The Washington Post today reports on an insurance scam involving a right wing business called FreedomWorks (formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy). The company apparently sells insurance to unsuspecting people and secretly enrolls them as members in a conservative coven to bolster its numbers and dues. Not surprisingly, the "director of strategy" for the group is a former John Locke Foundation columnist named Kent Lassman.
In 2001, Jennifer B. Chace heard an insurance broker's pitch for a new insurance company marketing tax-free medical savings accounts. She jumped at the offer, but first, the broker told her, she would have to sign an application -- already filled out -- that would entitle her to a low group rate. With that signature, Chace, a Florida dentist in the market for health insurance, unwittingly joined one of Washington's most prominent conservative organizations, Citizens for a Sound Economy, she would later testify.
"Before I showed you this form today, did you even realize that you signed a form that was an application for membership in Citizens for a Sound Economy?" her lawyer would ask during a 2004 deposition.
"I don't know what Citizens for a Sound Economy is," she replied.
Chace's experience has brought to light an obscure arrangement between a prominent Republican businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, and a free-market interest group that has netted the grass-roots organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of new members. Citizens for a Sound Economy -- now called FreedomWorks and headed by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) -- has netted more than $638,000 and about 16,000 members through the sale of insurance policies.
Officials from FreedomWorks say the insurance sales are just another way for grass-roots groups to garner members and are no different from the activities of such giants as AARP, the senior citizens lobby.
"This is one of several avenues through which nonprofits do their job," said Kent Lassman, vice president for strategy at FreedomWorks.
Critics see the effort as a way for political groups to inflate their membership rosters -- and their bottom lines -- by taking dues from people with no interest in the groups' politics.
The quote from Lassman is priceless. Just another way nonprofits do their jobs. Enrolling insurance customers without their knowledge in a free-market wacko group, then selling their names for extra income. According to Puppet chatter in the LockerRoom, however, Mr. Lassman hasn't been contributing to the John Locke Foundation in awhile. Which might explain why he has no current articles in his archive at the Carolina Journal. Either that or they scrubbed his file out of sheer embarrassment.
I wonder how many right wing organizations have members who don't even know they're members? I wonder if John Hood would let me become a contributing columnist to the John Locke Foundation if I built a reputation for scamming innocent people?
Don't you just love how the free market works!