Rachel Maddow Calls Out Frank Vandersloot


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The unflappable Rachel Maddow doubles down on her exposure of Frank Vandersloot, his conservative politics, his hostility to homosexual causes, and his litigious confrontational methods utilized in Idaho. She addresses concerns those methods may have for the nation due to Vandersloot's close ties to the Mitt Romney campaign. She also observes the close relationship between Frank Vandersloot and Senator James Risch. She further interviews Peter Zuckerman, the award winning Post Register reporter about the personal and professional consequences he suffered as a result of Vandersloot outing him. Vandersloot declined Maddow's open invitation to speak about this on the record.*

This comes on the heels of this report from Mother Jones on Romney's fundraising ties to multi-level marketing (MLM) organizations like Vandersloot owned Melaleuca largely based in Utah and Idaho. For those who aren't familiar with MLM:

Utahns have a joke about multilevel-marketing companies: MLM really stands for "Mormons Losing Money." The notion of selling to one's friends and neighbors is so intertwined with the culture that the final season of HBO's Big Love featured an MLM subplot. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah has the highest concentration of such companies in the country.

There's a reason why MLMs, many of which peddle natural health products like Nu Skin's dietary supplements, have thrived there. Mormon scripture encourages the use of herbs as God's medicine, and the faith has a strong tradition of turning to alternative medicine. Its founder, Joseph Smith, reportedly shunned traditional doctors, believing a physician had killed his brother. The tight-knit Latter-day Saints community, and the trusting nature of its adherents, have made Utah a lucrative terrain for multilevel marketers. Mormons, who typically spend two years serving as missionaries, are also natural recruits for companies that need salespeople with a high tolerance for rejection. And finally, MLM firms often pitch themselves to women as a way to stay home with their kids while still earning substantial incomes.

Yet for all the empowerment rhetoric, companies like Melaleuca and Nu Skin appear to subsist in large part on the hopes and fears of Americans losing their grip on financial security. Industry watchdog Robert L. FitzPatrick says Nu Skin's business model "sets the average person upon his neighbor to get at his assets, savings, and investments." Their structure—vast numbers of foot soldiers feeding a tiny layer of top earners—may not offend Romney, who has dismissed questions about income inequality as a matter of "envy." But a close association with companies that seem to prey on consumers might not play well for a candidate who has battled allegations that the private equity firm he cofounded, Bain Capital, engaged in vulture capitalism. (Romney's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)

Read it all, it's enlightening. Methinks this issue will not go away in the lead up to the national election.


UPDATE 5/5 6:00 p.m.:

Jody May-Chang makes some pretty potent observations, demonstrates why the issue isn't fully evaluated and is NOT going away.

VanderSloot’s criticism about Maddow’s coverage was about the outing of Peter Zuckerman. “Ultimately, the specific thing they wanted to criticize about our coverage is they say when they published the ad about that young reporter at that Idaho newspaper and on at length about him being gay, they say it was not outing him as we described it,” said Maddow.

The funny thing about that ad, shortly after Maddow’s Feb 21 segment aired, the ad that outed Zuckerman mysteriously disappeared from VanderSloot’s Melaleuca Post-Register ad archive located on communitypagenews.com. Here is the before and the after index. Pay particular attention to the date range between 5/1/2005 – 6/12/2005 when comparing indices.

If VanderSloot is so confident that his ad did not out Zuckerman why scrub it from his website?

Nice work, Jody! Keep biting into that ankle. Like all political egos, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. And that ego seems to have plenty to hide.


*UPDATE 5/5 7:30 p.m.: Frank Vandersloot did provide two statements to Rachel Maddow regarding the topic, one of which she read on air.

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Those underlined links

are ads that somehow must have jumped over with the embed code. I'm trying to figure out how to get rid of them.

If you figure it out

let me know. I posted a video from her this week & got the same ads.

I should clarify

My investigation consists mostly of a plea for help to Master Serephin.

Master Serephin

Me needs him for my own blog. We should share. ;)


If you delete from the end of the embed code back to the </object> tag (leave that), the links should go away without messing up the video.

Dunno if this'll hurt Romney much.

But it *is* kind of fun to see Vandersloot get some heat.

Also, I've seen some pretty good MLM programs and some really, really bad ones. The bad ones are usually just poorly-disguised pyramid schemes.

