Ken Vogel and Mackenzie Wagner of Politico put a dollar figure
on the massive flow of cash from conservative groups to talk radio hosts between 2008 and 2012:
A POLITICO review of filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh between the first talk radio deals in 2008 and the end of 2012. Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented, with legacy groups like The Heritage Foundation ending their sponsorships and groups like the Tea Party Patriots placing big ad buys.
That $22 million helped fuel the rise of the tea party, and while Vogel and Wagner say the mix of groups funding right-wing radio have evolved, the flow of cash shows no signs of slowing down. Because disclosure rules don't require releasing documents about spending until the year following an election, there isn't much recent data to go on, but this is the sort of thing they are talking about:
Senate Conservatives Fund paid at least paid $427,000 to Simon & Schuster to purchase copies of one of [radio host Mark] Levin’s books in September and October of 2013.
And of course Levin has returned the favor, calling one of the Senate Conservatives Fund's favorite tea party challengers, State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Mississippi, "solid as a rock." The irony in all this payola is that as distasteful as it is, it's a pretty good example of the right-wing media machine unwittingly helping Democrats win elections, because no matter how conservative their politics are, these radio hosts have shown time and time again that they'd rather make money than win elections.