Thursday, August 20, 2015

Was Councilor AuClair Involved In A Fundraising Scam?

Ken O’Brien

In a previous post I addressed whether Southbridge Town Councilor Kristen AuClair had misled voters about her role in denying the historical evidence on the existence of dinosaurs.

During her campaign for her current seat on the Council she claimed that her comments on the matter were little more than satire.

As another blogger has noted, “Sadly, I think they actually believe what they’re saying, although we may never know for sure. Between their Facebook page, Twitter feed and Youtube channel, they seem dumbfoundingly earnest. And would anyone put this much effort into their website if they didn’t really mean it?”

Whether or not Councilor AuClair was pursuing an earnest belief or was in fact engaged with others in a high level piece of performance art, one of her group’s efforts, in which she was involved, raises serious concerns. 

That concern has to do with an effort to raise money on behalf of Christians Against Dinosaurs (CAD).




A look at the YouTube page on which this video appears indicates a real effort to pursue the fundraising goal.



As the page indicates, there was an Indiegogo account set up to receive donations to the cause. Clicking on this link, however, currently leads to the following result.



This does not mean, however, that the account never existed. Another blog, The Uncertaintist, maintained that CAD was in fact a hoax. As a result of this conviction the author filed a complaint with Indiegogo in March.

The Uncertaintist wrote this morning to the Help Center at Indiegogo, where the “Christians against Dinosaurs” crowdfunding campaign is hosted. I used Indiegogo’s online form. They acknowledged receipt of the message by return email. The message said:
Type of issue: Report a Policy Violation
Your email address: Uncertaintist@gmail.com
Subject: Prohibited Content
Description:
The “Christians against Dinsoaurs” campaign page links to the website,
Near the top of that site is a “slideshow” which contains a photograph which purports to depict several people demonstrating in support of the campaign’s agenda. Superimposed on the photo is the phrase “Fighting Big Paleo for Christ.”
In fact, the photograph is a graphically altered scene cropped from a picture taken on February 5, 2011 at a local-issue protest in St Ives, Cornwall. That protest was covered by journalists at the time, and the source photograph has long been hosted at the Facebook page of the Cornwall protestors....

The messages on the placards held by the protestors have been changed. Relevant photos are attached.
This situation may be contrary to that portion of your Terms of Use which provides that “Campaign Owners shall not make any false or misleading statements in connection with their Campaigns.” I recommend that you investigate further.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this matter.

A series of follow-ups indicated the result of this complaint:

Update:  Indiegogo issued a customer service message, about a day and a half after receiving our complaint. In pertinent part, the reply said
At this time, the campaign, ‘Christians Against Dinosaurs’, is under review to ensure that it adheres to our Terms of Use.
That’s good. What does that mean?
We will include the information you have provided along with all other information at our disposal in our review of the campaign. In some cases, we will contact the campaign owner for more information or have them edit their campaign and it will remain on our platform. If we find the project or campaign owner doesn’t follow our rules, we may remove the campaign. We may also restrict the campaign owner’s future activities on Indiegogo.
When will we hear about your decision?
To protect our users’ privacy, we’re unable to share the action we take.
Well, OK. I can see that raising money from the public might be a time when you could use  some privacy. If something else turns up, can I share it with you?
Please note that you do not need to contact us again. Doing so would create a new ticket and prolong the process.
Mkay. The hoaxers chose their crowdfunding site well. As a matter of policy, Indiegogo campaign owners (in general, as explained in the reply and quoted above), can lie about their past activities, can be caught lying, and their public fundraising just might proceed anyway, with no disclosure to the public that there ever was any problem.
That’s handy to know about anything you might see on Indiegogo
Update (March 10, 2015): It appears that the CAD fundraising campaign has been removed from Indiegogo.

What can be gleaned from this account?

First, CAD did open an Indiegogo account and attempted to raise funds for its efforts from it.

Second, for reasons that Indiegogo has not released, the account was terminated.

Third, Ms. AuClair participated in the effort to raise funds from those willing to contribute to the activities of CAD.

Now there are two possibilities. Those fundraising activities could have been on behalf of a legitimate campaign against what was perceived as a false history. Alternatively, those fundraising activities constituted an effort to defraud those who actually believed that “big Paleo” was misleading the public.

Whichever is the case, Ms. AuClair has engaged in deceit of either the voters of Southbridge in claiming that her contributions were merely satire, or she was involved in an effort to deceive those who might have contributed to CAD in the belief that the group reflected their own  (however misguided) views.

One can only speculate what might have become of any donations had it not been for the complaint filed by The Uncertaintist.

Since the fundraising video was released in February Ms. AuClair has not made any additional contributions to the site. This may be related to her coincident decision to run for Southbridge Town Council. However, the site itself has published new videos as recently as August 2nd.

6 comments:

  1. Oh, Ken. When you sunk to your vulgar attacks on a woman's physique my respect for you had all but been shattered... but now this. Any normal, thinking person with a sense of humor and awareness of the ridiculousness of the anti-intellectualism movement in America would see the works of Ms. Auclair as nothing other than satire. Millennials now live and breathe satire and are (obviously) leaving the older generations behind in how they discuss and deal with the ills of our society.

    Even if this satirical group went as far as to fund-raise for something, such as a billboard, there is no deception, or wrongdoing as long as they did exactly as what they had fundraised for. Had they kept the money and not purchased a billboard, or whatever they had stated they would do with it, then you would have grounds to inquire. Instead, this is gossipy, back-room, vindictive garbage that has no other purpose but to taint someone's reputation and possibly gain you clicks on you monetized site. It's gutter journalism, Ken, and deep down you know it.

    In any case, the issue of the fundraising is irrelevant and the fact that you are trying to make it an issue in the most despicable way really shows what is wrong with this town. So many real issues, so many ignored solutions, so many distracted citizens, and you're focused on someone's satire, or their weight, or their appearance? You, who were once one of Southbridge's most promising citizens, now resorting to calling people fat and muckraking. You've become a metaphor of what is wrong with this town, Ken. It's not good. I mean no disrespect, but someone has to say it. You are disappointing.

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    1. Raciel:
      As regards my attack on the lard ass, it was nothing compared to what she and her cronies subjected Patty Woodruff. The only difference was that Ms. Woodruff responded with integrity and dignity while the porcine chairlump attempted to destroy me. Not only did she get what she deserved, her incompetence is illustrated by her and her followers’ results.

      As regards the current issue, just look at the comments on the various YouTube pages as well as the numerous articles written on the subject and you will see that a large number of people were, at the very least, unsure if this was satire. If it was, so be it. But an attempt to fundraise from those who thought it was for real is indefensible – and you know it. Rather than criticize me, why don’t you admit the reality that Ms. AuClair was involved in an attempt to scam people.

      Delete
    2. P.S. I find it pathetic that you and so many others would dismiss all the other writing I have done just because you disagree with my comments about Big Mac. I consider her and her colleagues’ attacks on Ms. Woodruff far more offensive than anything I said. But I guess that is just an illustration of how shallow your own grasp is of what is really important.

      As far as the current case, there is no comparison.

      Delete
  2. As someone close to Kristen, who also followed the clever satire and performance art that was/is Christians Against Dinosaurs I'd like to weigh in. Your suggestion that there is a "...reality that Ms. AuClair was involved in an attempt to scam people." demonstrates a failed understanding of the difference between satire and fraud.

    First, the purpose of seeking donations was to raise money to rent advertising space to promote the Christians Against Dinosaurs message. Whether supporters appreciate the satire or believe that dinosaurs didn't exist is inconsequential. It would only be a scam if money that was raised was used for a different purpose. If Stephen Colbert were to run for office as the satirical right wing politician he portrayed in The Colbert Report he would not be scamming anyone by accepting campaign donations, provided the money was used toward that end. By the same token, it doesn't matter if a solicitor for an organization believes in a cause, only that the money is used for the purpose that is represented.

    Second, in this case, all the donations came from people involved in the CAD group (the satirists themselves) and since enough money was not raised for the intended goal of renting a billboard, all donations were returned. You are trying to create an issue where there isn't one.

    I believe you were unhappy that you couldn't convince Kristen that the Casella leachate treatment plant was a good idea and this is your way of punishing her. You have compounded your foolish support for an imbecile proposal with an ignorant attack on someone else's character.

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    1. There appears to be a good deal of misinformation here.

      The fundraising post appeared on February 26th. The Uncertaintist filed its complaint with Indiegogo on March 3rd. The Indiegogo account was gone by March 10th.

      In other words the fundraising account appeared and was gone in 12 days. I suspect that it was removed for reasons other than its success or failure. As someone who claims to be close to Ms. AuClair, I also doubt that your own motives are above suspicion. Further, how would you know the motives of any or all contributors?

      As far as my own motives, the have nothing to do with what you suggest. I asked Ms. AuClair during her campaign about this and she responded that it was satire. I took her word for it. In reality I had been in the intensive care unit of UMass Medical and in recovery afterward when the whole incident transpired. I had no idea how big the controversy was. I only looked into it based upon recent comments made by someone on the post about Ms. AuClair’s candidacy.

      As far as the intent for any funds raised, the only reason available at this time is stated in the YouTube posting: “We are crowd-funding to support our campaign activities. Please click the link and donate to help us become #DinoFreeIn2015.” As The Uncertaintist noted, “The hoaxers chose their crowdfunding site well. As a matter of policy, Indiegogo campaign owners (in general, as explained in the reply and quoted above), can lie about their past activities, can be caught lying, and their public fundraising just might proceed anyway, with no disclosure to the public that there ever was any problem.”

      To attempt to draw an analogy to any of Colbert’s activities is ludicrous. None of his activities involved the clear effort to confuse the public that was engaged in here. If you doubt that just google “Christians Against Dinosaurs” and judge for yourself the debate that existed as to whether they were real or not.

      If anything you are the one who is attempting to justify a lapse in judgment with a fog of misdirection.

      Delete
    2. You are either a liar, or are being lied to by your "close' friend. People are removed hourly from their official Facebook page when any form of dissenting opinion is offered to their ideology, still sound like satire? This is a fact from someone who joined the group after reading it was "satire" and a "performance piece" So I know exactly what goes on in the group and it is not satire.

      Delete

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