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The billionaire bully
February 17, 2012 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Meet Mitt Romney's national campaign finance co-chair and the LGBT journalist that's standing up to him. Glenn Greenwald documents Idaho billionaire James VanderSloot's record of using his deep pockets to silence his critics.
posted by jabo (44 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
His name is VanderSloot? Could you deliberately PICK a more nefariously clichéd 'evil head of the Rich Kids Summer Camp Rowing Team' name?
posted by FatherDagon at 12:42 PM on February 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


Currently, he is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, and his company has become one of the largest donors ($1 million) to the ostensibly “independent” pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future.

Only money is free speech, not you know, speech.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:52 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


To allow this scheme to continue — whereby billionaires can use their bottomless wealth to intimidate ordinary citizens and media outlets out of writing about them — is to permit the wealthiest in America to thuggishly shield themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny.

If the journalists would only bootstrap themselves into being billionaires, they wouldn't have this problem!
posted by maxwelton at 12:58 PM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, if you're going to be a right-wing nutjob in Idaho, you're going to need to distinguish yourself somehow - and as far as cartoon supervillainish names go, VanderSloot had some stiff competition. Back on topic, as a Gem State native I'm glad this guy is getting the national scrutiny he so, so richly deserves (so to speak).

True story, that billboard was right by my college, and some unnamed students waited for three full years until the posted message had all the necessary letters for them to do this.
posted by amy lecteur at 12:59 PM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Numerous journalists and bloggers in Idaho — who want to write critically about VanderSloot’s vast funding of right-wing political causes — are petrified even to mention his name for fear of these threats.

Once again I must refer you all to a voice of reason, a person who is not afraid to stand up for what is right:

"Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself." ~Albus Dumbledore
posted by Fizz at 1:00 PM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


LGBT journalist

This is an excellent feat for one person. Who says you can't do it all?
posted by jimmythefish at 1:07 PM on February 17, 2012 [28 favorites]


Great post.

I will do my tiny bit to see that VanDerSloot gets all the recognition-- and attention-- he deserves.
posted by jamjam at 1:07 PM on February 17, 2012


I'm actually shaking with rage having just read that.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:08 PM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Should public television promote the homosexual lifestyle to your children?"

Man, I'd like to sock him in the face. But on behalf of Mr.Rogers' I'd ask him to think about all the people who have had a meaningful impact on his life.
Some of them probably weren't heterosexual, button down blue shirt carbon copy humans like himself.
(Speaking of which I get an Arendt chill there, man VanderSnoot (amirite!?) is innocuous looking)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman, considering the guy's background I suspect you are wrong about that.
posted by aspo at 1:15 PM on February 17, 2012


(Well, disregarding deep closet cases)
posted by aspo at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2012


One of the things that this article points out that we need is a federal anti-SLAPP law. But I personally believe that the moment someone tries to introduce one, there will be so many Republicans screaming about how this 'limits our freedoms' that the individual who introduces it will die as if hearing the bean sidhe's wail.

Which is really very sad, as it would be utterly mischaracterized by people who have the moral gravitas of toxic waste.
posted by mephron at 1:18 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Melaleuca angle is the interesting one here to me. It's common for owners of MLM companies to use their money, connections and hordes of downlines to silence critics. That some of them are attracted to politics and bring their behavior with them does not surprise me.
posted by michaelh at 1:23 PM on February 17, 2012


Meanwhile, on the other side:

Obama DOJ defends military benefits for same-sex couples.

Sorry, VanderSloot. Time (and history) is not on your side.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:28 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Republicans gonna Republic.

Wait, that doesn't work does it.
posted by holdkris99 at 1:31 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope Greenwald keeps the public posted with regards to the coming sh*tstorm he's going to get from the nefarious Vandersloot and his team of evil lawyers. I want people like Greenwald and May-Chang to win...i've got to believe that the little people can still win against monolithic entities like this Vandersloot asshat...
posted by jnnla at 1:32 PM on February 17, 2012


It's also interesting that the products of Melaleuca are marketed to health-minded eco-conscious people. The Right Wingnuts are just sucking money from the stoopid Liberals, aren't they?

I'm happy to see Greenwald and Slate are willing to stand up to the Big Bully, but also surprised there is no Santorum-style Googlebombing campaign against him: VanderSlut, anybody?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:37 PM on February 17, 2012


An additional thing that this article does is to highlight the sheer awesomeness of Glenn Greenwald. He has forced more thoughtful searching conversations about civil liberties than just about anyone else I can think of. He was targeted for de-legitimizing by HBGary, he has blasted the left and the right.

