Blight Authority: How Bill Pulte Turned “Charity” into a Sweepstakes

Bill Pulte is a Philanthropist. Or a Generous Sweepstakes Leader. Or a Beggar. We’re really not sure:

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and go with Generous Sweepstakes Leader. Since his website Pulte dot org backslash r has 5,630 words of participant rules for his Twitter sweepstakes business, that’s probably the safest bet.

But little Bill (he is little, not just junior to his namesake William Pulte, his extremely rich home-building grandfather recently deceased) hasn’t always been a Generous Sweepstakes Leader. Nor did he go down the construction route like his grandfather, as we see here:

This short bio (snark) raises a few interesting points. First, as you see, he proudly displays his cell phone number, right up at the top, just below Elite 40 Under 40”. (I’d suspected he was short, but had no idea he was actually under 40”.) Even though Bill modestly says he didn’t know what doxing was until last week, he’d successfully doxed himself seven years ago.

Second, it seems that way back in 2012 when little Bill was a 23-year-old recent graduate from Northwestern University, he was already a Managing Partner at Pulte Capital Partners LLC. That’s after he started his very own aerial photography company. If you’ve been wondering when little Bill learned to drone on and on, wonder no more.

But you don’t become a managing partner at the age of 23 unless you plunked down a few hundred bucks to set up an LLC just for the title, or unless you have very close personal connections willing to throw a few million your way. When you’re 23 years old you don’t know anything. No one’s going to give you a dime unless they have lots and lots of money to burn.

Third—and this is where it gets really interesting—the bio claims that little Bill is the founder of Detroit Blight Authority, a non-profit wrecking crew operation. Little Bill set it up to tear down dilapidated, crime infested buildings in his beloved Detroit, or as the French actor Juicy Somalier might pronounce it, day-TWA.

Now why would successful aerial photo magnate and Managing Partner of Pulte Capital, with presumably bulging Rolodexes of deep, rich connections, leave all that behind to tear down a few buildings in Detroit? Little Bill will tell you it was his passion for his fellow man, and love of the peace-loving people of Detroit’s inner city. But could there be another reason? Turns out there is one, a big one:

Make that 100 million reasons. A hundred million dollars of federal government money can give a guy a decent living. Maybe a very good living. At a cost of $6000 per home (the number tossed around in those days) that’s enough to tear down 16,666 homes. Sixteen thousand homes? In Detroit? Sixteen thousand homes? With federal money, you can tear down sixteen thousand homes? Or maybe you could double the quote, tear down eight thousand, and call it a day?

Nice work if you can get it, but unfortunately for little Bill, he didn’t. Oh, he did tear down some Detroit homes using money he’d raised for his non-profit. Getting the money together took some doing, had to first convince his grandfather, who said at the outset, “I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole.” But eventually the family patriarch ponied up $100,000, and little Bill raised another $650,000 via the internet, through Bing. More about Bill ‘n Bing in a little while.

As hard as it is to believe, not everyone loves little Bill, even when he does a good job. If I were gunning for a fat federal contract to tear down buildings and had the means, I’d do what little Bill did: Show the authorities I have skin in the game and show I can get it done. But the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, wasn’t having any of it. He tossed him out of town. It’s all very hush-hush. Little Bill seems to have a penchant for non-disclosure documents. But according to one report, Mayor Duggan didn’t like Pulte’s “grandstanding.” Little Bill Pulte, grandstanding? That’s harsh. So when the going got tough, little Bill headed to Pontiac.

Pontiac? Sure, you’ve heard the name, we all have. I was given a hand-me-down Pontiac Firebird as a college graduation present. She was a beauty: rust blue, V-8, lumbering, hefty, 320 horses up front, got 10 MPG on a good day, if she were pointed downhill, with the wind at her back. But Pontiac, the town? Where the hell is Pontiac?

Turns out Pontiac is also in Michigan, a very, very, verrrry small sister to Detroit. Back in 2013 Pontiac’s population was 60,000, less than a tenth of Detroit’s. So little Bill Pulte, Chairman of the Detroit Blight Authority, dropped the word “Detroit” from the name and headed to Pontiac. After a big setback, little Bill got his mojo back. Yeah baby, yeah! Sure, Pontiac was a lot smaller than Detroit, but just maybe size appropriate. Size doesn’t matter, amirite?

And so, according to press reports at the time, little Bill Pulte tore down about 375 homes in Pontiac.

But then little Bill headed out into the proverbial desert, because what once was the Detroit Blight Authority and by all rights should have become the Pontiac Blight Authority went radio silent. Lights out. Now why would that be? Why hang it up when he was on a tear, so to speak? Hard to say why: I’d ask him myself, but he blocked me, and I’m guessing the phone number that has been publicly available for years—you know, the one he said he was doxed with last week—is no longer in service.

So let’s speculate: Money. Bill took a shot at grabbing a fat-laden one hundred million dollar contract and ended up taking it on the chin. He did a ton of work: set up his non-profit, tore down some buildings on his own dime (well not really his dime, but you know what I mean), lobbied hard, and came up empty. He then moved his crew to Pontiac, but the population is just 8% of Detroit’s. It’s small time. Take a look at these numbers:

Does it look to you like this is going to excite a high roller like little Bill? These are such small potatoes. Chump change. And all this non-profit stuff is a real pain. Sure, the donors get a nice tax deduction, but seriously, what’s in it for me? I can’t even get paid, I mean, they don’t call it a non-profit for nothing. How do I get my cut? How do I make money out of this thing?

You tap the internet. Little Bill knew a thing or two about shaking the internet money tree, when he used Bing to raise money for his Detroit Blight Authority. But this is 2019, you don’t want to be known as the Inventor of Bing Philanthropy. It’s just not sexy.

Enter at Jack. Jack Dorsey, legendary purveyor of Twitter, teamed up with little Bill to up the Blight Authority’s game. Jack is a native of St. Louis, and in July the two teamed up to tear down some buildings in at Jack’s home town. Not that many, mind you. We’re talking 130 homes in a 4-block rectangle. But it was enough to get national press, and create some-thing called the St. Louis Blight Authority.

It also gave little Bill bragging rights. “One of the reasons we’ve had success in Detriot is we partner with the community,” Bill crowed. Come again? Success? Bill, THEY KICKED YOU OUT OF TOWN. Did Custer have success at Little Big Horn? Did Coca-Cola have success with New Coke? Did Hillary have success with the popular vote?

Oh well, whatever, at least he’ll stick around to see this St. Louis effort through, right? Mmm, doesn’t sound like. Little Bill thinks St. Louis can get rid of all its blight by 2035, “with the proper support from the private sector and leadership in government.” Aha, so in other words, good luck, guys. It’s been a great gig.

No, it’s likely that little Bill in interested in boosting his visibility and making a ton of money with his new endeavor, the infamous Twitter Philanthropy. By getting hundreds of thousands of folks to “follow” him, to retweet, to sign up for CashApp, and to turn over a lot of very private information, Bill is going to get rich. And it’s not costing him much along the way. In fact, many are speculating that at Jack is giving Bill the money to pass around, like he did with rappers a few months back. Giving away a small amount of money to create a huge universe of users is just good business.

And that’s all Twitter Philanthropy is: a ripping good business. It has nothing to do with philanthropy. Little Bill hasn’t even set up a non-profit. Let that sink in. The next time you hear him tell you he just wants to give away money to people in need and make it easy for others to donate, ask yourself, why isn’t he using a non-profit? Such a simple thing, and it would increase dollars available to help people in need by 50%. If a person has $667 to give after tax, he can give $1000 to a tax-deductible charity. 50% more.

But little Bill’s not going to attract a dime from anyone else, apart from a few of his unwitting followers who’ve bought the philanthropy line. Why would they? Who would give taxable money to Bill, who’s running a for-profit business, when their gift goes so much farther at a bona fide charitable foundation? They wouldn’t, and they won’t. It just doesn’t make sense.

And that is how little Bill became a Generous Sweepstakes Leader. Sweepstakes are run by for-profit corporations: think McDonald’s and Publisher’s Clearing House. They give away money to get publicity. The money they dole out is expensed as a promotional cost. So don’t worry about little Bill, he is getting a nice, fat tax deduction. And along the way, he’s collecting information to use in ways we can only imagine. Running a sweepstakes is the perfect vehicle for him.

Little Bill gets what any sweepstakes runner gets: publicity for his platform. He attracts users, and let’s face it, it’s no longer a joke, it’s the truth: If you’re getting a product for free, you’re the product. Information is what makes the world go around. His followers are selling their souls and giving away their private, intimate information for a very, very small chance of winning a few hundred bucks. The lottery is a much better deal. No one gets your life story when you buy a ticket, no one tells you how great he is for selling it to you, and no one blocks you for asking simple questions.