As the firing of his gay

As the firing of his gay spokesman revealed, it's a sensitive subject. Romney has alienated too many demographics, Hispanics, women, and teh gay and its affecting the nail biters in swing states. Romney and the Mormon Church seem to be running away from the Prop H8 rhetoric. They are squirming. They'd rather talk about anything but this. I don't think Bryan Fischer is going to let them.

And Frank has his own squirm factor going on. He's been trying to distance himself from all this, and he's particularly sensitive about being labeled "anti-gay". But his litigious nature wasn't honed in politics. His lawyers tend to be Melaleuca lawyers. I think he's scared that if his reputation becomes widespread it will adversely affect his bottom line. MLMs can be a house of cards.

Anything that knocks

Anything that knocks Vandersloot down a few pegs is a good thing IMO - consolidation of individual political power as he's done it always comes at the expense of democracy for everyone else. I'd be happy to watch him squirm for a couple months (of course, I imagine Romney would toss him overboard long before that if criticism gains much traction).

You've definitely got a handle on the players in Idaho politics. Far better than I. So why the hell would the LDS church be beholden to Bryan Fischer? Didn't the guy make the "Mormon Hate-Speak List 2011" by stating that Mormons aren't Christian and the Founding Fathers didn't intend for their religious freedoms to be protected? I'm not understanding the dynamic at all.

Also, it's not even June yet ... a bit early to be assessing swing state behavior.

Perception over reality

As the Republican primary season has demonstrated, social conservatives don't like the Mormon, and Bryan Fischer has a loud voice among social conservatives. Romney doesn't like it, but he can't alienate Fischer. And Fischer is using that to his full potential. Fischer can lose this for Romney just by telling his peeps to stay home. Of course, that means Obama would get elected which would make their heads explode. It's the prisoner's dilemma.

Gotcha. I think you're right

Gotcha. I think you're right to an extent about social conservatives' view on Mormonism; it seems more correct to say that a segment of the Evangelical wing of the social conservatives don't like the Mormon (well, and Catholics probably).

But I really think that the Democrats have been projecting a bit of wishful thinking (or maybe confirmation bias) on the GOP primary. Uptake on "The Mormon Question" has been overwhelmingly through the Democratic echo chamber. I didn't see much theological-difference based stuff in statements from state-level religious coalitions as the vote rolled through and endorsements were flying - despite some attempts to stir it up.

The dynamic in the GOP seems based on anti-establishment sentiments, not religious bias. Romney is the obvious establishment candidate. I think the way they played the "not Romneys" served a couple purposes: (1) keep Obama from launching a campaign against Romney for as long as possible and (2) fracture the protest vote so Romney didn't have to run against angry conservatives united behind the populist platform of Ron Paul - who was the only candidate besides Romney to come into the race with a plausible nationwide campaign infrastructure and funding base. It also had the impact of months-and-months of mildly-interested America being told that Romney is too "moderate" and "not conservative" enough. (Note: He really can't both have a serious problem with the Tea Party and also be the far-right radical wackjob many Democrats seem determined to run against ... that paradox is a serious flaw in the Obama campaign narrative that may end up being fatal).

Romney's people messed up on that second part though. Usually, in not-made-for-tv elections, the candidates who win a state yet ultimately lose the nomination actually have some kind of established connection and rapport with the people who voted for them ... the whole grassroots infrastructure thing. Tradition has it that when a candidate drops out and pledges their delegates, this means that their state infrastructure is going to come to the convention and show support. Weeelllll ... what happens when a state-winning candidate doesn't actually *have* any kind of relationship with even a single state delegate? What happens when the people really only voted for the state-level winner because they were mad and he seemed the most made-for-tv-perfect to manifest their protest? And then happens when the nomination-winning candidate doesn't fill the void and shepard their (former) rival through the state processes to shore up the weakness? Every single one of the protest delegates ends up with Ron Paul ... that's what happens. If anything *this* is the dynamic that best plays into Obama's hand. How the GOP resolves the conflict is key to base enthusiasm when crunch time comes.

I think James Carville is spot-on (Did I just say that?). The Republicans won't be staying home because Romney's a Mormon ... hell, he's running against a radical Chicago hate-church Muslim from Kenya after all.

(Random superficially related political note: Now that I see what they had planned, I guess Biden really did screw up the timing on "Obama's gay marriage evolution/WaPo Romney was mean to gays as a teenager" coordinated roll-out, eh? Shaping up to be a race of inelegant (and policy-free) slapstick ... Three Stooges vs. Laurel and Hardy. Hard not to wish they'd both lose.)