Todd Blodgett, A Washington, D.C., consultant who has worked closely with two of the country's leading extremists, discusses the past he says he now regrets.
Todd Blodgett, 39, began working in Republican campaigns while still in his early teens, and eventually landed jobs in the Reagan White House press office, the Bush-Quayle election committee and several state GOP campaigns. In 1995, Blodgett says he was approached by Willis Carto, a long-time anti-Semite and stalwart of America's extreme right, and went to work for him as a marketing consultant.
In the next four years, he would meet and work with other extremists including the notorious William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. After his role as a broker for Pierce was revealed in the Intelligence Report, Blodgett says his world began to collapse. In short order, he approached the magazine hoping, he said, to redeem himself publicly.
While he did not disclose all details of his business dealings, Blodgett did offer some revealing glimpses of his former world.
Intelligence Report: Let's start out by discussing your motivations in approaching the Intelligence Report. When we wrote about you in the fall of 1999, we discussed your role in helping William Pierce land control of Resistance Records, America's premier racist rock label.
You've also been associated with other key radical figures in the recent past. Why are you talking to us now? And what were your reasons for your past associations?
Blodgett: Truthfully, the answer is I was very opportunistically inclined. It was business — strictly business — and now I'm paying the price for it, and I'm not happy about it. I was stiffed by Willis Carto to the tune of about $78,000, and I'm angry.
My wife and my parents are not happy about the Washington Post [which ran an article recapitulating the earlier Intelligence Report story], and I want to get past that.
I'm not a hateful person, and I'm not a Holocaust denier [like Carto, who founded Liberty Lobby and other anti-Semitic organizations]. I've been threatened with beheading, and had the office next to mine torn up by a Skinhead — the same Skinhead I ended up paying off with $2,000 in the company of armed guards. I didn't want to come home some night and find my house burning down.
If someone who has the views of Willis Carto or William Pierce came to me now and offered me ten times as much as I made before, I would not take it. I still have some good clients, and I'm working with them. I want to redeem myself in the eyes of my friends and my clients.
IR: Let's talk about how you got to Washington from Iowa [where Blodgett's father, Republican Gary B. Blodgett, is currently serving his fourth term as assistant majority leader], the state you grew up in.
Blodgett: I got into politics when I was 14 or 15 years old. I volunteered for the 1976 Reagan campaign, and I also volunteered while I was in college for the '80 Reagan campaign. After I graduated in 1983, I went to work for the re-election campaign of Sen. Roger Jepsen, who lost in the fall of 1984.
At that point, I lobbied the soon-to-be former senator and Neil Reagan, the president's brother, whom I'd met earlier. About a week after the election, I had a job in the press office of the Reagan White House.
I worked there until the fall of 1986, when I was offered a job at a marketing firm that more than doubled my salary. I wanted to get more involved in business and marketing. That was also the year I met Willis, at some society reception.
He put me down for a subscription to The Spotlight [Carto's conspiracy-minded tabloid], and from time to time he would call me for lunch, maybe three times in the '80s and probably twice in the early '90s. Anyway, I worked at the marketing firm until early 1988.
That year, I joined the Bush campaign, where I worked as a domestic policy analyst, specializing in what we called "wedge" issues — gun control, welfare abuse, capital punishment, crime — the types of issues conducive to getting working-class whites to either not vote, or vote Republican.
I went on to work for the Republican National Committee, where I was assigned to two campaigns in Texas.
IR: So how did you start to enter the world of the radical right?
Blodgett: Republicans lost a lot of seats in 1990 and were kind of on the defensive and I just decided I was tired of politics. So I employed my skills as a salesman and advertising writer with a California entrepreneur who was and is the owner of Slick Times, a kind of Clinton lampoon. In January 1995, I decided to start my own consulting company.
In the meantime, Willis Carto had been contacting me to come work for him. I named a price I thought he'd never meet — $3,500 a month — and sure enough, he agreed. He also gave me an assistant.
IR: What was your role with Carto?
Blodgett: It became obvious The Spotlight was in real trouble — advertising revenue was flat, circulation was down, the readership was aging. They didn't know how to promote it. My job was to try to bring the publication back to life. The Spotlight became the exclusive client of my agency; at the same time, I also was a liaison to other populist and racist publications.
