J. D. Hayworth is the former representative from Arizona who's challenging John McCain for the Republican Senate ticket this fall. Over the last few months, Hayworth has tried to position himself as a far-right alternative to McCain, courting Tea Party support and sending the incumbent McCain on a sometimes-puzzling rightward drift. Things may have gotten more difficult for Hayworth this week, though, as pundits have discovered an infomercial where Hayworth endorses a program called the National Grants Conferences.
What is the National Grants Conferences? Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo explains that it's
...a program set up by a company called Proven Methods Seminars, which advertises itself as running seminars in which people can find out how to get grant money from the federal government -- which the infomercial's on-screen text pitched as being 'FREE MONEY' in quotes.
The infomercial is from 2007, the year Hayworth left the House of Representatives and began hosting a talk show on Phoenix radio. Bloggers have been quick to point out that the National Grants Conferences doesn't seem like kind of thing Tea Party libertarians would approve of. Here's what people are saying:
- Hayworth Campaign: Blame Watts Mark Sanders, spokesman for the Hayworth campaign, reached out to Eric Kleefeld of TPM after the story broke. "'Here's what happened," Sanders told Talking Points Memo. "J.C. Watts is a former Congressman. He and Hayworth knew each other when they were in Congress. Watts had done an infomercial for this company, and he recommended to Hayworth that he do with them, as well. So Hayworth just took it on his friend's advice that it would be a good thing to do, and he did it. And that was the extent of the knowledge that he had regarding the company."
- This Company Is Totally a Scam "It should be noted that the company's conferences and business practices have received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau, and in 2007 it was the target of a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, signed by 32 state attorneys general," writes Kleefeld in a separate Talking Points Memo story.
- Doesn't Help Him One Bit, agrees True/Slant's E. D. Kain. "Tea Partiers may be against government spending in the abstract, but in a lot of ways that just makes this whole affair more damaging to Hayworth, Kain writes. "He’s just telling us that we can get a bunch of free money from the government, bootstraps and rugged individualism be damned. There’s no policy here to defend. He’s basically advocating pork barrel welfare, and this video drives home everything his critics have said about him."
- 'God, This Is Embarrassing' Gawker's Jim Newell takes the opportunity to throw a few shots at Hayworth, whom he calls a "trashy, idiotic crook." Sneers Newell: "Some of us use this exact same logic to argue for extending unemployment benefits or improving roads, school systems, and health care affordability, but those things — public goods — are Communist. Endless government grants for everyone would be conservative and responsible — kind of like actual 'tax cuts,' but for individual people, for whatever. One lady fixed up her bathroom, with a government grant!"
- Actually, This May Not Hurt Him So Much Hot Air's Allahpundit goes for the counternarrative, pointing out that McCain has long tried to paint Hayworth as a kook: "Crankishness was priced into the value of his political stock long ago." What's more, says Allahpundit, "according to that NYT poll of tea partiers back in April, 62 percent think the benefits of social security and Medicare outweigh the costs ... When it comes to the working joe getting a little out of the system he’s been paying into his whole life, they seem reasonably serene." Ultimately, he says, "reports of [Hayworth's] political death are, I suspect, greatly exaggerated."
- It May Even Help! "What teabagger would doubt the main premise of the infomercial -- that government programs have billions of dollars lying around just waiting to be snatched up by the first person, deserving or otherwise, who figures out the paperwork?" wonders Steve M. in an acidic post at No More Mister Nice Blog. "Isn't that what teabaggers think all government programs are? Don't they think all tax money is essentially poured down a rat hole, while elves and fairies maintain the Interstate highways and conduct FBI investigations and run the Pentagon and the national parks and the Centers for Disease Control for free? ... Clearly [Hayworth is] the victim here -- an honest guy who just wanted to help return more of taxpayers' own cash to the taxpayers themselves, but was thwarted by the evil government mafia."