For several years, political direct-marketing firm Base Connect, Inc. has helped organize and solicit funds from mostly individual donors for political campaigns and PACs. According to several articles, though, it’s been keeping a majority of the money for itself and its affiliated companies. Its activities fall into a regulatory grey area, somewhere amid the purview of the FEC, the FTC and state consumer protection agencies.
Base Connect, originally named BMW Direct, was first examined by the Boston Globe during the 2006 campaign season, when it ostensibly raised funds for Republican candidates in staunchly democratic districts, but kept almost all of the funds. For example, Charles A. Morse ran a half-hearted campaign against Barney Frank. More than $700,000 was raised for Morse, but only $30,000 ever went directly to the campaign. Instead, a large portion of it went to BMW Direct and its affiliate companies. (The Boston Globe articles can be seen here, here and here, the TPM Muckraker follow-up posts can all be seen here, and Pro Publica’s story is here.) Recently, the firm showed up in the media again under its new name, when the Boston Phoenix discussed the money to be made by Republican-related groups as the most conservative of conservatives became marginalized in the last election cycle.
What’s not really discussed by the above articles is Base Connect’s connection to a direct marketing firm that has been questioned for similar activities as far back as the 1970s. According to Base Connect’s website, its president, Kimberly Bellissimo, worked for Bruce W. Eberle’s Eberle Direct Marketing Group (now Eberle Communications Group, Inc.) from 1988 until 2002.
HISTORY OF EBERLE
As early as 1978, the Washington Post wrote about Eberle raising $317,408 for the Fund for a Conservative Majority. In that instance, the fund gave only $22,400 to candidates. (The post archive is pay only so if you want to find the article look for “Little in ‘New Right’ War Chest Finding Its Way to Candidates; Hopefuls Get Few ‘New Right’ Dollars.”)
In 1981, the Post again wrote about an Eberle client:
The national Taxpayers Investigative Fund was created a year ago for the purpose of ferreting out waste and fraud in government. Since then, the organization has been so busy raising money from contributors around the country that it hasn’t had any time to look for waste and fraud.
(This Post article is titled, “Fund to Unearth Waste Unearths Money Instead.”)
Eberle was also questioned by the US Senate Select Committee on P.O.W/M.I.A. Affairs at the end of 1992 for his role in soliciting money for alleged POW rescue group Operation Rescue, Inc. (See the NY Times article here.) Most of the money spent went to fundraising activities. The committee had a copy of an internal memo from Eberle, where he designed a fundraising letter purporting to be written by the group’s organizer, Jack Bailey, while he was on the deck of his rescue ship in the south China seas. This boat had not left its dock in two years when the letter was sent. (The committee report excerpt about Eberle is here. A summary of the report is here, and the entire report can be downloaded here.)
In 1998, Bruce W. Eberle & Associates Inc. (now Eberle Associates, Inc.) was reportedly hired by Paula Jones to raise funds for her legal case against President Clinton. Once again, the money raised by Eberle was not actually going to the foundation that sponsored the lawsuit. According to the Washington Post,
Jones signed a contract in November with Bruce W. Eberle & Associates Inc., which guaranteed her a minimum of $ 300,000 as long as the firm could make its own profit from the fund-raising campaign, according to a copy of the document obtained yesterday. About $ 100,000 has already been sent directly to Jones, said a source familiar with the effort.
(The Post article is titled “Firm Raising Money for Jones But Funds Don’t Go to Lawyers.”)
BASE CONNECT & EBERLE MODERN DAY
Base Connect’s FEC compliance officer and accountant, Scott B. Mackenzie, has been listed as the treasurer for eight PACs, including the Americans Against Illegal Immigration PAC. This PAC (you guessed it) paid a large portion of the money it raised to companies affiliated to Eberle or at least his business address. The PAC brought in and spent $1.7 million during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles. It gave $2,792 to candidates, and the rest went to expenses. Roughly $600,000 was spent on companies related to Bruce W. Eberle: Campaign Funding Direct, Inc., Omega List Company, Eberle Communications Group, Inc., RPA Limited Partners, CP Direct, and ECG Data Center. (I did not see any incorporation paperwork for RPA Limited Partners, CP Direct or ECG Data Center, but in FEC filings, their addresses are listed as the same address for the incorporated Eberle companies.)
As a side note, the FEC conducted an audit of Americans Against Illegal Immigration for not properly disclosing the occupation and name of employer for some of its contributors. The audit report of the PAC is here.
Given the above, I think I’ll take my chances with liberal elitism over conservative elitism. It’s been argued that liberal elites think the American people are too stupid to make their own decisions. But apparently, conservative elites see their stupidity as a business opportunity.