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Rush Limbaugh Nets $2.1 Million for ‘Phony Soldiers’ Letter

Rush Limbaugh Gets $2.1 Million for ‘Phony Soldiers’ Letter Rush Limbaugh auctioned off a letter signed by Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and 39 other Senate Democrats condemning his “phony soldiers” comments for $2.1 million on eBay. He’s matching that total and donating $4.2 million to a charity benefiting the families of Marines and police officers wounded in the line of duty.

The media coverage of this is all over the place.

Limbaugh Sells Critical Letter for $2.1 Million,” (Stephanie Strom, NYT ):

After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers,” he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators. He decided to auction the letter, which he described as “this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance,” for charity, and he pledged to match the price, dollar for dollar.

Limbaugh Spins Reid’s Letter Into Charity Gold” (Neely Tucker, WaPo):

Petty bickering about patriotism and Who Loves Our Troops More has never been seen as a financial growth industry, but there’s no stopping American capitalism. This is why a perfunctory bit of political grandstanding, committed to U.S. Senate letterhead this month, became worth a reported $4.2 million yesterday, instantly becoming one of the most valuable printed documents of the modern era.

The letter in question is an Oct. 2 two-pager from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark Mays lambasting the syndicate’s Rush Limbaugh, who had recently criticized U.S. troops who were against the war in Iraq.

Bidding Over $2M for Dems Anti-Rush Letter, ” (Z. Byron Wolf, ABC News Political Radar blog)

Who says the political fingerpointing in Washington is all for naught?

Back in September, when Democrats and Republicans were sniping at each other over the Iraq war, Republicans passed a nonbinding resolution in the Senate condemning Moveon.org for calling David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, “General Betrayus” in a newspaper ad.

For their part, Democrats sent a letter calling for Rush Limbaugh to be reprimanded for calling soldiers who opposed the war “phony soldiers.”

The furor seemed to have died down as the Senate moved away from voting on a string of Iraq resolutions to voting on domestic spending bills.

But today comes word that a Wasghinton, D.C. area philanthropist, Betty Casey (or bettyc588, as she is known on Ebay) is going to pay over $2 million for a letter Senate Democrats wrote to Mark Mays, President of Clear Channel, asking him to condemn Rush Limbaugh for the “phony soldiers” comment.

Interestingly, it’s the last of these that’s gotten the most attention, with Don Surber, Bob Owens, “Gaius,” Warner Todd Huston, and others blasting ABC for seeming to give Reid and the Democrats, rather than Limbaugh, credit for raising the money. While I suppose it could be read that way, the report seems accurate enough, if a bit hyperbolic; then again, it’s a blog, not a straight news report. The NYT coverage, however, is much more objectionable, leading with the Democratic talking point as if it were the unquestioned truth. Limbaugh claims that “he was only referring to one soldier who was critical of the war and had served only 44 days in the Army and never seen combat.” That fact is reserved for the 12th paragraph.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid is trying to claim credit for raising the money, despite having thus far putting up not one single dime.

Mr. President, we didn’t have time, or we could have gotten every senator to sign that letter. But he put the letter up for auction on e-bay and I think very, very constructively, left the proceeds of that it go to the Marine Corps law enforcements foundation. That provides scholarship assistance to marines and federal law enforcement personnel whose parents fall in the line of duty. What could be a more worthwhile cause? I think it’s really good that this money on e-bay is going to be raised for this purpose. …

Never did we think that this letter would bring money of this nature.

It’s a clever spin but Limbaugh has responded by challenging Reid and company to put their money where their mouths are:

Harry Reid in a speech on the Senate floor at 12 noon today, a little over an hour ago, attempted to horn in on all this and take some credit for it, claiming that he and I had buried the hatchet, or implying that that had been the case, and then kept using the pronoun “WE” in discussing how good this was, the money going to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. So the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, it’s now official, is going to get in excess of $4.2 million because I am matching Betty Casey’s bid on eBay — $4.2 million. I asked Senator Reid to match and all the other senators who can afford to do so. I haven’t heard from them on that. I asked Senator Reid to go on the program and discuss his discussion of me as “unpatriotic.” He did not accept my offer to do that, and now has the audacity to climb aboard this, praising the effort, saying that “he” never knew that it would get this kind of money.

It would be a great PR move by the 41 to pool $2.1 million and match Limbaugh’s donation. And, certainly, it’s a worthwhile cause.

Interestingly, though, the NYT piece concludes by questioning that:

Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer who until 2000 headed the division of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees charities and foundations, said the Casey foundation might be liable for taxes because it would have difficulty demonstrating that the purchase of the letter furthered a charitable purpose. “They’d have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech, and that’s going to be tough,” Mr. Owens said.

Now, obviously, Owens knows far, far more about tax law than I do. But, rather clearly, this is a charitable donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which is presumably a registered charity, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Perhaps there’s a question of the intrinsic value of the letter?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. ken says:

    Instead of being a man about it and apologizing for calling our soldiers ‘phonies’ Limbaugh is trying to buy himself absolution. That is the way of the coward.

    He should just apologize and be done with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  2. Steph says:

    Ken I know you hate the troops as proven by your love of phony soldiers as Rush was referring to a phony soldier.

    Ken supports the troops – THE AL QUEDA TROOPS!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Steph says:

    Everyone who thinks the letter was justified is a troop hating braindead liberal.

    And has no clue about the facts.

    Rush was actually talking about people falsely claiming to be soldiers against the war.

    Especially one Jesse the Molester Metcalf.

    I realize these are facts.

    No one hates more than a liberal. They don’t hate everyone though. They love Bin Laden.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. Dead Men Walking…

    Answering Sir Walter Scott’s question, posed below: Yes. *sigh*
    ……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Davebo says:

    Rush was actually talking about people falsely claiming to be soldiers against the war.

    If that’s true why did he feel the need to doctor the tape and then re-release it?

    And I love bin Laden! He’s the mostest!

    Gentleman, I present the typical Limbaugh listener. Not the sharpest bowling ball on the rack but he spends a lot on all natural herbal impotency cures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  6. Ok,

    Davebo, Limbaugh has been talking about Jesse Macbeth for over a month. There has been at least one “reporter” who claimed to interview soldiers who had participated in atrocities, also to be proved a lier, that Limbaugh has talked about on air. It is these reports that he bases his “phony soldiers” comments on. Jesse Macbeth specifically was mentioned on air at the time of the “phony soldiers” incident.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. yetanotherjohn says:

    “They’d have to establish the link between the transfer of money for that letter and promoting free speech, and that’s going to be tough,”

    It may be tough for someone who lost their job when Bush was elected in 2000, but at a minimum you could claim the $2M publicised an attempt by congress (notable 41 senators on the left of the aisle) attempting to inhibit the free speech of someone who was exercsing his free speech that they didn’t agree with. If you add up the “free publicity” that this auction generated, I suspect a reasonable person could come up with $2M in value.

    Now was this the wisest use of the $2M? That would be a matter for the charity trustees, but it wouldn’t be hard to make the free speech case.

    As to why the money being given to a charity wouldn’t count, you would have to look at the casey coundation charter. While most charters are written broadly enough to include giving to another charity, some are more limited on what they can spend their money.

    In short, NYT found a democratic has been to give them a quote without going to the trouble of really researching the story. No wonder they are having financial trouble.

    Ken and Davebo,

    I recognize that you may disagree with Rush or find his logic strained, but given his background do you really think Rush would have been talking about our serving soldiers as “phonys”? When you look at the quote in context it’s pretty hard to come to that conclusion. So what happens when the left makes a false claim like this? It makes all claims by the left, even those that might not be false, to be less believable. If you are trying to destroy the credability of the left, you are going down the right path.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. MarkT says:

    Harry Reid is trying to claim credit for raising the money

    Can you point out exactly what makes you say Reid is claiming credit for the money?

    I read the transcript a couple of times and think that interpretation is a stretch.

    A bit of clever spin and being gracious when outmaneuvered is *not* the same thing as claiming credit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  9. Is America Conservative or Liberal or neither?…

    The Polish Constitution includes several sections on how citizens of Cities can become Nobles. This is the sort of question that would have been on Americans’ minds as they created their own Constitution. “What are we to be: Townsmen; Noble…

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  10. How to convince Jihadists to abandon suicide bombing - UPDATED…

    Jihadists like Al Qaeda use takfir (or excommunication) to render their opponents legally subject to all sorts of atrocities. Atrocities against non-Muslims are traditional in Pakistan. Payback is a bitch. And in this case, her name for the Pakistani j…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. ken says:

    Rush needs to apologize to our soldiers for calling those who disagree with him phony.

    Limbaugh has been at war with American values for as long as I can remember and has made a practice of bad mouthing everyone who disagrees with him. But when our soldiers are in harms way for him to call any of them phony is just plain outragous. Rush needs to apologize.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  12. jpe says:

    If you add up the “free publicity” that this auction generated, I suspect a reasonable person could come up with $2M in value.

    No. Absolutely not. And I highly, highly doubt that this transaction could be characterized as a charitable expenditure. The IRS is pretty lax with its oversight of charities, so it’s an open question whether they’ll do anything, of course. Limbaugh should’ve donated the letter to a charity so that they could auction it off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. jpe says:

    But, rather clearly, this is a charitable donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation

    It’s not, though. It’s just a purchase of a letter from Limbaugh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  14. Navy’s riverine force plans first homecoming since Vietnam…

    While I did not write this article, Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser did, I believe it one that should be shared. Our men have done well since their inception of the Navy (and all other branches), and it is about time we all stood up and said so. Let’s support ou….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Wayne Gilchrest Must be Voted Out…

    Wayne Gilchrest is the Congressman who represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. Gilchrest is a Republican but he has been a disgrace to his party and to the voters of his district. I have documented Gilchrest’s poor voting record…

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  16. Rep Stark: Raving Mad…

    Here’s the dreaded video.Pete Stark (D-CA), But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Grewgills says:

    Perhaps there’s a question of the intrinsic value of the letter?

    I think that could pose quite a problem. It would be quite easy for the IRS to argue the auction value as its intrinsic value. They could donate the letter and be sure to receive their tax deduction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Here we go again. As Steve Benen pointed out at the time, Limbaugh:

    (1) Agreed with his harebrained caller that “They [war opponents] never talk to real soldiers…If you talk to any real soldier, they’re proud to serve, they want to be over in Iraq, they understand their sacrifice and they’re willing to sacrifice for the country”;

    (2) Talked about other subjects for 1 minute and 50 seconds before it occurred to him that he just might get in trouble for that comment, and only then brought up Jesse MacBeth;

    (3) Released a doctored clip of that conversation (which he called “the entire segment”) on Sept. 28 to make it look as though there was a gap of only 15 seconds before he brought up MacBeth;

    (3) Then announced that John Murtha (Bronze Star with Valor device, two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal) was a real “phony soldier” because (as MSNBC pointed out at the time) Murtha had correctly quoted miliary investigators (who confirmed it to NBC reporters) as saying that the Haditha affair almost certainly had been a genuine massacre of innocent civilians.

    So, can we knock off the crap? Limbaugh remains a moderately clever liar, but an unquestionable liar nevertheless, and this whole affair is just a replay of his confident “diagnosis” of Michael J. Fox as faking his Parkinson’s symptons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. [...] Bye Blanco! Trackposted to Stop the ACLU, Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Perri Nelson’s Website, , Stix Blog, Right Truth, The Populist, Stuck [...]

