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September 3, 2022 6:50 PM   Subscribe

How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans Party leaders, including Senator Mitch McConnell, are fretting aloud that Republicans could squander their shot at retaking the Senate in 2022, with money one factor as some first-time candidates have struggled to gain traction. The N.R.S.C. was intended to be a party bulwark yet found itself recently canceling some TV ad reservations in key states. The story of how the Senate G.O.P. committee went from breaking financial records to breaking television reservations, told through interviews with more than two dozen Republican officials, actually begins with the rising revenues Mr. Scott bragged about last year. Unpaywalled

One fund-raising scheme used by the Senate committee, which has not previously been disclosed, involved sending an estimated millions of text messages that asked provocative questions — “Should Biden resign?” — followed by a request for cash: “Reply YES to donate.” Those who replied “YES” had their donation processed immediately, though the text did not reveal in advance where the money was going.

Privately, some Republicans complained the tactic was exploitative. WinRed, the party’s main donation-processing platform, recently stepped in and took the unusual step of blocking the committee from engaging in the practice, according to four people familiar with the matter.
posted by Toddles (52 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jesus
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:13 PM on September 3


It seems to be axiomatic in current business school thinking that the profit making parts of any enterprise should be hived off from the money spending, doing-stuff parts which should then be allowed to wither.
It was perhaps inevitable that the R's would follow this path, with the highly profitable grift division decoupling from the unprofitable electioneering and governing divisions.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:19 PM on September 3 [43 favorites]


Privately, some Republicans complained the tactic was exploitative

I laughed for real. Do they all avoid mirrors as a matter of policy, now?
posted by mhoye at 7:22 PM on September 3 [34 favorites]


Didn't they just get a bajillion from some ol' decrepit dude?
posted by slater at 7:26 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


They did. And it’s probably already grifted away…
posted by Windopaene at 7:29 PM on September 3


This is all fascinating.

The losses:
The Senate Republican bet had been this: By spending vast amounts early, the party could vacuum up contact information for millions of potential donors who could then give repeatedly over the coming months.

The internal budget document showed the shortcomings of the approach. The first month of outreach investment, June 2021, was projected to generate $3.2 million for the committee by November 2022. But the other $22 million in investments over the next seven months combined were projected to add up to a narrow net loss by Election Day.

Still, the document showed the digital department was asking for more: an additional $12 million in February and March. Mr. Hartline dismissed the document as a “potential draft budget.”

Not long after, the spending spigot was cut off. The committee went from being the biggest political spender on Facebook to being completely absent on it. No Facebook fund-raising ads ran from April to late August, company records show.
A plan to increase donations was going to cost more than even the projected total value of those donations, and they still went ahead? Wow.

And refunds:
... demands for N.R.S.C. refunds, a key metric of donor dissatisfaction, have soared, with the amount returned to donors quadrupling, from less than $2 million in 2020 to more than $8 million now.

The Senate Republican refund rate equals 6.6 percent of direct individual donations this cycle; the Senate Democratic committee’s rate is 1.67 percent.
This is really, really interesting. Thanks so much for posting it, Toddles!
posted by kristi at 7:29 PM on September 3 [16 favorites]


Further to my comment above - the best way of minimizing the financial requirements of the loss making divisions is to engineer an absolute monopoly.
In a political context, that demands the abolition of any effective democracy. No need to spend big on elections you can't lose.
All must bow before The Grift.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:36 PM on September 3 [10 favorites]


All must bow before The Grift.

It surely doesn't help them that the grifter-in-chief is raking in the donations and not sharing.

But still, when your own financial plan, which is going to be as optimistic as it gets, shows your fundraising leading to a net loss, you would think that would be a signal for introspection rather than a request for another $12m in seed money.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:47 PM on September 3 [7 favorites]


But still, when your own financial plan, which is going to be as optimistic as it gets, shows your fundraising leading to a net loss, you would think that would be a signal for introspection rather than a request for another $12m in seed money.

