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The GOP's New Godfather

In Doug Wead's dining room, there's a photograph of George Bush cradling Wead's son Joshua. On August 24, there was a Bush son in Doug Wead's living room.

Neil Bush, the son who has had to pay $50,000 for his part in the collapse of the Silverado S&L in Denver, was treated like a high priest of free enterprise during a private reception there. That evening, Neil was scheduled to appear at a private fund raiser for the state GOP. (I got him to come in," says Wead.) First, however, Neil Bush stopped at Wead's house off Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale for an even more private meeting with Wead and friends.

Neil took the opportunity to complain about "liberal media bias" and to ask the group of 30 to "give Dad the tools" by ousting the Democratic Congress.

The guest list included several Arizonans who can do Wead some good in the District 6 race. One was Cathi Herrod, the leader of Arizona's chapter of the well-organized moral-crusading group Concerned Women of America.

Another guest was Jack Metzger, head of the state's cattle growers. Metzger runs a ranch someplace between Flagstaff and nowhere, but he's no hick. He's an articulate person who spends much of his time representing cattlemen's interests in Washington, D.C. The chance to complain directly to the president's son about environmental regulations was a "fantastic opportunity," in Metzger's words. (That doesn't automatically put Metzger in Wead's camp, however. The week before, he contributed $250 to opponent Phil MacDonnell.)

The presidential son is getting a pretty good deal, too. On shaky ground here in the States because of bad publicity over the Silverado thing, he's been doing business lately with John Godzich, Arizona's GOP finance chairman. Godzich proudly told the little gathering at Wead's house that Neil spoke before 25,000 of Godzich's people in Paris in June. (Back-scratching note: Doug Wead also spoke to Godzich's troops overseas around that time. Six months earlier, John Godzich got to sit on the dais next to "Humanitarian of the Year" Ronald Reagan at Doug Wead's "National Charity Awards Dinner" in Phoenix; Neil Bush was one of the speakers.)

Godzich urged the gathering at Wead's house to "put your money where your mouth is" by supporting the GOP. "I've put as much money as I can into the party--I gave $50,000 to the party in May," he told the other guests. "I've been a defender of free enterprise for a long time. You have to defend it--or lose it."

When Godzich speaks, people generally listen. Though relatively few people even in the GOP know much about him, 42-year-old John Godzich is a huge presence in the District 6 race.

His younger brother Leo, 33, is an associate pastor at Phoenix First Assembly of God Church, well-known among the Valley's religious right for leading the opposition to Phoenix's gay-rights ordinance. (Leo Godzich was profiled by Philip Martin in the May 20, 1992, issue of New Times.) Another Godzich brother, Dan, 30, worked for Wead in the White House and now is on the Wead campaign staff. But John Godzich has the strongest ties to Doug Wead.

Wead first registered to vote in Arizona on January 27, 1991, exactly the same day as John Godzich. Wead shares offices with Godzich, lives in his former house, is married to one of his former employees and works as a consultant and motivational speaker for Godzich. To the ire of many Republicans, Wead was the only congressional candidate who got a prime seat on the dais during a springtime fund raiser for John McCain that starred Barry Goldwater and George Bush. The seat came courtesy of a $50,000 check by John Godzich to the party's financially ailing building fund.

So, who is John Godzich? Seven hundred French people who were learning to say "yee-hah" at a Rustler's Rooste steak fry on August 15 on South Mountain certainly know him.

They're part of the 24,000 active distributors in Groupement Europeen de Professionnels du Marketing, John Godzich's multilevel marketing network. The past fiscal year, says Godzich, the company did $130 million of business.

John Godzich was born into a Polish family displaced by World War II. He grew up in a French mining area, the second of five boys in a family that always dreamed of moving to America and finally did in 1962. They lived in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and John went to school at New York University. After dabbling in leftist politics, he says, he wound up working as a translator for the State Department. He eventually got into Amway and returned to France to build a marketing network of his own.

Now he shuttles between France and Arizona, where he has an 8,000-square-foot home on Easy Street, east of Apache Junction. It's got a built-in chapel.

