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Amway's Domestic Revival
If you watched any television at all over the holidays you might have wondered why there seemed to be so many commercials for a company called Amway Global (Amway being an abbreviation of American Way). Were these ads for the same company that has been accused of running a pyramid scheme and paid nearly $20 million in fines in a Canadian criminal fraud case 25 years ago?
Eric Scheibeler, author of Merchants of Deception: An Insider's Look at the Worldwide, Systematic, Conspiracy of Lies That is Amway/Quixtar and their Motivational Organizations told me that the controversies stalking the company continue to this day. Scheibeler said that he had "worked with local victims and initiated a UK government investigation in which the DTI/BERR (Department of Trade and Industry/Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform) took legal action against Amway and is waiting for an appeals court decision to potentially ban them from the country."
According to Scheibeler, a high level Amway member who was ostracized for uncovering fraud and deception within the company, "UK Justice Norris found in 2008 that out of an IBO [Independent Business Owners] population of 33,000, 'only about 90 made sufficient incomes to cover the costs of actively building their business.' That's a 99.7% loss rate for investors. The scheme appears to be falling apart in the U.S., UK and Australia hence the beefed up prime time ads in the U.S.
"Many of their [Amway's] highest level distributors have left to join other multi-level marketing groups," Scheibeler added, "and I now have an internal management document detailing a five year 96% drop out rate. Thousands of Amway victims from countless nations have sent me heart wrenching testimonials. Quite a few involve losses in excess of $10,000."
Through his time selling Amway products, Scheibeler, who had developed a business that extended from North America to Europe, South America, and the Philippines, met a number of politically powerful Republican politicians and conservative religious leaders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Iran/Contra figure Oliver North, and then-Senator Rick Santorum. Former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush also spoke to Amway distributors. Religious leaders like Charles Stanley (a former distributor), Dr. Robert Schuller, and the late Dr. D. James Kennedy of Florida's multi-million dollar Coral Ridge Ministries, gave the company and its founders a credibility that seemed beyond reproach.
In 1959 Amway was founded by two high school buddies from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Richard DeVos and the late Jay Van Andel. In the intervening decades, the Michigan-based Amway became a phenomenally successful company and is now the second-largest direct-selling company in the world. In 2000 it became part of an umbrella company called Alticor Inc., which does business as Quixtar in the U.S. and Canada, and as Amway Corp. throughout the rest of the world. (Quixtar has recently been charged with fraud and racketeering in a class-action suit filed by two former distributors in California.)
Amway Global and other companies under the Alticor umbrella reported sales of $7.2 billion for the year ending December 31, 2007, marking the company's sixth straight year of growth.
Van Andel and DeVos used a portion of their wealth as a defacto insurance policy, becoming major financiers of Republican Party candidates and Religious Right causes. According to Progress for America, Amway's founders contributed $4 million to conservative "527 groups" in the 2004 election cycle. In April 2005 Rolling Stone magazine reported that Amway CEO and co-founder DeVos was connected with the dominionist political movement in the United States and that he had given more than $5 million to the Coral Ridge Ministries.
Despite the controversies and legal challenges the company continues to face, it has never gone out of business. Instead, it shifted the bulk of its efforts to overseas markets. These days, its three current growth hotspots are Russia, China, and India. "In the late 1980s, about three-quarters of our business was here in the U.S.," Steve Van Andel, Alticor's chair, co-chief executive, and (like Doug DeVos) the son of one of Amway's founders, recently told the Associated Press. "Now about 80 percent of it is outside the country."
According to the Associated Press, Alticor is "shelving the inert Quixtar label [a name that apparently never caught on] and pouring millions of dollars into reviving the Amway brand in North America with market research, national television commercials and ads in newspapers and magazines and online."
Amway Global intends to revert back to Amway in about a year. It has several goals, including reacquainting the public with the company's extensive product line, which includes health and beauty items, homecare products, jewelry, water purifiers, etc.
While times may be tough economically for a sustained re-birth, company officials "hope to repeat in the United States the kind of growth they've seen abroad in the past and to revive the mystique that helped the company spread throughout the Midwest and, by the mid-1960s, the rest of the U.S. Amway's hundreds of thousands of distributors dreamed of getting rich by selling cleaning products and by recruiting their acquaintances to join the fold," the AP reported.
Despite the fact that a U.S. Federal Trade Commission examination into Amway's business practices during the 1970s concluded in 1979 that it was not an illegal pyramid scheme because compensation is based on retail sales to consumers and because salespeople are not paid for recruiting new colleagues, it is still under government investigations in England, India, and China.
For nearly 40 years, the DeVos family has been a major benefactor of both the religious right and the Republican Party. In October, former Amway Corp. chief Dick DeVos held a private fundraiser featuring President George W. Bush to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee. Shortly before the 1994 election, the Amway Corporation gave the GOP $2.5 million which, at the time, was "the largest political donation in recent American history," the Washington Post reported. In 1996 the company donated $1.3 million to the San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau "to help fund a Republican cable TV show to be aired during the party's national convention," the Associated Press reported. The program featured "rising GOP stars as 'reporters,'" and aired on the Family Channel, owned by Pat Robertson.
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, founded in 1970, has provided major funding for such right-wing groups as Concerned Women for America, the late Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, Michigan Right to Life, Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins's Washington, DC-based lobbying group, the Family Research Council. Foundations with the DeVos family name attached to it now include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation (1990), the Daniel and Pamela DeVos Foundation (1992), and the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation (1992).
There is also a DeVos connection to Blackwater USA, the world's most powerful mercenary army and the largest contractor providing security in Iraq (until it was kicked out in January). The company is currently up to its neck in legal problems related to its activities in Iraq. Blackwater was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, the son of Edgar Prince, a wealthy Michigan auto-parts supplier. The elder Prince is described by Jeremy Scahill, in his bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, as a "radical right-wing Christian mega-millionaire" who is a strong financial backer of President George W. Bush, as well as a donor to a host of conservative Christian political causes.
In the 1980s, "The Prince family merged" with the DeVos family as Eric's older sister Betsy married Dick DeVos, the son of Amway's co-founder, Scahill writes. Together, the two families became one of the "greatest bankrollers of far-right causes in U.S. history, and with their money they propelled extremist Christian politicians and activists to positions of prominence."
As Scheibeler noted, "Although Bernard Madoff allegedly swindled $50 billion from about 8,000 victims, he seems to be an amateur in comparison to Amway. Amway has brought in far in excess of that amount from tens of millions of consumers who invested in 'their own Amway business' and it seems nearly all did so and continue to do so at a loss. The difference is that the Madoff pipeline is shut down, while you may be recruited to an Amway meeting tomorrow."
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.