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Do the Conservative Media Think of Their Audience as an ATM Machine?

There aren't many American political movements that have turned rackets into lasting political success.

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As Rachel Maddow noted last night, while highlighting the Media Matters report, "What these financial reports seem to indicate is that donations to Dick Morris' super PAC, substantially, just end up going to Dick Morris."

That feels like a racket to me.

Meanwhile, the incessant right-wing media desire to extract donations from followers for people and organizations that don't really need it can lead to baffling disconnects.  

Last week, while cheering the news that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) would be leaving the U.S. Senate in order to  become president of the influential conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, Rush Limbaugh urged his listeners to support the institution and to become paying members. What Limbaugh failed to mention to his AM listeners was that The Heritage Foundation operates on an $80 million  annual budget, lists assets totaling nearly $200 million, and receives generous support from of 3M, Boeing, and ExxonMobil, just to name a few, key corporate benefactors.

Indeed, the Heritage Foundation, with its gold-plated deep pockets and its big business sponsorship, has long been seen as the most prosperous think tank in all of Washington, D.C., boasting  a staff of nearly 300 people. (As its new president, DeMint's annual salary will likely be  in excess of $1 million.) Yet Limbaugh was urging his listeners from around the country, including those from small town America, to write checks to the Heritage Foundation so that its voice can be heard?  

And yes, according to this Washington Post  report, Limbaugh has pocketed millions from the Heritage Foundation over the years, so this also feels like a racket. And there aren't many American political movements that have turned rackets to electoral success.

Eric Boehlert is is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. He's the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006) and Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, 2009). He worked for five years as a senior writer for, where he wrote extensively about media and politics.
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