WASHINGTON -- The account executive who sent out an email offering to sell to the right bidder the endorsement of RedState.com's Erick Erickson has been "disciplined," a top official with the company tells The Huffington Post.
Chris McIntyre of the Human Events Group, a conservative publishing outlet, offered prospective advertisers the chance to secure a "RedState Endorsement" on Tuesday. That included a video statement of support from Erickson -- a highly-influential conservative voice and a paid contributor to CNN.
The email turned heads, even within conservative circles. One recipient who alerted The Huffington Post, deemed it "essentially a pay-for-endorsement solicitation." The recipient noted that the email -- which is pasted below in its entirety -- asked specifically whether groups wanted to "put Erick’s influence to work for your organization?"
There is a truly defining line between being a paid advocate and a member of the political commentariat. And even for someone who shuns the notion of objectivity, Erickson would be poorly served by the perception that there is a price tag for his seal of approval.
Shortly after Politico's Ben Smith broke news of the arrangement, Erickson was up with a blog post of his own, explaining that he had not seen the McIntyre email and was glad to have the campaign exposed and clarified.
"The focus of these ad campaigns are for conservative organizations I support and am glad to help, never for candidates or groups I don't much care for," he wrote. "In fact, a certain Presidential candidate asked me to do one for an ancillary project and wanted me to use the word 'endorse,' which I would not do."
Joe Guerriero, the vice president and group publisher at Human Events Group, was also in clean-up mode, differentiating between support for like-minded groups and for-purchase candidate endorsements. In a phone interview with HuffPost, he not only stressed that neither he nor Erickson had seen the email before it was sent, he insisted that the group's actual advertising strategy was no different than those of other conservative media luminaries.
"It really is very similar to what Rush [Limbaugh] does for Heritage [Foundation] and what [Sean] Hannity and [Mark] Levin do for [Hillsdale College]," he said. "There are certain organizations Erick has an affinity for who have a reciprocal affinity. It is very common, and it was just meant to be a basic program where it was an embedded endorsement. It is an advertising campaign and clearly stated as an ad campaign."
Guerriero called the email from McIntyre "totally unauthorized." He also said that there are informal ethical standards that the Human Events Group upholds with respect to the advertising it does.
"There has been business I have turned away when I first joined Eagle [Publishing] at Human Events and Redstate," he said. "We were running birther ads and I was like, 'No, this stops.' There is a point where you just don't want to go."
This is certainly true for any organization. But the issue with Human Events Group is not, strictly, that it was taking in ad revenue from controversial sources, but rather that it was attaching its name, reputation and -- in this specific case -- offering Erickson's endorsement to individual causes.
Guerriero reemphasized the similarities between the marketing strategy of Redstate and that of talk radio stars. "I don't know all the details of those arrangements. They are all good friends of Heritage. It is part of the revenue picture for these organizations… Again, if you look at all the sites, and conservative media sphere and on the left, there is just a lot of advocacy and political campaign advertising. That's what floats the boat. It is a dicey line."
HERE IS THE FULL EMAIL FROM MCINTYRE:
Erick Erickson's reputation along with his rising profile, combine to make RedState the most influential conservative blog on Capitol Hill and across America.
Why not put Erick's influence to work for your organization?
Our new RedState Endorsement Program includes:
1. Erick's Video Endorsement (subject to final approval by Erick)
2. Sponsorship of the RedState Morning Briefing (sent 4X)
3. Delivery of RedState Dedicated Email Services (sent 4X)
4. Hosted advertising on RedState.com (interstitial banner overlay)
5. Limited Program Availability
The banner overlay, which is just one part of the program, is running today. Please click on the following link to take a look: www.RedState.com
Organizations with issues, candidates and viewpoints that are in line with Erick's positions can truly benefit from his endorsement. The program is specifically designed to provide broad, multi-channel coverage and put your message in front of the people who can truly support your advocacy and fund raising efforts.
If interested in learning more, I would like to schedule some time to provide you with additional detail on what is included. Let me know what your availability looks like.
Senior Account Executive
The Human Events Group - Eagle Publishing