The views expressed in any article published in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Joseph Foster or Bob Lupoli.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mitt Romney's Donor: VanderSloot Billionaire Bully?

Joe: I wonder how slanted and true the article at Salon.com by Greenwald is below. Vandersloot is Romney’s billionaire donor and unsurprisingly he uses his money for “right –wing” political causes and he uses the legal system legally. I’m not familiar with Melaeuca and I am no fan of companies like Herbalife, Amway, or Avon, but that doesn't make them illegal. Greenwald uses the term of “virulent anti-gay activism” actually a majority of California’s agreed Prop 8 was a good idea and if he funded this proposition, according to his belief I don’t get the term “virulent”, anti-gay – yes, of course one could reasonably say so. On the other hand maybe the voters went for the prop because of positive confirmation of marriage between a man and a woman. Greenwald states VanderSloot’s wealth and donations to political candidates and causes are, “clearly making him a public figure and fair game for scrutiny” I fully agree with this. The billionaire sounds like a bully and a real big fish in the small pond of Idaho.  -Bob

FRIDAY, FEB 17, 2012 6:02 AM PACIFIC STANDARD TIME
Frank VanderSloot is an Idaho billionaire and the CEO of  Melaleuca, Inc., a controversial billion-dollar-a-year company which peddles dietary supplements and cleaning products; back in 2004, Forbes, echoing complaints to government agencies, described the company as “a pyramid selling organization, built along the lines of Herbalife and Amway.” VanderSloot has long used his wealth to advance numerous right-wing political causes. Currently, he is the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, and his company has become one of the largest donors ($1 million) to the ostensibly “independent” pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future. Melaleuca’s get-rich pitches have in the past caused Michigan regulators to take action, resulting in the company’s entering into a voluntary agreement to “not engage in the marketing and promotion of an illegal pyramid”‘; it entered into a separate voluntary agreement with the Idaho attorney general’s office, which found that “certain independent marketing executives of Melaleuca” had violated Idaho law; and the Food and Drug Administration previously accused Melaleuca of deceiving consumers about some of its supplements.

But it is VanderSloot’s chronic bullying threats to bring patently frivolous lawsuits against his political critics — magazines, journalists, and bloggers — that makes him particularly pernicious and worthy of more attention. In the last month alone, VanderSloot, using threats of expensive defamation actions, has successfully forced Forbes, Mother Jones and at least one local gay blogger in Idaho to remove articles that critically focused on his political and business practices (Mother Jones subsequently re-posted the article with revisions a week after first removing it). He has been using this abusive tactic in Idaho for years: suppressing legitimate political speech by threatening or even commencing lawsuits against even the most obscure critics (he has even sued local bloggers for “copyright infringement” after they published a threatening letter sent by his lawyers). This tactic almost always succeeds in silencing its targets, because even journalists and their employers who have done nothing wrong are afraid of the potentially ruinous costs they will incur when sued by a litigious billionaire.

Numerous journalists and bloggers in Idaho — who want to write critically about VanderSloot’s vast funding of right-wing political causes — are petrified even to mention his name for fear of these threats. As his work on the Romney campaign brings him national notoriety, he is now aiming these tactics beyond Idaho. To allow this scheme to continue — whereby billionaires can use their bottomless wealth to intimidate ordinary citizens and media outlets out of writing about them — is to permit the wealthiest in America to thuggishly shield themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny.
* * * * *
VanderSloot is a devout Mormon and has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) since 1965. Over the last decade, he has continuously inserted himself into the political realm in all sorts of inflammatory and influential ways, clearly making him a public figure and fair game for scrutiny.

He has a history of virulent anti-gay activism, including the spearheading of a despicable billboard campaign condemning Idaho Public Television for a documentary, entitled It’s Elementary, that was designed to provide “a window into what really happens when teachers address lesbian and gay issues with their students in age-appropriate ways” (the image on the left shows one of VanderSloot’s “homosexual lifestyle” billboards after it was defaced with the word “YES!”). VanderSloot denounced the documentary as a threat to children: “if this isn’t stopped, a lot of little kids will watch this program and create questions they’ve never had . . . little lives are going to be damaged permanently,” he said. In 2008, VanderSloot’s wife, Belinda, donated $100,000 to California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 campaign.

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