You're making the assumption that the goal of the people involved is to win elections.
posted by Ndwright at 7:51 PM on September 3 [9 favorites]


So ... I get a new phone and number and I get one of these texts .... and I respond "yes" then the GOP takes money from some previous owner of the number's credit card? ..... yes the grift is very strong
posted by mbo at 8:06 PM on September 3 [6 favorites]


Who could have guessed that making the guy in charge of fundraising be the guy from one of the biggest Medicare fraud settlements ever would turn out to be a poor choice.
posted by jimw at 8:10 PM on September 3 [25 favorites]


I'm afraid to hope for November. But the part of me that wants to is really enjoying this.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:19 PM on September 3 [21 favorites]


It must be hard for reality-denying Trump voters to see themselves as winners. They are planning to cry foul about future elections being stolen and that must confuse them because they already don't believe in their vote or donation to get the job done. Some may even see it as counter-productive to the second step of complaining for life.
posted by Brian B. at 8:25 PM on September 3 [4 favorites]


It seems like a really dumb decision to ring the Trump bell over and over when he's a big loser, and not even in this election cycle.
posted by meowzilla at 8:37 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Politics as a multi level marketing scheme... Huh
posted by Jacen at 8:50 PM on September 3 [2 favorites]


There are situations where it makes sense to spend more to get donations than you actually receive. It's basically a method of mapping out political supporters and getting people to get skin in the game by contributing financially. This is basically how the PIRGs work; you've got canvassers who baaaarely eke out a profit for their causes, but the main objective is really getting the messaging out and mostly breaking even.

This sounds like they put all their money into the fundraising-as-marketing bucket and didn't have money left over for TV ads, and really didn't manage to self-finance the operation. The 'barely making a profit' part is what lets the PIRGs shamble on for decades, after all, while it sounds like this project hit a brick wall and died.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:25 PM on September 3 [8 favorites]


As previously reported by Beau of the Fifth Column
posted by eustatic at 9:32 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


Politics as a multi level marketing scheme... Huh

https://priceonomics.com/when-the-kkk-was-a-pyramid-scheme/
posted by johnabbe at 9:37 PM on September 3 [12 favorites]


One thing I think is usually missing from reporting on stories like this, and (in my opinion) sorely needed for context, is some description of what fraction of spending is controlled by the group described in the article, in a typical cycle and in this cycle.

For example, the candidates' specific campaign organizations, I would assume, raise and direct the majority of the funds to support any campaign at the U.S. Senate level. The N.S.R.C.'s role, as I understand it, is to swing funds in a hurry to particularly strategic races. So this shortfall at the N.S.R.C. may give the party as a whole less strategic flexibility in this year's senate races but most competitive campaigns across the nation are still raising and spending significant amounts of money.

And then, of course, there are the (theoretically required to be) independent dark-money-financed advocacy groups with names like "American Apple-Pie-Baking Mothers Who Love Fracking" or "Vaguely Patriotic-Sounding Group For Extremely Specific Economic Policy". They're showing no signs of being out of cash, at least judging from the mailers I get every day.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:51 PM on September 3 [15 favorites]


The Patriot Front seems to be borrowing that idea: "Internal chats obtained by extremist experts show members complaining about the ongoing expenses they incur paying for stickers, stencils and other mandatory propaganda materials, which Rousseau charges them for."
posted by BungaDunga at 9:52 PM on September 3 [5 favorites]


It surely doesn't help them that the grifter-in-chief is raking in the donations and not sharing.

The roughly $250 million that poured in after the election largely went to the former President's political action committee, rather than to the "election integrity" effort touted to his donors, the committee said.

"The big lie was also a big rip-off," said California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats on the panel.


You have to presume there's a finite amount of donations that are give-able, and Trump's taken a quarter billion from that pool. No amount of grovelling is going to make him share that.

He is going to stiff the Republican party. I know this because water is wet.
posted by adept256 at 11:04 PM on September 3 [29 favorites]


...I'm kinda thinking maybe we all just oughta point and laugh at this [expletive deleted]. Like, literally, "hey, how much you pay for that patch boy? You wanna give me some of that money? (grab crotch, point) Ooooooo!!" kind of thing. Every single time they show up in public.