Given our new policy of overtly assassinating Americans that are deemed sympathetic to foreign agents, I would not be surprised in Mr. Greenwald is somehow targeted while in Rio with his husband. In my bravest, most articulate, most intelligent moments, I am still left in the dust by this man.
posted by jason says at 1:37 PM on February 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Every day there seems to be a new target like this, a Republican backer who is anti-LBGTQ or clearly opposed to progress in Women's Health, etc. I ask this question in all seriousness and am not intending a derail, if it's seen that way, please flag so that it will be deleted:

Is this "phenomenon" a product of "liberal media bias" (whatever that means) as my Republican Santorum backing father-in-law insists or are that just not as many of these types of rights denying 1%'rs on the Democratic side?

The only stories I ever see like this are aimed at the Right and their operatives (besides the occasional story about George Soros). As a Democrat and someone in favor of equal rights for all I almost feel like we must have bad guys/girls like this that are Democrats as well. Right?
posted by holdkris99 at 1:39 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Numerous journalists and bloggers in Idaho — who want to write critically about VanderSloot’s vast funding of right-wing political causes — are petrified even to mention his name for fear of these threats."

The mere mention of VanderSloot's name causes them to romney themselves?
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The mere mention of VanderSloot's name causes them to romney themselves?

Does anyone know what font "Romney" is in that link?
posted by holdkris99 at 1:46 PM on February 17, 2012


Suddenly, the internet cranes its wirey neck and smiles as it stares at VanderSloot while he plays whack-a-mole with a few million people.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2012


Does anyone know what font "Romney" is in that link?

Page source says Chelsea Market
posted by rocket88 at 1:52 PM on February 17, 2012


I used to know a woman who was part of the Melaleuca MLM system. She and her sister were fairly high up in the pyramid heirarchy and were making money hand over fist. I must say they worked hard at recruiting new "customers" so it's not like they didn't earn it. She was fairly socially liberal though, so I wonder how she feels about her boss being an inhuman monster.
posted by rocket88 at 2:00 PM on February 17, 2012


Interesting fellow, this Greenwald. [puffs pipe] I like the cut of his jib.
posted by Trurl at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Never could I think of a better cause for 4chan to get behind.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:32 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


His name is VanderSloot? Could you deliberately PICK a more nefariously clichéd 'evil head of the Rich Kids Summer Camp Rowing Team' name?
Nicer than mymental picture.
posted by variella at 3:04 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm actually shaking with rage having just read that.

First one up the rivers of blood to the skull throne wins!
posted by Slackermagee at 3:14 PM on February 17, 2012


Greenwald is not all sunshine and roses

he has ties to the cato institute, for example
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:52 PM on February 17, 2012


Greenwald's libertarian streak is pretty well-known. His "ties" to the Cato Institute are also well-known: he worked for them studying the effects of Portugal's drug decriminalization strategy. (Of course ambiguous "ties" to thinktanks are best left unexplained, if you want them to seem like a smear.) He's also written favourably towards Ron Paul's isolationist foreign policy (much to Mefi's consternation) and also famously supported the Citizens United ruling, which really the only point on which we have absolutely and utterly disagreed.

But whatever, the man doesn't hide his opinions. What are your opinions on the matter, this?
posted by mek at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


And what is so automatically wrong with CATO? Is it possible that something they have to say might sometimes be worth listening to? Are we really that blinded by our own ideology?

I was shocked by Greenwald's post....shocked because it took a Greenwald post (as usual) to shine the light on something that appears way big enough to be mentioned by the mainstream media covering the Romney campaign. And Vanderslut could very well end up with a powerful DC position if Romney is elected.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:18 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So does EVERY Republican candidate have a Mr. Moneybags boss? Maybe the mass media should be profiling the people ACTUALLY running for president, as opposed to their hired help with the good hair and teeth.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2012


Hey, I live in Vanderslootsville!

I'm not sure I have anything to add to the article, which is really spot-on. Having Glenn Greenwald going after our local bully warms the cockles of my heart.

I do want to reiterate how heavily he comes down on critics, even really small potatoes like our local political blogs, to the point that I wouldn't be too surprised if Matt gets a scary letter from Mr. Vandersloot's lawyers just for this post.

On the plus side, the guy sponsors a huge free fireworks display every fourth of July (although it IS billed as the "Melalueca Freedom Celebration". Bleargh.)
posted by gamera at 7:09 PM on February 17, 2012


Vanderslut

I understand wanting to make fun of the guy (and I am all about ridiculous name-based puns) but I think that this use of language inadvertently attacks women and I'd like to ask respectfully that you find a different way to express your disdain.

the guy sponsors a huge free fireworks display every fourth of July

How would you charge for a fireworks display? Block off part of the sky? Make everyone who didn't pay close their eyes and turn around? Have it inside in an enormous space custom-built for indoor fireworks displays? That would be AWESOME, I would totally pay to see that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:02 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a quick skim of the comments, I didn't see a mention of the Anti-SLAPP organization called the Public Participation Project that Greenwald mentioned pretty far down in the article. They take donations.
posted by spbmp at 10:36 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


> … causes them to romney themselves?

