Angie's List recently made news and not in a good way. The popular business referral service has apparently decided to risk the reputation of their own business by supporting Rush Limbaugh's hate radio. I can only presume that they are hoping to take advantage of Limbaugh's last distress-sale advertising rates in order to create buzz following their recent Initial Public Offering. In doing so, they have traded dollars and cents for any sense of common decency. Their ad dollars are supporting a man who has called women sluts, prostitutes and lard-asses. While Angie's decision to associate with Rush Limbaugh is revealing in and of itself, a closer inspection of the company reveals that their association with Rush should not be all that surprising. Angie's List, it seems, has a problem with women too.
Angie's List was co-founded by Angie (Angela Bowman Hicks) and William Oesterle in 1995. The two came together in order to create a reliable source of business referrals and Angie's List was born. Though Angie is the public face of the eponymous organization, Bill Oesterle is actually the CEO. Oesterle's career did not start in business however. It started in Republican politics. (Hat tip to @catsrimportant!)
After graduating from Purdue University, Oesterle took a low-level position with Republican Governor Robert Orr of Indiana. Oesterle apparently rose through the ranks quickly and in 1988 moved from Governor Orr's staff to the conservative Hudson Institute where he served as Director of Corporate Affairs.
The Hudson Institute's website describes the organization as "a nonpartisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom." Nonpartisan...right!
Some of the Hudson Institute's recent work includes providing research for the Heartland Institute's climate change denial crusade and publishing helpful articles like: "The Prospects for Defunding Obamacare: It's Hard to Starve the Beast." For some additional flavor of the Hudson Institute, here's a fun clip of the current Hudson Institute President Emeritus, Herbert London, defending Rush Limbaugh (he apologized after all!) and denouncing students who protested after a professor echoed Limbaugh's comments calling Sandra Fluke a "prostitute" and "extortionist." Mr. London called the actions of the students "inappropriate." What the professor said on the other hand, Mr. London viewed simply as "free speech." Nonpartisan... check!
After an exciting tenure in the Hudson Institute right-wing corporate propaganda shop, Oesterle moved into the corporate world but he never fully left the Republican political fray. In 2004, Oesterle managed Mitch Daniels' successful Indiana gubernatorial race. Daniels as you'll recall was considered a possible Republican presidential candidate and is now on Mitt Romney's possible VP list. Oesterle's political giving has also been prolific. Over the past 10 years, he has given more than $300,000 to Republican politicians in his home state of Indiana. Not a single dollar has gone to Democrats. Given his obvious partisan affiliations, it makes sense that Oesterle would be sympathetic to Limbaugh's "entertaining" right-wing messages, and his method actor's delivery of distortion, lies, and incendiary vitriol.
So we understand Oesterle's motivation in supporting Limbaugh, but what about the rest of Angie's executive team? Well, the senior team at Angie's List also provides some insight into why they may not be sensitive to the concerns of women. Angie's List is obviously named after a woman and in fact seems to be marketed extensively to women. Angie herself is featured prominently in all the company's promotional materials. The only images on the front page of their website are one of Angie and a thumbnail from a video featuring a female customer. A page on their site dedicated to consumer praise is dominated by women commenters and includes quotes like this one:
I've heard horror stories about women being taken advantage of on price and service, and I didn't want this to happen to me. So I talked to a friend, and she directed me to Angie's List.
Given the company's emphasis on women, I was pretty surprised to find that there is not even one woman on the Angie's List board of directors. Senior management is little better, with Angie herself being the sole female representative who made the cut. Couple the lack of female voices at senior levels within Angie's List's management with their current support of the practicing misogynist Rush Limbaugh, and Angie's stance becomes pretty clear: their actual support of women goes as far as taking their money.
Rush Limbaugh, like any citizen, has the right to say whatever he wants. And businesses are free to place ads as they see fit, and where they see fit. But millions of people who find Rush's misogyny and hate speech offensive also have a right to make their values known through how they spend their money, and whom they spend it with. By choosing to place their ad dollars with Rush Limbaugh, Angie's List is supporting Limbaugh's regular spew of offensive, vulgar and divisive rhetoric about women, minorities, and just about anyone else that he or his tightly-coupled Republican party war machine have in their gunsights at any given time.
When asked about becoming the public face for Angie's List, Hicks Bowman said: "I love what we do for consumers. I love being an advocate for the right, fair way to do things." I hope that William Oesterle, Angela Bowman Hicks and the rest of the Angie's List executive team will take Angie's words into consideration and end their support for hate media. Until they do, I hope that you will withhold your support from Angie's List, spread the word, and politely voice your concerns directly to Angie's List via Facebook, Twitter and by calling them directly at 888-888-5478. For more information about Angie's List and other sponsors of hate radio visit stoprush.net.