Monday, July 24, 2006

Do the (Non-Profit) Hustle!

So I'm over at Dan Riehl's site, in which he attempts the impossible task of taking Glenn "Lambchop" Greenwald seriously. And I read this about Greenwald:
He's propped himself up to be something he isn't and it led to Working Assets, in effect, paying him to write a book. Yet, as a first time author, he had 4 or 5 researchers, including a lawyer, an editor, and some others. He has also thanked Jennifer Nix for contributing to his book and spent another 20 hours with his formal editor before typing a word.
Having arrived late at this particular fisking (misplaced my VRWC secret decoder ring last week), I was forced to ask myself, "What the heck is Working Assets?" So I found out:
Working Assets was established in 1985 to help busy people make a difference in the world through everyday activities like talking on the phone. Every time a customer uses one of Working Assets' donation-linked services (Long Distance, Wireless and Credit Card), the company donates a portion of the charges to nonprofit groups working to build a world that is more just, humane, and environmentally sustainable. To date, over $50 million has been raised for progressive causes.
Yuck. A non-profit that hustles gullible liberals on behalf of the professional activists who run such festering sores on the body politic as Friends of the Earth, the Brady Center, Planned Parenthood, Veterans for Peace, and (I'm not making this up) Parents for Public Schools.

Non-profit scams

Let me explain something about non-profit organizations: Just because they're "non-profit" doesn't mean that the career "activists" who run them don't get paid. And in nearly every instance, I'll guess, the CEOs of these outfits are collecting six-figure salaries that far exceed the average income of the earnest donors who -- thinking they are advancing "progressive causes" -- donate to the non-profits via Working Assets.

Such "charity" thus involves convincing middle-class donors to give money that pays the salaries of professional activists who are in the top 2% of all U.S. income earners. It's Robin Hood in reverse.

C'mon: What's the salary of the CEO of the Brady Center? Or what are the salaries of the 5 highest-paid employees of Planned Parenthood? Do you think that even 1% of Working Assets donors have ever asked such a question? Of course not.

And here's another question the clueless liberal donor never asks: What's in it for me? In other words, by giving to some "progressive" non-profit, am I actually accomplishing anything toward the triumph of progressivism? Will this help elect Democrats?

We know that Working Assets has turned Glenn Greenwald into a bestselling author who's honeymooning in romantic Rio with a beau who may (or may not) be his partner in sock puppetry. What we don't know is exactly how the heck Greenwald's good fortune is going to help beat Karl Rove and the GOP on Nov. 7. But if I were a believer in "progressive causes," I think I'd want to know the answer to questions like that.

The 'activism' scam

This is a major reason, I would say, why conservatives routinely mop the floor with liberals. With their Calvinistic understanding of Original Sin and a fallen universe, conservatives are much more skeptical of "causes" and the activists who claim to advance them. Trust me, there are right-wing ripoff artists just like there are left-wing ripoff artists, but ripping off liberals is infinitely easier because liberals are just so dang gullible.

A true believer and his money are soon parted, as George Soros and other wealthy liberals may eventually discover. If I were Soros (or any other major liberal donor), I'd spend part of my wealth on some private detectives to ask such questions as:
  • These professional activists, who derive their incomes from my politically-motivated "philanthropy" -- where do they live? What is the assessed value of their homes? Have any of them recently purchased vacation homes?
  • How much time do these aforesaid activists spend working on what I am supposedly paying them to do?
  • How much expense-paid travel are the activists billing to the "cause," and what are the destinations of their travels?
  • If the non-profits are hiring outside consultants and contractors, can we ascertain that these are legitimate firms doing useful work directly related to the purpose of the organization?
Every since I took a freelance assignment in 2004 to write about MoveOn.org, I've developed a nagging suspicion that vast amounts of liberal largesse are being soaked up by "activist" types who aren't exactly providing an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Soros and his rich friends spent jillions via 527s to defeat Bush in 2004, yet Bush got a higher percentage of the popular vote than any presidential candidate in 16 years. How does that make sense?

I don't have the time or inclination to go chasing this particular hunch. Honestly, if professional activists are partying away millions of dollars in liberal donations with expense-paid trips to exotic resorts, that's a hidden advantage to conservatism that I wouldn't want to see exposed. So if any such scam is afoot, the liberals will have to expose it themselves.

But just in case any liberal happens to have clicked over to this site and read this far, let me point out a bit of recent history: A key aspect of Jack Abramoff's scam involved a non-profit "think tank" whose headquarters was a mansion in Rehoboth Beach, Del., staffed by a yoga instructor and a lifeguard.

If Republicans do that kind of stuff, just imagine what insane tricks the party of Al "Beach Boy" Mollohan and William "Cold Cash" Jefferson might be up to!

-- McCAIN