Anatomy of a Tea Party Scam

Open Secrets has a detailed investigation into a group called the Tea Party Army that shows it to be a classic political scam — lie to the credulous rubes to raise tons of money while promising to do things that cost virtually nothing and get really rich from it.

Pay them to send faxes to members of Congress demanding action to stop it. For $11, Tea Party Army will fax a form letter written in the payer’s name to all 38 members of the House Judiciary committee. For $35, Tea Party Army will fax all 435 members of the House. Clearly anticipating elderly people will be on the receiving end of this opportunity, Tea Party Army advertises cheaper rates to send the faxes for seniors — $2 off.

Besides being provocative — even in an era of fundraising appeals that often seem hysterical — the offer to send mass faxes seems archaic. But it’s not the only unusual thing about Tea Party Army PAC. It hasn’t raised vast sums of money this cycle — just $25,054, as of Sept. 30 — but every last dime of the money raised has come from donors who gave less than $200 and every last dime has been paid to a firm run by the man who signs the fundraising appeals as the Tea Party Army’s founder: Charles Benninghoff.

This might be less notable if it weren’t for the fact that Tea Party Army is another in a long string of organizations tied to Benninghoff, or a close cadre of associates, that seem to specialize in raising money off conservative themes of the moment and then go on to pay this same small group of people almost all of the money raised.

For example, all of Tea Party Army’s funds were paid to a consulting firm called Grassroots Campaign Creations, Ltd., which is based at the same address as the super PAC itself, and which owns the faxing “technology” used to power Tea Party Army’s pay-to-protest service. Guess what? Benninghoff is the listed president of the consulting firm, according to Nevada state corporate records — just as he is for Tea Party Army and Pray For Us (another nonprofit that encourages people to pay the group to fax various offices on a variety of hot-button issues).

While it’s not uncommon for a small number of firms or highly sought-after insiders to be heavily involved with many campaigns, Benninghoff is a disbarred attorney who, in 1999, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and lying on loan applications, and was sentenced to one year in prison. He is not well-known in political circles and Grassroots Campaign Creations is not a firm that’s widely used by campaigns or other political committees. In fact, it has been hired by only one other group — a PAC called Republican Majority Campaign, whose listed treasurer is a man named Randy Goodwin.

Republican Majority Campaign, a name which implies it is directly involved in helping win a Republican majority, has a vague website that lacks any names or specific promises to act. Despite being thin on details, it has raised $3.7 million this election cycle. A grand total of $250 of that was donated to the campaign of a federal candidate (Kirk Jorgensen, an also-ran in California’s 54th Congressional District) and $1,620 was spent on independent expenditures supporting federal candidates (phone calls talking up a second-tier candidate in Alaska’s Senate race).

And these are the kind of lies they tell to separate people from their money:

The number of Muslims in America has increased by 350-percent since Barack Hussein Obama came into power. This covert importation of new Muslims is aimed at one goal: To eventually convert America to Islam and its repressive Sharia law, and to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Koran!

Congress must be convinced to stop Obama from granting citizenship and voting rights to these five million new Muslims on US soil.

Your help is needed!

Send a FaxGram to every Member of the House Judiciary Committee today and tell them to stop Obama’s radical legalization of millions of Sharia law supporters.

When Obama came into office in 2009, America had just under two million Muslims living in the country. Today sources state that there are approximately SEVEN MILLION Muslims in the U.S.

Which means that Obama has been bringing in close to a million Muslims per year!

“Sources” state this. None named, of course. And there isn’t a shred of evidence for it. Frankly, I think they’re undershooting it. They should have gone with Avi Lipkin’s ridiculous claim that Obama was moving “50-100 million Muslims” into the country and hiding them in our national parks that have now been taken over by the UN’s Agenda 21. If you’re gonna tell a lie, go whole hog.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Michael Heath

    I’ve long been convinced that the fax machine is an invention by Satan. And those aren’t gremlins assuring such a high rate of defective transmissions, but instead Satan’s demons.

    Since Tea Party Army uses a fax machine, this is proof that they’re covert operatives of Satan himself. Send me $20 and I’ll email them informing them we’re aware of their true mission – to install Satan as lord of the U.S.A.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Successful parasites don’t kill the host too quickly. Ratchet up only if necessary: most of the time something new, and not likely to cause host-organism burnout, will come along before the revenue stream tapers off.

  • Doc Bill

    I think it’s absolutely grand that tea partiers are being scammed out of their money!

