Strippers and beer. Narcotics as incentives. Easily the most morally bankrupt company I would ever work for in my life: Feature Films For Families (FFFF).
It’s hard to imagine that these scandalous elements would not only occur but also thrive in a company like this. They would go from selling millions of morally uplifting films to Christians across America to be completely dismantled for their illegal telemarketing practices within 25 years. What makes this story all the more intriguing is the little-known fact that FFFF were sub-contracted out by the Republican National Committee for the 2016 presidential campaign, and it seems that the RNC may have picked up some of their bad habits along the way if recent lawsuits have anything to say. A story filled with drugs and deception, fraud and rage, and controversies of every shape and size, you are about to see how the GOP has used the time-honored tradition of fine print to bankrupt their own constituents. First off, we need to go back in time to the late-1990s/early 2000s.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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If you have never heard of them before, FFFF was a film manufacturing and distribution company. Along with making their own productions, they would take established films like “Space Camp” and edit them for content to make them accessible to any age. Some of their more well-known films include “The Buttercream Gang,” “Rigoletto,” “No More Baths,” “Scamper The Penguin,” and “The Seventh Brother” to name a few. FFFF was started in the early 90s by Forrest S. Baker III in Salt Lake City, Utah. The companies aggressive telemarketing and sales tactics allowed them to quickly spread nationwide. With the promise of receiving morally uplifting messages, such as being your brother’s keeper or helping those less fortunate than you are, without mention of God or Jesus, it appealed to a large demographic of Americans.
During the two years I was employed there, we were consistently hitting the mark of one million films sold per month, every month. Though we were putting on an excellent front, the company and its employees were anything but angels, and it came from the top down. There were three supervisors over agents like myself who made the sales calls, and all of them were active in spearheading the shenanigans. One of the sups was a misogynist who regularly had sexual harassment allegations threatened against him. The second, who's father was a dentist, would steal the narcotics his father had at his home-based practice and then offer them as sales incentives to the employees. The third one would take the evening employees to a local strip club and buy them beer before the shift started to “get everyone ready for the day.” It was because of these attitudes that 90% of the employees were either full-blown drug addicts or alcoholics; and as long as expectations were met, management looked the other way. It was because of this relaxed attitude that I was able to both maintain a healthy meth addiction while also receiving the “Employee Of The Month” award. If you were on the other end of our phone call during this time frame, I can guarantee the person you spoke with was on something. There can be an argument made that the upper management, who was located down the hall, didn’t know what was going on with the substances. The one thing they couldn't deny was the rapidly rising numbers of customers who didn't want to hear from us ever again that we were still calling.
If a customer told us to never call them again, we were given the specific instructions to put them on either a six-month or annual callback list; never get rid of a lead. This was ongoing throughout my employment. With FFFF there were always rumblings and rumors that the government was watching us and our activities, but there was never anything that lead us to believe there was a reason to worry. In the mid-2000s this conjecture bore fruit and the FCC registered a complaint against FFFF for their deceptive practices and the "Do Not Call Registry." In a nutshell, FFFF created a division of the company that was posing as a non-profit organization that would call people with a survey. During the call, they would lead the conversation to a place that would include family-based entertainment. Using dubious verbiage, they would get the person to agree to receive future calls with "information" about a company that is trying to spearhead a campaign in Hollywood to clean up its act. Because of the non-profit angle, it skirted the DNCR when it came to the actual film solicitation. Over the next decade, the challenge made its way through the courts. After an eight-day trial in May 2016, a jury found the companies had committed more than 117 million knowing violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. This included 99 million calls to phone numbers on the do not call registry and more than 4 million additional calls in which they made misleading statements to induce DVD sales. In 2018 the US Department of Justice imposed a $45.4 million fine but suspended all but $487,735 based on the companies' inability to pay the entire amount. The years spent in court pretty much decimated the business financially, but the ruling was definitely the final nail in the coffin.
So, other than the GOP being “God’s Team,” you may be asking what Feature Films For Families has to do with the Republican party?
In 2015, I saw an online ad to work for the RNC doing outbound solicitations for donations for the benefit of Reince Preibus and the party as a whole. After applying, I got an interview set up, and noticed something funny about the address, it was pretty familiar. On the day of my appointment, I realized I was going to the same building that housed FFFF. To my surprise, it was FFFF … kind of. Because of the lawsuits they were facing, they had to sublet out a part of the company to the RNC for solicitation of funds. The sublet went under a moniker that shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. The important point to all of this is that they were using FFFF proprietary software for what was named a “Call Blaster.” It meant more money, more quickly. It seems that with recent history, this business relationship went a little deeper than subletting employees.
In the final two-and-a-half months of 2020, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors due to deceptive solicitation practices. Though these fundraising efforts began in September of 2020, it took a little while to catch steam, but boy did it. President Trump's full campaign effort raised $495 million between October 15 and November 23, 2020, according to new FEC filings, a total that includes the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, and other affiliated committees. Much of the money being raised to help fund election challenges, like donations being solicited through requests to challenge the election outcome, isn't being funneled to a specific group. The campaign is allocating some money for recount efforts, and the same "election defense" rhetoric is being used to direct money to Trump's new political action committee, “Save America." Not only were the exact recipients of the funds shrouded in mystery, but the way they did it was also incredibly shady. When you would make a donation, there was a small box that would automatically get checked for a recurring payment. This meant that unless you explicitly opt-out these recurring charges would occur. In doing this, the Trump campaign has found itself in hot water. "Bandits!” said Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old Californian, who made a $990 online donation to Mr. Trump in early September via WinRed. It then recurred seven more times—adding up to almost $8,000. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.” Given the advanced ages of some of their constituents, it was setting the perfect trap.
I want to make it clear I don’t have a “smoking gun.” I do not know if the GOP purchased the rights to the software used by FFFF. I don’t have any inner-office memos saying that there was a conspiracy or the like. I just have statistics and my own experiences. But I will say this; the GOP loves guilt by association. From automatically assuming that BLM is Antifa is Terrorism, they live for similes. Giving them the same respect, it seems they got a lot of great knowledge from watching how FFFF was failing in the courts and witnessed what not to do. Unfortunately, they didn’t learn everything and it ended up costing them $64.3 million. Maybe take a couple of notes next time, huh?