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AUGUST 20, 2020
Dayen on TAP
The Latest in a Long Line of Republican Con Artists
Author and historian Rick Perlstein (who’s doing a Prospect Zoom event with me about his new book Reaganland on Monday) wrote a famous story back in 2012 about “mail-order conservatism,” the tendency for the conservative movement to bilk their supporters through hysteria and lies and small-time grifting schemes. This tendency to rip off the rank and file dates back to the mail-order empire of Richard Viguerie. Con men were always critical to the conservative movement. Now, they comprise virtually the entire Republican Party.

Read the indictment of Steve Bannon and three associates, accused of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, a preposterous effort on its face to crowdsource the private construction of the border wall with Mexico. We Build the Wall took in an astounding $25 million, only enough for one mile of the 576 Trump means to erect, but about $25 million more than should be handed over for a building project to people with no engineering or logistics background.


But Bannon and his pals were experts at thievery. He took hundreds of thousands of dollars from We Build the Wall for travel and hotels, while Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage nabbed $350,000 for “home renovations, payments on a boat (named “Warfighter”), a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery (!), personal tax payments, and credit card debt,” per the indictment. The money was routed through a third-party nonprofit and a shell company, using fake invoices and vendor receipts.

The We Build the Wall website, numerous donor solicitations, and written bylaws of the organization made repeated assurances that all the money would go to border wall construction. Hilariously, when they learned of the criminal investigation, they took the “no compensation” pledge off the website.
Now check out the rogues’ gallery associated with We Build the Wall. In addition to Bannon, who served as chair, the general counsel is vote-suppressing failed political candidate Kris Kobach; here’s a video of him talking about the project from the We Build the Wall website. The advisory board includes Blackwater founder Erik Prince, anti-immigrant former congressman Tom Tancredo, Sheriff David Clarke, and former pitcher Curt Schilling. That’s literally Night 3 of the Republican National Convention next week caught up in this thing.

That’s because the Republican Party is now entirely a grift, and the party faithful just turkeys waiting to have their feathers plucked. They now worship a carnival barker in the White House, but his style of leadership through lies and theft has a noble tradition with over 50 years of service.

One delicious postscript here: The indictment was a joint operation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the investigative arm of the post office. Postal agents even brought Bannon into custody. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, etc.

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