Bernie Supporters Targeted By Scammers?

Getting out in front of a couple of things here:

  • I am and long have been a Sanders supporter. This article isn’t to attack him, or his campaign. It’s to point out that it’s really easy to get ripped off if you don’t pay attention.
  • Every possibility exists that there’s something else gone wonky here. I enthusiastically encourage everyone who reads this article to check the facts yourself. Nothing would make me happier than to have to retract this article.

Update, 12-Jan: While the address “921 W. 38th Ave” appears repeatedly in documentation for OFB, in one place – the privacy policy on their site – the address is given as 2921 W. 38th. That address resolves to, as expected, a mailbox storefront (UPS, to be precise).

While this does suggest there’s at least the possibility that this is a comedy of errors rather than of malice, it still doesn’t answer key questions:

  • Why are they claiming to be a federal PAC when that status has not yet been granted?
  • How does a theoretically high dollar, high profile national political organization end up so sloppy that they get their address wrong in multiple places, including on their FEC paperwork?
  • How does a founding partner in a politically engaged PR firm screw up something as basic as not including the name of a candidate in a multi-candidate PAC filing, which you can’t do that unless you’re part of the campaign, which OFB says it isn’t?
  • Who is “Mohamid Rashid,” and why was he an obnoxious dick instead of just answering reasonable questions?
  • Why are people who think in terms of in-groups and cloak-and-dagger trailer-park bullshit speaking on behalf of Bernie Sanders, or having anything to do with organizing for him, given that such behavior is anathema to everything the Sanders platform is about?

While it appears fairly certain that this isn’t the story it appeared to be when I wrote it, there’s still an important story here with important questions that demand answers. At the very least these people ought to be hiring me to go through their org with a rake and get rid of these sanctimonious, hostile, jerks that aren’t just “not helping” the campaign but are actively working to hurt it.

“Organizing for Bernie” is a self-described “Federal PAC,” according to its website, that “is a people-powered, volunteer campaign meant to recruit Senator Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate in the 2020 Democratic Primary and lay the groundwork for a successful campaign operation.”

I’m 99% certain I’ve uncovered a massive federal election fraud being perpetrated against supporters of Bernie Sanders. I know how most of y’all hate long articles, so I’ll try to keep this simple as I can.

As I was reading through one of the many FB political groups I’m subscribed to, I found this message from someone calling themselves “Mohamid Rashid,” with a pretty vapid, cookie-cutter call to action:

If you read it closely, it doesn’t actually say anything.

The text of the message reads as follows:

While our small and mighty team is doing everything they can to spread the word, we need grassroots leaders like you to reach out to more people and invite folks to events across the country this Saturday.

Make sure you reach out to your friends, family members, and fellow progressives about the house parties this Saturday. Bring a friend to the event you are attending! Have them RSVP to their local event by using our event map!

Taking on the political establishment is hard work, and can only be successful when thousands of regular people step up and come together to fight for the political revolution. Inviting a friend or two to the event you are attending and making sure every Bernie supporter in the country knows about these events is the best way to grow the political revolution!

Thank you so much for getting involved in these first steps to prepare for a Bernie candidacy in 2020. This Saturday is just the first step in letting Senator Sanders know that people are still with him!

In Solidarity,

Organizing for Bernie

Note that as I was writing this column, the message was deleted (and it wasn’t just the poster blocking me, I have multiple accounts; the message is gone. Mr. Rashid continued his threats and taunts through private message for another half an hour or so before disappearing. Never once did he attempt to make any explanation of himself, other than to immediately attack me and then start threatening, all the while providing “proof” that OFB was legit by sending screenshots…from, which is a legit site. (An archive of this conversation can be found here.)

Now there’s always the possibility that I’m missing something, but the whole string of empty words, the obvious use of compliance-gaining tactics (assuming the sale, establishing likeness, etc.), and the ambiguity of it all had me wondering, so I asked a couple of questions. Like who is “Organizing for Bernie” and why do you presume I or anyone else is “on your team?” How do I know anything I do through your group is going to be of benefit to the Sanders organization?

Predictably, the responses started with “If you’re not for Bernie I don’t owe you any answers,” and went downhill from there. Now there’s plenty of folks out there who can tell you that this is not the way to deal with people asking reasonable questions. Indeed it’s about the best way to get people very interested in you, very quickly, for all the wrong reasons. When you start throwing hostile, aggressive answers in response to perfectly legitimate questions, any reasonable person is going to start wondering what the hell you’re trying to pull.

So I did some research, dug around a bit…unlike the folks at Huffington Post and other outlets who validated this organization by quoting them in stories, without first bothering to validate them by checking anything, including their street address.

The street address given for OFB on their FEC filing (PDF) and elsewhere is 921 W 38th Ave, Ste 328, Denver, CO 80211

Guess what that building looks like?

Yes, that’s it. A cement viaduct. You can check it out yourself if you want, but there’s literally nothing, at all, anywhere near here, that could possibly serve as a valid delivery point for that address.

Well, that’s interesting. So I went digging further. And I found this:

…which led me to this.

For those of you who don’t like to click links, that is the FEC filing for “Organizing for Bernie.” This same address is used in the filing – a fact I’ve suggested to the analyst handling the case that he may want to look at more closely.

Along with that is the rejection notice from the FEC that OFB’s paperwork was flawed and therefore must be corrected before OFB would be designated a federal PAC. According to that letter, they have until Jan 22nd to straighten things out. The details of that issue are that they’ve used a candidate’s name in the name of the organization but registered as a multi-candidate PAC which precludes them from using the name of a candidate in their name.

That also means they’re not allowed to call themselves a “Federal PAC.”

While all this is going on, “Mohamid Rashid” is in my Facebook inbox, telling me he “questions my Bernie loyalty.” As well he should – anyone who knows me knows my loyalty is always to principles first, personalities last. I dig Bernie and supported him, but that doesn’t mean I’m supposed to just swallow anything with his name on it and not question it.

I feel like it’s pretty certain that Rich Pelletier, in whose name all of this paperwork has been filed, is going to have a very serious problem on his hands once the shutdown is over and the FEC is back to work.

In the mean time, I’m leaving it in the hands of you, the internet, to both get the word out about this apparent scam and also as a sanity check on me – I’m human, it’s always possible that I’ve overlooked something and this guy is right as rain.

But I don’t think that’s how it’s going to play out. I think how it’s going to play out is some guy named Rich Pelletier is going to be facing federal charges, and everyone who donated to “Organizing for Bernie” got ripped off hard.

Let me go ahead and make the gesture ahead of time – if it turns out I’m wrong and this group is legit, I’ll donate ten hours of time to volunteering for them and give them a free, non-removable ad on my site for the duration of the election or until Sanders either publicly says he’s not running or is defeated in the primary or the general.

So now everybody’s got motivation to crowdvet this thing. As far as I can tell it’s a big-assed scam…but I’m always willing to accept the possibility that I’m wrong. Go prove me wrong, Internet.

Or prove me right, and then let’s go ahead and keep having that conversation about how to spot a scam artist who banks by pandering to ideological and political biases.

As of press time, none of the officers listed at OFB’s website had responded to requests for comment.