Ken Crow, a Texas tea party activist, has alleged that Breitbart News required substantial payment to publicize an event he was helping to organize, then delivered unsatisfactory coverage. Adding ethical insult to financial injury, none of Breitbart.com’s stories disclosed that the organization was paid to cover the event.
Crow said that Dan Fleuette, the person he spoke with at Breitbart News, insisted that the media organization would need $11,000 to come and cover the event. In an interview with The Daily Caller’s Mirror blog Wednesday night, Crow said Fleuette eventually acquiesced to $7,000 plus travel expenses. But upon hearing the price, the women organizing the rally flipped out. “The girls are screaming, ‘WE DON’T HAVE SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!’” Crow recalled.
In his interview with Stranahan, Crow said, “I honestly thought this was a very newsworthy event to be covering. I was told Breitbart didn’t have the financial wherewithal to send a crew down there because they didn’t have the advertising base and the revenue to warrant that, and that the organizers would have to pay.”
We are shocked, shocked! to learn that Dan Fleuette, producer of strange right wing “documentaries” (including a weak, feature-length mash-up of Sarah Palin called The Undefeated) is operating a for-profit enterprise that takes advantage of hardworking grassroots tea party activists. We have long suspected that Breitbart executive (and Undefeated director) Stephen K. Bannon was really calling the shots at Breitbart News, so a revenue stream going through Fleuette would explain his influence. No wonder staff at the website refer to Fleuette as “Bannon’s bitch.”
We are equally shocked!!! that Breitbart News is a money pit, and doubt that Fleuette was just poor-mouthing. Having by now likely burned through that $10 million in venture capital that Andrew Breitbart obtained shortly before his death, the site cannot possibly be making enough ad revenue to sustain the current payroll. Like National Review, a magazine that has never made money, we think Breitbart fills an important cultural niche for the conservative movement without ever actually being profitable. Simple market pressures surely drive the website’s leadership to exploit any new revenue streams they can find — which would be fine, if they disclosed their role and delivered satisfactory service.
For whatever we may think of tea parties, Mr. Crow is a grassroots organizer who expected to get several thousand dollars’ worth of coverage from what he thought was a premiere right wing website. Now he feels short-changed:
In the end, complained Crow, the event coverage on Breitbart News was pretty meager. “For that I’m a little bit of a disgruntled customer,” he told The Mirror.
“Breitbart did appear [at the event], but none of the other items, the promotional things were really done,” Crow said in his interview with Stranahan. “There was one small story done that was put on the back page of the website that nobody ever saw. They did livestream parts of it but nobody knew it was there. I don’t think it had any viewership at all. It was a pretty disappointing thing, actually.”
Again, at no point did Breitbart News mention in their meager coverage that they were being paid. We also took note of who Mr. Fleuette dispatched to “cover” this event:
The two people from Atlanta were a camera crew from Ground Floor Video, a company whose clients have included the Tea Party Patriots. On the site are a barrage of glowing testimonials from Glenn Beck, Chick-fil-A, Breitbart affiliated BIG Hollywood, Herman Cain and more.
The Executive Producer of Ground Floor Video is Luke Livingston, who by his own admission is a friend and neighbor of Tea Party Patriots President Jenny Beth Martin. TPP is probably the most important “grassroots” tea party organization left these days, and we have watched their budding relationship with Breitbart News since before they lobbied Congress together as Groundswell. Here is very recent video of Mr. Livingston being interviewed at CPAC.
Finally, who actually paid for this unsatisfactory coverage by highly-connected tea party “activists”? Why, some nameless, wealthy angel investor — of course! — because no conservative circle of scam is complete without at least one sugar daddy who has more money than sense.
Crow confirmed the financial arrangement to The Mirror and said he had at least a dozen emails discussing a monetary deal. He said a third party agreed to bankroll the arrangement but refused to say who.”This particular group likes to remain anonymous when they do things like this,” he explained.
Breitbart News has developed an indirect way to access the dark money ATM of the conservative movement. By constantly championing tea parties, and developing a close relationship with a popular tea party organization, Breitbart.com cultivates an image of being the necessary website for tea party organizers like Mr. Crow. When they request coverage, Fleuette presents them with a bill, leaving Crow and his fellow organizers to go and make the ask themselves if they want coverage. The richest right wing ‘patriots’ actually prefer to fund the movement this way because it keeps their hands ‘clean,’ maintaining a veneer of grassroots enthusiasm.
The conservative Circle of Scam is almost risk-free because conservatives rarely ever notice it, and more rarely ever speak up about it. Most of the time, people like Mr. Crow want to be fooled. Faced with self-dealing insiders posing as outsiders and rebels, right wing activists usually choose to believe in their cause, rationalizing away all the profiteering with a glib trope about free markets. It is great work if you can get it; just ask Sarah Palin.