A few weeks before the election, the invaluable Rick Perlstein published a lengthy article in The Baffler titled "The Long Con," about how successful conservative entrepreneurs have been at separating the right-wing rank and file from their money over the past few decades. If you were to sign up for updates from the likes of Human Events or World Net Daily, you'd be inundated not only with come-ons from political groups but with innumerable offers for miracle cures for every ailment under the sun. "The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march," Perlstein wrote, "of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began."
In today's political universe there may be no pundit more ridiculous than Dick Morris, who never hesitates to offer a prediction and is almost always wrong. Like many of his brethren, Morris has found that opportunities for income are not restricted to a Fox contract and best-selling "books." While Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly offer "premium" content on their web sites you can pay for (if the four or so hours a day of their television and radio shows aren't enough for you), Morris decided this year that the fervid desire that 80-year-old angry white guy shaking his fist at the television screen has to get rid of Barack Obama was a business opportunity that couldn't be passed up. What if you could say to that angry old man, "Give me your money, and I'll use it to defeat Obama," but then you actually, you know, kept the money for yourself? It might require a little creative accounting, but Morris was up to the task. Ben Dimiero and Eric Hananoki of Media Matters report:
According to FEC data released December 6, Morris' Super PAC for America paid conservative news outlet Newsmax Media roughly $1.7 million for "fundraising" in October and November. A significant portion of the super PAC's money likely went to renting Morris' own email list, which is operated by Newsmax Media.
A Media Matters review found that in the month before the election, Morris sent at least 21 emails to his mailing list featuring fundraising pitches that were "paid for by Super PAC for America." Super PAC also "paid for" at least 25 emails to Newsmax.com's main email list during the same period.
Perhaps there's a more innocent explanation for all this, but the way it looks is that 1) People (should we call them "marks"?) donate money to Morris' super PAC; 2) he pays that money to Newsmax for "fundraising"; then 3) Newsmax turns around and pays the money back to Morris, for access to his list of donors. Perhaps Newsmax takes a cut, or perhaps the list is their cut, because these people can then become marks for all kinds of future scams.
If you look at the FEC filing for Morris' super PAC, most of the spending goes to two entities: Maelstrom Technology Solutions, for "credit card fees"—presumably they're the ones processing donations to the super PAC, and they take a percentage on every donation—and Newsmax Media. In other words, Morris' super PAC is an organization whose entire purpose is to raise money, and its expenditures involve raising money and finding new donors. And not, say, getting Mitt Romney elected.
As Perlstein says, it's the corralling of fleeceable multitudes all in one place.