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February 19, 2015


I think the fine line between "grifting" and "capitalist individualism" comes down to how strongly you embrace two words: caveat emptor.

If the entire responsibility for determining the honesty of the seller is on the buyer, and the buyer has no responsibility for honestly characterizing his product -- then there is no such thing as "grifting," and no censure is due those engaged in selling wares under false pretenses.

On the other hand, if you think that the seller does have a responsibility to not commit fraud, then grifting is something is something you get exercised about.

Without some understanding of the 640k in unclassifiable printing, I'm not sure I can actually decide how I feel about this.

It's just "unclassifiable", not "unclassifiable printing".

Probably best to just figure it was "Hookers & Blow" if they can't be bothered to explain the expense coherently.


No, Marty clicked through, and almost all of "Unclassifiable" is "Unclassifiable printing & shipping".


In this case I tend to trust the RWN report-writer. He seems to have counted only "Contributions" and "Media" as spending on the actual goals, which means "Unclassified postage & shipping" was probably stuff to promote the Madison Project itself.

Even if he's wrong about that, they're certainly spending more than 25% of their income on fundraising, which is the kind of thing I find completely unacceptable when I'm deciding where my donation dollars (political or charitable) are going.

Eh... what's the line between fundraising and advocacy when you're a PAC? "Send money to us now or the evil musliberals will steal your bodily fluids!" That's not so different than the same sentence minus the first seven words.

More Erickson:


I cheer the grifting conservative PACS for whatever fraud and abuse they may have committed to prevent money from getting Republicans elected or their "issues" --- basically just murdering poor and sick Americans --- disseminated.

Its the efficient Republican PACS we need to combat and destroy.

The money the latter collect from anti-American sadists and then pay out to get their hit men -- these cold-blooded Republican killers -- elected is the problem.

Behead the low overhead murderers.

More power to the grifters.

Are the right-wing PACs actually worse than the left-wing PACs in this regard?

I don't know the answer to this, I'm just curious.

It would be interesting to know if this is a generic PAC phenomenon, or if it was particular to right-wing PACs.


I understand that 40% on fundraising is excessive. But the numbers in this graph make me conclude that this PAC is trying to get a lot bigger (and may not be effective). If you look at the last cycle for Madison the numbers are much smaller in all categories. So the expenditure on fundraising has created some extra growth. That seems a long way from grifting.

Just for comparison, here's a random analysis of a union's spending, by the union itself:

Where do our dues go?

It actually makes the Madison Projects look good.

Or, how about this? Wow, 13.8% for "Representational activities", which is what unions nominally exist for. Of course, one would, (If a conservative.) expect unions to be pretty bad in this respect, in as much as the 'customer' doesn't have any choice about buying 'the product' much of the time.

Just a random google search on "Percentage of union dies pie chart".

I guess what I'm saying is, until you've done a comparable check on liberal pacs, how do you know this is a conservative problem, and not a universal problem for donor based organizations? As I'd expect it to be, James Buchanan DID get a Nobel prize for developing public choice theory, why ignore it?

You won't get much defense for large unions from me. Beyond a certain size they become as corrupt as what they are meant to fight. Or in other words, once a union becomes a corporation in anything but name it alos behaves like one (often the worst) of them. Over here it is difficult to find a firm that treats its employees worse than the two largest unions (of course there can't be a union of union employees, the union would never tolerate that). To be cynical: unions are like old-fashioned chemotherapy, a strong poison that ideally kills the disease faster than it kills you (the alternative being certain but slow and painful death by the disease). Leaders of large unions often get along much better with the bloodsucking emplyers than with the low-life members. The solution is to keep the unions large enough to be effective but small enough to not catch the corporate disease themselves. Tough regulations for BOTH unions and corporations also help absent capture.

An addendum: Union leaders tend to sound leftist in public but very often are as conservative in their ways as any reactionary rightist (a good measure and warning sign is use of leftist language outdated for many decades).

Are unions and PACs comparable?

Also, it strikes me that representational activities - negotiating with employers on employees behalf - is one of many activities a union might legitimately engage in.

Maybe some digging beyond a random Google search is needed.

In any case, don't like unions? Address the reasons they exist.

Does anyone have numbers on left / liberal PACs? I'd be curious to know if they have the same issues as the conservative ones.

