The Ben Carson Money Machine

Hubert Collins, American Renaissance, October 5, 2015

Making millions from white guilt.

The rise of Donald Trump has upset most everyone who does not support him. From the smear piece in the New Yorker, to the hostile commentary from Conservatism Inc., to the condescending remarks of libertarians, those not for Mr. Trump are very much against him. After a bit of scrambling, the chattering cuckservatives of the 24-hour commentary cycle seem to have settled on a strategy to dismantle him: promote Dr. Ben Carson as the “legitimate outsider” of 2016 and pray that the average-Joe Republicans now fueling Mr. Trump’s rise will jump ship.

“Washington Watcher” at VDARE has a full treatment of the phenomenon. He notes the incredible, seemingly out-of-thin-air surge from late August of “conservative” pundits telling us what an amazing candidate and person Dr. Carson is. FOX-regular Charles Krauthammer seems to have gotten the ball rolling in August by declaring Dr. Carson to be the “anti-Trump” and also a “wonderful guy that is hard not to actually like.” Rich Lowry laid it on none too subtly with “Ben Carson, the Superior Outsider.” A few days later, neoconservative Bill Kristol claimed that the GOP was wrapping up its “summer fling” with Mr. Trump and would soon engage in a “fall romance” with Dr. Carson. Michelle Malkin wrote a surreal piece entirely about what a lovely person Dr. Carson’s wife, Candy, seems to be.

“Washington Watcher” is entirely correct in his analysis of this trend, and he also points out Dr. Carson’s far-from-conservative opinions–especially on immigration–but there is more to the story. What is only whispered within the Beltway is that the Carson candidacy is not so much a serious effort to make him president as a fundraising scheme–and a very effective one. A polished team is making millions flogging a hopeless black candidate to guild-ridden Republicans who are wasting every dollar they contribute. It’s a tactic they have perfected with several black long shots.

Draft Ben Carson

Dr. Carson became a household name in February 2013 after he criticized Obamacare of at the National Prayer Breakfast. Just six months later, John Philip Sousa IV (great-grandson of the famous one) founded the National Draft Ben Carson for President Campaign Committee (NDBCPCC). Dr. Carson was still far from declaring his candidacy, and the purpose of the PAC was to demonstrate the fundraising capacity a run for president could have. Also, if he did declare, there would be infrastructure and funds lying in wait.

John Philip Sousa IV

John Philip Sousa IV

By law, PACs and candidates are not allowed to communicate. Politicos find ways around this, but there is only speculation as to how involved Dr. Carson was with the decision to start the PAC, or how involved he was with its tactics.

When Mr. Sousa was interviewed in December 2014 about the PAC, he seemed curiously lacking in passion for his candidate. He mentioned that he was very much taken with Dr. Carson’s speech at the Prayer Breakfast, and with his rags-to-riches tale, but also conceded, “Did we thoroughly vet the guy? No.” He claimed to be impressed with Dr. Carson’s Christian faith and conservative positions, but noted that “he doesn’t have all of his positions set yet.”

Mr. Sousa insisted that Dr. Carson would certainly win at least 17 percent of the black vote, but had only one reason to support that claim: “He’s black.” Mr. Sousa was vague as to exactly why Dr. Carson was the best candidate, and vaguer still about what would happen to the PAC if the campaign went nowhere. He admitted that the PAC was focused almost entirely on raising money.

The first fundraising letter went out in August 2013, and in 2014 the PAC raised just over 13.5 million dollars–more than the top Hillary Clinton PAC, Ready for Hillary. According to expenditures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, the PAC then spent about ten million dollars on more fundraising, mostly by direct mail.

The great value of a super PAC like this one is that there is no limit on how much money anyone can give to it. There are very strict limits on how much a donor can contribute directly to a candidate or his committee, but not to a super PAC. That’s the point of them. And that is why leftists say that the Citizens United Supreme Court case that legitimized super PACs as “free speech” means the “corporatization of our democracy.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg could not give more than $5,000 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, but he gave $2,000,000 to the Priorities USA Action PAC that stumped for Mr. Obama. Republicans do the same thing. Sheldon Adelson single-handedly propped-up Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign by passing along millions to PACs that supported him. Rick Santorum’s insurgent 2012 candidacy got its funding from one man, Foster Friess.

