Washington GOP Senate candidate promoted ‘misleading’ multi-level marketing jewelry company
Republican Tiffany Smiley sold jewelry and accessories for Stella & Dot, a multilevel marketing company.
Edited to clarify wording, October 3, 4:50 p.m.
Tiffany Smiley, a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Washington, has spent years promoting Stella & Dot, a controversial multi-level marketing company that sells jewelry products.
Smiley challenges incumbent Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in the November midterm elections. Smiley started working as a Stella & Dot “brand ambassador” in March 2015.
“I was working with women and it made me want to help other women by telling my story,” Smiley shared in a 2016 blog post on her website. “I wasn’t quite sure how to tell my story, but I knew I needed a network of women and I also knew I wanted to be stylish and beautiful again. Stella & Dot fit the bill perfectly.”
Smiley spoke at the company’s Hoopla conference in Orlando, Florida in 2016. In a Facebook post, she noted that she would tell 3,000 “fellow stylists” who sold the company’s products. company “my story and how I found my passion, which is beyond exciting and just a little scary.” Smiley continued to promote and sell jewelry and accessories for Stella & Dot until at least 2017.
According to the company’s website, people can pay $59 or more to become brand ambassadors at different levels for the company and receive a percentage back for all jewelry and accessories they sell under a model. business known as multilevel marketing.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer advice website:
Businesses that involve selling products to family and friends and recruiting others to do the same are called multilevel marketing (MLM), network marketing, or direct marketing businesses. Some MLMs are illegal pyramid schemes. … If MLM is not a pyramid scheme, it will pay you based on your sales to retail customers, without having to recruit new distributors. Most people who join legitimate MLMs make little or no money. Some of them lose money. In some cases, people believe they have joined a legitimate MLM, but it is an illegal pyramid scheme that steals everything they invest and leaves them deeply in debt.
In 2018, the Financial Times reported that it was often quite difficult for sellers to make a profit selling for Stella & Dot, which is true for most multilevel marketing businesses. Critics said the company was not upfront about this fact.
Robert FitzPatrick, a consumer advocate who heads consumer organization Pyramid Scheme Alert, told the outlet that multi-level marketing companies like Stella & Dot make optimistic claims about the quality of their brand ambassadors, but that these are often “misleading”.
Noting that most people participating in such schemes end up with a net loss, he said: “It’s an orchestrated sham as a business opportunity. If it’s one in 1,000, it’s not an income opportunity is a sham.”
Neither the Smiley Campaign nor a spokesperson for Stella & Dot immediately responded to inquiries from the American Independent Foundation for this story.
But Smiley’s campaign site touts her work “with businesswomen, helping them break down barriers, encouraging them never to let life’s challenges keep them from realizing their dreams and reaching their full potential.” She promises “to take that same fight and that optimistic spirit to help Washington families realize their American dreams.”
Recent polls show Murray as the frontrunner in the Senate race.
Smiley isn’t the only current Republican Senate candidate with a history of working to promote controversial multilevel marketing agendas.
Beginning in 2012, Herschel Walker, a Republican Senate candidate from Georgia, worked as a “partner” and “spokesperson” for Momentis, then a multilevel marketing subsidiary of an energy company called Just Energy. Just Energy has been accused by regulators and state governments of deceptive marketing practices.
While Walker was working for Momentis, the company launched “Project Hope,” a “Veterans Business Development Program” that specifically targeted military families and veterans.
Published with permission of the American Independent Foundation.