Are the right-wing PACs actually worse than the left-wing PACs in this regard?

I'd also be curious about the answer to this question. I think an important step before discussing *why* there is a difference between conservative/liberal PACs is to show *what* the difference is.

The comparison is completely invalid. To start, salaries can only be evaluated between similar groups. Salaries can be largesse, or they can be the cost of hiring people to accomplish the groups valid purposes. The only way to tell is to compare like with like.

Beyond that, one time infrastructure costs can be misleading if a single year is cherry picked.

Even further, economies of scale make a big difference. Example- a church of 200 members that swells to 400 members might double donations, but will probably not double salary and administrative costs. So the percentages before and after will vary without any reason to imply mismanagement.

Finally, different groups have different valid expenses. Unions have war chests- investment expenses are normal preparation for strikes. Unions provide group benefits- the continuing education course might be an expense that some could disagree with, or which could be too lavish, but it's not an invalid expense conceptually. It represents the union spending union money for the benefit of union members. An analogous expense would be a church spending parishioner donated funds on an ice cream social for the parishioners. Some parishioners might object to that choice or feel that other priorities were more important, but it clearly isn't beyond what is categorically valid. Part of the purpose of a church is to provide services to those who attend.

That's why the PAC study is valid in ways that Bretts union hit piece is not. The PAC study compares like with like, and determines which are highest performing. The union article, and comparisons between it and the PAC study, do no such thing.

Please note that this would be the case even if the union in the article was really terrible.

The only way to win this game is not to play.

Just as it's a good thing to consume food as close as possible to the source, it's a good thing to give to causes as close as possible to, well, where the money is going. If you want to give your money to people, give it directly to the people, or otherwise donate food, etc. to food pantries. If you don't do that, you're more than likely going to be engaged in having some amount of money go to administrative salaries, advertising, and a host of other things that aren't the direct helping of people. If you keep your donations as close as possible to the distribution point, you're probably going to be more effective, in terms of aid produced per unit of donation.

As far as giving money to politics goes: just stop it. Not as a command, just a suggestion. This is a war of escalation that has no winners except the people you are giving your money to, and in some cases the politicians themselves. Again: look up "Leadership PAC" if you're unaware of the various forms of legalized graft that politicians can and do engage in.

We have created a whole set of occupations, usually high-paying, that center around winning political battles. Do you really want to encourage that? Yes, you do, because you want to win.

Me, I've given up on winning. It doesn't exist.

End of rant.

It's as if someone decided that how you gain dominance in the marketplace of ideas is beg for donations so that the ideas can be marketed more vigorously.

It makes no sense.

once a union becomes a corporation in anything but name it alos behaves like one (often the worst) of them

A situation aggravated (unsurprisingly) by the fact that they are monopoly corporations in most cases. So the consumers (i.e. members) don't have the option of going elsewhere for services.

So, I was trying to draft something as Slarti just said, but he said it, so:

What Slarti said.

On the main post, I have a few minor nitpicks:

But Hawkins is working from an American conservative mindset, which values money and the things you get with money very highly. So he expects to get good research only by paying for it (instead of crowd-sourcing, which would be the usual approach at, say, dailykos.com) -- and then once he's paid for the research, he expects to own it, to share it only with people who pay him in turn.

Maybe I'm missing some context, but these seems like pure speculation.

I'm all for crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, opensourcing, etc, but somethings benefit from having an experienced specialist working on the problem, and it doesn't seem foreign to me that you might enlist a knowledgeable researcher to get an answer to this question. Researchers, like everybody else, have bills to pay, and will likely want compensation for their work.

Second, having gotten that report, its possible he's holding on to it to resell to other people at a later date. That's certainly possible, and I don't really have a problem if that's the case, but it's also not the only explanation. Frex, if the researcher is an academic (I couldn't find anything online about the named researcher except maybe an ambiguous Linkin acct), they may wish to publish the findings themselves, before it is released to the public.

Also, I'm underwhelmed by the depth of the article, and the focus on direct support for a specific candidate. I was under the impression that a lot of PACs focus more in issue advocacy, which apparently got bundled into advertising:

SCF also thought it deserves credit for non-candidate issue ad spending. We found $2,735,267 of that type of spending. However, since as a practical matter, issue ads are often just advertising for the group, we didn’t include those in its totals.

That being said, I think the numbers of that magnitude likely indicate grift, and reiterate 'what slart said'. That is: it's a good thing to give to causes as close as possible to, well, where the money is going.

The more layers between you and your target, the more people will skim a little (or a lot) off, and the harder it is to assess the impact and efficiency of your donation.

"SCF also thought it deserves credit for non-candidate issue ad spending. We found $2,735,267 of that type of spending. However, since as a practical matter, issue ads are often just advertising for the group, we didn’t include those in its totals."

If this is the focus of "grift" then I call bs on the whole thing. PAC's, by their definition, advertise for issues. The only way a candidate gets their money is to support their issue. I keep reading this thread wondering what in heavens name I am missing.

There is zero expectation, on my part, as to the split between candidate donations and issue advertising for any PAC. Both are completely acceptable ways to represent the interests in the charter.

So, Slart's point being perfectly valid that any organization will cost administrative fees etc, I don't even seem to understand the question.

"Me, I've given up on winning. It doesn't exist."

Zen and the Art of Goat Maintenance.

There is wisdom there.

Me, I've given up on winning. It doesn't exist.

You win.

On t'other hand, the grifters won the 2014 midterms, so the evidence for the non-existence of winning may be some sort of hoax.

On the other hand, the concept that controlling most of Congress is winning may be a hoax.

On the evidence so far, Marty appears to be right. A pyrrhic victory at best.

You win.



Marty must have pyrrhic PAC behind him. The Dobe always APPEARS to be right. ;)

Let's compare two grifters caught redhanded, not exactly equidistant from each other on the political continuum (after all, the supposedly liberal Williams brought Rush Limbaugh on to his show and promoted the latter's "product", and I'll bet he votes for Republicans from time to time) -- Brian Williams and Bill O'Reilly.


I contend the grifters on the right (it helps to be a sadist) handle accusations of grifting in a more ruthless manner -- first whining about their victimization (the Tea Party) and then telling everyone to f*ck off (the Tea Party, O'Reilly), and then upping the ante next time around, while grifters on the Left (it helps to have a conscience, despite the attempted grift) ball-less wonders, put their hands up, surrender, and give up their positions, never to be heard from again.

Here's O'Reilly's response to David Corn's request for answers to his questions:

"Immediately afterward, O'Reilly granted interviews to multiple reporters. He resorted to name-calling, saying I was a "liar," a "left-wing assassin,"and a "despicable guttersnipe." He said that I deserve "to be in the kill zone." (You can read one of my responses here.) It was clear that O'Reilly had no interest in answering the actual questions about his wartime reporting claims."

See, Republicans intimidate with threats, many times with threats of violence.

It works. People back off. And their griftees cheer, wave various flags, usually the Confederate one, and then line up for the next grift.

Ostensibly liberal grifters slink off.

Reporters, especially those with a liberal bias, interviewing O'Reilly and the entire phalanx of the Republican noise machine really should show up armed and ready to use their weapons in self defense, like it is a war-zone, because that's what the f*ck it is.

Why do you think those on the Right constantly make it known that they and their supporters are armed?

Because it intimidates.

I'd love to have O'Reilly, that bug, threaten me to my face that I need to be in the kill-zone.

Does he realize how easy it is to create a kill-zone at a moment's notice for his entertainment?

To be fair, not a requirement, the network anchor golden boy would necessarily have to meet a higher bar than whatever you might consider O'Reilly. O'Reilly does opinion not news, and not in one of the three chairs still reserved for the "network anchor".

Did The Count really just compare Brian Williams with Bill O'Reilly?

Williams may be suing for damages. Back in the day, if you compared Walter Cronkite to Merv Griffin, blades would be bared.

To be fair and balanced, FOX and the entire Right Wing political edifice consider O'Reilly and the rest of their line-up to be not only on a par with the traditional network anchors but far superior in integrity and truth-telling and the go-to alternative for broadcast news.

Also, to be fair, you may think O'Reilly does opinion, but I'll wager the words "that's a fact" and "that's the truth" come out of his mouth many more times then "Hey, it's only one guy's opinion" immediately after he pronounces his pronouncements.