  • Trebuchet

    Open Secrets has a detailed investigation into a group called the Tea Party Army that shows it to be a classic political scam — lie to the credulous rubes to raise tons of money while promising to do things that cost virtually nothing and get really rich from it.

    You say that as if it’s a bad thing! Yeah, it’s too bad he’s scamming old folks but at least it’s not actually helping the cause.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Someone should write a cookbook on how to set up these operations. How hard can it be? We could all use some supplementary income, yes?

  • John Pieret

    While I tend to agree that siphoning off teabagger money from organizations that might make an electoral difference is a good thing, $33 can be a significant expenditure to elderly people on fixed incomes. These people are con artists as much as those who charge hundreds of dollars to “resurface” a driveway and just spray some tar around, and should be treated as such.

  • caseloweraz

    Close to a million Muslims a year! That means they’ll be the majority in a mere 150 years (give or take a decade, and ignoring death rates among them.) We must act now to avert this imminent threat!

    /sarc

  • sugarfrosted

    @3

    I think it’s absolutely grand that tea partiers are being scammed out of their money!

    I’m sure their kids will love their parents blowing their college savings on this. That being said, if they’re going to give it to an organization, the scamtastic ones are a better choice for everyone else.

  • marcus

    I can’t work up a lot of schadenfreude for the people separated from their hard-earned just to line the pockets of these lying assholes. Defrauding the fearful and credulous is still unethical even if not necessarily a crime (if it were there are a lot of pastors and priests that would be in jail).

  • had3

    It’s only fraud if they don’t do what they say they’re going to do. Now, if you’re foolish enough to believe that this faxing is an effective means of changing policy and you believe it’s worth spending $30-$200 on it, then send the money.

  • marcus

    @10 Point taken.

  • http://www.aquaticape.org anthrosciguy

    Someone should write a cookbook on how to set up these operations. How hard can it be? We could all use some supplementary income, yes?

    I’ll tell you how in my DVD seminar. Only $299.99.

  • Loqi

    New TV show idea:

    Steven Colbert reads aloud everything that comes through the fax line for a different member of Congress every day.

    I’m waiting by the fax machine, TV execs…

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    caeloweraz@7:

    But they’re going to be a majority a lot faster once Obama’s gay Ebola kills us all!

  • malta

    Yeah, it’s too bad he’s scamming old folks but at least it’s not actually helping the cause.

    It’s helping the cause to the extent that these elderly folks vote based on the irrational fear generated by the scam artist’s lies. Unfortunately, I’m sure the scam organizations aren’t the only ones feeding people misinformation.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    It’s the same financial model the KKK used to use: Get the working class bigots to send fees to the leaders who then live high off the hog. Meanwhile, the working class bigots are the only ones at risk, the ones perpetrating the violence.

    Small wonder both groups share other attributes and attitudes.

  • richardt

    Doesn’t part of the capitalist system run on the simple premise of getting fools to part with their money? it’s how Murdoch and his ilk got rich. If these sad deluded seniors feel it right to pay for a scammed fax then let them. After all, it’s likely to be money that the Tea Party and the Republicans will never see

  • zippythepinhead

    @3: “I think it’s absolutely grand that tea partiers are being scammed out of their money!”

    The question is, why aren’t WE doing this RIGHT NOW!!!?

    Ultra Tea Party Commandos PAC!

    All proceeds to make FreeThoughtBlogs ad free.

  • zippythepinhead

    Give now to the Ultra Tea Party Commandos PAC to stop liberals from scamming you out of your hard earned money!

  • http://www.rodlamkey.net reverendrodney

    The bad and the good:

    The bad: It’s wrong to scam anyone, even Teabaggers.

    The good: the scammers are not contributing the money to right-wing politicians, but keeping it.

    That’s a gas.

  • http://www.rodlamkey.net reverendrodney

    One more thing: this is the political version of televangelists begging money for blessings. Ha-ha!

  • Phillip Hallam-Baker

    @21 how true that is.

    When Jerry Falwell founded the ‘Moral’ Majority he did more than just bring evangelicals into the GOP, he brought evangelical moneygrubbing techniques as well. The direct mail shot became a standard fund raising technique.

  • Red-Green in Blue

    When a quantity increases from 2 million to 7 million, the percentage increase is actually 250%, not 350%.

    Though a seemingly minor point, for me it falls into the same category as simple spelling errors, in that it implies someone who can’t understand simple concepts and can’t be bothered to get some help with them. How are they going to achieve the more complex task of actually delivering on the promises they are making to me, their potential client?