Limbaugh Spins Reid's Letter Into Charity Gold

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 20, 2007

Petty bickering about patriotism and Who Loves Our Troops More has never been seen as a financial growth industry, but there's no stopping American capitalism. This is why a perfunctory bit of political grandstanding, committed to U.S. Senate letterhead this month, became worth a reported $4.2 million yesterday, instantly becoming one of the most valuable printed documents of the modern era.

The letter in question is an Oct. 2 two-pager from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Clear Channel Communications CEO Mark Mays lambasting the syndicate's Rush Limbaugh, who had recently criticized U.S. troops who were against the war in Iraq.

"Phony soldiers," blasted Limbaugh.

"Beyond the pale," Reid blasted back. "Unpatriotic," he added.

Forty-one Democratic senators signed the thing, put it in the mail and, really, that should have been the end.

But Limbaugh decided he had been "smeared" by left-wing evildoers. He put the letter up for auction on eBay, with the benefits going to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a New Jersey-based charity that primarily gives scholarship money to the children of service members either killed in war or in the course of public duty. Limbaugh sits on the board of directors.

The letter drew bids from more than 60 people and was bought yesterday for $2.1 million by reclusive D.C. philanthropist Betty Brown Casey, who has heretofore shown more of an interest in the Washington National Opera than Washington mudslinging. Limbaugh said yesterday on his radio show that Casey was a longtime fan, that he would match her bid (bringing the total raised by the letter to $4.2 million) and, on his show, he graciously poked Reid in the eye:

"It got this kind of money because it represents one of the most outrageous abuses of federal power in modern American history, and that is what makes it a collector's item. This letter that Senator Reid wrote will forever memorialize him as a demagogue."

We have only a few hours, but you get the idea.

Brendan Sullivan, Casey's attorney, did not return calls yesterday.

Yesterday on the Senate floor, Reid said Limbaugh had "very, very constructively" raised more than $2 million with a letter "signed by this senator and my friends." Limbaugh, not to be out-grandstanded, took to the airwaves to blast Reid for trying to "horn in" on the publicity coup.

"We've gotten donations in the million-dollar range before, but this is by far the biggest," James Kallstrom, chairman and co-founder of the 12-year-old charity, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

The foundation has awarded more than $27 million in scholarships to children of slain troops and law enforcement officers, Kallstrom said, as well as support money for disabled veterans and their families.

"But we're not political at all," he said.

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