HIGHTOWER: Newt's Telemarketing Flim-Flam

Two of the worst things in modern-day communications are telephone solicitations and political campaign pitches. But now, some marketing sadist has come up with the really bad idea of combining the two!The New York Times reports that small businesses across the country are getting calls saying that "Speaker Newt Gingrich's office" is calling, wanting to discuss a [quote] "national leadership award" with the business owner. A nice person from "the speaker's office" informs the lucky small business person that she or he has been named honorary chair of a select committee to advise Newt on legislation. This will involve filling out important issue questionnaires to help advise the Speaker, they are told, and Newt will be giving his "national leadership award" to you.Oh, and by the way, the Speaker also hopes that the new "Chair" of his legislative advisory committee will contribute $1,000 to [quote] "help our efforts." It turns out that everyone on the committee gets named an honorary chair, gets the leadership award ... and gets hustled for a thousand bucks.The calls for this bait & switch telephone scam come not from Washington, but from a telemarketing outfit in Akron, Ohio. The Times reports that one fellow who returned "the speaker's" call reached a perky lady named Nancy. "Is this Congressman Gingrich's office that I'm talking to?" he asked. "This is the Speaker's office," says Nancy. "That I'm talking to," asked the wary caller once more. "Uh-huh," Nancy assured him.Republican operatives who are pushing this money-raising flim-flam sound a lot like Bill Clinton when they're pushed to explain how Newt's office got moved to Akron, Ohio. It's a matter of how you define "office," they say, conceding that the calls are not related to [quote] "the Speaker's official office."This is Jim Hightower saying ... Deceit seems to be a bipartisan disease in Washington D.C.

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