Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is currently challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary on a right-wing platform, had an interesting job for a time in 2007: Appearing as an infomercial pitchman — for a company telling people that they can get free grant money from the federal government.
In 2007, shortly after Hayworth lost his re-election battle in 2006, Hayworth appeared in a half-hour informercial for the National Grants Conferences, a program set up by a company called Proven Methods Seminars, which advertises itself as running seminars in which people can find out how to get grant money from the federal government — which the infomercial’s on-screen text pitched as being “FREE MONEY” in quotes.
“Well I don’t want to shock anybody’s sensibilities, but I have to use a four-letter word: Real. This is real,” Hayworth said in the infomercial. “The money is out there, the opportunities are out there. And by the way, it’s not something where it’s the government’s money — it’s really your money. You surrendered it in the form of taxation. Now’s the time to take advantage of a situation where the government can invest in you. And in turn, you’ll have a chance to build a business, or make a better life for yourself — and in so doing, you’ll help improve the country.”
It should be noted that the company’s conferences and business practices have received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau, and in 2007 it was the target of a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, signed by 32 state attorneys general.
Hayworth campaign spokesman Mark Sanders claimed to TPMDC that the McCain campaign has been shopping the video around to local media, and dismissed it as an attack from a rival. Sanders also pointed out that the company’s founder, Michael Milin, has donated money over the years to John McCain’s campaigns.
Hayworth’s campaign explains to Nowicki that his involvement with the group started and ended in 2007 — a hint at just how bad this looks for a small government challenger to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He’s seen in the video adding credibility to the enterprise, framing it as a way to take power back from a rapacious federal government.
“This is something you should take advantage of,” says Hayworth. “Why leave it to the big boys on Wall Street or even the business owners on Main Street? Bring it to your street, to your home. Come to one of the National Grants Conferences.”
Side note: Matthew Lesko, whose exclamation mark-covered suits have made him the most recognizable figure in the free-money-from-the-government trade, is a libertarian who’s mocked his own practice in a Reason.tv video making fun of the stimulus.
Robert Costa at The Corner:
Mark Sanders, J. D. Hayworth’s spokesman, tells National Review Online that Hayworth “has no reason to regret” the ad he made for the National Grants Conference:
Just after his ’06 re-election bid ended in defeat, Hayworth appeared in a video for the National Grants Conference, a program promising to teach viewers how to secure government grants. Hayworth is introduced as a former member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
“It’s not free money. It’s your money. It’s money you’ve already surrendered to the government in terms of taxation, but the government has the chance — and you have the chance — to make an investment in yourself,” Hayworth says of the grants. “It’s something you should take advantage of.”
“The way this started was through his former colleague in the House, J. C. Watts. He had done an infomercial for them and said J. D. should, too. So, based on his friend’s recommendation, he did the ad,” Sanders says. “Nothing ever came of it until last week, when John McCain’s people started a whisper campaign. What the McCain team has not told is that McCain himself took a $9,400 contribution from Michael Milin, the head of theNational Grants Conference, in 2008.” Sanders adds that Hayworth “does not remember” how much he made for the ad and that he has “no opinion” on its content.
Philip Klein at American Spectator:
I understand why many Arizona Republicans would want to dump John McCain for a more conservative Senator, but I’ve never understood those who argue that J.D. Hayworth is the conservative who should replace McCain. Hayworth, after all, was a top recipent of donations linked to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and was a reliable vote for President Bush’s big government agenda.
The weakness of Hayworth’s claim to be a small government conservative was brought into sharper focus with the release of this 2007 infomercial that Hayworth recorded for the National Grants Conference, which offers seminars on how to people can get free money from government through grants.
Even more disturbingly, Hayworth invokes Ronald Reagan to justify it and argues that people deserve all of this government largesse because it’s really their money. This takes a completely collectivist view of taxes and doesn’t take into account how much any given individual actual pays to the federal government.
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
How long until the McCain campaign photoshops Hayworth’s head on Matthew Lesko’s body?
More importantly, how does Hayworth survive this?
He’ll dip a few points in the polls and almost certainly lose to McCain in August, but reports of his political death are, I suspect, greatly exaggerated. As for the fact that the self-styled tea-party candidate is caught on camera here encouraging federal handouts, I don’t see that as fatal either. Remember, according to that NYT poll of tea partiers back in April, 62 percent think the benefits of social security and Medicare outweigh the costs. They may hate government handouts in the abstract, and they may bristle at the prospect of diverting more taxpayer money to failing corporations in the form of bailouts, but when it comes to the working joe getting a little out of the system he’s been paying into his whole life, they seem reasonably serene. Exit question: On a scale from one to 10, how much damage is done here?