From THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC:
A 2007 television infomercial in which former Rep. J.D. Hayworth promoted seminars for “free money grants” from the federal government has resurfaced to shake up his Republican primary challenge to incumbent Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Hayworth, who lost his seat in Congress in 2006 and now is running against McCain from the right as an anti-spending, “tea-party”-style conservative, appeared in the 30-minute infomercial to help assure viewers that hundreds of billions of dollars could be available to them.
Original DVD cover
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The main point of the program was to persuade viewers to attend workshops that ostensibly instructed attendees how to secure the free government cash.
But National Grants Conferences, the Florida-based company that hosted the classes and produced the infomercial with Hayworth, has drawn criticism from multiple state attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau, which slapped it with a negative “F” rating.
In introducing Hayworth, the National Grants Conferences infomercial cited his past service on the “powerful” House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax legislation, and Hayworth vouched for the claims that billions were available to savvy Americans.
Others are dubious of those claims.
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell settled a 2006 consumer-fraud lawsuit against National Grants Conferences by requiring it to pay the state a $65,000 fine and allow consumers to seek more than $325,000 in refunds. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
The U.S. government website grants.gov also provides this warning: “We have all seen them: late night infomercials, websites and reference guides, advertising ‘millions in free money.’ Don’t believe the hype! Although there are many grants on Grants.gov, few of them are available to individuals and none of them are available for personal financial assistance.”
Mark Sanders, a Hayworth campaign spokesman, said Hayworth was introduced to National Grants Conferences by his friend J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma Republican congressman who also did some work for the company and was unaware of its reputation among consumer advocates.
Hayworth participated only in the single 2007 infomercial and can’t recall how much he was paid for the job, Sanders said.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, called the infomercial “very damaging” to Hayworth’s bid in Arizona’s Aug. 24 GOP primary.
“He was depending on the anti-government, anti-spending crowd to nominate him,” Sabato said. “Now, here he is as a Matthew Lesko clone telling people how to get free money from the government. Hayworth looks like a first-class hypocrite.”
Sanders said McCain is the hypocrite for trying to exploit Hayworth’s past association with the company, because National Grants Conferences co-founder Michael Milin, who also appeared in the infomercial, gave $9,400 to McCain’s 2008 presidential efforts.
Brian Rogers, McCain’s campaign spokesman, said McCain raised more than $400 million from 1.5 million donors in 2008 and recently donated the Milin money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix.
Rogers pointed to the actions of the state attorneys general as well as a 2009 investigation by Tucson TV station KVOA, which found National Grants Conferences charging $999 to $1,200 for seminars that provided information that was available for free elsewhere.
Thirty-three attorneys general and the executive director of Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection sent a June 18, 2007, letter to the Federal Trade Commission that included criticism of National Grants Conferences practices.
“There’s clearly no comparison here,” Rogers said. “J.D. Hayworth lent his name and the credibility of the U.S. Congress to an obvious rip-off scam. . . . Senator McCain obviously never did that.”
You mean all those get-rich-quick infomercials are lying to me? The next thing you know, it’ll turn out that WWE wrestling is fake, too!