Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Okay, here’s  your North Dakota Political Trivia test for today:

Name the six candidates for public office in North Dakota in 2012 who raised at least a million dollars for their campaigns.

That should be easy, shouldn’t it? Let’s start at the top.

Rick Berg ($6,502,926) and Heidi Heitkamp ($5,642,938), who ran for the U.S. Senate.

Kevin Cramer ($1,321,178) and Pam Gulleson ($1,023,930), who ran for the U.S. House.

Jack Dalrymple ($2,769,668), who ran for Governor.

Okay, that’s five. But who’s the sixth?

Ryan Taylor? Nope—only $604,423.

Shane Goettle, who ran for Congress at the Republican convention? Nope—only  $158,384.

Brian Kalk, who ran against Kevin Cramer in the Republican primary? Nope—only  $319,768.

Hmm. Who’s left?

Ah! Duane Sand!


Yep, good old Duane, who ran against Rick Berg in the Republican primary election last June.

Duane raised . . . you ready for this? $1,085,246.

Now, wait a minute, you say. Duane raised a million dollars? How come I don’t remember seeing any of his ads on TV? Or hearing them on the radio?

Well, that’s because there weren’t any. Duane didn’t produce any ads. He didn’t buy any air time. In fact, he really didn’t run much of a campaign, other than a little rally in Fargo with Herman Cain, and an east coast “fundraising dinner” with Dick Morris.

He did have a website, with a nice picture of himself wrapped in the flag (literally), but he seems to have converted www.sandforsenate into a telemarketing website. Does that surprise anyone?

When the campaign was over, Duane’s FEC report, filed at the end of January,  2013, showed that he raised that $1,085,246, and he spent $1,080,467 Yep, spent it all, except for about $5,000.

So where’d that money go, then? What’d he spend that million dollars on?

Well, except for a few thousand dollars for airplane tickets and motel rooms and rent on an office in Bismarck, he spent it all on . . . fundraising.

We wrote about this last year a little bit. Duane’s been doing this for a few years. He runs for office, and he signs on with this direct mail firm in Washington, D.C. called Base Connect, and then he turns them loose on conservative fundraising lists, and he raises lots of money, but only enough to cover the fees charged by Base Connect and its related little mini-companies, who do everything for Duane, from conceptualizing and printing a fundraising brochure, to writing the fundraising letter, to buying the mailing lists, to printing the letters, addressing and stuffing the envelopes, affixing postage and hauling them  to the post office. And picking up the mail with the responses in them, and depositing the money in Duane’s account. All Duane has to do is write a check on that account back to Base Connect and its related companies who do all that for Duane (they’re pretty much all in the same office in Washington, and for all I know, they are all owned by the same people).

They let Duane keep a little bit of the money for incidentals—maybe 5 per cent—and they get all the rest. It’s a great gig for these D.C. entrepreneurs who have cooked up this scheme. They have these suckers around the country like Duane who like to see their name in the paper and on the ballot, and it doesn’t cost Duane a thing except his time, which he seems to have plenty of, being a retired Navy officer. And he doesn’t spend much time at it either. He doesn’t campaign, doesn’t waste time shooting commercials, doesn’t meet with campaign managers and media consultants and advertising agencies, doesn’t have press conferences or rallies–in fact, about all he does is write checks to his direct mail firms. The only thing I’m wondering about is this: Is it just possible that they’re slipping Duane some of the money back under the rug for letting them use his name? Just askin’.

So who are these people who give Duane all this money. Well, let me tell you, I’ve talked to a few of them, and for the most part, they seem to be pretty nice folks—if a little gullible. After I talked to some of them, I compiled a profile. Well, actually, a short profile. A very short profile. They have two things in common: The first number in their age in almost always 8 or 9, and almost none of them are from North Dakota.

A typical donor was John Valerius, age 81, from Irving Texas (a suburb of Dallas), who sent Duane a check every time he got one of Duane’s letters, which was pretty often, because his total for the campaign was $2,850. Beginning back in 2011, John sent Duane $200 on November 17 and another $100 on December 15. Here’s a list of John’s 2012 contributions to Duane’s campaign: Jan. 10, $200; Jan. 26, $100; Feb. 24, $400; March 19, $400; May 1, $100; May 30, $100; June 21, $600; July 6, $100; July 20, $50;  July 30, $100; Aug. 21, $200; Sept. 20, $200; Oct. 15, $100.

And yes, you read those last six dates right. They were all after Duane was no longer a candidate. Just because Duane lost the primary in June last year didn’t mean he stopped sending out letters. Nope. He kept on sending, and the checks kept on coming, even though he was out of the race.

Well, I called John, down in Irving, Texas, and asked him why he was such a big fan of Duane Sand. John said “I support candidates who standup for biblical principles. I would like to send more but my funds are limited.” Hmmm. Limited to $3,050. Not TOO limited, John.

So I asked John if he knew that Duane had lost the primary, and that he had sent Duane six checks when Duane was no longer a candidate. “I did not know he lost the primary,” John said. “I’m troubled now that I know it. I would have sent less if I had known it.”

I talked to Raymond Tobin, an 85-year-old conservative from San Diego, who gave Duane a total of $1,650, including a $300 check in August, two months after the primary.  “Well, I send money to conservative candidates,” Raymond told me. “There aren’t many conservatives here in California, and I liked what he said to me in his letters.”

Raymond is on a lot of mailing lists. He keeps a post office box at his local post office, and goes there every morning.  “Most days there’s a little blue slip in the box, telling me to come to the window, where they give me a box of letters. It’s kind of a pain in the rear end.” How does he decide who to give to? “I look these guys up on the Internet, I talk to friends in other states.” I didn’t do the math for the whole campaign, but Raymond said he had written checks for more than $7,000 by the end of March last year. He hadn’t added up the rest of the year yet.

