By Evelyn J Pringle
Eric Scheibeler's book new, Merchants of Deception,[*] is a first hand account of the author’s recruitment into the Amway cult, his rapid advancement as a recruiter of others, and his final awakening after many years of mind-dulling dedication to the cult ideology. The book evidences Eric's deep personal resolve to try and stop what happened to him from happening to others.
For decades, Amway has used its political clout within the extreme Right Wing of the Republican party to gain access to foreign markets, obtain special tax breaks, and most importantly, to retain immunity from prosecution for pyramid scheme fraud. The giant MLM is able to generates funds all over the globe, simply by using some of those funds to buy protection against regulation and oversight. It has unprecedented influence with the current White House. But worst of all, it has the reach and ability to recruit, manipulate, and misinform millions of new people each year.
The Amway Snow Job - How It Works
Over the past 20 years, more than 10 million Americans have been lured into the trap of investing vast amounts of time and money in Amway’s pyramid sales scheme. And each new recruit was subjected to its radical conservative propaganda campaign as a key component of the motivational training that their up-line recruiters insisted they must have in order to be successful with Amway.
To that end, millions of Amway audiotapes, CDs and videos are sold each year. The main message they expound is that success is achieved by emulating the Amway beliefs and values, characterized by political conservatism, disdain for the poor, extreme distrust of government social programs, and adherence to the rules of right-wing Christianity.
To date, there have been no studies done on the political leanings of recruits entering the Amway program. But it is known that many recruits who may not have embraced the radical right-wing agenda going in, adopt it soon after being exposed to Amway's indoctrination. If even half of the recruits believe the propaganda they are exposed to, it means millions of people are converted each year as a direct result of their involvement with the MLM.
Eric is a good example of this kind of conversion. Before he came into Amway, politics had never been an issue with him, and he was not a deeply religious person. But he soon came to believe that he was dealing with people of great faith and integrity, in part because the tapes he was instructed to listen to.
Unbeknownst to Eric, an educational process had begun that would eventually alter and control nearly all of his values and beliefs. As part of that process, he was instructed to (1) attend choreographed Amway rallies where it delivers its message, often over 2 or three days; (2) read politically charged books; (3) listen to hours of politically slanted audiotapes and voicemail messages; and (4) pay large amounts of money to listen to Right Wing Religious and Republican spokespersons at seminars around the nation.
While attending these seminars, Eric began to learn about the supposed evils of liberalism and the Democratic Party and how the liberals wanted to take from the hardworking, honest people and give to the nonproductive members of society, who were only poor because they were lazy.
Distributors were also pushed to contribute money to the campaigns of conservative Republicans who were brought in to speak. It they were not from their home state, they were urged to help get them elected anyways in order to make the whole country better.
When speaking, top promoters constantly linked the Amway teachings to religion, with comments such as, “When you’re loyal to the upline, it’s being loyal to God. It’s being loyal to your husband and loyal to your children,” by Amway Double Diamond Linda Harteis at a Ladies Meeting.
When Republicans spoke at rallies, they were often introduced as great Americans, while their Democratic counterparts were portrayed as godless, anti-family, anti-business, and anti-success. Mother Jones magazine correctly described the Amway distributor force as "heavily influenced by the company's dual themes of Christian morality and free enterprise" and operating "like a private political army."
A typical example of the kind of derogatory political messages that are broadcast to Amway members, is one sent by Dexter Yager a few years back. The entire message was a condemnation of Hillary Clinton, disguised as a prayer. At one point, Yager says, “God, melt that woman’s brain,” and that was one of the milder prayer lines.
The comments made by these people can only be described as bizarre. For instance, they claimed that women who chose a career over staying home and raising their children, either lacked values or were just plain stupid. They'd make other comments like, "Why do you think she's working, because she hates her kids?"
According to Eric, these kinds of remarks were often followed with a disclaimer such as, "I certainly understand the bad position that these women are in. Some are forced into the workplace, because they are married to a man that just isn't a man."
After a thorough brainwashing, Eric came to believe that Amway had given him and his wife the gift of membership in a group of like-minded people who believed in God, America, and the family. He reached the point where he bought into what co-founder DeVos claimed in his book, Believe! "This country was built on a religious heritage, and we had better get back to it. We had better start telling people that faith in God is the real strength of America!" DeVos wrote. The Bush Family & Religious Heathens
Several members of the media have looked into the relationship between the two Bush Presidencies and members of the extreme Religious Right Wing. After reading up on that gang, the only thing I know for sure, is that there is not a single honest person in the whole bunch.
First off, lets take a look at evangelist Doug Wead, a divorced Baptist Minister, and former Diamond distributer, who is still a regular speaker at Amway conventions.
Wead was the first President Bush's liaison to the Christian Right and he later served as Special Assistant to the President in the first Bush White House. Time magazine referred to him as "the man who coined the phrase the compassionate conservative."
He was linked to the second President Bush early on as well. US News and World Report described Wead as an "old friend and advisor" to George W Bush. In the book, First Son, Author and Dallas Morning News Reporter, Bill Mintuglio, said that Wead was a man who had spent years "preparing strategy reports" for both President Bush and GW.
The book claims W was the “family liaison to hard-edged conservatives and to Christian evangelical leaders, developing close ties to (among others) defeated ... congressional candidate Doug Wead, with his Amway and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker connections.”
In 1998, W decided it was his turn. Within days of his reelection as governor, W was secretly planning to run for President, because, as he said, he felt certain he had been called. He was encouraged in this belief by evangelical friends like Doug Wead and by his mother, who called him “the Chosen One," according to Kitty Kelly's book, the Family.
Anticipating W’s reelection, Wead had already written a memo encouraging him to run, “You have been given a great opportunity, an opportunity that has been denied to many who have sought it. It is a gift that has rarely been extended. It might not ever be extended again,” Wead wrote.
Years earlier, Wead had lost his own Congressional bid after Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, threw his support behind Wead's Democratic opponent, and stunned the Christian community with the remark, "I don't think God should be sold for money."
Goldwater was obviously a good judge of character and realized that it would be better to have a Democrat in office than a charlatan like Wead. And he was absolutely right, because as it turns out, Wead's past with Amway is even shadier than most people know.
At one time, Wead and his ex-wife Gloria, were both Diamond distributors, sponsored by Dexter and Birdie Yager. Wead earned large sums of money by speaking at Amway functions throughout the Yager organization.
Wead and another kingpin, Jean Godzich, eventually branched out and set up an Amway in France. In 1986, the French government began investigating it and decided the company was a dangerous mind-control cult, and a fraudulent business. Amway France terminated the distributorship of Godzich, from whose group most of the complaints had originated.
So what do Wead and Godzich do next? They set up a new MLM in France, called Groupement or GEPM. Its product line consisted of Amway products, its business structure was identical to Amway France, and its cultic activities were just as blatant as they were in the first operation.
After receiving numerous complaints about GEPM, French authorities moved in to shut it down, but this time it issued criminal arrest warrants, 13 for the company’s distributors, and 2 for Godzich and Wead. Godzich took all the cash and fled the country and Wead never returned to France.
This man is the same Doug Wead, who 2 years later, would become a White House Aide to the first President Bush, and spiritual adviser to the second. God help us!!!
Some Religious Top Guns Need Extra Protection
The Amway pyramid fraud scheme seems to offer steady employment. If you are being investigated or arrested in one country or state, all you have to do is move along to another and set up shop again. Defrocked religious zealots seem to get away with doing this time and time again.
For example, Don Storms is an Executive Diamond with Amway. He is also an ex-minister, who spent 13 years traveling the country with a gospel quartet, before teaming up with Jim Bakker and becoming a senior vice president at the PTL Club. In 1979, he and wife Ruth started their Amway business. Today, Storms is a real estate developer, in addition to his Amway business, according to MLM Survior.com on July 13, 1999.
Don’s buddy, Kevin Trudeau, is a prolific marketer, but with a vary shady past. He is a twice-convicted felon and has served time in prison for credit card fraud. The FTC has prosecuted him a couple times for concocting fraudulent infomercials and at one time or another, he has been under investigations by 18 state Attorneys General, and the US Postal Service.
Trudeau was once involved with the MLM company, Nutrition for Life, Inc (NFLI). But that involvement came to an abrupt halt, after the SEC began investigating his recruitment practices. On April 17, 1996, the Illinois Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Trudeau, and his partner, for running an illegal pyramid scheme that was set up to peddle motivational books and tapes. The State of Michigan also ordered him to stop all marketing in that state related to his business the Trudeau Marketing Group (TMG).
So what do the Ex-Pastor and Ex-Con have in common? Quixtar. Their Quixtar/Trudeau connection was revealed in a spam e-mail, which stated in part:
"PLEASE CONTACT ME RIGHT AWAY! URGENT! URGENT! URGENT! DON'T LET THIS ONE GET AWAY FROM YOU. THE LARGEST, MOST EXPLOSIVE MLM OPPORTUNITY OF ALL TIME IS NOW UNDERWAY. IT IS UNIMAGINABLY HUGE. HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY ARE BEHIND IT, HUGE CORPORATIONS LIKE MICROSOFT AND IBM,. . . "IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU RESERVE YOUR POSITION NOW IN THE TRUDEAU TRAINING TEAM ORGANIZATION, WHICH NOW WITHOUT QUESTION THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE MLM MARKETING GROUP IN HISTORY. KEVIN TRUDEAU, WHO IS THE HUGE IN THE TV INFOMERCIAL BUSINESS WORLDWIDE, AND HIS ORGANIZATION OF INFORMERCIAL DISTRIBUTORS (TO WHICH I BELONG) ARE BUILDING AN EXCLUSIVE MARKETING ORGANIZATION IN COOPERATION WITH AND DIRECTLY DOWNLINE FROM THE BIGGEST LEADERS IN THE NETWORK MARKETING INDUSTRY TODAY, THE JODY VICTOR, DEXTER YAGER, DON STORMS, BLAINE ATHORN GROUP."
How's that for Amway name-dropping? A little research by MLM Survivor.com, revealed the following: On June 30, 1999, Trudeau placed an announcement on the TMG's voicemail system. It seems that his long-time buddy and ex-business associate, Blaine Athorne, (who fired him after his 1989 credit card fraud) hired the TMG in an exclusive relationship with his Amway/Quixtar organization.
Trudeau briefly noted his earlier job with network marketing, but claimed it was the changing dynamics in the company, which made it impossible for him to continue as a distributor. "I no longer could promote that business. . . [because of] disagreement in management."
Oh really? Could that disagreement have had something to do with his conviction for pyramid fraud, or the $1 million fine that he had to pay as a result of his infomercial fraud? Or maybe it was about the Postal Service investigation or the umpteen investigations by state Attorneys General. Who knows?
About Quixtar, Trudeau says: "I believe in my heart of hearts is the ultimate network marketing opportunity of all times. . ." One of the claims he makes on behalf of Quixtar is: "You'll be able to buy hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of products at very good pricing -- similar to Sam's Club." Then comes the big push!
"I have chosen after multiple meetings with corporate executives, top distributors and lawyers that it would be in the best interests of everyone if I did not become a distributor in Amway or Quixtar. I have formed a company called the Trudeau Training Team. The Trudeau Training Team has signed an exclusive marketing and sales arrangement with Storms Enterprises Inc. . . Don Storms has personally sponsored my long-time friend and business associate Blaine Athorne. Blaine Athorne is going to be the founding distributor in our downline organization. . . My company has signed an exclusive marketing and sales training contract with Blaine Athorne’s distributorship and downline, and Don Storms.
"Many of the marketing strategies that I've employed in the past will be utilized in this organization."
What marketing strategy is he referring to here? Is there any other, besides the old standard run-of-the-mill pyramid scheme?
Trudeau says Don Storms is "one of the greatest network marketers of all time," and Storms says, "Kevin Trudeau's training [is] the best in the world."
So here it is for all to see, a prime example of the quality of ethical and legal behavior we can expect from Amway/Quixtar and its distributors.
More Secretive Religious Groups
Amway founder Richard DeVos is a member of the Council for National Policy (CNP). A group described as "the Most Powerful Conservative Group You've Never Heard Of," by ABC News in a May, 2004 report, that noted the group's extraordinary secrecy.
If you want to do a little Republican name-dropping, just recite the names of the 500 or so members of the CNP. They include Christian Coalition president Pat Robertson; political strategist Ralph Reed; Sen Jesse Helms; Congressmen Dick Armey and Tom Delay; Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt; Oliver North; Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt; Focus on the Family head James Dobson; and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer.
"According to a membership roster ... other notable former and current members include: Attorney General John Ashcroft and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Both are no longer members); Christian businessmen like Holland and Jeffrey Coors, of the brewing company; two of fundamentalist Christianity's most prominent end-of-the-world theologists: John Ankerberg, and Dave Breese," ABC noted.
DeVos is also a major supporter of a right-wing, Christian non-profit entity called Gospel Communications International, which has annual revenues of $6.7 million. Its Board of Directors reads like a Who’s Who of Amway kingpins, with DeVos as Chairman and his son, Doug DeVos, as Vice-Chairman. Out of 15 Directors, 10 are from Amway.
Launched in 1995, Gospel.com, claims to be the largest Christian website on the Internet. In 1999, it claimed that it had more than 780 million hits from people in 216 different countries and territories around the world.
During 1998, Gospel was responsible for showing videos and films to over 200 million people in schools, churches, homes, prisons, hospitals, and on television. To give you an idea of what kind of information was contained in those films, consider that 2 books that were being promoted on its website as of Sept 14, 2004, included, From Reveler to Revelation - the Journey of President George W Bush; and A Greater Freedom: Stories of Faith from Operation Iraqi Freedom, by Oliver North.
And of course no religious nutcase tale would be complete if Jerry Falwell wasn‘t mentioned. Not to worry, ole Jerry is in the loop. Amway Kingpin, Dexter Yager, not only financially supports Falwell’s Liberty University, one of Yager's sons sits on the University’s board of directors.
Dexter Yager is such a prince, that years ago, he even let Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker broadcast their religious show from his home, after they lost the PTL ministry, according to Mother Jones Magazine. What a guy.
So How Much Money Are We Talking About?
How much money are we talking about? Well first of all, Amway perks are not limited to money contributions. For example, when describing the events at the 2000 Republican Convention, the New York Times wrote, “For the party’s top underwriters, there will be an array of gold-plated events in Philadelphia, including cocktails with Gen. Colin L. Powell and an evening cruise on the Delaware River aboard the ‘Enterprise,’ the yacht owned by Richard M. DeVos, the Amway founder, who is a Bush supporter.”
Four years later on Sept 2, 2004, the Detroit Free Press described another boat ride. Insiders were feted aboard Dick and Betsy DeVos’ yacht at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, as well as Jay Van Andel’s lavish 169-footer.
Besides yachts trips, we are looking at a whole lot of money being passed around. For example, in 1994, Amway and Anschutz were the top two donors, each giving $250,000 toward a $2.5-million soft money contribution to the RNC. It was the largest single political donation on record.
In return, the Amway big-wigs are treated very well. On July 18, 1996, DeVos was honored at a $3 million Republican fundraiser, where keynote speaker, Bob Dole, paid tribute to him. A week later it was reported that Amway had donated $1.3 million to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, to pay for Republican infomercials airing on Pat Robertson's Family Channel during the convention, according to the Sept/Oct 1996, issue of Mother Jones magazine.
Although the Democrats filed a complaint and blocked the payoff, it demonstrates how one hand washes the other when it comes to Amway, the Religious Right Wing, and the Republican Party.
In the Bush/Cheney campaign 2000, Betsy DeVos, daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, became a so-called Bush Pioneer by raising over $100,000. And overall, in 2000, Amway was the second largest contributor of soft money to the RNC, with donations totaling $1,138,500, second only to Reynolds Tobacco.
In 2004, the 527 “Progress for America” received a bundle. “The latest crop of donors includes Amway founders Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel, who each chipped in $2 million,” reports Newsweek, “The Secret Money War,” Sept 20, 2004.
So what does Amway get in return for all this money? A lot. But most importantly, it allows Amway to operate with political protection against criminal investigations that would lead to the collapse of not only Amway, but the entire MLM industry.
Pyramid Scheme Alert Takes On The MLM
In June 2000, the first consumer advocacy group was formed that focuses directly on pyramid scheme fraud. Pyramid Scheme Alert, Inc (PSA) is a non-profit organization, founded by three activist/authors, with support and encouragement from attorneys, former regulators and private citizens all over the world.
PSA Directors, Robert FitzPatrick and Susanna Perkins, have written an excellent white paper report entitled, "The Amway Industry," which details the damaging and corrupting influence of the MLM industry on consumers and democracy. It is by far, the most thorough and comprehensive report available for people looking for information about the MLM industry. [**]
PSA also has a website that is full of information, which receives more than 150,000 hits per month. The organization provides answers to a stream of consumer inquiries each day. Several of its directors have served as expert witnesses in private and government sponsored court proceedings involving MLM companies. PSA's findings has been referenced, quoted, and featured in reports on NBC, ABC, BBC and in many newspapers and magazines around the world.
It was surely a welcome sight for consumers. For decades now, people have went up against Amway with very little success, and for good reason. Amway attorneys routinely threaten website publishers with libel suits. State Attorney General offices say they are too small and financially strapped to take on MLMs in court, and appeals to the FTC have consistently gone unanswered.
Amway Will Be In Business Until Bush Leaves Office
In light of the above, you can bet that Amway will not be closing its doors anytime soon. Its illegal scheme will remain in tact for at least as long as Bush is in the White House.
But there is one oddity about the Bush-Amway gang that Eric recently pointed out. In most cases of fraud, crooks don’t steal from their own. So this makes Amway unique, because it pays the current administration to protect a multi-billion dollar fraud that targets Conservative Christian Republicans almost exclusively.
Eric said he wondered what kind of animals would eat their own? If my memory serves me correctly, I think pigs do that.
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