Monday, September 10, 2018

From Dawn Wells, of Gilligan's Island fame, to oily Missouri politician Jason Kander, crowdfunding has proven to be useful for good and evil purposes

Dawn Wells
Crowdfunding Web sites have produced some of the most heart-warming stories of the past eight years or so. They also have produced some of the most outraging stories. We have seen examples of both kinds of stories in recent days -- and they remind us of at least one instance where political opportunists used a crowdfunding site in an abusive and dishonest fashion.

At its essence, Legal Schnauzer is a site about the human tendency to lie, cheat, and steal -- especially in matters of law and politics. So, these stories about the good and evil crowdfunding sites can generate catch our attention. We obviously are not alone in our focus on human deceit; is it any wonder that a prominent political blog is called Crooks and Liars?

On the heart-warming side is a story about Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann in the hit TV series Gilligan's Island. From a report at Yahoo!

As we learned from former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens, who people tried to shame after they learned he was working at Trader Joe’s, just because someone appeared in a hit TV show doesn’t mean they’re set for life. Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island (an iconic character on an iconic show), is broke after a “life-threatening surgery” and is soliciting donations to get herself back on her feet via GoFundMe.

Gilligan’s Island star Dawn Wells . . . has fallen on hard times due to unexpected health issues and is getting money from a crowdfunding campaign. “I don’t know how this happened,” she wrote on Facebook. “I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.”

In the 24 hours since news broke that Wells — who had an “unexpected accident that required hospitalization for two months” and needed “a very long time” after that “to rest and heal,” according to her makeup artist friend Dugg Kirkpatrick, who started the campaign — was in need, the fundraiser has collected over $50,000 toward the $180,000 goal. (The campaign was launched on Aug. 27.) The most recent campaign update says Wells found an apartment “in a fab retirement village” in Glendale, Calif. The actress has since spoken out about the “outpouring” — and opened up a little about what got her there.

Wells, 79, described herself as “amazed at the kindness and affection,” in a post on Facebook. “A dear dear friend of mine with a big heart was trying to help me with some common issues we all understand and some must face.” He created the fundraiser “with the love [and] emotion” of “someone protecting their child” after she told him in a recent conversation, “‘I don’t know how this happened. I thought I was taking all the proper steps to ensure my golden years. Now, here I am, no family, no husband, no kids, and no money.'”

Wells, who was married to talent agent Larry Rosen for five years in the ’60s — during her Gilligan’s Island run — ended by saying she’s “grateful that God has given me so many friends and fans who care, or it would all be too … overwhelming.” She also added that her outlook is “positive” and she looks forward to connecting with her generous fans “in my travels.”

As of Sunday (9/9), the Wells campaign had raised $180,091, passing its goal of $180,000. Even in the age of Trump, that kind of makes you feel good.

Dawn Wells, as Mary Ann, on
"Gilligan's Island"
This makes you feel not so good.  A New Jersey couple had raised money via GoFundMe to help a homeless veteran, but now they face charges that they kept a sizable portion of the funds for themselves. From a repor at Huffington Post:

Authorities executed a search warrant to swarm the home of the South Jersey couple a homeless man has accused of withholding close to a half-million dollars in GoFundMe cash.

As first reported by Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV, investigators were seen raiding Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico’s home in Bordentown Thursday morning. Authorities were reportedly seen removing bags of items from the residence. A black BMW was also reportedly towed.

The Burlington County Prosecutors Office has since confirmed the search was related to allegations levied against the couple by a homeless vet.

“Due to the enormous public interest in this matter, I am confirming that a search warrant was executed early this morning by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and the Florence Township Police Department at the residence of Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure in connection with a criminal investigation into the Johnny Bobbitt matter.

The move comes one day after Superior Court Judge Paula Dow ordered the couple to appear in court next week with a full accounting of the funds they collected for Bobbitt.

Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple last month. Philadelphia attorney Chris Fallon, who is representing Bobbitt, has alleged the couple spent a large portion of the donations on gambling, lavish trips, shopping sprees and a BMW.

As for the use of crowdfunding for shady political purposes, we turn to former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. A Democrat, Kander lost a 2016 U.S. Senate run against GOP incumbent Roy Blunt. But like many members of the political-grifters class, Kander isn't going quietly into the good night. He has announced a run for mayor of Kansas City, and that brings his dubious use of crowdfunding back into the picture. From an Andrew Kreig report at the Justice-Integrity Project:

Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senate nominee has orchestrated deceptive campaign finance and organizational practices, according to allegations filed anonymously before seven federal and state oversight bodies.

Jason Kander . . . and his allies allegedly devised a secret agenda behind a state referendum plan ostensibly to help children with increased tax on tobacco products, for example.

But the “Raise Your Hands 4 Kids” ballot referendum was concocted as a sweetheart deal for the tobacco companies, according to the 127-page memo, and also as an organizing tool in Republican-dominated rural Missouri for what pollsters say is surprisingly strong Senate race by Kander. Alleged manipulation of Tthe New York Times best-seller list and crowd-funding for charitable purposes are among the other allegations.

Allegations involving The New York Times best-seller list and crowdfuding involve Diana Kander, Jason's wife. Reports Kreig, citing a letter filed with government oversight agencies:

Highly summarized, since 2014, the Kanders have perpetrated at least two ostensibly criminal schemes. First, in Spring 2014, compelling evidence shows that the Kanders operated a fraudulent Internet "crowdfunding" scheme to raise and collect online public charitable donations, money which the Kanders then used in an insider scheme to help buy new-author Diana Kander's way onto The New York Times bestseller list — so future U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander would look good if his wife was (supposedly) "a New York Times Bestselling Author."

Jason and Diana Kander
 Secondly, since at least November 2014, compelling evidence suggests that Jason Kander has exercised actual and demonstrable behind-the-scenes control of a Missouri nonprofit "public benefit" (charitable) corporation, called "Raise Your Hand For Kids" ("RYH4K'J. Kander and close accomplices then directed this charitable "Kids" corporation to serve as an advocacy group to promote a ballot initiative campaign in Missouri called "Raise Your Hands For Kids" ("RYH4K").

Then, U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander and close accomplices collected, on behalf of RYH4K, more than $5 million in corporate and individual contributions — including $2 million-plus in individual public donations from Missourians who were solicited to donate money to help the "Kids."

Then, because RYH4K is in fact a "candidate controlled" ballot measure committee ("CCBMC'J, controlled by U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, this allowed U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, and accomplices, to treat RYH4K's $5 million-plus in corporate contributions and individual donations as candidate Kander's $5 million political "slush fund" to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy, and personal ambition, to win election and capture a U.S. Senate seat.

Here are details about Diana Kander's use of crowdfunding to become a "best-selling author:

Among additional allegations, the memo alleges that Diana Kander achieved her status as a “best-selling author” and paid speaker [largely] by raising funds in a deceptive manner in part via crowd-funding site Indiegogo, and then paying experts to game the best-seller system. 
Those methods have long raised concerns elsewhere, as indicated by such 2013 stories as The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike: How Are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists? They’re Buying Their Way by Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Here’s How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List, by Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici.

We are pleased to see that Dawn Wells is recovering from a rough patch in her life. As for those who would use crowdfunding for fraudulent purposes, we can think of a warm spot where perhaps they should spend eternity.

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