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Did Right-Wing Group Citizens United Target Dementia Sufferers for Fundraising?

  • One group in particular is poised for a windfall: Citizens United, a group that makes conservative documentaries.
  • Bossie’s participation in the Trump campaign will give his fundraising pitches extra credibility.
  • One mail piece, which had Bossie’s name on it, said the relative had sent Citizens United a $50 check which was lost in the mail.
  • Charity Navigator, a non-ideological organization that tracks philanthropies’ spending, gives Citizens United an unfortunate one-star rating -meaning donors should be wary about contributing to it, because it doesn’t use money efficiently.
  • Trump lambasted Ted Cruz when his campaign sent out the infamous “voter violation” mailer before the Iowa caucuses.

The group stands to make a lot of money off Trump and Clinton, no matter who wins. But its fundraising tactics appear unsavory at best and predatory at worst.

@kurteichenwald: This is easily one of the most disgusting — and probably illegal — political fundraising tactics Ive ever seen.

Bossie’s made a career out of relentlessly (and, for the most part, unsuccessfully) fighting Hillary Clinton. He worked on the Whitewater congressional investigation of her Arkansas real estate dealings back in the ’90s and resigned from a House investigative committee after admitting that tapes he released were improperly edited. A former Citizens United employee told The Daily Beast that Bossie has a storage unit full of documents he’s accumulated about Clinton over the years, including paperwork from the Whitewater investigation—an investigation that proved no wrongdoing.

Charity Navigator, a non-ideological organization that tracks philanthropies’ spending, gives Citizens United an unfortunate one-star rating—meaning donors should be wary about contributing to it, because it doesn’t use money efficiently. Part of the reason for its low score is that the group spends tons of money on fundraising. Charity Navigator calculated that for every dollar it raises, the organization spends 38 cents to raise more money. That’s because it relies heavily on expensive fundraising methods, including mailers and telemarketer calls.

Jennifer Bell, who runs the blog Drowning in Junk, knows all about this. She helped care for an elderly relative—now deceased, who we will not name out of respect for the family’s privacy—who once wrote a $100 check to Citizens United. Bell said the relative suffered from dementia, and after writing that first check, received frequent mailings and phone calls asking her to give more. Sometimes she would get five pieces of mail per week from the group. The woman was eventually hospitalized, so Bell had her mail redirected to her own address to help her manage the onslaught.

With the money it raises off people like Bell’s relative, Citizens United makes lots and lots of documentaries. The films rarely get any sort of widespread distribution or attention (ever heard of A City Upon A Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism? No? Didn’t think so). They typically focus on issues that conservative activists care about—like the glories of the Founding Fathers and Ronald Reagan—or the deeply evil nature of things like Occupy Wall Street that the liberal media will never tell you about. That includes, of course, Hillary Clinton. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision involved a documentary they made called Hillary: The Movie. It was not a positive portrait.

Citizens United screens these documentaries at CPAC, the annual conservative confab, and sells them to Tea Party types on its website. It also uses them to solicit donations, according to a former employee; give them money so they can produce more documentaries that you can buy and watch that will then inspire you to give them more money. It’s the political version of preaching to the choir.

Did Right-Wing Group Citizens United Target Dementia Sufferers for Fundraising?