 

He looks like a stevedore and comes across as a personable, erudite salesman. John Godzich also appears to be an intellectual--though not a pointy-headed liberal one. (The eldest Godzich boy, Wlad, 46, does lead an intellectual's life; a linguist who formerly taught at Columbia and Yale, he's co-editor of a book of essays about the late Belgian author Paul de Man. Leo Godzich ruefully has told the flock at First Assembly that Wlad is "not saved.)

John Godzich's network is helping him live the good life. Religion. Politics. Business. That's life, says John Godzich. It's harmful not to mix them. "When there's an exchange," he says, "people become more tolerant."

New ventures, new places excite him, he says, which is one reason he likes Arizona. He recalls driving around the state back in 79 in a Ford with no air conditioning, staying in small motels. "It seemed like everything was possible out here," he says.


Godzich's company is set up like the Amway network, to which he once belonged. (Unlike Amway, says Godzich, some of his distributors also are shareholders of his company.) You recruit distributors to sell products, you sell them products, they recruit other distributors, more products are sold. Distributors get a cut of the sales generated by distributors whom they have recruited.

If you want to make money, you've got to motivate not only yourself but also the distributors who are "downline" from you. Multilevel marketing companies usually don't advertise on TV or in print. They are self-contained networks based on personal recruitment and sustained by rallies, seminars, sales-incentive trips, motivational tapes and, sometimes, evangelical Christianity. Free enterprise is extolled in religious terms. Multilevel marketers like to set up controlled situations in which there's a lot of cheering and applause. They do not talk, however, to the press--or any outsiders except for recruits--about their business.

Amway has made billions of dollars for its co-owners, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, and millions for some of its distributors, like Dexter Yager, a North Carolinian who gave Doug Wead his start on the Amway lecture circuit in the Seventies. Conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Jesse Helms have received immense help from marketers like DeVos, Van Andel and Yager. That's what John Godzich is doing for Doug Wead, whom he met years ago through Amway. Godzich's explanation of his involvement in the GOP is simple: "I like Doug. He's always in search of the truth."

Godzich helps nurture his distributors by sending them on trips throughout the United States. For the past few summers, many of Godzich's distributors have come to the U.S. He rents them cars, gives them itineraries; they wind up staying at the Pointe Hilton resorts, pouring money into the local economy during the summer doldrums.

All summer long, there are groups of them saying "yee-hah" on Saturday nights and "Amen" on Sunday mornings.


Pastor Tommy Barnett was correct when he told the packed house at his huge church on Cave Creek Road on August 16: "First Assembly is Phoenix's French Connection!"

The door greeter at Phoenix First Assembly of God, which Barnett often refers to as "America's fastest-growing church," said, "Bonjour." Associate pastor Leo Godzich gave the opening prayer in French before saying it in English. After "The Star-Spangled Banner," the church orchestra and choir performed the French anthem, "La Marseillaise." In the church lobby was Wead campaign material. Sitting on the dais was John Godzich.

After Barnett's sales pitch (Give like you've never given before! Let us pray in the name of Jesus!), he told his audience, "We've got some international visitors, some French businessmen and women. Let's give them a hand! . . . Let's give them another hand! . . . Let's give Jesus a hand!"

The church's huge choir gave a rah-rah chant for the French guests.

After the collections were taken, the frenetic, raspy-voiced Barnett delivered a sermon, with John Godzich standing next to him as interpreter. Their images flashed across two huge TV screens suspended above the altar as Barnett told the crowd, "He wants you to have your own desires! The desires of the righteous shall be granted! He wants us to be prosperous!"

Imagine Yves Montand translating for Jimmy Swaggart.

"Some of you think you're here because you were invited! Others think it's chance! But it's destiny that brought you here!" Barnett said, while associate pastor Leo Godzich was busy ejecting a newspaper photographer.

In the end, hundreds of French visitors answered Barnett's altar call to Christ. They streamed onstage past a beaming John Godzich. Packed like sardines, they raised their hands and repeated after Barnett and Godzich: "I am now a Christian. . . ." Barnett told them: "You're helping to change your country for the better. You'll return to your country filled with spirit."

 

Afterward, many of the French visitors cried with joy. But they still wouldn't tell an inquiring mind what they were doing in this country, other than to say, "Business and pleasure."


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