Why did I do it? Very simple. The more people who take The Spotlight, the more I charge for ads and the more ads I sell, the more commissions I make.
Willis was also having me meet with high-dollar donors. On just one weekend, I brought back $60,000 in donations, and there were many others. I would get 20 % of the donations I brought in. But one of the main ways he brought in money was pledges from members of the Board of Policy of Liberty Lobby [the board is a high-dollar "advisory" group for The Spotlight].
There are now 13,500 people on that board, and I would say they generate, all told, a couple of million dollars a year — I'd say between $1.6 million and the low twos. He also gets money from estates when people die and from trusts, that sort of thing.
IR: Who were The Spotlight's readers?
Blodgett: Archie Bunker in a nursing home. I mean, John Wayne subscribed to The Spotlight. FDR's son-in-law was the chairman of the Board of Policy for many years; Eddie Albert, who was in "Green Acres," was on the Board of Policy, too.
There are a lot of people who buy Spotlight [which often carries ads and stories about unconventional medicines and the like] for non-political reasons: These are the people who think they need to know that General Motors is building a car that runs on Aunt Jemima syrup, that sort of thing.
You've got people that are health-food nuts, too. So not everyone that takes the newspaper is going to be politically in sync with it. But most of them probably are.
IR: What was the editorial process like at The Spotlight?
Blodgett: The Spotlight's editorial direction serves its readership well, but it also precludes it from being able to expand that readership. I mean, Willis will not change. It's like, find a problem, sit in an editorial meeting and find some way to blame Israel for it. The latest issue I saw was blaming Israel for downing John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane.
Once in a while, they're right, like when they said Jonathan Pollard, the spy, was working for Israel. But as my father might say, even a blind hog will find an occasional acorn. Even when they're right, they probably don't have any basis. They just make the assumption and present it as fact.
And it seems like they always go to some trailer park and talk to some heavyset lady in a beehive hairdo who was in the middle of working on her Hamburger Helper casserole when all of a sudden this UFO showed up.
Still, there are some very decent people who read The Spotlight. They might be narrow-minded, but they're not bad people. They're patriotic, they're often veterans — basically Norman Rockwell kind of people. I think Carto has conned a lot of these people. They just aren't aware of all that he stands for.
IR: How did Carto treat you personally?
Blodgett: Willis and Elisabeth Carto never had any children. And Willis took a liking to me and treated me very well — at least until late September 1998, when we had a very acrimonious dispute that resulted in my getting all my stuff out of the office [at the Liberty Lobby building in Washington, D.C.] in a matter of hours.
Willis always had people there that were just a bunch of yes-men, or yes-ladies, people who probably could not get a decent job any place else. If you're loyal to Willis and you know about the life and times of Josef Mengele [the Auschwitz extermination camp doctor known as "the angel of death"], you've got a job.
I wasn't like that. He once said to me, "You're the brightest guy here, and you're the only one who really has the connections we can use. Once I'm finished with all my legal stuff [Carto has been embroiled for years in a legal and financial battle with former employees], I could have you kind of run the show." But my goal in life was never to be the next Willis Carto.
IR: Carto's been described as something of a dinosaur in the movement. But you've said he was able to raise a great deal of money. Can you give us an example?
Blodgett: There was a bash in Ohio in October of 1997. We only mailed to people on our lists within a 60-mile radius of the zip codes in Canton, and there were still people who came from 200 miles away.
I've done advance work for congressional candidates, senatorial candidates, incumbent senators and congressmen, even presidential candidates, and I have never seen an event without any secondary mailings or telephone follow-ups where we were able to get that kind of return.
We thought we'd have about 100 people; there were maybe 300. They came to hear Willis speak, shake his hand, get a photo. They gave him a standing ovation. And we got a check for $20,000 and a lot of cash.
IR: Do you have a sense of how and why Carto got into the radical right?
Blodgett: He told me that he was never racially conscious at all — "except," and this is a quote, "for the normal stuff, like hating n------" — until he worked for Procter & Gamble as a bill collector in California in the early '50s. And he said Jewish people were even better than the blacks at avoiding having to pay.
