The Arizona senate race between incumbent John McCain and former U.S. congressman JD Hayworth is heating up over a 2007 infomercial in which Hayworth hawks government money as loans that don’t need to be paid back.
“It is for real,” Hayworth exclaims in the 2007 infomercial for National Grants Conferences before reassuring viewers that, “It’s not free money, it’s your money.”
One Arizona TV station says it has exposed the $1000 conferences as a scam:
A grant expert tells us that the information they’re trying to sell you is available for free – on the Internet or here, at the Pima County Public Library,” KVOA’s Tom McNamara said in the 2009 report. “No. 2, a simple Internet search inputting just the company’s name reveals hundreds of complaints from people all across the country about National Grants Conferences. And No. 3, some Better Business Bureaus nationwide rate the company an ‘F.’ Separately, the attorney general in Vermont sued the company and forced them to tone down their advertising and the claims they were making.
Mark Sanders, spokesman for the Hayworth campaign, said his candidate’s relationship with the company was fleeting.
“A friend of his named JC Watts — who is also a former congressman — approached JD about doing an infomercial for this particular company,” he said. “He agreed to do one infomercial for them and that was it.”
Sanders also said that the story was dredged up by the McCain campaign.
“They’ve been leaking it since Friday trying to get somebody down here to write it,” Sanders said. “I know that from reporters who said they’d been contacted by the McCain campaign.” (READ MORE ON HAYWORTH’S DEFENSE)
Brian Rogers, spokesman for the McCain campaign, did not explicitly deny that the campaign encouraged reporters to take up the story, but pointed out that the information is publicly available and has been on Hayworth’s Wikipedia page since Aug. 2008.
“I don’t think it really needs a whole lot of pitching,” Rogers said.
WATCH THE INFOMERCIAL
He also attacked Hayworth for appearing in the advertisement in the first place.
“It would almost be impossible to do any kind of bare bones vetting of this company without realizing it’s a scam,” Rogers said. “Not to mention when you’re sitting there in the studio, and people are making these ridiculous claims about free money from the government that you never have to pay back and you just sit there? And play along?”
The Hayworth campaign hit back, pointing out that Michael Milin, the founder of National Grants Conferences, donated $9,400 to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Rogers says the money wasn’t kept.
“We donated it to charity as soon as we found out about it.” Rogers said. “The bigger point is JD Hayworth lent his name and his credibility, as a former member of the U.S. Congress, to help an obvious rip-off scam. There’s really no comparison to be made here.”
The latest poll for the Aug. 24 primary shows McCain holding a 52-40 lead.