Florida tax fugitive Mike Huckabee is at it again. He's the pitchman on a TV ad for a putative campaign to repeal health care reform. How much is he being paid to appear in the ads? That's a question yet to be answered. But Think Progress has done research into the group and finds it is funneling a great deal of money to the 949 Media Group, a company run by one Derek Oberholtzer. Who is he?
In addition to 949 Media Group, he started a number of companies, including “Apply 2 Save” (A2S) and Giant Media Works. Consumer report websites are rife with complaints about Oberholtzer’s odious business practices. In one scheme, Oberholtzer paid for radio and other advertisements telling distressed homeowners to contact his company A2S to pay a flat $595 fee to receive assistance in renegotiating their loans or to block a bank foreclosure. The Federal Trade Commission has prosecuted Oberholtzer for deceptive practices. In numerous cases, Oberholtzer took the $595 payment, and never did anything to stop a foreclosure or even contact the mortgage company in question. In many instances he continued billing his customers further fees totaling nearly $1,000 without lifting a finger to actually renegotiate their mortgage or halt a foreclosure, as his “Apply 2 Save” company promised.
Think Progress suggests Oberholtzer is just one of many right-wing consultants who dream up campaigns mostly to enrich themselves (and perhaps share some wealth with others known to raise money for themselves and family memvbers through ostensible political activities).
For example, one of the well-paid leaders of the Tea Party Patriots made a career before the Tea Party movement concocting pyramid schemes with herbal nutrient products and the Tea Party Express is run by an infamous Republican consulting firm known for starting front groups to funnel donations back to themselves. Similarly, people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich seem to be willing to say or do anything to earn a quick buck. However, Huckabee’s central role in legitimizing fraudsters like Oberholtzer might be a new low, even for the radical right.
UPDATE: A spokesman for the ad hoc group using Huckabee as a pitchman has distributed an e-mail saying it has disassociated itself from the mortgage foreclosure scam artist uncovered by Think Progress. The email follows:
A growing campaign to repeal the healthcare act today announced that it had terminated a contract with one of its web consultants after reports of the consultant’s involvement in problematic projects in the past.
Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America's Voice said, "We have terminated the services of 949 Media after we saw a web report last night detailing prior complaints involving its participation in certain mortgage relief marketing activities." Hoagland said that 949 Media was a subcontracting vendor "responsible for web consulting but was never tasked with any management or leadership role" within the growing national campaign, as originally reported.
"We were unaware of the seriousness of the past issues with this vendor and we have taken immediate action to terminate the relationship. No public official working with us to repeal the healthcare act had any knowledge of nor relationship with any vendor or subcontractor," said Hoagland.
Hoagland said that the campaign was working with "many technology and web companies and would continue to build the largest single petition drive in the history of the nation in an effort to repeal the Health Care reform act through grassroots action."
Contact: Ken Hoagland (713) 927-3699