Today’s question: What’s wrong with the College Republicans?
Two of the tiki-torch marchers ID’d by the general public are College Republicans, and anytime I hear about that group, I’m reminded of a Fort Wayne story from 2002. I finally tracked down a copy of it, and since I can’t link, I’ll post larger-than-normal chunks of it here:
A Fort Wayne woman with dementia wrote nearly $50,000 in checks within six months, mostly to political organizations. She doesn’t recall making the donations, but her family wants the money back.
The more Mary donated, the more money the organizations pleaded for. They told the 82-year-old our nation is in danger of communist takeover and implied the letter writers had close ties with President Bush and other high-ranking government officials.
All the solicitations were through the mail.
…It’s a family’s worst nightmare, said niece Jan Rediger of Leo, who asked that her aunt’s full name not be published.
Last summer, her aunt told her, “The bank has stolen $30,000.”
“I knew things were going downhill when I stopped by to see her and there were stacks of mail everywhere, especially from Republican groups.
“There were hundreds of letters, most of them addressing her by her first name. She thought they were letters to her personally. She didn’t realize they were form letters. They all asked for money,” Rediger said.
…Last year, she began getting more letters from the College Republican National Committee, which is affiliated with the Republican National Committee.
Mary also received 20-30 letters a day from lesser-known GOP groups, including the National Republican Victory Campaign, Republican Strategy Headquarters, Republican Headquarters 2001 and the National Republican Leadership Committee.
All her checks were deposited and cashed, including several Mary made out to individuals listed as directors of the organizations.
One of the letters said:
“I need you to send your $200 contribtuion immediately. If I don’t hear back from you, I will be forced to shut down several critical Republican programs.” The undated letter was signed Scott Stewart, chairman of College Republican National Committee.
In another letter:
“I feel that we have gotten to know each other well enough that I may write to you using your Christian name …It always brings a smile to my face when I open a letter from Fort Wayne, Indiana because I know that it is from you. Mary, I am writing to you and sharing all of this with you because I have nowhere to turn. I am writing to you to ask you if you will make a major commitment to Republican Strategy Headquarters now to help President Bush in the amount of $25,000…
“This is the true amount that I need within the next three weeks if I am to help the president’s proposals pass through the Senate …I beseech you, send $25,000 now. Or if you cannot send it all at once, perhaps $5,000 now and the rest in a little while.” The letter, dated June 15, 2001, is signed: “Your sincere friend, David Harris, director of Republican Strategy Headquarters, PO Box 4442 Salisbury, MD 21803.
Although Mary did not send the requested $25,000, within a few months she did send nearly $13,000 to Republican Strategy Headquarters, which listed a different Washington, D.C., post office box on some letters.
…The College Republican National Committee “is not in any way connected” to Republican Strategy Headquarters, said committee Chairman Stewart.
But the family wonders why, in the June 15 letter, Harris writes: “You have been enormously generous toward me in the past and also to Chris, Scott and others.” Chris Tiedeman is general chairman of the National Republican Victory Campaign, a project of the College Republican National Committee.
Stewart said he had no explanation and “is going to be seriously looking into it.”
He said the national committee “does not ask for large sums of money,” adding solicitations usually are for $25 to $50.
In a March 28, 2001, letter, Stewart urges Mary to “rush me back $300 right now. …If we delay then the Rule of Law may be dead and America may turn into a Communist police state.”
There’s more, but you get the idea. A little Googling shows Stewart seemed to be cut from the usual College Republicans cloth — an early sexual harasser who rose like cream to the remunerative top layers of corporate America. And, of course, Mary wasn’t the only one. This was part of a national fundraising strategy, and most of the money went to pay vendors, not elect Republicans.
I had to chuckle over this passage in the last link:
College Republicans serve as the party’s outreach organization on college campuses. The group has been a starting place for many prominent conservatives, including Bush adviser Karl Rove, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed.
Elite company, right there. But seriously, given this history, wouldn’t you think job one would be to rebuild the brand? Rhetorical question, because of course, this is the brand – take-no-shit aggression in pursuit of party over all. Bilk a bunch of seniors? Hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few bank accounts. March with racists? A few bad apples, heavy hearts, thoughts and prayers, etc.
I want to leave you with something delightful after this grim week, I’ve found it, and it isn’t a kitty video, but this breezy history of true-confessions magazines, from their founding to today. Yes, today — they still exist!
The magazines are staple-bound and always 64 pages long—ten stories, two “Inspirational Mini-Stories, and one recipe, released once a month. The paper inside is newsprint, the photos all stock images, and the prose leans toward Kindle single. They’re not exactly the kind of magazines that anyone would describe as “venerable” at a glance, but the goofy covers belie the publications’ age and legacy. The first women’s confessional magazines, True Story and True Confessions are now approaching their centennial.
I think I’m going to have to seek one out. In the meantime, have a great weekend.