Dick Armey, Jerry Falwell, and the for-profit crisis-lords of the GOP

Back in the 1970s, it seemed like the TV channels were filled with preachers who seemed more interested in opening up their viewers pocket books than their hearts.

Oral Roberts was one of the masters at that game, claiming that unless he got $8 million God would ‘call him home’. The televangelist preachers all got quite rich bilking mostly poor people out of their money, with the promise of rewards in the hereafter. The profession of priest is the oldest advance-fee fraud in the book, IMHO.

Televangelism took a dive in the 80s, as a series of sex scandals drew attention to the lavish lifestyles of the TV preachers.

Jerry Falwell was in some respects the Sheldon Adelson of his day. Entering politics, and mobilizing the money and resources for the Republican party, made it harder for law enforcement to investigate his activities. Falwell launched the Moral Majority after the SEC investigated a $6.5 million bond fraud (though Falwell was later exonerated, the court did find “technical violations” of law). Adelson’s decision to dump $150 million into the GOP followed federal investigations into his Chinese casino operations.

Falwell’s Moral Majority didn’t just bring party workers and supporters into the GOP tent, it applied the same money extraction techniques Falwell had learned in the pastor business to politics. GOP operatives watched and learned as direct mail pitches with inflammatory headlines brought in rivers of cash that would be re-invested in more direct mail. All of which would be funneled through the companies owned by the operatives, and pay them a hefty commission on every contribution.


Former Gingrich Lieutenant, Dick Armey.

The $8 million payout that Dick Armey will receive for quitting FreedomWorks merely represents his share of the loot.

Political fundraising is a much better way to make money than religion. They can tap a mark’s pockets regardless of which religion they believe in. And political fund raisers are not expected to live in poverty either.

Opinion polls have been showing that social issues like same sex marriage and abortion don’t deliver the same electoral advantage to Republicans that they used to. The GOP opposition has even been counter-productive (all the rape stories certainly didn’t help the GOP this past election). The social issues are becoming a losing proposition for the GOP but the operatives will keep pressing those hot buttons as often as they can because thats what keeps that river of cash flowing into their wallets.

It isn’t just the Conservative entertainment complex that is driving the GOP to ever more ridiculous and preposterous positions, the Conservative scam-PACs are demanding the same. They don’t want an agreement on extending the tax cuts or raising the debt ceiling because it really isn’t about policy at all. To get eyeballs glued to the screen, and to liberate cash from wallets, Fox News and the GOP PACs need a continuous state of political crisis.

The logical maneuver for the GOP right now would be to accept that the Bush tax cuts for the 1% will expire and for the House to pass the Senate bill that extends the cuts for the middle class. They could then settle in for another round of debt ceiling brinksmanship instead. But why waste a fund raising opportunity? Going over the fiscal cliff and grandstanding the debt ceiling will be twice as profitable.

Which is, I believe, the reason that Obama is not going to be letting the GOP off the debt ceiling hook by minting trillion dollar platinum coins or by taking any other constitutional dodge. Better to let the GOP run the train right off the track and destroy their chances of keeping the House in 2014. In a time of crisis, the country will almost always rally round the Presidency. The country rallied round Clinton when Gingrich tried the same tactics, and they will rally round Obama now.

GOP politicians must know that they are going to lose this game, but if you can lose and get an $8m payout, then is it really losing at all?

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