Baltimore-based businessman Porter Stansberry is at it again.
The man who in the past has been found guilty of swindling customers with fabricated investment information is now trying to cash in on some of the public's dislike of President Barack Obama.
In an E-mail solicitation blasted across the Internet — including on Monday over a listserv previously devoted to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign — Stansberry warns that Obama is secretly planning to seek a third term.
"Most people believe the election was all about whether or not Obama will have a second term. But it was not," says the E-mail. "What was actually at stake was whether or not he will have a third-term."
Apparently hoping to exploit the credulity of some Americans, Stansberry continues: "There's a secret to understanding how we know Obama will seek a third term. There's a secret to how he'll garner the power to win, yet again… and keep power through 2020 – or even beyond."
Stansberry's E-mail directs readers to review his "analysis" on a website "free of charge."
"He tells one lie after another, and then grandstands on his integrity. He's nothing but a charlatan," says a video about Obama on the website. "I believe his administration will be extended into a third... and possibly even a fourth term."
A large segment of the American public is eager to believe negative rumors about Obama. A Pew poll conducted in June and July this year found that 17 percent of Americans believe Obama is secretly a Muslim, and that an additional 31 percent are unsure if he is truly a Christian.
Stansberry's dubious E-mail pitch ignores the reality that Obama cannot seek a third term. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951, prohibits a president from being elected more than twice.
Overturning the amendment would require a two-thirds vote by both chambers of Congress, followed by ratification of the proposal by 38 states. Currently, Republicans control all branches of government in 23 states and the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning that even if Obama was plotting a constitutional amendment — and there is no evidence that he is — such a move would almost certainly fail.
The other method to amend the Constitution, a state-initiated constitutional convention, has never been successful.
Porter Stansberry isn't a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorist. His ability to anticipate the future is, in fact, his business. Predicting the future, however, has its pitfalls, especially when fabricated information clouds Stansberry's crystal ball.
Stansberry previously sought out newsletter subscribers in 2002 by claiming to have insider information on a forthcoming business deal, promising investors would "make a fortune" if they paid $1,000 for an investment tip gleened from a "senior executive" within USEC, Inc.
The deal never happened, people who acted on the information lost money, and when Stansberry was asked to reveal his source, he identified a man who denied ever providing the false scoop to Stansberry or "Jay McDaniel," the pseudonym under which Stanberry operated the newsletter.
A judge found Stanberry liable for his "deliberate fraud" in 2007 and ordered him to pay $1.5 million in restitution and penalties, following a 2003 complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission over the scam. An appeals court upheld the finding in 2009, adding that "it would take an act of willful blindness to ignore the fact that [Stansberry] profited from the false statements."
Stansberry vehemently objected to the SEC complaint and the subsequent judicial findings, claiming that his First Amendment rights as a publisher were infringed upon.
Stansberry's other forays into questionable marketing practices include a 2003 pitch to subscribers that said investing in VaxGen, a company behind an unproven AIDS vaccine, was "the only realistic chance to make 50 times your money in the short term." A spokesman for the company described "the tone and manner" of Stansberry's advice as "very objectionable."