But why bother with a direct-mail super PAC? Direct mail casts a wide net to get small donations from regular, non-millionaire citizens, and that’s the way NCBCPCC operates. Mr. Sousa claims that the highest single donation was somewhere around $70,000. If there is no limit on donations to NDBCPCC, why not save the time and bother of direct mail and just cozy up to rich people? Answer: There is more money in direct mail for the people who run the PAC.

The man who originally filed the paperwork to set up NDBCPCC and is now its political director, Vernon Robinson, made around a quarter of a million dollars in 2014. When Mr. Sousa was asked to comment on this figure, he said, “Is Vernon making a lot of money? Yeah, he is. But I will tell you that Vernon works 24/7 and he does a good job for us.”

Vernon Robinson

Vernon Robinson

It is not obvious why Mr. Robinson deserves that kind of compensation. He was a city councilman in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for eight years, and unsuccessfully ran for congress as a conservative (calling himself the “black Jesse Helms”) three times between 2004 and 2012. In other words, a black man who only held local office a decade ago and lost three congressional races is the political director of a PAC trying to elect a black man who has never held political office.

I’m inclined to suspect that Mr. Robinson got his job, not because he is good at winning elections (obviously, he isn’t), but because he is very good at raising money. During his 2004 congressional run, he raised three million dollars, which is a lot of money for an ex-city councilman’s second attempt at Congress in a forgettable part of North Carolina. For his 2006 race, he raised $520,000 just in the summer, which is a notoriously hard time to raise money.

A lot of all this money flows through something called Eberle Associates, a direct mail house that did fundraising for Mr. Robinson. Mother Jones reports about $2,000,000 of NDBCPCC’s swag also went straight to Eberle. On top of that, the Washington Post and Buzzfeed have noticed that other companies that work for NDBCPCC share an address with Eberle Associates, and are owned by the same umbrella company, Eberle Communications Group. Campaign Funding Direct, for example, picked up $1.6 million and Omega List collected $1.5 million. They all live together at 1420 Spring Hill Road, Suite 490, McLean, Virginia.

Like Vernon Robinson, the Eberle companies are paid to shake down donors. “They’ve been good friends of mine for a lot of years,” says Mr. Sousa. “I’ve used them on a lot of campaigns. They earn every single dollar that they’ve charged us and I begrudge them not a penny.”

Bruce Eberle, founder and president of Eberle Communications Group, brags about the money he raises. In the closing days of 2011, he wrote a revealingly titled article called The Amazing Herman Cain Money Machine, boasting about the inside role he and his associates played in the presidential campaign of the 2012 black Republican, Herman Cain. The campaign did raise a lot of money but Mr. Cain dropped out before the Iowa caucus after accusations of adultery and sexual harassment.

Bruce Eberle

Bruce Eberle

Mr. Eberle seems to specialize in raising money for black Republicans who go nowhere. The Cain campaign was a complete failure, which means all those donors wasted their money. The same goes for Mr. Robinson’s congressional campaigns, which were also complete failures. But for the people who are paid to raise money, campaigns mean a fat paycheck, win or lose.

When the conservative movement began using direct mail in earnest during the late ’70s under the guidance of New Right pioneers such as Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich, fundraisers were a kind of tradesman. They were hired to raise money for candidates who didn’t know how to do it. However, as the “industry” grew and grew over the years, fundraisers became a new interest group within the conservative movement. They are now powerful enough to influence the selection of candidates, and they pick people they think will make good centerpieces for their fundraising plans.

From such a perspective, as Mr. Eberle explains, the Cain campaign was a success, and there is no shame in thinking that success can rub off onto Dr. Carson. In August 2013, the month NDBCPCC was founded, Mr. Eberle’s blog featured a post called Ben Carson for President:

I am not unbiased. The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee (www.runbenrun.org) is a client of Campaign Funding Direct, a company I founded. . . .