...because, in all earnestness, we (that is, those who are not fascist-adjacent) need to point and laugh at literally every opportunity. Worst-case scenario, they realize they're being fleeced. Best-case, well, [descriptive scenario deleted]. I kinda feel like we're getting close to the point where nobody would admit to being Right, but there's more than a few miles left to go.

[and, in this case, the only thing that matters is NOT being fascist-adjacent. I do NOT care if your politics differ from mine, except insofar as you may or may not support Hitler-who-must-not-be-spoken.]
posted by aramaic at 11:07 PM on September 3 [3 favorites]


A plan to increase donations was going to cost more than even the projected total value of those donations, and they still went ahead? Wow.

Always remember, conservatives are the only ones who know how to manage money responsibly.
posted by flabdablet at 2:53 AM on September 4 [23 favorites]


Fe fi fo fum.
I smell the grift of Republiscum.
posted by Pouteria at 3:37 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


“This is URGENT!” read one such flurry of messages. “Do YOU support Trump?”

Then came the key line: “Reply YES to donate $25.”

Those who wrote back “YES” automatically had a $25 donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee charged to their credit cards, though the initial message said nothing about the destination and there were no links to click to find out. The committee used a tool that paired donors’ phone numbers with credit-card information saved on WinRed.


When you employ the perpetrator of the largest case of Medicare fraud in history to run your fundraising, what do you think will happen?
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:54 AM on September 4 [11 favorites]


sickos_yes_ha_ha_ha_yes.jpg
posted by acb at 4:42 AM on September 4 [11 favorites]


Also Kushner has said that even if Trump wins re-election he's not going back to the White House. Why? He has $2 billion from the Saudis to play with. For his own personal grift.
posted by Splunge at 5:31 AM on September 4


Would feel much happier about this if it didn't come right after the article about the 1.6 billion donation from the sale of Tripp Lite that all went directly to Leonard Leo. The mainstream Republicans might be hurting for money but the far-right wing supporting policies even most Republicans don't agree with is flush with cash.
posted by subdee at 5:53 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


The committee used a tool that paired donors’ phone numbers with credit-card information saved on WinRed.

As someone who sometimes has extensive conversations about PCI compliance and PII (payment card industry and personally identifiable information, respectively) with very large companies who want to ensure best practices while migrating ecommerce platforms, that sentence is such a huge YIKES for me.
posted by Leviathant at 6:19 AM on September 4 [24 favorites]


Many of us are aware of the simplicity of "Text-to-give":
... text-to-give is a carrier-based method, which means your donors give via text message; no form involved at all. They text a keyword to the text-to-give number and whichever amount they choose to donate is added to their phone bill.
E.g. but easily confused with text-to-donate.
posted by achrise at 6:39 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


the perpetrator of the largest case of Medicare fraud in history

Oh, so he has more in common with Trump than I knew. That's interesting. Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?
posted by mumimor at 6:47 AM on September 4


Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?

Rick Scott also tried to make drug testing mandatory in order to receive state benefits. His wife just happened to own a chain of drug testing clinics.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:58 AM on September 4 [12 favorites]


Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?

They typically run small businesses, home rentals or farms, and their main livelihood is grifting their customers and cheating on taxes. Trump is a mascot. They lack all goodwill for society and see money as a sign of character from a higher power. In other words, if they make money on the scam, they have character, and it maybe explains their moralizing hatred of victims. Boycotting their scams is the last frontier of politics, because they have everything to lose.
posted by Brian B. at 7:02 AM on September 4 [13 favorites]


Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?

I have an idea on why they keep on giving. I once had this guy come to my house a bit drunk, he'd been at a nearby strip club. He was telling me all about this girl there that really likes him, she kept coming back to his table. Can't wait to see her again, but for now do I have some cash for a taxi?