I'll add that the entire phenomenon of right wing talk radio, right wing blogging, right wing broadcasting, right wing .. "journalism" holds itself to be the distributor of the real news and the real truth, no questions required.

Let's judge them by their own declared standards.

I'm not defending Williams; he needs to retire.

Frankly, he should have been fired years ago for handling Limbaugh with kid gloves.

Not that, Limbaugh, that pig, has returned the favor to his buddy Williams, if you've been reading what the former has been oinking recently.

P.S. Back in the day, Cronkite and Griffin were in different professions. Cronkite watched Griffin for the laughs and Griffin watched Cronkite for the news.

Now Williams is pushed to entertain us with the news by his corporate honchos, while O'Reilly flaunts his journalistic creds while doing a little entertaining raucous soft shoe for the griftees, and his corporate honchos call it fair and balanced journalism, a guarantee the griftees buy.

I mean, heck, now we have to resort to watching Jon Stewart, a clown by profession, to sort out the news from the entertainment in both cases.

Ask just about anyone of any influence in today's right wing who they think was and/or is the more reliable journalist -- Cronkite or O'Reilly.

Williams wouldn't even be in the running.

Griffin might be.

I report, you deride.

Slarti, did you just suggest that Bill O'Reilly is comparable to Merv Griffen??? Now that will get blades bared.

I saw the Griffin show live in New York City in 1966.

Griffin was nothing like O'Reilly.

Griffin had O'Reilly on once to tell us "and that's the way it is" in his inimitable standup manner:


All the news that's fit to grift:


How much money did all of the grifting conservative PAC's Doctor Science cites in her post raise from Giuliani's pig-vermin grifting original comments about Obama.

How does Giuliani know this grifting, uncivil, uncivilized rhetoric will bring in the bucks?

Because Giuliani's rhetoric is mainlined into the bloodstream of the conservative base by the conservative grifting media who need to keep the strap tied tight around the arm of the filthy conservative anti-American base and the cheap crank fix repeatedly injected to raise the money for 2016.

Good take down by the Daily News, but the Republican base will only use THAT to fund raise for 2016 as well.

Ok, I'd walk back that comparison if my feet weren't frozen.

I bid a Jerry Springer comparison, out of contrition.

I bid a Jerry Springer comparison, out of contrition.

Raise you a Howard Stern.

I'll raise you a Tea Party:


When Joe (not the Plumber, the pig filth, punk a*shole) calls you a grifter, you're in a hole that even Dinesh D'Souza wouldn't sodomize.

We have created a whole set of occupations, usually high-paying, that center around winning political battles.

It's as if someone decided that how you gain dominance in the marketplace of ideas is beg for donations so that the ideas can be marketed more vigorously.

IMO these are really apt points.

Also IMO, they are logical consequences of deciding that money is speech.

Or, maybe not logical, but natural, predictable, and, given human nature, inevitable.

And because there really is no such thing as a grift too far for conservatives, for only $50 you can have a (completely fake and ineffective) restraining order sent to every member of the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. What a value! What a way to protect marriage!


Some days I feel like a complete idiot for missing all these great wealth-building opportunities.

I mean, why should the current set of grifters get all this cash? Cash that is obviously laying around just waiting to be picked up by anyone who comes along. Obviously the sources of this money aren't going to hang on to it.

I just had a flashback to Bloom County, circa 1986.

i'm flashing back to pogo

The 27% who elect dumbass conservative vermin EXPECT to be grifted and like it:


It would be more accurate to ask if the State Rep himself swallowed a camera (maybe a TV camera like the ones used at the Super Bowl, jammed down his throat), would you be able to snap a few photos of his brain in situ.

Yes, perhaps, biologically speaking, the camera would eventually reach his lower bowel wherein his head resides and we could get a remote look at f*ckall in a action.

See, you can be for OR against abortion and hate these pigs.

here's something neat that i'm sure is impossible:

57% of Republicans surveyed think Christianity should be made our national religion.

but remember, only Republicans understand and respect the Constitution.

Yes, but @41% of the 57% (roughly 23% of the overall misguided) believe Ayn Rand's psycho-sexual economic sadism should be an accompanying, counterpointed national religion.

A conflicted, murderous stew.

Both, however, catchy tunes whistled by psychopaths as they go about their business.

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