Monday, November 16, 2009

Lies, Ex-Cons, And 'Nasty' Bathrooms: Behind The Scenes At A Top GOP Outreach Firm


A top Republican political fund-raising and outreach firm gives convicted felons access to political donors' credit-card information, according to three former employees.

Minnesota-based FLS Connect uses low-wage workers to make fund-raising calls for a bevy of prominent GOP clients. And many of those workers -- including those responsible for processing credit-card transactions -- have felony convictions, the former employees said.

In response, FLS Connect co-founder Jeff Larson, a Karl Rove protege, told TPMmuckraker that the firm would undergo a review from an outside, independent auditor "to ensure the highest standard of confidence in our processes."

Last month, the founder of a different Republican outreach firm, Bonner & Associates, was hauled before Congress after his company sent forged letters to lawmakers on a key legislative issue. Nothing like that has come to light at FLS, but in interviews with TPMmuckraker, the former employees described a company whose business practices might come as a shock to the well-heeled Republican donors from whom it solicits money. FLS fundraisers, encouraged by supervisors to cut corners in pursuit of donations, routinely mislead potential contributors, say the former employees. And many workers in the company's Phoenix office are ex-cons, who are paid not much more than minimum wage, lack benefits, and work in squalid conditions.

The claim that ex-felons have access to credit-card information was first made by former FLS employee Brian Jones in an interview last week with the website Politics in Minnesota (PIM). Larson denied the charge to PIM.

But in interviews with TPMmuckraker, two other recent employees, Alicia Baca and David Childs, backed Jones up. And Jones himself, a former felon who was recently fired from FLS's Phoenix office, told us he stood by his claim. "He is just a liar," Jones, 37, said of Larson.

Baca, Childs, and Jones explained that when a donor agrees to contribute money by credit card, they're told that they'll be transferred to a supervisor to handle the transaction. But in fact, the three said, they're transferred to another FLS employee in the same room. That person has gone through only a cursory screening process, and in no way acts as a supervisor to the caller making the fundraising pitch. Indeed, they said, he generally earns less money than the fundraising caller...................more

No comments: