Arsenal Media is a right-wing content and advertising firm that promotes conservative fameballs like Dana Loesch and Madison Cawthorn. Co-founded by Benny Johnson (once fired from Buzzfeed for plagiarism) it appears to be in deep trouble. The Verge’s Makena Kelly reports that it’s failing to pay contractors (one of whom has won a judgment against it), has other “self-dealing concerns”, and quotes a worker describing Benny himself as a bullying, abusive screamer.
Since Arsenal’s founding, payroll has been a mess, employees say. According to them, Cole rarely used official payroll software, opting to pay employees over online payment processing apps like PayPal or Venmo. While some companies pay contractors over these apps, one full-time staffer said they never signed tax documents when they began work and received a majority of their salary over these apps. Using these apps does not absolve a company from their tax reporting requirements, and it can be a terms of service violation to use these apps for payroll if a business is not properly registered with the app.
Several employees said that Cole has yet to provide them with any W-2 or 1099 paperwork they may need to file their taxes this year. Cole told The Verge on Tuesday that every employee is required to fill out W-4 and I-9 paperwork before they’re ever paid. (Multiple sources contradict these claims.) He did not deny sometimes issuing late payments.
Curiously, Johnson has begun distancing himself from the company.
It is, in short, an example of the grifting-in-depth going on in conservatism, driven by the constant attention of other media and the caliber of people involved in it.