But, I’m not for Ben Carson due to my connection with Campaign Funding Direct. I’m excited about a Ben Carson candidacy because he is a wise, dedicated Tea Party conservative and I believe he is a sure winner! Please let me explain. In the last presidential election cycle, Campaign Funding Direct raised funds for Herman Cain. It was very exciting and quite successful. The campaign raised (via multiple fund raising channels) some $14 million in the first 40 days and was on track to top $30 million in the next thirty days when the campaign imploded . . . .

. . . . Well, what most folks don’t know is that the internal polling of the Cain campaign showed him winning 40% of the African-American vote. That’s right 40%!

Naturally, the post ends with a link that lets you donate to the NDBCPCC.

Needless to say, blacks vote overwhelmingly democrat no matter what, and the 40 percent claim is a full 23 percent higher than Mr. Sousa’s claims for Dr. Carson. Blacks despise black conservatives. Tea Party favorite Allen West got the boot from the NAACP, and actress Stacey Dash was labeled a “race traitor” after endorsing Mitt Romney in 2012. Ben Carson is no conservative anyway. He worries about semi-automatic weapons and supported amnesty for illegals as recently as 2013.

So Mr. Eberle is wrong about all that, but he’s right about the money. Lots was raised for Mr. Cain, and even more can be raised for Dr. Carson, so the people in charge of the operation will have very fat paydays.

But why should we care if slick operators fleece the public? The tragedy is what goes on in the imaginations of so many gullible Republican voters. They are so beaten down by two terms of Barack Obama, so beleaguered by constant accusations of racism from the media and the academy, and so desperate for Republicans to shake off even implicit whiteness, that they are willing to believe most anything that sounds both comforting and even remotely plausible. What could sound better to a naively colorblind Republican than a bright black man who will talk sense about economics, prove to the left that racism is over, and lead the Republicans to victory? People like Bruce Eberle, John Sousa, and Vernon Robinson are making millions cashing in on the burning desire of so many conservatives to shed the “racist” label.

NDBCPCC’s direct-mail pieces are hucksterism at its finest. They claim that Dr. Carson won the first debate, that he can be trusted to protect the 2nd Amendment, and that 37 percent of all blacks are conservative. And how’s this for exploiting racial guilt:

The problem is that for more than 50 years the Democrats and their friends in the national news media have been telling black voters that you and I are racists.

Think about it. Trust is the key to winning someone’s vote.

Even if you agree with someone on all the issues, you won’t vote for him or her if you think a candidate is a racist who hates you because of the color of your skin. But Ben Carson is not just another African-American.

Ben Carson is an Icon in the Black Community.

It’s simple: Once all the blacks who hate the Import-Export Bank as much as Dr. Carson does realize that Republicans are not racist, they will check the “R” boxes and all will be well! This from the team that writes a blog post called “The Amazing Herman Cain Money Machine,” and followed up less than two years later with one called “Ben Carson for President.”

CarsonMailer

Unscrupulous fundraising isn’t new. Sam Francis complained more than once about the “never-merry band of direct mail scam artists” of Conservatism, Inc. One Republican direct mail company, ForthRight Strategy (formerly Base Connect, formerly BMW Direct), is notorious for pocketing as much as half of the money it raises for GOP candidates.

This time, the scammers have discovered how to exploit the guilt so many Republicans feel about being white. And now, in a loathsome convergence, they have teamed up with the very worst of the GOP’s pundits to promote the same black, long-shot, fake conservative.

For those of you unfortunate enough to get mail from NDBCPCC, do not just throw it away. If it has a business reply envelope (BRE), put some junk mail and send it back. The Post Office charges by weight for BREs, so you’ll be keeping a few dollars out of the hands of Bruce Eberle, Vernon Robinson, and John Philip Sousa.

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Hubert Collins

Mr. Collins was born in Taulkinham, but doesn’t live there anymore.

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