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The Best Opinions Money Can Buy

According to an article in Politico, if you don’t like the political opinions expressed by conservative talk radio hosts like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or even Rush Limbaugh, you can pay them to have different opinions.

Limbaugh regularly promotes the Heritage Foundation, and even encourages people to contribute money to it. Same thing for Hannity. Beck promotes FreedomWorks, but Mark Levin promotes Americans for Prosperity. Why? Because they are paid to do so. These prominent conservative groups pay large sponsorship fees in order to get favorable opinions. For example, the Heritage Foundation pays about $2 million to sponsor Limbaugh and $1.3 million to sponsor Hannity.

But what makes this creepy is that they don’t think there is anything wrong with this. According to the Heritage Foundation’s VP for marketing:

We approach it the way anyone approaches advertising: where is our audience that wants to buy what you sell? And their audiences obviously fit that model for us.

In many cases, the sponsors provide a script or a set of talking points for the radio personalities to read on air, touting the group and encouraging contributions. Often these paid advertisements are woven seamlessly into the other content of the show. Or they interview spokespeople from the sponsors on the show as if they were regular guests.

And the investment in conservative talk radio hosts apparently pays off. After sponsoring Beck, FreedomWorks doubled its fundraising take to almost $14 million.



  1. ebdoug wrote:

    You don’t suppose that Beck is paid to promote the investment in Gold do you?

    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Why yes, Beck is paid to promote investment in gold!

    In fact, Representative Anthony Weiner led the charge against Goldline and its conservative endorsers including Beck, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, anFred Thompson, saying that they were cheating consumers.

    Why are we surprised when our corporate-owned media goes on the warpath against one of the few Congressmen brave enough to take on corporate scams. The same thing happened to Eliot Spitzer.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink
  3. JamesM wrote:

    In that the donations solicited by the program, go to the groups, who then use the funds to directly support candidates, or their positions, is this a violation of election disclosure laws?

    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  4. Sammy wrote:

    I don’t like any of the talk hosts listed here, or the groups paying them, but I am not sure there is anything wrong with using talk hosts to promote your organization through paid sponsorships. If Thom Hartman had sponsor a portion of his show, I think I’d see it the same way.

    I reserve the right to change my mind if someone here can provide a side of this I’m missing.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    I feel like there is a difference between sponsoring a show in order to support its existence and paying hosts to tell people to give money to your organization or business. But in this particular situation, I think it is hard to distinguish between the two. It’s not like Beck or Limbaugh were going to be reading reports from liberal leaning, or even non-partisan, think tanks and giving them a fair shot anyway. But, I suppose the proof would be in the behavior of the host. Do they change their behavior in response to their “sponsorships”?

    I would love to see an experiment: how much O’Reilly would change his presentation of immigrants if the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank that focuses on immigration and related issues, paid him to report on the positive economic impacts of immigrants?

    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    By the way, I say I “feel” this primarily because I’ve been writing all morning and my brain is currently incapable of too much logic at the moment. This is my gut response but I haven’t thought it through quite yet.

    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  7. rk wrote:

    What does logic have to do with politics?

    Friday, June 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink