Rush Limbaugh appears to have the Midas touch.
The conservative radio talk-show host turned an inflammatory letter written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and signed by 41 of his fellow Democrats into a more than $4.2 million gold mine for the kids of Marines and law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty, all courtesy of eBay.
The Eugene B. Casey foundation Betty Casey coughed up more than $2.1 million to be the sole owner of the letter sent to the radio host's boss demanding that Limbaugh be reprimanded for a "phony soldier" comment he made on air. Limbaugh has pledged to match whatever was paid for the letter.
Limbaugh described Betty Casey, a trustee of the foundation, as a loyal listener to his show.
“She gives significant sums to hospitals, hospices, colleges and private schools,” Limbaugh said during his radio show Friday afternoon, just after the eBay auction ended. “Betty has been a listener to my program since its inception, and we can't thank her enough for her support. This was kind of the last straw for her, what Harry Reid did here.”
The letter, sent by Reid and signed by his Democratic colleagues, was delivered Oct. 2 to Mark P. Mays, president of Clear Channel, the parent company of the conservative talk show host’s radio broadcast.
In exchange for the $2.1 million, the Maryland-based Eugene B. Casey Foundation, will receive the letter, the Halliburton briefcase in which the letter is secured 24 hours a day, a letter of thanks from Limbaugh and a picture of him announcing the auction at a speech in Philadelphia last week.
The foundation released the following statement on acquiring the letter:
"The Eugene B. Casey Foundation believes freedom of speech is a basic right of every citizen of this country. Their purchase of the smear letter was to demonstrate their belief in this right and to support Rush Limbaugh, his views and his continued education of us."
Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, a nonprofit that gives scholarship assistance to children of Marines and federal law enforcement personnel whose parents die in the line of duty.
Limbaugh has denied the term "phony soldiers" referred to former servicemen and women who served in Iraq and now oppose the war, but to those who lied about their service. A literal reading of the Sept. 26 show in question shows that the controversial host did not say that soldiers opposing the war are "phony."
On his Friday radio show, Limbaugh said Reid’s letter was an “abuse of power against a private citizen.”
“Harry Reid in a speech on the Senate floor at 12 noon today, a little over an hour ago, attempted to hone 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,” Limbaugh said on his show.
“Three words, that means, ‘Rush, you win,’” Reid told his colleagues on the Senate floor.
Limbaugh said: “I asked Sen. Reid to match and all the other senators who can afford to do so. I haven't heard from them on that. I asked Sen. 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.
He also announced an unknown number of certified copies of the letter signed by him will be sold on for $1,000 on his Web site, with proceeds going to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation.
So did the foundation get their money's worth?
Kieta, the vice president of AmericanMemorabilia.com who goes by only one name, said what makes the letter appealing to a buyer is all the media attention the correspondence has received, but it holds no real historical or collector value.
“If you compare it to an Abraham Lincoln document, there is obviously no comparison,” Kieta said. “This is strictly a promotional marketing ploy. Historically speaking, is it a historical document? I wouldn’t categorize it as a historical document.”