Stop calling everyone grifters
By Rachel Alexander
There's been a disturbing trend on the right recently of referring to others in the movement as grifters. While it's true that grifters are increasingly hijacking the right, as I wrote about last fall, the awareness of this problem has morphed into a tendency to accuse all kinds of people of being grifters who aren't. It's developed because of a confusion going on regarding money, and from letting the mainstream media set the narrative here.
Conservative ventures are primarily funded by donors — including a lot of media. While many activists have figured out how to use advertising to get by, it doesn't fit with all types of activities. If you look closely at many of the top conservative names, you'll discover that a large percentage of them come from wealthy families, whose finances assisted them in getting where they are. Not everyone is that lucky. In order to get anywhere in politics today, it usually requires more than just brains and hard work.
Research teams, political candidates and investigators have difficulty raising money from ads. They're not set up like the media is, with its constantly updated new content every day conducive to advertising.
In order to put in a lot of time, many activists need an income from their work. They may not have a significant other to pay the bills, and they may not be able to devote hours of their time for free because of families who take up much of their time, child custody battles, health problems or other hurdles.
If we don't allow people like this to earn money for their work, we'll end up with only rich people controlling politics. Not that there's anything wrong with rich people, but poorer people shouldn't be excluded for the wrong reasons.
In order to get the message out today about a conservative cause, it takes money — there's just no way around it. Some people are accused of being narcissists as well for promoting themselves and their work, but in this era of social media, it's become practically imperative. Unless you're wealthy, so can afford to stay behind the scenes and play, you have to sell yourself to some extent. It's become a bit like sales.
Yes, it's debatable whose work and messages are effective. But just because one person believes that another person's efforts aren't effective, doesn't mean they're a grifter.
So how can you spot a grifter? Someone whose rhetoric shifts. Out of one side of their mouth, they're appealing to the conservative base by using the right catchphrases; usually references to God, patriotism, freedom, etc. At the same time, they are endorsing RINOs, supporting left-leaning legislation and attacking solid conservatives. They're great with sound bites, but their actions don't follow.
Some of them do give themselves exorbitant salaries, but a salary of $200,000 to $300,000, even at a nonprofit, isn't necessarily grifting if the activist needs to spend a lot of money, perhaps constantly traveling around the country giving speeches. Putting their names on a decent event or product also can't be considered grifting if the activist has bills to pay. It may seem unfair that they do minimal work to rake in large amounts of money based on their name recognition — but Hollywood celebrities do the same thing and few complain about them, and what the latter does is arguably more troubling since it's usually primarily to benefit their own pocketbook, not to benefit a cause.
Are there PACs which raise money in a candidate's name, then questionably spend it? Yes, that problem has been heavily exposed. When you receive an email that ostensibly appears to be from a leading conservative, sent from a group with a conservative sounding name, it's important to look up information about the group on the internet to see if it is a known grifter. One leading conservative told me the amount of money he gets from groups that use his name is miniscule.
It's become a fad for low information voters to label candidates and activist groups they don't like grifters, instead of articulating what they really object to. Much of the hostility comes down to jealousy; they're jealous of the fame and money — but the money is often not very much. One person who was wrongly accused of grifting told me that after his group received a large donation, the donor changed his mind and wanted it back after they'd started spending it. Much of the group's funds are tied up in litigation, having been sued multiple times. The left is now constantly suing famous figures and groups on the right for bogus reasons, so it's become necessary for them to constantly fundraise.
Now people are deciding that when a personality or organization isn't accomplishing enough for their tastes, they must be a grifter. But this is a very subjective analysis. Much of the work being done could be behind the scenes, and for various reasons, such as legal or privacy reasons, cannot be fully revealed.
The pro-life movement was accused for years of using incendiary language to drive dollars. Where are the apologies now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned? That wasn't done in a vacuum; all the efforts made by the movement influenced the judges. While there may be a handful of greedy people who infiltrated the pro-life movement in order to make money off of it, not save babies, the vast majority of pro-life activists are some of the most sincere people who freely volunteer their time.
Selling conservative gear isn't grifting; people enjoy purchasing fun stuff. Is some of it overpriced? Sure, but it's not necessary to buy the overpriced versions, anyone can go to eBay and find cheaper versions of almost everything.
People enjoy following conservative stars. The right needs talented and well-spoken leaders. Let them make a living doing what they do well without attacking them over it. Trying to turn politics into a meritocracy where no one is allowed to make money will leave only the wealthy in charge.
Rachel Alexander and her brother Andrew are co-Editors of Intellectual Conservative. She has been published in the American Spectator, Townhall.com, Fox News, NewsMax, Accuracy in Media, The Americano, ParcBench, Enter Stage Right and other publications.