Did Kevin McCarthy Pay For Frank Luntz’s 2020 Focus Groups For The LA Times?



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The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, CBS and VICE News / HBO all licensed the Republican pollster Frank Luntz to promote itself and its messages to a general public and liberal while lining their pockets. “If I want to present a CEO, I will make sure to do so [Megyn Kelly’s show] the night before, ” Luntz said in 2015. “Because the CEOs watch his show. The other show they watch is ‘CBS This Morning’ because they all love Charlie Rose. I actually schedule my TV to fit my schedule. “

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week, Luntz and New York Times opinion page editor Patrick Healy and defended The Times coverage of a George Floyd Luntz Discussion Group. Luntz praised Healy while also offering to host another discussion group for The Times and MSNBC. It is not known if The Times paid Luntz, although Healy’s comments suggest not, with Healy saying he had “decided to participate in a focus group led by Frank Luntz.”

As Salon reported last week, in the six weeks leading up to the 2020 election, Luntz wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times and then organized a series of four focus groups which the newspaper broadcast live – but clearly did not pay for – following the presidential debates and town hall between Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

LA Times opinion page editor Sewell Chan tweeted in 2020 that no money was coming from the newspaper for focus groups, but they clearly did not come without high costs. Luntz, pays participants $ 100 per focus group and has recruited 58 participants for these four events – a starting point of $ 5,800 in personal expenses. He also advertised on Facebook for at least two of the events, spending at least $ 1,600 on these announcements. Luntz too had to filter potential participants, prepare and facilitate focus groups and facilitate events. (his social media director, Hetal Bhatt, is sometimes visible in the frame during several live streamed events.) This begs the question: who ultimately paid for these sessions?

The timing of payments by the leader of the parliamentary minority At Kevin McCarthy’s PAC leadership at Luntz’s firm suggests a possible answer. Two days before Luntz’s editorial was published in the LA Times, and one week before the first focus group, Luntz’s company, FIL, Inc., received $ 16,850 of McCarthy’s PAC. A few weeks after the last post-debate focus group, McCarthy’s PAC made another payment to Luntz for $ 21,500 – and a few weeks later, McCarthy was living with Luntz in the latter’s penthouse apartment in Washington. As the Washington post reported in May, McCarthy’s PAC leadership was Luntz’s only federal client during the 2020 election cycle.

According to a recent the Wall Street newspaper article, which featured Luntz, “Focus groups require travel and the hiring of moderators, rental of facilities, and payment of people to participate in focus groups. Cost ranges between $ 5,000 and $ 9,000 by group.” Four focus groups at $ 9,000 a piece are $ 36,000, a staggering sum of the $ 38,350 that McCarthy’s leadership paid Luntz’s company during the LA Times focus group days.

These four newsgroups were also featured on the Los Angeles Times YouTube channel, where they have been viewed more than 3 million times in total. The average cost to reach 100,000 viewers on YouTube is about $ 2,000, so if Luntz had paid for ads to reach 3 million viewers it would have cost about $ 60,000. One way to look at this is to suggest that the LA Times gave Luntz the equivalent of $ 60,000 in free promotion. In the example discussed in the second paragraph above, a New York Times editor reports that he simply “attended” a Luntz focus group. It would be interesting to find out who Luntz’s actual customer was, or if it was just a self-promotion tactic that earned him more free media. No clear answer to this question is available at this time.

Luntz has been censored twice by polling organizations and on numerous occasions over the past two decades the media has broadcast focus groups, editorials or political analysis of Luntz without disclosing his concurrent work for a candidate or a political party under discussion. It happened on MSNBC in 2000 and 2004, on CBS and in the New York Times in 2014, on Vice News / HBO in 2018 and more recently in the Los Angeles Times last fall.

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