Two months ago, Donald Trump insulted Senator John McCain’s military service and falsely claimed the 2008 Presidential nominee has done nothing for veterans. South Dakota politico Joel Arends, under the banner of his “Veterans for a Strong America” political fundraising organization, jumped to Trump’s defense.
Tonight, standing in front of the great mothballed guns of the USS Iowa, Arends officially endorsed Trump. In return, Trump charged folks $100 to $1,000 to attend the battleship speech and courteously donated the proceeds to Arends’s veterans’ group.
Maybe I should move that apostrophe: veteran’s group, singular, since “Veterans for a Strong America” belongs to one veteran, Joel Arends, who can do pretty much whatever he wants with the money.
Rachel Maddow neatly describes the utter shammery of it all:
Donald Trump was not in the military, but he did use a pretty military backdrop tonight to raise money for a non-existent veterans group, which endorsed him formally as part of his introduction, and he said they have hundreds of thousands of members, and they don’t. And so the whole thing is fake. The whole thing is made for TV. Except for the fact that presumably he did raise money for this guy tonight, and this really is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States by a mile, and so far Republican voters do not seem to care that it is all made up [Rachel Maddow, “Trump Flips ‘Policy’ Speech into Questionable Fundraiser,” MSNBC, 2015.09.15].
Joel Arends demonstrated his love for fake candidates in the last cycle when he worked for Annette Bosworth’s U.S. Senate campaign here in South Dakota. He had all sorts of fun, organizing her photo op trip to the Philippines, undoing her press missteps, and telling the press she’s not crazy… at least until she threw him under the bus for her felony arrest and stiffed him $33,000 for his campaign services (still “disputed” and not paid, according to Bosworth’s 2015 Q2 FEC filing).
Arends evidently learned his lesson: this time, he’s making sure the “candidate” he “backs” pays him up front. Well played, Joel!