I think a lot of his attitudes were formed in the days of the White Citizens Councils, after the 1954 Supreme Court decision [outlawing "separate but equal" public schools].
Some former chairman of a council formed a committee to raise money to send the blacks back to Africa. That's when Willis first realized the [monetary] value of basically harping on an issue even though there's no political saliency, even though you're not going to get anywhere politically.
He goes out there and says, "I want money to get rid of these people," and there are certain people out there that when somebody speaks up for what they advocate, they give you money. Carto realized the value of espousing a lost cause: there's money in it.
I asked him one time, "Do you really think you're going to succeed at what you're trying to do?" And he said no. He said, "It's the only thing I can do. I have no hobbies except my garden. I don't have any children." He knows there's no way he's ever going to be influential like he once was. He also once said, "Todd, the problem we have is that everybody on our side is stupid." That's what he said.
IR: What was your dispute with Carto about?
Blodgett: I'd rather not get into the specifics. Essentially, he owes me a lot of money. But my lawyer would prefer I just talk in general terms about this.
IR: Okay. Let's briefly revisit your role in the Resistance Records deal.
Blodgett: In 1996, [Resistance co-founder] George Burdi sent Carto a fax requesting a loan of around $100,000, and Carto asked me to meet with him in Canada. But Burdi couldn't get over the border, so that deal never came off. Later, in the spring of 1997, Carto asked me to go up to Detroit [where Resistance was then headquartered] and meet with them.
A week after I came back, I heard there had been a raid [on Resistance offices for failure to pay state sales taxes].
That's all that happened until the spring of '98, when Jason Snow [another co-founder who now controlled the company] contacted me wanting to know if I would talk to Willis about buying the company. We did talk, and I met later with Jason to hammer out the details. We agreed that Carto would take it over.
He would buy 60 [out of 100] shares at $1,000 a share — 30 right then through Carto's Foundation for Economic Liberty [FEL], and a warrant for another 30 to be bought by the end of '98. Plus, Jason would get a job on The Spotlight payroll for $30,000 a year.
Jason was going to sell another 25 shares to another of Willis' entities, but it was that point that Carto filed for bankruptcy. So I ended up buying those 25. Then, after my break with Willis, a Skinhead named Eric Fairburn who had threatened Carto — the same one who left a message on my answering machine threatening to behead me — was given nine of Carto's shares.
He owed me some money, and he ended up signing those over to me. Carto, meanwhile, had decided he wasn't going to honor the warrant to buy 30 more shares, so those shares went back to Jason Snow. So by November 1998, I owned 34 shares, FEL owned 21, and Jason had 45. Then, last May, I was approached by some emissaries of Dr. Pierce.
IR: So how did Pierce get Resistance?
Blodgett: Pierce [a longtime Carto enemy] would not buy Carto's [FEL's] shares direct. He told Jason Snow to buy those, and then he bought all 66 shares Jason had at about $1,800 apiece. He bought mine for substantially less. I had about $25,000 invested, and I got about half that. That's how it was done.
In all, if you count all the money Pierce put into Resistance and Resistance magazine, he probably spent close to $250,000 of his own money.
IR: What do you think the future for Resistance is now?
Blodgett: Put it like this. You can burn CDs for pennies apiece, and sell 'em for 20 bucks. And unlike Carto, Pierce's people are dedicated and they understand that there are things that can be done that will make the company more valuable.
I think Pierce will take Resistance to another level. With some good bands and some favorable press, this could be a multimillion-dollar-per-year operation. Eventually, it could be a multimillion-dollar in terms of net profit, as opposed to gross sales. If you count all the people who bought CDs, [Resistance jacket] patches and all, they have a mailing list of maybe 25,000 people to work with.
IR: Do you have any final thoughts about all this?
Blodgett: These people, the Liberty Lobby types, and frankly a lot of the violent Skinhead types, do nothing to help the conservative movement. I am not repudiating conservatism.
But I am also not, and never have been, one to advocate or condone violence. When I went to Carto, I had no idea what he was all about. Today, I am sorry I ever got wrapped up in this kind of environment.