified to run for President is the ability to place well in polls. Experience and educational background are utterly irrelevant as all that matters is where you place in the polls. If you don’t come out of the gate with high poll numbers early in the primary season then you’re just an unqualified hack riding the left’s gravy grifter train…

    Alright that’s an interesting opinion you have there.

    Is it really too much to ask of you to at least wait for a debate before making up your mind?

  77. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: Is it really too much to ask of you to at least wait for a debate before making up your mind?

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  78. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    Don’t ask me anything else.

    Again…you cannot back up, or explain, your insipid claims…so run away!!!!

  79. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    As for Avenatti, I didn’t forget how you, and all these beloved non-bubbled news sources, embraced him when it was pretty clear he was just some skeevy lawyer trying to get on TV.

    Um…it was largly because of him that the PoTUS is an un-indicted co-conspirator in a felony election fraud case, and is known as Individual-1.
    I don’t care what the motivations are if it moves us one step closer to removing this cancer, that you admire so, from the White House.

  80. MarkedMan says:

    So sad. This was a pretty interesting thread, but judging by the last 25 entries it has devolved into Troll and Response. Another one bites the dust…

  81. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Yeah, you can tell from JP’s first comment that he was just here to troll/waste time. Sometimes he starts off with a relevant comment, but this time it was so ham-fisted I was surprised others engaged.

    Or, perhaps not enough people engaged for his liking–that would explain the decision to accuse MR of being a lying conspiracy theorist. He wasn’t getting enough attention so he turned up the heat.

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  82. MarkedMan says:

    @Neil J Hudelson: Poking Reynolds is always a good tactic. Even if he doesn’t respond himself there are many who will jump in to pick up his side of the “argument”.

  83. just nutha says:

    @Mister Bluster: Save yourself the time and aggravation. Whenever you see Yuri Gagarin’s picture, it means that you can skip that post because it’s content free.

  84. just nutha says:

    @Christopher Osborne: My guess is that some people keep at him because they enjoy watching him lugging the goalposts from stadium to stadium. For me, it gets old real fast, so I skip both the posts and most of the comments–especially the ones from people who are known to have strong opinions (thinking of no one in particular, I promise! 🙂 ).

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  85. JohnMcC says:

    @Sleeping Dog: You win my personal internet trophy of the day. The name you were searching for is Richard Viguerie. One of the Moral Majority founders. World class grifter and pioneer of grifting.

  86. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:

    And the right never made as many inroads with rich Hollywood liberals. It kinda evens out, and if it doesn’t, the 1%ers would have the edge, don’t you think?

    No.

    The .01% Kochs and Adelson’s and Mercers and the rest of the Billionaire Boys Club throw around a lot more money, most of it in dark places we’ll never see it.

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  87. Mister Bluster says:

    @just nutha:..Whenever you see Yuri Gagarin’s picture,..
    yes…I see the resemblance.