Right-wing demagogues scam the elderly with dubious investment schemes and quack cures


Alex Seitz-Wald BLOWS THE WHISTLE on some famous, but unsavory, characters:

If the late social critic Eric Hoffer is correct in his often quoted (inaccurately, it turns out) adage that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket,” then the conservative movement is well onto the third phase of that life cycle.

Last week, preeminent conservative blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson [above] was busted hawking a pricey but dubiously valuable financial advice newsletter to his readers in an ad that turned out to be lifted from a previous ad for the same newsletter sent in the name of Ann Coulter a few years earlier…

The truth is, peddling shady products to your most loyal listeners and readers is the rule, not the exception, and Erickson was just unfortunate enough to have someone notice him, and not the dozen other talkers or news outlets it could have easily been. From miracle health cures, to get-rich-quick schemes, to overpriced precious metals and seed banks, talk radio hosts and conservative news outlets are making a killing by trading their platform and credibility for the hard-earned cash of their unsuspecting listeners.


And then there’s the email list. Renting out the list of people who sign up to subscribe to your blog or radio show is a tried and true money maker. As David Bernstein explained in the Boston Phoenix, such lists of proven conservative contributors — who skew heavily toward white, suburban retirees with disposable income — are attractive not only to other conservative groups, but to companies selling financial services, health products, and other wares.” Bernstein found data (from 2009) on the value to advertisers of individual conservative figures, which range from $85 per 1,000 recipients for an email sent under the name of Mike Huckabee or Pat Buchanan, all the way up to $125 for Newt Gingrich — whose distributor, Townhall.com, is owned by the same parent company as Erickson’s — and $135 for Rush Limbaugh.

“There’s…this vibrant marketplace that’s been built up over the past 30 years, and it can be quite lucrative,” Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer, who studies the conservative movement, told Bernstein.

And what does one sell once they’ve shelled out the money to tap into the network of Newt Gingrich’s or Erick Erickson’s most loyal fans? Rick Perlstein found out when he signed up for the email lists of “several influential magazines” and wrote about it for The Baffler. There was the “hidden money mountain” that could make you “an extra $6,000 every single month” — “All you have to know is the insider’s code (which I’ll tell you).” And the “23-Cent Heart Miracle,” a miracle heart drug that “Washington, the medical industry, and drug companies REFUSE to tell you about.” There was even one asking for a $10,000 investment in a company started by “an Israeli entrepreneur, Zami Aberman, [who] has discovered ‘an oilfield in the placenta.’”