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Joel Arends Uses Vets Banner to Work Trump for Cash

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.

Joel Arends applauds a man who campaigns on the idea that America's military is not great. Screen cap from MSNBC, 2015.09.15
Joel Arends applauds a man who campaigns on the idea that America’s military is not great. Screen cap from MSNBC, 2015.09.15

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!


  1. John 2015-09-16

    Would you buy a used car from either of these apparent film-flam artists?

  2. Rorschach 2015-09-16

    Joel Arends exemplifies the term “shyster.”

  3. jerry 2015-09-16

    John McCain is a disgrace to veterans, that is true. I salute him as a fellow veteran but that is where the line ends. The New G.I. Bill, put forth by President Obama and the Democrats, was fought tooth and nail by McCain and he has done the same regarding all types of funding for veterans with a particular eye on wounded veterans. McCain, Tehran John along with the rest of the rump party, have consistently voted against the best interests of veterans when it comes to healthcare benefits for all. They may claim to love veterans and champion our issues, but it is all window dressing as they sharpen the knives for our backs. As the Republicans control both chambers, why doesn’t a “spokesman” like McCain or even NOem in the House, sponsor a bill that would fully fund the Veterans Administration? Trump is an arse, but so is McCain. Trump is actually a better friend to veterans than McCain will ever be, so by finally calling out the fraud, he did us all a great service.

  4. Disgusted Dakotan 2015-09-16

    You can always tell when something is R-E-A-L-L-Y dirty.. When Pat Powers doesn’t cover an establishment crony’s supposed day in the sun? You know they don’t want you to look any closer.

    I noticed in your article in which Joel Arends used his non-profit to illegally promote Annette Bosworth’s campaign, you said you asked him about expenses for the trip? Did our Iowa shyster respond back?

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-16

    What? Pat and Dan Lederman’s boon companion Joel gets face time and dollars from Trump, and they haven’t run a blog post on it yet? Come on—this is the kind of insider baseball that South Dakota’s #1 Political Website ought to be covering!

    Oh, wait, South Dakota’s #1 Political Website already is covering this story.

    No, DD, I don’t recall a response from Arends on trip expenses.

  6. mike from iowa 2015-09-16

    Veterans are just another tool to be used by wingnuts to advance the koch bros best interests,imho. Now if they would be considerate enough of wingnut feelings to not get themselves killed and maimed in wingnuts illegal,immoral wars and expect their gubmint to do something about it. Sheesh!

  7. David Newquist 2015-09-16

    There is another question about Arends raised by his so-called veterans orgnaization for which no membership data, other than for himself, is available. There are a number of mentions of him and his service in the Iraq War, all of which bear the same verbal imprint that sounds like they were all written by the same person. He is listed as the recipient of the bronze star, for which there were 38,000 issued in the Iraq War. Legitimate veterans groups have raised concerns about the handling of such designations in their investigations of incidents of stolen valor. He is also cited as being listed in a Department of Defense “50 Heroes in the Global War on Terror.” but a search for that title produces no results, except a response on the DOD website that such a title is no available.

    It would be interesting to interview some enlisted men who served under him in Iraq.

  8. Old Elmer 2015-09-16

    Arends sounds like the con man Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” who intends to scam an Iowa town while promising to create a band for them. Only Arends won’t fall in love with the librarian, he’ll take the money and skip town. We’ve got Trouble, right here in Trump City.

  9. Porter Lansing 2015-09-16

    Self-aggrandizing by retired officers is becoming a political mainstay. I live in a Congressional District where our U.S. Rep Mike Coffman (R) never sends out a communication without bragging that he was a Marine Corps Combat Veteran. He even campaigns with photos of himself dressed in full battle rattle. Research discovered he was a staff officer (desk jockey) in the Green Zone working on Iraqi elections his whole tour. Going back further he volunteered in chasing (well behind) Sadaam’s Imperial Guard across Kuwait for a few hours at the close of Desert Shield. That’s the extent of his combat experience but he brags about being the only combat veteran in Congress. It’s nearly an insult to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-16

    Jerry, that’s an interesting angle. Even if we can demonstrate that McCain hasn’t served veterans well with his votes in the Senate, did Donald Trump offer any better policies in his speech last night, or in any other statement? Or is Trump’s policy basically the fantasy that he can just show up and make a deal that fixes everything?

