Stein’s Recount: The Art of the Steal? (Update x2)

One of the first things theatrical pickpockets learn is attention and expectation management. “The Art of the Steal” requires you to learn where people aren’t looking and act accordingly. If the Green Party’s Jill Stein’s efforts to establish a recount in three battleground states is as some now claim, it appears Jill Stein and I studied under similar tutors. Her last ditch effort to raise money for a recount in three states smells fishy at best.  At worst, it reeks of a major confidence scam.

As I outline my theory, and I stress this is a theory, I’ll be using a few terms worth mentioning. The first is “mark.” This is a term con artists used in the days when they frequented carnival midways with rigged games designed to fleece people out of money. If a person bought the scam, the con artist would mark their clothing with chalk as they exited the game, letting other con artists know a particular “gamer” was easy pickings for other predators.

1. Find the mark’s need and offer a solution.

Election aftermath left many people in states of fear, resentment, and unhappiness. They wanted anything  to stop Donald Trump from getting to inauguration day. Potential solutions ranged from petitioning the Electoral College to vote their conscience as “faithless electors” all the way down to implementing algorithms at Google and Facebook to eliminate “fake news” that allegedly handed conservatives control off the Legislative and Executive branches, and several new gubernatorial mansions to boot.

The folks of Pantsuit Nation wrung their hands in fear until Jill Stein came along with a solution that seemed plausible. Get enough funds together and petition for a vote recount in some states. Surely if the votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are closely scrutinized we’ll have proof Hillary won, or at least the Donald didn’t get enough of the votes to get those states’ electors, right!

Stein’s nugget of hope came at the right time and in the right fashion to generate around five million dollars as of this writing. That shows someone trained in the deceptive arts she managed to tap into a vulnerability many people wanted desperately healed.

2. Start the Put-Up 

It’s hard to tell why anyone other than Jill Stein would want $7 million dollars to push for a recount of an election that will most likely not benefit anyone or “raise confidence” in the voting process. The “put-up” is the phase of a confidence scam where the grifter establishes a rapport of trust and support with the mark. Right now with a good number of people “disgusted” in a “rigged” system where one person won the popular vote but the winner triggered enough votes to get the required electors are especially vulnerable to  someone who comes along preaching an ideal of “election integrity.” That message was enough to catch the ears of someone who apparently understood the internet, but didn’t get people.

“If there was hacking or tampering with ballots anywhere, both sides should support a review. America deserves clean elections.”–George Takei, 23 Nov 2016.

Grifters are masters of the put-up. People afraid of losing something are especially vulnerable to a good put-up. This election cycle was largely dominated by fear, and post-election fears continue to escalate. Those buying into Jill Stein’s bill of goods are heavily invested in a mindset of fear, so if this was a scam the odds are people pouring cash into Stein’s coffers are doing so because they think she can alleviate that fear.

As far as trust and credibility with the mark goes, Stein may not have the same level of credibility as some, but she does have the exposure of being a major third party Presidential candidate. People voted for her. Many pundits asked, and people demanded, a third option when the duopoly produced Queen Meemaw and The Donald. The media narrative would rally behind a female presidential candidate asking for a recount to ensure “election integrity.” The put-up, if this were a scam, would already be a slam-dunk.

3. Escalate the game for more of the mark’s money 

In carnival sideshow games, the grifter offers a chance at a greater prize for just another dollar. Sometimes the need taps into an irrational side of our brains which the grifter exploits. Regardless, at some point during the scam, a good grifter is going to ask for more money because of a critically important reason.

On Wednesday, November 23, Stein initially asked for $2.5 million, needed by Friday, 4 PM central, in order to begin the petition for a recount. That sounds suspiciously like scams from “psychics” asking for a certain amount of money by a particular time or date in order to make something happen or prevent a tragedy. It certainly sounds like a scam a televangelist pulled on his flock warning of his death unless $8 million in donations hit his door. Maybe there are good reasons for Stein needing that amount by 4 PM on Black Friday.

If that’s the case, it’s a touch troubling over the weekend Stein changed the total goal to $7 million once the funds started rolling in. David Cobb, Jill Stein’s campaign manager, told LawNewz when asked for comment the initial funding goal was just factoring in Wisconsin. When they “realized” the cost of a recount in the other states, they upped the fundraising goal. That sounds reasonable. A recount costs money, and ventures of any sort often require more funds than initially anticipated.

Taking David Cobb’s word at face value leaves the uneasy with questions. If they only started their fundraising efforts with Wisconsin in mind, why did they begin the fundraising drive with all three states in mind? At what point in time did the Stein team “realize” the $2.5 million would cost more than anticipated? And why did the Stein recount team initially tell donors they could not “guarantee” a recount, but only “pledge” for one, then delete that text?

Take a look at this twit from political comedian Tim Young. It contains the original language on the Stein fundraising website on Wednesday the 23rd. The current text is located at the LawNewz article, circled in red. Why the change? According to David Cobb, the text was changed to make the fundraiser “clearer.” There were no “discrepancies;” it was merely “explanatory text.” Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume from the start everything is on the up and up. From this angle, it doesn’t look too good for Jill Stein, her “recount” fundraiser, or even the rest of her career. It looks like she’s preparing herself for the final phase of the con.

4. Clear the table, insulate yourself, and get out of town.

We haven’t seen Stein do this, so there’s a good chance she’s on the up-and-up with her recount efforts. And reports from the news indicate she is using donor money for good, since Wisconsin will now begin a recount of the vote after Stein leveraged what capital she had to make it happen. If you donated money to the Jill Stein recount fundraiser, it looks like things are OK.

But there’s still two states left. Two states where if the word comes back “no,” the money donated goes to help promote “election integrity.” What that says is as clear as the phrase “Make America Great Again.” The difference is one phrase got a guy into the White House. The other sounds good, but smells heavily of a cheat trying to leave town.

I’m not writing any of this to suggest Jill Stein is a fraud or that her efforts to get a recount started are less than sincere. What I am saying is that from the eyes of someone who’s studied con artists, who has a grasp of the fundamental principles by which people can take your watch, cell phone, and wallet without you ever knowing, if this were a scam it smells like one that needs exposure.

Donate if you wish, but know what you’re buying before you chip in your hard earned money.

UPDATE: I woke this morning to the following Medium post from Marc Elias, the Clinton team’s counsel, regarding Secretary Clinton’s involvement in the recount efforts. Read it if you will, but it’s full of double-speak and proposes no concrete action. And they’re not donating money.

UPDATE x 2: We now know why those lawyer fees went so high so quickly. Jill Stein missed Pennsylvania’s voter recount filing deadline.

Timing is everything, especially when you’re working against the clock before someone calls bullshit.

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