Take the Money and Run

The Boston Globe had a great article yesterday about an outfit called BMW Direct Inc. whose business seems to be finding nonsense Republican candidates in hopeless races, raising tons of money for their hopeless campaigns and then funneling all the money back to themselves and sundry contractors and cronies. In 2006, they raised more than $700,000 for Charles Morse’s run against Barney Frank in which Morse managed to get only 145 votes in the Republican primary. 96% of that money went back into BMW Direct’s coffers and sundry affiliated contractors.

The Globe piece focused on the 2006 races. But today we looked at what BMW Direct is up to in 2008. Pretty much the same thing, it turns out.

In 2006, Deborah Honeycutt
(R) ran against Rep. David Scott (D-GA) and lost by 38 points. This year she’s trying again. And as in 2006, what she lacks in votes she makes up for in extraordinarily successful fundraising. During the first quarter of 2008, Deborah Honeycutt managed to raise $500,000 — which would be a decent haul even for a real candidate. So far this cycle she’s raised $1.7 million and spent $1.5 million of it. And of that $16,695 has been spent in Georgia. The rest of course got gobbled up by BMW Direct.

It’s not clear to me from our reporting or the Globe’s whether these candidacies actually exist in any real sense (as in the person actually independently came up with the idea of running for office, however hopeless the odds) or whether BMW creates them. (If you’re interested, you can check out Honeycutt’s Wikipedia bio, which I have a sneaking suspicion may also tie back in some way to BMW Direct: “Deborah Travis Honeycutt, previously a political unknown, exploded on the congressional campaign scene during the 2006 election cycle.” … ed.note: Alas, editors at Wikipedia have already deep-sixed this sentence since this post first went up and generally pruned it of socket-puppet-like nonsense.) The company’s client list does include a handful of actual officeholders — like Van Hilleary Robin Hayes, David Vitter and Jim Ryun. But most seem more of the Honeycutt variety. In any case, whichever comes first, candidate or BMW, BMW’s approach seems to be to find these ersatz candidacies and then harvest the money of right-wing dupes around the country which can then be siphoned back to BMW, its contractors and affiliated companies.

On one level, I guess this is the kind of muck that Democrats should like since in addition to all the other fundraising challenges Republicans have this year they also have to contend with money siphoned off by BMW Direct that otherwise might have gone to buoying up actual Republican candidates. But it really is distressing that outfits like this are allowed to bamboozle people out of their money and face no consequences at all.

Late Update: TPM Readers NA and CS both note, very cleverly and aptly, that this is pretty much the plot line from The Producers.

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