Once in a while Politico commits an act of journalism rather than their usual Beltway gossip-mongering. Their recent report on just how bad things have gotten between Talk Radio and how ingrained the money is from Tea Party groups has become is such that even an old whore like Dick Armey (former chairman of FreedomWorks) is embarrassed.
A POLITICO review of filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012. Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented, with legacy groups like The Heritage Foundation ending their sponsorships and groups like the Tea Party Patriots placing big ad buys.
None of this is terribly surprising, but the extent is certainly eye-opening. Here are some of the sordid examples they unearthed:
• Sean Hannity: Heritage began sponsoring Hannity in 2008 and paid $1.3 million in 2011 to a broker to arrange and fund the deal, according to the group’s IRS filings. Last year, Hannity began doing ads for the Tea Party Patriots, lending his name to fundraising drives, hosting its leaders on his radio and Fox News shows, and even using the Fox airwaves to promote the Tea Party Patriots website HannityforSanity.com.
• Mark Levin: The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity paid at least $757,000 primarily to sponsor his radio show — a sponsorship that covered part of the 2012 cycle, when he joined David Koch and AFP president Tim Phillips in boosting Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. After AFP ended its sponsorship, Levin began doing ads for the Tea Party Patriots, touting its campaign to “fire” House Speaker John Boehner. He also apologized for endorsing Hatch, whom some Tea Party Patriots’ leaders opposed.
• Rush Limbaugh: The Heritage Foundation at the end of January ended its five-year sponsorship of El Rushbo’s show, for which it had paid more than $2 million in some years and more than $9.5 million overall. In 2012, FreedomWorks paid at least $1.4 million to make him an endorser, though it’s not clear that the sponsorship is ongoing.
The story at Politico is well worth reading in its entirety. The video by Vogel looks like something straight out of the Daily Show, which is a sign of just how screwed up things have become.