They're the suckers that think the strippers are in love with them. They don't understand that they're just a wallet to these people. They're never getting into Mar-A-Lago, not without the 200k membership fee. Trump thinks they're disgusting. But he puts on a good show for them and they fall for it, so they make it rain.
posted by adept256 at 7:07 AM on September 4 [15 favorites]


“I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party [in 2024]”—President Biden

With alleged espionage by former President Trump, and the possibility he has been a deep cover agent of a foreign government all along (Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright said so before he was elected), the end of the Republican Party looks more and more like a real possibility.
posted by metatuesday at 7:22 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


The Long Con is an article in the Baffler from 2012 that I only recently got around to reading. Well before Cheeto Benito got into politics—it takes Mitt Romney as the then-current avatar of GOP grifting. But it makes the point that grifting has been in the party's bones for a very long time.
posted by adamrice at 7:23 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


(Here's a gift version of this article, if that's a thing anybody wants.)
posted by box at 7:37 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?

Near as I can tell, a tendency to vote conservative is strongly correlated with a worldview that divides humanity into The Good People and The Bad People, an axiomatic assumption that the person holding this worldview is one of The Good People, and an incurious, unquestioning acceptance of the Just World Delusion.

Within the framework of rationalizations built on these foundations it is literally unthinkable that any self-styled conservative leader could possibly be a common or garden grifter, though it's taken as an article of faith that all Democrats obviously are. The Bad People, as everybody knows, are the violent unscrupulous treasonous poisonous treacherous gun-hating America-hating criminal antifa Socialist Liberals.

So if a Tr*mp or a Bakker or pretty much any Republican in a plausibly respectable suit is asking for money then it's not their place to question exactly what it's for; it's simply and instantly assumed that it's going to help Defend America Against The Bad People.

Watching people fall for the same fucking shit over and over and over and over is heartbreaking, but what can ya do? Rubes gonna rube. And if you're morally deficient in a particular kind of way, then your response to that realization is not heartbreak, it's glee.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 AM on September 4 [16 favorites]


Politics as a multi level marketing scheme... Huh

I just watched a fascinating B noir, "Jigsaw" (1949), which, while a cheap potboiler, is usefully focused on far right / fascist movement building like the KKK and the Silver Shirts as a hugely profitable racket.

The primarily villain is the rich widow of a conservative judge who is quietly lining her pockets by funding a decidedly MAGA-like ultra-Americanist movement. Everyone signing up needs to buy a uniform, literature, and other paraphernalia, generating a lot cash. It's a very blunt study, and totally relevant to what we're facing right now.

All conservative politics is, and has always been, a grift.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:39 AM on September 4 [22 favorites]


From the article linked by adamrice:
Subscriber lists to ideological organs are pure gold to the third-party interests who rent them as catchments for potential customers. Who better suits a marketing strategy than a group that voluntarily organizes itself according to their most passionately shared beliefs? That’s why, for instance, the other day I (and probably you) got an advertisement by way of liberal magazine The American Prospect seeking donations to Mercy Corps, a charity that helps starving children in the Third World. But back when I was getting emails every day from Newsmax and Townhall, the come-ons were a little bit different.

Dear Reader, I’m going to tell you something, but you must promise to keep it quiet. You have to understand that the “elite” would not be at all happy with me if they knew what I was about to tell you. That’s why we have to tread carefully. You see, while most people are paying attention to the stock market, the banks, brokerages and big institutions have their money somewhere else . . . [in] what I call the hidden money mountain . . . All you have to know is the insider’s code (which I’ll tell you) and you could make an extra $6,000 every single month.

Soon after reading that, I learned of the “23-Cent Heart Miracle,” the one “Washington, the medical industry, and drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.” (Why would they? They’d just be leaving money on the table: “I was scheduled for open heart surgery when I read about your product,” read one of the testimonials. “I started taking it and now six months have passed and I haven’t had open-heart surgery.”) Then came news of the oilfield in the placenta.
Just, woah...
posted by mumimor at 7:44 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


This credit card fraud documented here is jaw dropping.
The Senate Republican refund rate equals 6.6 percent of direct individual donations this cycle; the Senate Democratic committee’s rate is 1.67 percent.
Chargebacks are very bad for merchants; I wonder whether the payments or cellular infrastructure was part of disrupting the fraud?

Previously in GOP fraudulent fundraising: How Trump Steered Supporters Into Unwitting Donations and How Deceptive Campaign Fund-Raising Ensnares Older People. The gimmick here was the Trump fundraising machine using dark patterns to trick people into setting up a recurring donation. (Pre-checking the opt-in box, etc).
Overall, Republican campaigns issued refunds at far higher rates (7.4 percent of WinRed contributions) than Democratic ones (2.3 percent on ActBlue) in the 2020 election, a gap driven chiefly by Mr. Trump’s prechecked boxes scheme.
Everything about political fundraising in the US is awful. Every aspect of it. I donate enough to (Democrat) campaigns that I get a lot of fundraising calls. Currently about 2-3 a day, despite my best efforts to hide my phone number and opt out of lists. The worst are when a congressperson calls because I still feel obligated to be at least a little polite. But shouldn't they have better things to do with their time? I mostly don't answer the phone now.
posted by Nelson at 7:45 AM on September 4 [8 favorites]


So, does this mean that all the WinRed solicitations I got for money, but which clearly had my phone number associated with someone else, could have actually cost someone money if I'd replied yes? Darnit. I ignored these!
posted by c0nsumer at 7:50 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Nelson: The worst are when a congressperson calls because I still feel obligated to be at least a little polite.

Please talk to them and tell them that campaign finance reform is a top concern! (I'm mostly joking ...but only mostly.)
posted by ropeladder at 7:59 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


(Previously, on WinRed)
posted by box at 8:06 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


In its pursuit of cash, the Senate committee has increasingly adopted a pro-Trump tone: Of the more than 1,500 emails sent this year, more than 900 have invoked Donald J. Trump in the sender line. Zero have mentioned Mr. McConnell anywhere, despite the fact that the committee’s ostensible goal is to make him majority leader.

I just hope all this backfires...

They mention in the article that the House committee has plenty of money, it's just the Senate committee that's already spent 95% of their funds to (allegedly) triple their donor list.

Also it really puts the 1.6 billion Tripp Lite donation in perspective, it's so much more than what the House Committee and Senate committee has raised & spent combined this year.
posted by subdee at 8:26 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


As far as the senatorial shortfall goes, was Thiel just placing bets during the primary races, or what?
posted by Selena777 at 9:06 AM on September 4


C'mon folks, you're literally getting the best governments that money can buy.

(sorry, gallows humour. Sincere wishes for an end to the plutocracies and the far-right-wing nuttery)
posted by Artful Codger at 9:07 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


From the article linked by adamrice:
In 1977, Democratic Congressman Charles H. Wilson of California proposed timid regulations to inform donors exactly how much of their money was going to the cause they thought they were supporting. The Heritage Foundation raced forth with an “issues bulletin” announcing that any such rule changes would subject “church leaders” to “vicious” attacks
Sometimes other people tell on you, and sometimes you tell on yourself. "If people knew what church leaders actually do with their donations, they'd be really angry..."
posted by clawsoon at 9:20 AM on September 4 [19 favorites]


Why do R voters keep on electing these grifters?

They're all gullible people
With so much to give
Understand me, sugar (ooh ooh)
Since we've got to be here
Let's grift

Let's grift it on
Ah, baby, let's grift it on
Let's love, baby
Let's grift it on, sugar
Let's grift it on, woo hoo
posted by kirkaracha at 10:00 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


C'mon folks, you're literally getting the best governments that money can buy.

“The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.”

— P. J. O'Rourke
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 AM on September 4 [10 favorites]


Let's grift it on, sugar
Let's grift it on, woo hoo
I would have gone with "Let's get it all.."
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:30 PM on September 4


* Nelson Muntzian Ha ha! *
posted by y2karl at 8:49 PM on September 4


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