Tonight Rachel Maddow picked up Glenn Greenwald’s Salon.com story that broke last Friday.
Rachel did a brilliant job of describing just how Melaleuca’s CEO, Frank VanderSloot has used his power and wealth to silence his critics, like the bloggers at 43rd State Blues, The Idaho Agenda and recently my four year-old posts on my former blog PrideDEPOT.com.
Here is the video of that segment. If it does not load, you can find it HERE.
…then there is Mitt Romney. naturally, he has a lot of billionaires. given who he is, he doesn’t need one. But Glenn Greenwald has been writing about an Idaho’s billionaire who is the financial co-chair. looks like an act of bravery for Glenn and Salon.com to publish anything about the gentleman.
Frank VanderSloot, lives in idaho, in addition to being the finance co-chair for the presidential campaign runs a company which sells all sort of household products. He has involved himself in a number of political causes in Idaho over the years, in what would seem to be a very high profile kind of way, but he has taken a very aggressive stance toward anybody reporting on his political involvements.
For example in 1999, Idaho Public Television planned to air a documentary how elementary school kids were being taught in school about issues of sexual orientation. Mr. VanderSloot led the opposition to the documentary being aired by paying for billboards to be put up railing against the documentary and warning lifestyle.
In 2005, a local newspaper called the “Post Register” ran an award-winning series about how the Boy Scouts organization tried to cover up abuse. The Salon.com revealed how a Mormon bishop knew of one scout leader’s pedophile history yet recommended him as a scout master.
Mr. VanderSloot responded to is that series in that local Idaho paper by taking out this full-page ad in the same paper, attacking the credibility of the reporter, and outing the reporter who broke the story, outing him as a, quote, homosexual.
That reporter, Peter Zuckerman, had not come out to his friends and neighbors in Idaho, yet, and according to his editor, after those full-page ads started running, strangers started ringing his bell at midnight and his partner of five years was fired from his job. His rise to prominence has led other people to report on his political activity and raise questions about whether or not his politics, particularly on gay rights issues, are shared by the candidates that he supports.
A number of reporters who have raised those questions have very quickly found themselves to be targets of Mr. VanderSloot’s lawyers. In February, a blogger with the website called “The Idaho Agenda” wrote a piece titled, “Romney Receives Big Money from Idaho’s Not-So-Gay-Friendly Melaleuca Company.”
After publishing that piece, that blogger accused an accusatory letter and then he received a follow-up e-mail demanding compliance. When the blogger e-mailed back to say he was working on a response, the lawyer responded, we really need to address this issue today or else we will have to consider escalating this issue to a much more serious level.
Similarly, back in 2007, an independent journalist in Idaho authored a piece on Mr. VanderSloot’s support for Idaho’s current republican Senator, James Rich. She talked about Mr. VanderSloot’s involvement in that gay documentary that was to be aired on Idaho Public Television. For that dip into true history, she, too, said she received a warning letter from Mr. VanderSloot’s lawyers accusing her of defamation. She also included the official photograph of VanderSloot taken from the Melaleuca’s website. And then she received a letter accusing her of copy right infringement for using the [photo].
After another website writing about Mr. VanderSloot, Melaleuca responded by obtaining an after-the-fact copyright certificate for the lawyer’s letter, then demanded that the hosting company remove the letter from the website on that website. Then they sued for having published the now copyrighted lawyer’s letter without their concept.
This is the national finance co-chair for the Mitt Romney for president campaign. And this is what we know about his activism, his political views, and his apparent strategy for dealing with people who report on him. But he also serves as a good general reminder, billionaires have always had a ton of weight to throw around in this country, going back to the days of the copper kings of Montana right?
And they have always used that weight for all sorts of reasons. including, trying to shape what we are able to know about how exactly they throw their weight around. but now in this post – Citizens United world we are living in, these billionaires, who frankly have never been wanting for influence in the country in the first place, now in this post-citizens unite world, they are the one we’ve decided to also hand our elections over to. Because they needed that.