If youâ€™re a regular listener of Glenn Beckâ€™s radio show and you wanted to contribute to a political group that would advance the populist conservative ideals he touts on his show, youâ€™d have plenty of reason to think that FreedomWorks was your best investment.
But if youâ€™re a fan of Mark Levinâ€™s radio show, youâ€™d have just as much cause to believe that Americans for Prosperity, a FreedomWorks rival, was the most effective conservative advocacy group. And, if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity are who you listen to, youâ€™d be hearing a steady stream of entreaties to support the important work of the Heritage Foundation.
Thatâ€™s not coincidence. In search of donations and influence, the three prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees to the popular talk show hosts. Those fees buy them a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs â€“ praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate â€“ often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.
â€śThe point that people donâ€™t realize,â€ť said Michael Harrison, founder and publisher of the talk media trade publication TALKERS Magazine, â€śis that (big time political talk show hosts) are radio personalities â€“ they are in the same business that people like Casey Kasem are in â€“ and what they do is no different than people who broadcast from used car lots or restaurants or who endorse the local roofer or gardener.â€ť