By Rob Kall, editor, OpEdNews.com
The other day, I got a phone call from my office. I usually do most of my work at my home office. "You have a call from congressman DeLay."
"Huh?" I replied. Had he read something nasty I'd written about him. He's one of the most powerful people in the world and I knew I'd written enough to piss him off. So I took the call, cringing a bit, not knowing how to deal with the ire of such a powerful guy, I mean creepy cretinous lout who is screwing up this country royally. .
I paused then said, "Okay. Put him through," on the edge of my seat, wondering what the hell he was doing calling ME.
But it wasn't DeLay on the line. It was a sneaky, deceptive, ass-kissing fund-raising call. You see, in my day job, which supports me so I can put in my unpaid 10-12 hours a day as editor of a progressive news and opinion website with the main aim of making George Bush unemployed, , I own and run a small business that I founded in 1978. I'm an entrepreneur. So I was on some list of businessmen.
The pitch, which was scripted to not sound like a sales pitch or request for contributions, went like this, and it's not verbatim since I don't recall the exact wording. .
"Mr. Kall, we're happy to tell you that you've been chosen to be a recipient of a National Leadership Award. We are inviting you to become an "honorary chairman on the the state business council. Are you interested in this?" (When you are selling you have to get the buyer to start saying yes.)
Trying to keep from laughing, thinking how hilarious that I, one of the most outspoken anti-Tom Delay people on the planet (okay, so if I have a lot of company, I welcome it) was being pitched, I went along.
The telemarketer, who identified herself as working for Congressman DeLay, not as a telemarketer, asked me if I'd listen to Congressman DeLay talk to me via tape recording. Smiling while licking my lips, holding back the chuckles, I replied that I'd be happy to.
The tape asked if I was interested in helping get rid of the "oppressive, ridiculous regulations." it ranted on for about a minute, then handed me back to someone who was handling the post-tape sell. She told me that if I were interested in participating, I could be invited to participate in strategy meetings, special events, and that I'd have an opportunity to give input to policy. Was I interested?
"What's expected of me?" I asked, looking for the catch.
"Very little time." she replied, beating around the bush.
"But are you looking for a contribution from me?"
"Well, the state honorary chairmen are being asked to announce their chairmanship by helping to fund an ad in the Wall Street Journal."
She told me the recommended contribution to pay for the ad, which will announce the honored chosen was, if my memory doesn't fail me, $300 or $500. I said that I couldn't pay it. "Can you pay $100 in three monthly payments?" she asked.
I turned her down again. It's one thing to be entertained by a call from your arch opponent's marketing people, another to give money. I did think about it, since it would have put me on the inside, getting a closer glimpse at how they recruit no converts and contributors.
But I asked her, "Do I have to contribute to qualify?"
It wasn't necessary, she replied, and she could send me more information. She asked for my fax number. I gave it. But no faxes ever arrived.
I pursued some of my questions at that point.
"So, do you work for the congressman."
"Yes." she replied.
I continued, "So you work for the federal government, in Washington."
"No," she replied. "I'm in West Virginia."
"But you are paid by the government?" I asked.
"No. We work for a private corporation that works for Congressman DeLay." she explained.
"What's the company?"
She replied that she works for Infocision. That provide a concrete lead to start Googling.
That google session dug up a February article in the Washington Post that gives an excellent description of the program, with interviews of several of the suckers, err, I mean Honorees, who got sucked into sending money to be given these honors. Some paid $1250 or even $5000. The article, by Jonathan Weisman, reported: "Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance reform group and a longtime student of political fundraising, said the NRCC method "fits into the hall of fame of telemarketing scams." He said it is "designed to catch people unaware and fool them into thinking they are getting something, when the only purpose is to mass market through unsolicited telephone calls.""
And the article also described what suggests that this marketing campaign may go after foreign contributions too,. The article stated "Gebreyes B. Begna, owner of the Ethiopia Amalgamated Ltd., bragged to the Addis Tribune in Addis Ababa that he had been made an "honorary co-chairman" of the council, even though the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia was preparing to foreclose on his company."
The article also reported that "It is not just some recipients who are angry. Lawyers for Dow Jones & Co., owner of the Wall Street Journal, contacted NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) officials before Christmas to ask them to stop using the Journal masthead, saying they were "misstating a connection between the award and the Wall Street Journal," said Brigitte Trafford, a Dow Jones spokeswoman. Flesch said he received his "Wall Street Journal" ad fax this month. Trafford said Dow Jones lawyers would be back in contact with the NRCC."
Further Googling revealed that Infocision and learned that the republican party has funneled at least $25 million of the funds it has raised to Infocision and that it has a deal so that Infocision has guaranteed that they will at least break even. Here's a link that briefly describes the deal. This is unusual, since it often costs more to find new leads. One question this raises, is the difference in cost a veiled contribution to the republican party? If you are given $25 million for what costs you $40 million, then in effect, you are making a $15 million contribution.
Also, once those leads are identified, and it appears from one AP report that 230,000 new names had been added, the leads are worth a lot of money in terms of future donations. I have to wonder. This call was claimed to be made at the behest of Tom DeLay, and portrayed as an opportunity to participate in an honors program. But in reality, it is fund raising. Also, a list of 230,000 donors is worth a lot of money. List rental brokers usually charge between $50 and $500 for strong lists that are known to work. I wonder if this list is being paid for, when it is used by George W. Bush, or the republican party. After all, it's apparently, or claims to be about the National Republican Congressional Committee's Business Advisory Council. Something smells fishy here.
In another Washington Post article, on June 16th they say, "With corporations, unions and wealthy individuals now prohibited from writing limitless checks to the national parties, the race is on to build new networks of smaller donors. The NRCC is hitching its wagon to InfoCision and betting Smith can do for Republicans in this decade what direct mail did for the party in the 1980s and 1990s."
What they are doing is using a strategy that is perfect for people who fit the right winger profile. I've written about how George W. talks a macho line of tough talk that makes these marginal right wing men feel like they have a "big stick," to borrow from Teddy Roosevelt. This approach to fund raising just takes the idea a bit further, feeding into their insecurities, their ego deficiencies and narcissistic tendencies. It's nice to know that the cynical leaders of the republican party know what kind of people their corporate leaders really are. But it's also pretty disgusting, and pathetic.
Rob Kall firstname.lastname@example.org is publisher of progressive news and opinion website www.opednews.com and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached