Following the Talk Radio Money

I have stopped listening to talk radio. It’s been apparent that Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, Hugh Hewitt and Rush Limbaugh have talked about being non partisan in the primaries, but their talk belies any of that.

A blog called Reality Check has found out some interesting information:

Reality Check has already shown how “Neutral” Conservative News Websites Breitbart and The Daily Wire are actually fronts for the Ted Cruz Campaign. In our article “The $25 Million Dollar Trump Take Down” we clearly show that the owners of those sites donated over $25 Million Dollars to the Cruz Campaign and then use their websites to promote him. But is Talk Radio also on the take? Reality Check dug into Cruz FEC Filings and discovered the Cruz PACs paid a Talk Radio Insider over $8 Million Dollars, and the endorsements of Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and others quickly came in.

The FCC regulates the nation’s TV and Radio Stations because the signals they use are owned by the public. This is why you cannot use certain words on the radio, stations must have licenses, keep a public records file and make it available, etc.

One FCC rule is 47 U.S. Code § 317 or the Payola Rule. Simply put, Radio/TV Stations and their employees are not allowed to take money to put content in their programming, mention items, talk about candidates, etc. unless that sponsorship is disclosed.

In other words, if a Talk Show host like Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt or others was paid money by a campaign to talk glowingly, defend or endorse a candidate, and not disclose that they were paid on-air to the audience, or the radio stations they are broadcast on, they’d be in violation of the law. The station could lose it’s license and the host could be jailed and fined.

Politico published an article in December called, “Talk Radio Rallies Around Ted Cruz” highlighting Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Erick Erickson, amongst others as hosts defending Cruz and bashing Donald Trump (to Cruz’s benefit). If these hosts are doing it on their own, with no payment, it’s perfectly legal. However, if money is flowing to them, and they are not disclosing it, they are violating Federal Law.

Are Pro-Cruz radio hosts speaking n their own volition? Or are they being paid big money to sway the election in Cruz’s favor?

A look at Ted Cruz PAC filings (Keep The Promise I & Keep The Promise PAC) turns up expenses totaling $8,467,466.00 to a company out of Plano Texas called Rigel Strategies LLC.

Rigel Strategies, LLC is owned by a man named Dennis Sternitzky. Sternitzky is the only employee of Rigel Strategies, LLC from extensive research. Sternitzky is a former sales rep for Salem Communications (now known as Salem Media Group), which owns 117 radio stations across the United States. Salem also owns the website Red State which puts on the “Red State Gathering” that is hosted by Erick Erickson. The Red State Gathering notoriously banned Donald Trump from appearing at it’s latest get together in Denver Colorado.

When Sternitzky founded Rigell Strategies, LLC he began pushing a different kind of marketing he calls, “Embedded Marketing”. Sternitzky quotes Michael Margolis, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories…if you want to change the culture, change the stories.” In short, Sternitzky’s marketing plan is to pay hosts to promote brands, campaigns, etc. during their show which is perfectly legal, AS LONG AS IT’S DISCLOSED to the public.

According to Sternitzky’s LinkedIn Profile, he was the National Account Manager for Salem Communications (syndicator for Mark Levin, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Erick Erickson and Hugh Hewitt) from August 2005 to August 2011. Before that Sternitzky worked for Premeire Radio Networks (syndicator for Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Meghan McCain).

In 2015, Ted Cruz’s PAC “Keep The Promise I” made 58 payments to Rigel Strategies, LLC. for a total of $1,094,268.00. The PAC increased its spending with Rigel Strategies, LLC. dramatically in 2016 and in just January and February (the latest filings available), has paid Rigel $7,373,198.00. The expenses are listed as “Media” and “Pac Radio Advertising”.

It’s also been widely reported that, David Barton, the Director of Cruz’s “Keep The Promise PAC”, is also the Chairman of Glenn Beck’s Mercury One Charity. Between January 18, 2016 and February 18, 2016, “Keep The Promise PAC” paid Rigel Strategies, LLC. $1,033,300.00.

Since Rigel Strategies, LLC. is not a public corporation, just what that $8,467,466.00 dollars in “Media” spending has been used for is not public record. However, it’s not hard to connect the dots and see that a one man corporation, with connections to radio hosts and a marketing plan of “embedded marketing” may be using that money to purchase the loyalty of Talk Show Hosts around the nation to sway the election in Cruz’s favor.

