Matthew Lesko wearing one of his question mark suits
May 11, 1943 |
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
|Known for||"Free Money" Books|
|Spouse(s)||Wendy Schaetzel Lesko|
|Children||Max and Morgan|
Matthew Lesko (born May 11, 1943) is an American author, self-proclaimed federal grant researcher, and infomercial personality. He has written more than twenty books telling people how to get money from the United States government. He is popularly known as "that question mark guy" for the Riddler-like suits that he wears in his television commercials, infomercials, interviews, and in his everyday life.
Lesko lives near Kensington, Maryland, with his third wife Wendy Schaetzel Lesko and their two sons, Max and Morgan. He grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Lesko received his undergraduate degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, then went to Vietnam as a navigator for the U.S. Navy. When Lesko returned he earned a master's degree in business administration (MBA) from American University in Washington D.C. He claims to have researched government grants for over 25 years.
Lesko is known for his colorful suits decorated with question marks and sometimes wears one of his question mark suits during his daily activities in and around Washington, D.C.. His vehicle also has a pattern with question marks on it; at various points he has driven a yellow Mini Cooper, an orange Scion, an orange smartCar, and a Vespa scooter.
Critics claim that Lesko is misleading in his advertisements. A 2004 report by the New York State Consumer Protection Board claimed that most of the grants mentioned in Lesko's books were actually public assistance programs that many people were not eligible for, and that Lesko misrepresented examples of people who had taken advantage of government programs.
The New York Times criticized him for having implied a current association with the paper long after ending a 1992-94 NYT column.
In an interview with the Washington Post in July 2007, Lesko admitted having assembled his books from government guides to grants and loans: "His business model is simple: 'I get stuff for free and I sell it for as much as I can get.'"
In popular culture
- In the season four episode of The Venture Bros. titled "The Better Man", Jefferson Twilight trains with cardboard cut-outs of various villains. When one of the cut-outs turns out to be Matthew Lesko, Jefferson explains that he mistook Lesko for a villain "he was wearing punctuation on his suit", like that worn by the Batman villain The Riddler. The Alchemist contends that he "helps people get free money from the government" and therefore is a good guy.
- In the season two episode of Drawn Together titled "Little Orphan Hero", The question mark suit that Spanky Ham wears in the TV commercial is a reference to Lesko.
- Comedian Andy Dick parodied Lesko on his short-lived MTV sketch comedy program The Andy Dick Show.
- In season 6, episode 21 ("My Rabbit") of the television series Scrubs, Dr. Cox refers to Lesko in a rant: "Pregnant women are among a select group of people who are actually allowed to act insane, much like sports mascots, local weathermen, theme park performers and that guy with the question mark jacket who teaches people how to get free money from the government."
- In MAD #482, Lesko is placed second on the 50 Worst Things About Advertising.
Matthew Lesko's company, Information USA, has published several reference books including:
- Information U.S. (1986, ISBN 0-14-046745-9)
- Getting Yours (1987, ISBN 0-14-046760-2)
- 1001 Free Goodies and Cheapies (1994, ISBN 1-878346-25-3)
- Free College Money, Term Papers, and Sex Ed (1994, ISBN 1-878346-24-5)
- Free Health Care, Free Medical Information and Free Prescription Drugs (1995, ISBN 1-878346-34-2)
- Gobs and Gobs of Free Stuff (1996, ISBN 1-878346-33-4)
- Free Legal Help (1996, ISBN 1-878346-35-0)
- Free Stuff for Busy Moms! (1999, ISBN 1-878346-49-0)
- Free College and Training Money For Women (2000, ISBN 1-878346-52-0)
- Free Money and Help for Women Entrepreneurs (2000, ISBN 1-878346-51-2)
- Free Money For Your Retirement (2000, ISBN 1-878346-60-1)
- Free Stuff for Women's Health, Fitness, and Nutrition (2000, ISBN 1-878346-50-4)
- Free Money To Change Your Life (2001, ISBN 1-878346-40-7)
- Free Money To Pay Your Bills (2003, ISBN 1-878346-65-2)
- Free Money To Get A Better Home (2004, ISBN 1-878346-67-9)
- Free Money To Quit Your Job (2004, ISBN 1-878346-68-7)
- Free Money for Entrepreneurs (2005, ISBN 1-878346-69-5)
- American Benefits for Seniors: Getting the Most Out of Your Retirement (2006, ISBN 1-878346-87-3)
All of his books claim to contain information about how to get free money from the United States government.
- Carlson, Peter (2007-07-15). "Marked Man: Washington's Infomercial King? Matthew Lesko, No Question.". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- "Questions for Matthew Lesko, the Question Mark Man". The Black Table. 2005. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
- "How misleading advertising is feeding a nationwide boom in government grant scams" (PDF). New York State Consumer Protection Board. 2004. Retrieved 2006-04-30.[dead link]
- Fred, Joseph P. (3 March 2005). "Free Money? Sure. Heard of Food Stamps?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-04-22. "In August 2006, Lesko modified his credentials on his Web site, lesko.com, which described him (as his books did) as a columnist for Good Housekeeping Magazine and The New York Times Syndicate. He wrote the magazine column in the 1980s and the column for the syndicate from 1992 to 1994. Both organizations recently told him that these did not justify his suggestion of a current association."
- Dhingra, Philip (8 Aug 2005). "Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America? And Why?". Philosophy History. "He is a symbol for self-centered free-riders"
- Carlson, Peter (15 July 2007). "Marked Man". Washington Post.
- Better Business Bureau of Washington, D.C. Report 14 November 2007
- Matthew Lesko infomercials
- "Questions for Matthew Lesko, the Question Mark Man" - 29 September 2005 Interview with Matthew Lesko
- "The Culler of Money" - 6 July 2005 Baltimore City Paper Interview and article
- "Free Money? Don't Think So" - Consumer Affairs report on Lesko
- Matthew Lesko on Tom Green Live