Marthe McKinnon, from Princeton, NJ, is a relative youngster in this crowd, only 71. She sent Duane a total of $2,800.  “I wanted to help elect conservative Senators,” Marthe told me. “I give to lots of conservative candidates. No, I did not know he lost the primary.”

Then there’s Philip Ritch, 89, from Hawaii. “I’ve gotten 3 or 4 letters from Duane Sand, I guess. I support conservatives and TEA party candidates,” Philip told me. “I felt we had a chance to win this year. I remember Duane Sand was a Navy veteran. I’m a veteran too. Duane wrote to me after the primary and said he needed a little help to offset the costs of the campaign, so I sent him some more money.”  Philip actually got off pretty easy. Most of his checks were for $10 or $20. He sent a total of $403 for the campaign.

The list goes on, hundreds and hundreds of names. Here’s just a sampling. The checks listed are those sent AFTER the Primary Election in June, when Duane was no longer a candidate. The total for the cycle is how much they sent him in 2011 and 20012.

  • Mary Rosencranz, 88, Mystic CT, four checks, $3,204 total for the cycle
  • Eva Moore, 96, Rockville MD, $2000 on July 26, $3,800 total for the cycle
  • Elizabeth Brunette, 92, Grosse Pointe, MI, 3 checks, $225 total for the cycle
  • Susan Brunoff, 86, New Holland, PA, 4 checks, $3,224 total for the cycle
  • Beatrice Menghi, 85, Staten Island, NY, 5 checks, $975 total for the cycle
  • Edith Palmer 87, Chester, NJ, $500 on Sept. 20, $1,500 total for the cycle
  • Robert Pitzer, 87, Hallandale B each, FL, 3 checks, $950 total for the cycle
  • Grace Baron, 91, West Springfield, TX, $100 on Sept. 26, $400 total for the cycle
  • George Brownlee, 82, Kingfisher, OK, 2 checks, $615 for the cycle
  • William Spencer, 90. Smith River, CA 4 checks, for $40 each, $9,300 total for the cycle

Small, but representative sample. If you want to see the whole list, go here, to his FEC report. You just have to type in his name, find North Dakota on the list of states, and click on “Get Listing.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell any of those folks that none of the money they sent went to help get Duane elected, that it all went to a direct mail house in Washington, D.C., and Duane never even saw their checks. Maybe they know that.  But I don’t think so.

At the bottom of Duane’s FEC report is a line that says “Debts.” It says Duane owes a little over $92,000, all to the mail houses in Washington, D.C. So I thought I’d try to find out how they intend to collect that money. I called Base Connect, Duane’s direct mail firm. I got a guy on the phone who said his name real fast and wouldn’t repeat it. I asked how they were going to collect the debt, wondering if they were going to send out more letters to try to raise the money for Duane to pay off the debt.

“We won’t comment on that,” he said.

So I thought I better ask Duane directly. I first tried his office number, at the North Dakota Heroes Foundation. Seriously. You can look at his website here. That phone was disconnected. So I tried his home phone. Got an answering machine. Left a message. Haven’t heard back yet. When I do, I’ll update this report.

Oh, by the way, Duane does a little side business with Base Connect as well. He sells his own list through a little sister company called Legacy List Marketing. Got almost 12,000 names on it. Here’s a flyer, in case you’re interested in raising some money.

One more thing: I’ll let you know as soon  as Duane files his 2014 campaign committee with the FEC. He’s got to raise some more money. He’s got bills to pay. $92,000 or so.

UPDATE APRIL 19, 2013, 4:45 P.M.

As promised, here’s the report on my phone conversation with Duane:

Jim: Duane, according to your FEC report, you owe a whole bunch of money to Base Connect and their partners. Have you made arrangements to pay those bills? 

Duane: “I have not been associated with that direct mail company in over a year. I’m not going to answer your questions until they answer some questions for me. Some really hard questions.”

Jim: “Well somebody wrote them a whole bunch of checks during the last year. Who signs the checks?”

Duane: “My treasurer, Scott MacKenzie.”

So, I was wrong. I said all Duane had to do was sign checks to the direct mail companies. That was completely wrong, and I apologize. Duane didn’t even spend any time signing checks.

If he’s telling the truth, he didn’t even know about the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of letters that went out over his name, asking for money last year. If he’s telling the truth.

He told me I can call him back to see what he learns after he asks Base Connect and their partners those “really hard questions.”

Nah, I think I’ll quit wasting my time.


7 thoughts on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

  1. Duane Sand is creepy. But most hard core right-wingers are. And that’s the best I can say about them. Dangerous is probably a better word.


  2. Nice work if you can get it. So Duane fleeced some gullible old conservatives. At least none of that money went to a conservative who could win, so you could say that Duane is doing more for liberals in America than most liberals.


  3. Seriously these guys are like the guys from nigeria that steel from the old through the old system, “your grandson is in jail”… they prey on the elderly. The modern R party is nothing but fool’s gold. It is sad. I have rec’d some of the mailers from DC, but am too young to fall for it. My dad did fall for it. These R’s are nothing more than gypsies, or russian mobsters. You might want to contact the Colbert Report. I am sure they will gobble this story up. Try it.


  4. What a racket. These scumbags (no offense to used condoms) take advantage of old, scared people terrified by the endless apocalyptic screeching of Fox News and Limbaugh.

    Then, anyone who gives them money gets added to the invaluable mailing list they’ll shill to other candidates. Win-win for the grifters.


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