  11. Porter Lansing 2015-09-16

    This just in from Alan Colmes – Donald Trump, in an apparent warm-up for tonight’s second GOP debate, gave what was billed as a “policy” speech aboard the USS Iowa warship Tuesday evening, and the event was also supposed to be a fundraiser for a “veterans’ group.” Tickets for the event were priced between $100-1,000 per person. Considering that there were nearly 1,000 attendees, quite a bit of money was raised.

    One problem, however: the group that benefitted from the ticket sales, Veterans for a Strong America, appears to be just one man who happens to live in South Dakota.

    As Rachel Maddow detailed on her show last night, Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the group’s PAC reveal that, in addition to having only $30 cash in hand and $318 in debts, the organization’s only member is its founder, Joel Arends….READ MORE at LiberalAmerica

  12. Roger Cornelius 2015-09-16

    Yahoo News is reporting that Veterans for a Stronger America has lost its non-profit status.

  13. Jenny 2015-09-16

    Trump is just gross, he looks like a corpse. Are there any SD GOPers that actually like this guy? Corrupt to the core.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-16

    Mike, you probably saw this on TWMDBS. I think the rest of you will like it too. It refers to Scott Walker, who’s been lying like a rug on the debate tonight.


    Hahahahahahahaha! Soooo true.

  15. Lars Aanning 2015-09-17

    Remember Dr. Bosworth’s election petitions, with the otherwise valid signatures, that she should not have signed – and that were notarized by Arends? If both of them were in the Philippines on a mission during that time, wouldn’t Arends have remembered that fact? And if a date is filled in next to each of the signatures, wouldn’t Arends have noticed that both of them were out of town when the signatures were obtained?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-17

    Lars, I’d be more than happy to see a case made for violations of notary oath and duties.

  17. Rod Hall 2015-09-17

    Annette Bosworth said that Joel Arends told her it would be OK to sign the certifications. Joel Arends said he did not tell her it would be OK. Who do you believe? One lied! Thanks Rachel Maddow, and please come to SD. It seems we lost a doctor who is willing to work with the poorest of the poor and we keep a lawyer who rips off the whole world and may be able to skip paying income taxes.

  18. mike from iowa 2015-09-17

    Fabulous,Deb. I hadn’t seen it until now. Thank you.

    As for Arends,I believe it has been noted several times that as her personal attorney he had to know her petitions were invalid because of their sojourn to where ever.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-17

    Rod, we do not need to tangle these issues up. Annette Bosworth has been rightfully punished for proven crimes, as determined by an impartial jury of her peers. Now it’s time to hold Arends accountable for his own monkeyshines.

  20. Douglas Wiken 2015-09-17

    Annette Bosworth has been punished far beyond what is necessary or reasonable or even proportional to what she did or did not do. What she didn’t do was fall on the mercy of the court and plead guilty to something she does not believe she did. The medical board made a partisan decision which has nothing whatsoever to do with her qualifications. If she is willing to practice in “brutal” rural areas, she would be apparently meeting a need. This is all a waste of a resource in the interests of partisan revenge. And, I do not agree with much of any of her political blather but this seems like an injustice anyway. And all a notary does is indicate that the person signing anything is known to the notary and is as signed.

  21. Lars Aanning 2015-09-17

    Is it true that Arends was working for Rounds’ re-election, and had contributed to his campaign, while at the same time being Dr. Bosworth’s attorney in her campaign to replace Rounds? What could possibly go wrong?
    And Rounds personally appointed most of the SDBMOE board members between 2003 and 2011, who were involved in the Medicaid investigation (2012) of Dr. Bosworth, and many of whom (specifically Carpenter, Lindstrom, Erickson, and Carlson) are still serving as board members.
    Rounds also appointed Jackley as the AG in 2009 and he still serves.
    Just wondering what conversations went on behind closed doors…

  22. Porter Lansing 2015-09-18

    Who gave VSA $761,000? Is Mr. Arends a bundler or a shell? Is this Citizens United at work? Enquiring minds want to know …

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