… right out the vandersloot, no less.
posted by scruss at 5:14 AM on February 18, 2012


“[T]he LGBT journalist” is in fact a lesbian journalist. Don’t call real individuals LGBT, which is guaranteed to be inaccurate or an outright lie at least two ways.
posted by joeclark at 7:32 AM on February 18, 2012


She is someone who engages in LGBT journalism.
posted by mendel at 7:44 AM on February 18, 2012


Also, this use of copyright law to not only silence critics but to cover up any evidence that there was any criticism is genuinely scary. WTF is an "after-the-fact copyright certificate"? How can a lawyer's letter be copyrighted?

In 2007, one of them (“TomPaine”) wrote a critical post about VanderSloot, and then quickly received a letter from Melaleuca’s in-house General Counsel at the time, Ken Sheppard, threatening a lawsuit if the post was not removed within 24 hours.

The website complied by removing the post, but wanted their readers to know why the post was removed.

So another poster (“d2″) explained that they had received a letter from Melaleuca’s lawyers demanding its removal, and then posted the lawyer’s letter.

Melaleuca responded by obtaining an after-the-fact copyright certificate for that lawyer’s letter, then demanded that the hosting company remove the letter from the website on the ground that it constituted copyright infringement (the hosting company promptly complied), and Melaleuca then sued the website for copyright infringement for having published the now-copyrighted lawyer’s letter without their consent.

Worse, as part of that lawsuit, Melaleuca issued a subpoena demanding the identities of both anonymous bloggers — the one who wrote the original post about VanderSloot (“TomPaine”) and the one who posted the lawyer’s letter (“d2″).

A district court in Idaho ordered the website to disclose to Melaleuca the identity of the blogger who posted the lawyer’s cease-and-desist letter, but refused to compel disclosure of the identity of the other blogger.

It’s almost impossible to imagine any more thuggish attempts to intimidate people from speaking out and criticizing VanderSloot: this was a tiny website being sued for trivial offenses in federal court by a company owned by a billionaire.


I don't always agree with Greenwald, but he's absolutely right about this: Thugs.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2012


What I don't understand is why the ACLU don't get involved in such suits. I would think such civil suits would pose a serious threat to civil liberties.
posted by BillW at 9:31 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


How can a lawyer's letter be copyrighted?

Since 1978 copyright protection applies to any original work as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. So a lawyer's letter is indeed protected by copyright. However, many believe that disclosing the existence of of a Cease and Desist notice sent by lawyer by posting it to the internet is an example of fair use. In fact, the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse exists exactly for this purpose.

Backed by the EFF and a coalition of law schools, the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse hosts a database of user submitted Cease and Desist notices (some fairly high profile organizations submit to them, including Google, Twitter, and the Wikimedia Foundation). If you are the recipient of such a notice, you can send it to them and they will host it for you along with annotations from the law students who work on the project. That way you can link to the Cease and Desist you received instead of hosting it yourself and perhaps involving your own hosting company in a DMCA complaint.

WTF is an "after-the-fact copyright certificate"?

In the US an original work is automatically protected by copyright, but if you wish you can also register your work with the U.S. Copyright office. While it is not necessary to register a work to receive copyright protection, there are some advantages under U.S. law if a work was registered before a violation of the work's copyright occurred (in particular you can win statutory damages instead of just actual damages). Also, U.S. law requires that you register a work before you file a copyright lawsuit. Since it costs money to file a copyright registration for a work, it is not that uncommon to wait to register a work until contemplating a lawsuit.

In the case referred to in the FPP, I assume the lawyer filed a copyright registration for his or her C&D notice after the notice was posted by the recipient. Perhaps the lawyer did this as a way to indicate that they were indeed willing to file a copyright lawsuit if the Cease and Desist notice was not removed from the website. Alternatively, perhaps the lawyer thought having a copyright registration on the notice would cause the website's host to take his or her DMCA complaint more seriously.
posted by RichardP at 10:33 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


She is someone who engages in LGBT journalism.

"Journalist" would probably cover it.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:58 PM on February 18, 2012


Smedleyman, considering the guy's background I suspect you are wrong about that.

*reads*
Yeah, maybe he grew up that insular. Wow. All the worse really.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:44 PM on February 19, 2012




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