In the last debate, current leader for the Republican presidential nomination, Ben Carson, was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company. Mannatech has been making outlandish claims about its products, including that they cure cancer and autism (even Down Syndrome, which is actually caused by having an extra chromosome). Mannatech paid $7 million to settle a lawsuit over their deceptive practices.
Carson’s response was to attack the question, calling it “total propaganda” and saying “I didn’t have an involvement with them.” But the facts show he had a lengthy (and profitable) relationship with them. In other words, Carson lied.
In the same debate, Donald Trump was asked about a statement of his, saying that Marco Rubio is (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator. Trump responded “I never said that. I never said that.”
Unfortunately for Trump, during the debate PolitiFact looked on Trump’s own website, which says “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.” (As I write this, it is still there.)
Paul Krugman points out that GOP political candidates seem to be going on the offensive about their lies, and seem to be getting away with it. When Carson was asked about his questionable associations, the Republican audience booed. When Trump was asked about his statement, the questioner apologized. As Krugman puts it:
But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset.
And this doesn’t just go for outsider candidates like Mr. Carson and Donald Trump. Insider politicians like Marco Rubio are simply engaged in a different, classier kind of scam — and they are empowered in part by the way the grifters have defined respectability down.
Rubio claims that his proposed massive tax cuts will pay for themselves. I can’t believe anyone still believes that scam. But he’s squarely positioned as the most sensible GOP candidate. Ted Cruz claims that we should return to the gold standard, and his vocal backer Glenn Beck makes money promoting Goldline, a company that sells gold coins at highly inflated prices. Or Ron Paul (a former candidate and father of a current one), who spent decades warning about runaway inflation that never appeared, but he cashed in anyway selling books and videos telling you how to protect yourself from the coming financial disaster.
Probably the best examples of milking suckers are the Tea Party groups, the best of which (the Tea Party Leadership Fund) only spent 13% of the money they raised supporting political candidates, with the rest going to administrative costs and consultants’ fees (note that charities are expected to spend at least 75% on their mission). Sarah Palin’s “Sarah PAC” was a dismal 5%, and they weren’t even the worst. The worst was the Tea Party Express, with 4% going to candidates. More than half of that paltry amount went to a single candidate, who dropped out of the race. I wonder if that’s what their donors intended when they gave all that money to fight business-as-usual in Washington.
Unfortunately, the Age of Teflon, started by Ronald Reagan, now applies to all Republican politicians. The poor schmucks taken in by these swindlers won’t believe any news reports about how gullible they have been. As Krugman puts it:
You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.
Ironically, even blaming everything on the “liberal mainstream media” is a scam. Fox News has been the most popular news network for over a decade, beating MSNBC and CNN combined in total viewers.