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The scams in political fodder

November 27, 2012

Anyone who has given money to any cause knows how that gets your name and address on affiliated mailing lists. Give to your school, and soon you’re being asked to help children at risk. Give to Nature Conservancy, and the envelope next week solicits your help with tropical disease. Give to one religious cause, and others in the same vein are soon mailing for your help. The affiliations usually are not hard to trace. So why are those who signal their political conservatism soon hit by advertising for all sorts of scams? I remember my father used to keep every ad mailed him — often formatted as newsletters. His kitchen chairs would be piled two feet high telling him how to get rich buying penny stocks, how to cure arthritis or heart disease with a secret the pharmaceutical industry keeps under wraps, how to survive the political apocalypse that would hit next year, or how to preserve his wealth through the greatest depression the world has ever seen, also due in a year. His wife risked an argument if she dare to relocate the oldest pile — the post stamps going back decades — to make room for incoming mail. Or a guest. Why was the flim-flam printed on the same sheets as rock-ribbed conservative commentary and messages from Republican senators? Rick Perlstein speculates, and tells some of the history connecting the mail industry and conservatism. I don’t think he gets to the Moonies, but he does discuss Viguerie.


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