You must walk a fine line when crafting your public persona. Sometimes, the best image for a Great Cheater isn’t arrogant and successful, but humble, pious, and devout. BUT! Do not practice what you preach. For instance, John Rigas refused to allow Adelphia to carry X-rated programming, treated employees well, put his phone number on bills, and financed medical centers, all while immorally cheating his way to a fortune. Good for him. Consider these other hypocritunties:
• Building a million-member church based upon outrage over sexual deviancy while buying drugs and having illicit homosexual affairs. (Pastor Ted Haggard was the founder of New Life Church in Colorado and outspokenly condemned homosexual activity. He was forced to resign after being caught using drugs with a male prostitute. Cool.)
• Speaking out against gambling from Vegas. (Billy “The Book of Virtues” Bennett wrote a book called, surprisingly, The Book of Virtues and his Empower America organization opposed casinos. In 2003 he admitted he was a high-stakes gambler who’d lost millions in Vegas, butbutbut he only played on blackjack tables of great virtue.)
• Criticizing congressional earmarks, then requesting thousands yourself. (Bush was an outspoken opponent of congressional earmarks but has requested thousands himself. Including: $330 million to research pest control, $1.5 million for a waterway, $900,000 for an air traffic control tower in Kalamazoo—that place sucks—$12 million for a parachute repair shop, $6.5 million for asphalt research, $2 million to detect neutrinos at the South Pole, and $28 million for GE and Siemens to do go-nowhere research. What about the folks who get all this earmarked money? They’re Getting Rich Cheating too, aren’t they? See Chapter 19: Friends, Cheaters, Countrymen.)
• Announcing you will limit yourself to a salary of just one dollar but “forgetting” to mention your signing bonus and stocks. (Thanks for the tip, Richard Miller of Delphi! Your compensation in 2005 was $3.75 million. Your “salary” was only $1. Auto companies, take note.)
• Railing against infidelity while cheating on your spouse. (Congress people Henry Hyde and Helen Chenoweth, while pursuing the impeachment of Bill Clinton, were both later revealed to have been adulterers.)
• Proselytizing the Bible on TV while awaiting trial. (My man, Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth, read the Bible on a morning TV show called Viewpoint in Birmingham during his trial ... in Birmingham. He began preaching in churches and invited pastors and followers to his trial. Hallelujah, praise cheat-us!)
• Ending affirmative action after getting a position to do so because of affirmative action. (Supreme Court Justice Clarence “My book sold millions and I’ve got a job for life” Thomas.)
• Praising the free market while circumventing its rules. (Everybody ever born.)
Get Rich Cheating
By Jeff Kreisler
Harper Paperbacks, 336 pages
Succes$tory: “We fired Kate Moss for her cocaine bust. We took a moral stand! Us! The peddler of a chemical scent whose sole purpose is to deceive people into sexual relations. Ha!” — Chanel
Looking for easy hypocrisy? Give to charity. Great Cheaters are some of the biggest contributors to local and national causes, and they often start their own, like Oprah’s Angel Network, Bono’s One Campaign, and Ken Lay’s “Seriously, I’m not dead—I’m just hiding, but I’m running out of food” Foundation. These groups don’t exist just to get tax breaks, nor are they always sham fronts to hide profits. Sometimes they simply work to get local communities to blindly love and forgive you, whether you’re a corporate crook, an athlete with too much money, a movie star with guilt, or a retired lobbyist. A well-funded anti-cleft palates organization can help others turn the other cheek. “He seemed like such a nice guy. Always helping out around the neighborhood. Quiet, kept to himself. I never thought they’d find so many bodies in his basement.”—Neighbors reacting to news of a serial killer and/or cheater living next door
Spin, Baby, Spin
You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, and that’s all you need to Get Rich Cheating.
Even though everything you’ve done up to this point is, in totality, positive—at least for you—some might not get the big picture. So, like the Great Cheaters, twist and turn your bad deeds into good things. It’s possible to see events in many different ways: Ford either “lost an astounding $4 billion” or “kept their losses under $10 billion.” Enron either “stole” or “arbitraged.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. Look at something, decide what you want it to mean, then unleash a tangled web of words and imagery to lead your audience to that conclusion. The Great Cheater knows that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, only bad publicists. Omit certain facts, emphasize others, and always remain vague, obscure, and confusing. Good spinmeisters—be they spokesmen, publicists, or members of the corporate PR department—can take your foot out of your mouth and place it on the road to riches.
Spinning is the art of making something bad into something good and lucrative. To enhance their humanity and earning power, cheating celebrities (or their publicists) spin a drunken binge into dehydration, reckless driving and child endangerment into sleepless empathy with the victims of (insert most recent natural disaster), underage sex and child porn into “research for a book,” anti-Semitism into alcoholism, racism into alcoholism, and, oddly, alcoholism into prescription painkiller addiction.
“Cozy” apartments, a “people person,” “youthful indiscretions,” “girls being girls.” These are just some impressive everyday spin jobs. Other Great Cheater spin:
• For centuries, the White House spokesperson has helped ordinary people accept everything from the public health benefits of global warming (Dana Perino) to the really long nap Lincoln took after a show at the Ford Theater (Lincoln’s press secretary).
• Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, Perino, Mike McCurry, and that guy from the movie Thank You for Smoking are among the great propagandists of our time, able to make trillions flow with the tip of their tongues. McClellan admitted his job was to deceive, twist, distort, and enable2. He did a good job.
• After Hurricane Katrina, President Bush touted economic recovery while speaking to disaster relief workers in North Carolina. Yes, business was booming for the catastrophe industry, but that’s like saying the Detroit Lions are a success to people who sell the letter “L.”
• You’re not “avoiding taxes”; you’re “increasing tax competitiveness.”
• You’re not “cutting jobs”; you’re just “lowering the retirement age (to now).”
• You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
• You’re just expanding the limits of America’s knowledge.
• Don’t stifle innovation!
• “Hey! No one at GM has committed mass murder this week!”
Is your nose growing? Can you sell me the Brooklyn Bridge? Are your pants on fire? If so, you’ve got the spinning chops of a Great Cheater.