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