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  20. Clinton Cat Fight?…

    Will Hillary have to defend her extreme makeover to a softer image now that it has been reported that she gave away Socks the cat when she left the White House? The report is that Hillary got Socks to soften her image and make her look like a good mom…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. [...] to Outside the Beltway, Is It Just Me?, , Allie Is Wired, A Blog For All, The Populist, Walls of the City, Big Dog’s [...]

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  22. Bruce Moomaw says:

    I ehould add that — until L’Affaire Phony came up — I had never even HEARD of Jesse MacBeth despite my hbit of prowling around liberal sites ad nauseam, which gives you some idea of the real extent to which the liberals have supposedly been covering the man.

    Not that I really object to having Limbaugh yell this sort of thing, at least since I saw last year’s CNN poll giving him a 58-26 negative approval rating. Evidently every time he opens his yap he provides a few more votes for the Dems, and in fact — given the fact that the same poll gave Michael J. Fox an 8 to 1 positive rating — it’s possible that he made the difference in the close Missouri Senate race that put the Senate in Democratic hands. Go, Rush!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  23. [...] to Stop the ACLU, Outside the Beltway, Perri Nelson’s Website, Blog @ MoreWhat.com, Is It Just Me?, , AZAMATTEROFACT, A Blog For [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. [...] to Stop the ACLU, Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Perri Nelson’s Website, Is It Just Me?, , Stix Blog, Right Truth, The [...]

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  25. Steph says:

    Democrats support phony soldiers but don’t support the real ones.

    Rush has talked about Metcalf and others quite often and had talked about it during the show.

    The caller was referring to these people.

    Democrats talk about supporting civil rights. Unless it’s your right to talk badly about them. Therefore the call for the Fairness Doctrine. I wonder if they will wear their brown shirts while passing it?

    Because you know it won’t be appled to CNN and MSNBC Bin Laden’s favorite channels.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Steph says:

    The anti war pro Sharia law websites do not ask for credentials when claiming to be a soldier.

    It’s like the 911 kook sites claiming to be architects or whatever. Anyone can join them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Right Truth says:

    Blog Rush and their Quality Review criteria…

    In case any fellow bloggers have thought about signing up for BLOG RUSH, a blog syndication site, don’t bother. I signed up, checked it out, and the majority of their syndication consists of ‘news’ like what Paris Hilton or some…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. [...] to Outside the Beltway, Blog @ MoreWhat.com, Is It Just Me?, Perri Nelson’s Website, , A Blog For All, Right Truth, [...]

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  29. You say “HatE SpeecH”, I say “TrutH”…

    Then along come the Libs buddies. IzlamoNazis, who are a breed unto themselves.

    ……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. ringadingding says:

    Now, obviously, Owens knows far, far more about tax law than I do. But, rather clearly, this is a charitable donation to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which is presumably a registered charity, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Perhaps there’s a question of the intrinsic value of the letter?

    The problem is that under the eBay rules, it is the seller who collects the money from the buyer and donates it to charity. So Rush Limbaugh is taking the Casey Fdn money and giving it to the charity.

    The Casey Fdn operates under strict rules that requires nonprofits to use their money only for charitable purposes. Buying something from Rush Limbaugh probably doesn’t qualify.

    Look at it this way, if I bought something at a yard sale and the seller donated the money to the Goodwill, he would get the tax break, not me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. ringadingding says:

    I agree with Bruce Moomaw, except that I don’t think they were saying the war opponents never talk to real soldiers. I think they were saying the media never talks to real soldiers. Look at the context.

    Don’t forget that Limbaugh called the previous caller, who thought the troops should come home, a phony vet. The guy said “I used to be military and I’m a Republican.” Limbaugh responded: “And I used to walk on the moon.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Why I hate Public Schools…

    Another John Stossel pice, this time on why our public schools suck.  Again, a great summary of the problems.

    Note, it’s long but see it thru, its worth it.

    And for people like Ken Schram, who think money is the cure, guess again.

    &…

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