Pay for Play

From time to time, we hear about various “pay for play” scandals, which tend to be far more common on the right. The idea is, companies or interest groups pony up a big check, and in return, they can buy (or at least, lease) the credibility of like-minded media figures.

This is one of the most blatant examples of the corrupt process we’ve seen in a long while.

The endorsement of Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative blog RedState and a CNN contributor is for sale as part of an advertising package, according to an email circulated by an account executive for The Human Events Group -Eagle Publishing, which recently purchased the site.

“Erick Erickson’s reputation along with his rising profile, combine to make RedState the most influential conservative blog on Capitol Hill and across America,” writes the account executive, Chris McIntyre, in a form email forwarded to POLITICO by two surprised conservatives. “Why not put Erick’s influence to work for your organization?”

The sales pitch highlights a “RedState Endorsement Program,” in which clients can sponsor RedState content, and for a price, even buy a “video endorsement” from Erickson himself.

This morning, Erickson and the Human Events Group scrambled to knock the story down. The right-wing blogger said in no uncertain terms, “[N]o, my endorsements are not for sale,” while a Human Events Group executive called the solicitation “the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Erickson is arguing that he never saw the offer before it was issued, and I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary. This may very well prove to be little more than an over-eager sales flack who got a little too excited about commercial opportunities.

The incident does, however, renew questions about how common “pay for play” deals really are, especially among conservatives. We like to think that far-right media personalities are writing and saying what they actually believe, and touting causes they genuinely support, but behind the scenes, exactly how much money is trading hands?

We’ll probably never know.