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Reviews | Scams and slippery trails

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First, Politico reported that Sinema has received donations from the marketing industry on several levels:

The political action committee associated with Alticor, the parent entity of health, home and beauty company Amway, gave the Arizona Democrat $ 2,500 in late June, as did the PAC for Isagenix, a company based in Arizona selling nutrition, wellness and personal products. care products. Nu Skin Enterprises, another personal care and beauty company, donated $ 2,500 this month, as did USANA Health Sciences, which sells similar products. In April, Richard Raymond Rogers, executive chairman of Mary Kay, a Texas-based cosmetics company, gave Sinema $ 2,500. Herbalife, which also sells nutritional supplements, donated $ 2,500 in July. All of them are affiliated with the Direct Selling Association, a business group that promotes marketing on many levels.

These are not huge sums, but it is notable for several reasons. As Politico notes, it is relatively rare for some of these companies to get involved in national politics. And Sinema has enjoyed a friendly relationship with the Direct Sellers Association, which represents 130 multi-level marketing companies, including Amway and Herbalife.

This alliance is unusual for a Democratic senator given her party’s long-standing alliance with unions and workers in general. In multilevel marketing structures, the independent contractors who sell the product earn commissions on their own sales of the product, but they may also earn income based on the sales or purchases of the vendors they have recruited. Sinema is one of only three Democratic senators not to co-sponsor the PRO law, which would allow “independent contractors” to unionize, while making it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors.

Second, Dr. Mehmet Oz is reportedly considering running for the Pennsylvania Senate, to fill the seat vacated by Pat Toomey. Through a very complicated process of media cultivation that is only possible in American celebrity-obsessed culture, Dr. Oz has become one of the most visible and wealthy supporters of a multitude of vitamins, cures scientifically questionable herbal and miracle cures.

This news reminded me of how these types of businesses – bordering on illegality and not quite respectable – have become widespread in America. Donald Trump is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. Among other things, he happens to be the founder and namesake of one of the most blatantly fraudulent for-profit school devices I’ve ever seen: Trump University, which the National Review has called a scam. “De jure”.

The election of Donald Trump seems to have opened the door for us to no longer pretend that these kinds of scams are not legitimate elements of our political and economic system, nor even paths to power.

Whenever I talk about multilevel marketing, people often make two suggestions of things to check out. One is a podcast called “The Dream” by Jane Marie. The other is a recent documentary on LuLaRoe, which sells leggings. Both of these stories tell tales about the mechanics of multilevel marketers, how they work, and why they work.

With the holidays approaching, I will be spending some time on your behalf listening to “The Dream” as I travel by car. And I’m going to watch the LuLaRoe documentary. I have questions about why the scam has become a legitimate part of national politics and what it says about culture. We will talk about this soon. I’ll be off next week for Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you the week after.

Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) is Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the author of “Thick: And Other Essays” and a 2020 MacArthur Fellow.

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