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.

Dick_Armey,_official_105th_Congress_photo

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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  • benb

    I’m delighted that Dick Armey is leaving the Senate. I only hope that he is as effective at Heritage as he has been in the GOP—which is—to make it less effective. My hunch is that he won’t be at Heritage long enough to do the damage it deserves.

  • haksd

    I’m a pantheist so I do need to pay money for my god as my god is everything

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I consider most of them to be the religious equivalent of Amway: A multi-level marketing scheme designed to extract money at every level, with only those at the top ever achieving tangible rewards, and everybody else with houses crammed full of crap that nobody really wants.

  • MyrddinWilt

    As I said: “The profession of priest is the oldest advance-fee fraud in the book”

    Go back to pagan times and everyone is agreed that it was mostly a racket.

    Whether God exists or not I am sure that he has no need of popey-kins or Falwell or Roberts or the rest.

  • confusion

    It’s a moral responsibility to seperate a sucker from their money :-)

  • Naja pallida

    His jumping a sinking ship is pretty clear proof he didn’t care about rebuilding the brand, the money was all that mattered.

  • jomicur

    You nailed it. Becoming a preacher, televised or not, is a gateway to $$$$$. I know there are poor (or relatively poor) ministers, but they must be really dumb. How on earth can you manage to LOSE money by selling a nonexistent product?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    You’re right. No one in the media connected the dots about the Caymon Islands bank where Tag Romney laundered Mitt Romney’s investments in convicted Texan billionaire A. Stanford’s Ponzi Scheme

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    And most other organized religions, when you think about it.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It doesn’t get more scum oily than Dick Armey, Newtie, Perkins, Abramoff, Norquist, or a Cheney by any name.

  • Stev84

    >”preachers all got quite rich bilking mostly poor people out of their money, with the promise of rewards in the hereafter”

    That sounds like the entire 2000 year history of Christianity in one sentence

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Doubtful. The far-right ‘Baggersphere has internalized the idea that those who acquire massive sums of money like Armey and the rest are entitled to it. Consider how Romney’s hundreds of millions in offshore accounts and magically-inflating IRAs weren’t liabilities at all for his campaign — on the far right — but positive boons.
    They all but worship the wealthy and the privilege enjoyed by the plutocratic parasite class.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I wonder if Armey’s massive payout will finally convince the Tea Partiers that their patron saint wasn’t really behind their cause, he was just a GOP insider and huckster who saw an opportunity to a) rebuild the GOP brand by harnessing the discontent of the far-right-wingers who were peeling off and b) make a boatload of money at the same time?

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