Friday, February 25, 2011


P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum is credited with coining the phrase, "THERE'S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE". 

Phineas Taylor Barnum was an 'original'.  A one of a kind huckster. People loved giving him their money and he loved taking it. And Barnum did it legally. He was an entertainer. The creator of THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH! 

P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) has been gone for over 100 years. But his spirit lives on in the hearts of many and his salesmanship skills and qualities remain unequaled to this day. 

To many, P.T. Barnum is a GOD. A GOD  worshiped in the same way any other GOD is treated. His disciples have been very successful.

In today's world, there's probably a 'sucker born every second', but  Barnum's axiom remains a 'truth' and perhaps a 'mission statement' in certain places in the American culture. 

Barnum understood the American psyche and that he could quickly and easily take money from people with his "SNAKE OIL" jargon  and do it without legal threat. 

Using Barnum techniques, tent evangelists followed his lead in droves and found gold in 'devine healing' and 'saving those wretched souls of sinners' preaching 'the w-o-r-d of the Lord'. 

Of course there are hundreds of other rip-off, con-artist types in all walks of life. But Barnum, followed by some religious evangelists, and now some politicians personify this industry, the 'legal ripoff industry',  and it's ideas.  

Early Barnum-Playing Straight Man to Partner Tom Thumb
Political Action Committees (PAC's) were first created in the 1930's, during the Great Depression by Unions to forward and push their collective agendas. They found strength in their numbers. But more strength in the money they mustered.

Union members and those supportive of their causes gave their dollars to fund 'selfish', sometimes needed causes and it worked. Their causes included working conditions, salary and benefit issues.

Today it seems there are PAC's everywhere, many of which are attached to individual politicians. But many are attached to corporations and other organizations as the funding arms for particular causes or themes. 

For example, the Billionaire Koch Brothers have their corporate PAC that funds conservative causes and candidates such as Tea Party candidates (i.e. Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle) and de-regulatory propositions such as California's recent Proposition 23.

In 1974, the U.S. Congress established the Federal Election Commission (FEC) (effective 1975) as a quasi regulator and watchdog to Political Action Committees (PAC's). 

FEC regulations are relatively loose and limited considering what they do and the enormous amount of money they follow. As of 2009, this agency had about 330 full time employees overseeing 1000's of PAC's.

PAC's can be somewhat confusing because each one is structured differently. Some have big staff payrolls and overhead costs, while others don't. 

Although FEC regulations require separation between personal finances and PACs, there are sometimes blurs and blends that may or may not be legal (under FEC  
rules) between the two. Overlaps, legitimate and otherwise abound.  Some appear to be 'money laundering' operations and some look like direct, clear and clean operations for their causes.

Charlie Rangle
For example, House member Charlie Rangle was found to be compromising his PAC with certain ethics violations contradictory to FEC regulations late last year. Right now, failed Delaware Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell is under investigation for PAC misappropriation of funds. Charges reveal that O'Donnell possibly blended PAC contributions with personal funds. 

The idea that some of these PACs may be 'new AMERICAN (legal) RIP-OFFS' in the P.T. Barnum tradition is obvious. 

Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin's SarahPAC  appears suspect on it's face, but legal at the same time. With a large paid staff that has included or includes friends and family members (Todd Palin, Bristol), SarahPAC is constantly fund raising through paid employee, Tim Crawford, Treasurer of the organization. At the end of last year, SarahPAC reported $2.1 Million in the bank.

We are on the SarahPAC  'listserve'  and receive fund raising requests at least monthly. This month, it was a "Lets give Sarah a Surprise Birthday Gift" with our donations. 

Apparently it worked well because Sarah hired herself a new Chief of Staff, Michael Glassner.   

Christine O'Donnell
Other questionable PACs include a new Christine O'Donnell organization, ChristinePAC and something called PatriotsPac coming from Sharron Angle.

John Thune
On the other side of the coin we find JohnThunePAC which looks crisp and clean and low overhead with $8 million in the bank as of the end of last year.

CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, also seems to spend it's considerable donations on what contributors expect of them.   

So, the bottom line to all this is "Contributor Beware". There are many P.T. Barnum clones among us and the political world certainly has it's share of them.


1 comment:

  1. Barnum never said that. It's a myth. Google is your friend.