John Edwards

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

Peggy and I are back from Las Vegas. We don't gamble, but relish the experience. Our favorite eatery is Canaletto, a spectacular (not expensive) indoor/outdoor restaurant in the Venetian's faux St. Mark's Square. The food is good and riotous entertainment is everywhere—rowdy troupes of singers in Renaissance costumes, living statues and real-for-sure gondoliers serenading their passengers on the faux Grand Canal

The presidential memo under IN THE NEWS came to my inbox, and I printed it out. It was the 751st e-mail I received from the Obama organization since the first effort I received back on March 5, 2008, titled, “What Happened Today.”

This one stunned me—the real deal, the actual take-no-prisoners, kick-ass directive to the cabinet and intel agencies from a controlled but obviously furious president ordering them to cease and desist the turf wars and set up an information sharing system pronto. Implied: “or else ...”

Back in March 2009, I requested to be put on the Obama e-mail list and sent a small donation. I have saved all Obama organization communications (so far) in my computers as a record of the most successful outreach to voters by a politician in the history of the world.

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” said the late Jesse H. “Big Daddy” Unruh, speaker of the California State Assembly.

Since 2007, the Obama campaign has built a database of 3.1 million supporters and raised more than $700 million, surpassing what all the candidates from both major parties combined collected in private donations in 2004.

It doesn't matter whether you like Obama, hate Obama or are somewhere in between. If you are in business—any business, consumer, B-to-B or nonprofit—and do not monitor how this extraordinary organization communicates with its constituency and prospects via e-mail, you're a damn fool.

This guy is a great communicator, and we can all learn from him.

I just finished a splendid book, "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick, about how a mediocre painter named Han Van Meegeren painted a series of "Vermeers" in the 1930s and 1940s and conned the European art establishment into believing they were real. One of his forgeries was the crown jewel in the collection of the world's greatest art thief, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. It was a delicious hoax.

When I put the book down and started looking for news stories to pin this column to, I found August was an extraordinary month for hoaxes, fakes, scams, scandals and pranks. Let's start with Wine Spectator.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, is pissed. For starters:

Wine Spectator learned yesterday that, for the first time in the 27-year history of our Restaurant Awards program, a fictitious restaurant has entered its wine list for judging. To orchestrate his publicity-seeking scam, Robin Goldstein created a fictitious restaurant in Milan, Italy, called Osteria L'Intrepido, and then submitted a menu and wine list to Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards as a new entry in 2008. The wine list earned an Award of Excellence, the most basic of our three award levels. Goldstein revealed his elaborate hoax at a meeting in Oregon last week. He is now crowing about the fraud on his own Web site. The story has been picked up in the blogosphere, and now Wine Spectator would like to set forth the actual facts of the matter.

"Facts of the matter?"

Mr. Matthews, you were bamboozled. Hornswoggled. Thimblerigged. Flimflammed. Your awards program is a deeply flawed business model.


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