Is Cruz’s “Keeping the Promise I” and “Keep The Promise PAC”, through Rigel Strategies, LLC. paying conservative talk show hosts and media pundits for their endorsements, their defense of Cruz and to attack his opponents? If so, this would be a blatant violation of the FCC’s Payola and Plugola laws as the hosts mentioned have not disclosed on the air the payments made in exchange for their programming.

Further, this would be a violation of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule which was created because the FCC thought Radio and TV stations could easily manipulate the outcome of elections by presenting just one point of view, and excluding other candidates.

As Roger Stone points out in this article from the Daily Caller, there is more at stake here than ideology:

The next time you hear Mark Levin on the radio, or watch Glenn Beck on TV, or read Erick Erickson, RedState.com on the Internet, you might just ask yourself who is paying for the message? And why is it so stridently anti-Trump?

Don’t fool yourself. They’re doing it for the money.

As the spearhead of the “Dump Trump” movement, the same GOP establishment big-dollar donors and PACS that are pushing House Speaker Paul Ryan as a dark-horse presidential candidate, despite the big-government omnibus-budget deals Ryan reached last year with President Obama, are funding Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and Glenn Beck, to promote Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Conservative Tree House blog exposed the financial nexus supporting prominent “conservative” pundits to promote in their media outlets Ted Cruz as the last, best hope to block Trump in Wisconsin, a state considered by the Washington-based GOP establishment as perhaps the last establishment firewall to block Trump from the GOP presidential nomination.

“These financial/media relationships have largely and historically, remained hidden,” a blogger identified simply as “sundance” noted in an article posted on TheConservativeTreeHouse.com on Wednesday. “They have sure never been publicly, clearly, and regularly stated so the consuming audience would know the presentation was fraught with financial conflict.”

“The Senate Conservatives Fund (PAC) purchasing massive quantities ($400,000) of Mark Levin’s books in exchange for favorable candidacy political opinion. Conveniently hidden by the radio host who avoids mentioning the financial conflict created,” the blog pointed out.

On Jan. 13, Ben Jacobs in an article published by the Daily Beast headlined “Pay to Play?” noted that Politico, in an article that now appears to have been scrubbed from Politico’s website, reported on how the GOP establishment seeks to buy Levin.

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), a “conservative” fund founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina that backed Cruz in his Senate fight against Obamacare, spent $427,000 to buy copies of radio talk show host Mark Levin’s four-year-old book “Liberty or Tyranny” to distribute to donors – a purchase that should have earned Levin approximately $1 million in royalties.

Despite his many diatribes against Trump broadcast to his national radio audience, Levin hid the fact the son of his fiancé is a full-time staffer for Cruz.

GOP establishment political operative David Barton not only runs “Keep the Promise” one of the most prominent pro-Cruz Super-PACs, he also serves as the chairman of Glen Beck’s “Mercury One” charity.

So, the next time you see Glenn Beck on his knees proclaiming that Ted Cruz is the “anointed one,” deemed by God to be president of the United States, you might ask yourself if God also deemed Barton to put at Beck’s disposal the millions in Super-PAC money he can funnel to Beck, so long as Beck continues to sing Ted Cruz’s tune.

Yet even these political whores do not top “conservative” Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.com, who funds his media venture “The Resurgent” with Super-PAC money from the Ricketts family of Wisconsin, big backers of Gov. Scott Walker (who incidentally endorsed Cruz).

ConservativeTreeHouse.com documented that the Ricketts family funded Our Principles PAC to the tune of $3 million in February alone. We should not be surprised when FEC filings show money from Our Principles PAC flowing to Resurgent Media, with the box “Oppose Trump” checked off as the Erickson media group’s purpose.

“In addition to all of those in the Salem Media Communications network, along with Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Ben Shapiro, Erick Erickson and anyone who is hosted upon the various media enterprises they front for…. all paid shrills dependent upon political graft,” the ConservativeTreeHouse.com article concludes.

“Interesting indeed how the intersection of financial dependency drives the political ideology of these modern “conservative voices”. However, this does increasingly explain how those same voices will stand and cheer for Mr. No-Budget/Omnibus, House Speaker Paul Ryan.”

What’s the point, the ConservatieTreeHouse.com asks? Smaller government? Yeah, sure.

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