In an epic clash of the titans, Mike Gallagher and Bill Bennett squared off against one another in a battle to determine who would emerge as the top fundraiser for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign at the close of 2012.
Broadcasting locally on Philadelphia’s 990 AM WNTP, nationally syndicated Salem radio hosts spent the holiday season raising money via online “Red Kettles” featured on their websites. In a stunning upset, it was Dennis Prager who proved himself the runaway winner, fundraising more than twice his $68,000 target goal.
But the friendly rivalry between Mike Gallagher and Bill Bennett was a roller coaster ride to the very end – and the vanquished raised the white flag of surrender on the victor’s show this Wednesday.
Earlier in December the former Reagan education secretary fell behind Gallagher, though he vowed to close the gap. Before learning Gallagher led him by $6,000 on December 4th, Bennett promised, “We – we close strong at the end – we close strong in the middle. I want to encourage contributions in the middle.”
Indeed, headed into New Year’s Eve Team Bennett had narrowed Gallagher’s lead dramatically – with a last minute flurry of donations putting them over the top. And on January 2nd Gallagher called in to Morning in America to graciously congratulate Bill Bennett on his victory – in spite of the song that introduced him.
“Do you really have to play the Clemson Tiger Rag to stick it to me as I call to wave the white flag of surrender over the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign?” he asked, poking fun at Creative & Operations Director Claude Jennings.
“Really Claude? Et tu, Brute? Et tu?”
“…by the way I have sources Dr. Bennett who tell me that you made your team work on…New Year’s Day. Is that true? Ebenezer?” Gallagher pressed.
“Yes. But I didn’t.” Bennett laughed.
“Yeah, I know you didn’t, but you did work New Year’s Eve. And therein lies the difference between victory and defeat in the much contested Mike Gallagher/Dr. Bill Bennett Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign. There’s a lesson here –”
“Let’s go to the numbers as we say on Fox News. Let’s go to the numbers. Or do you want to be Karl Rove and say don’t pay any attention to those numbers?” Bennett interjected.
“Yeah, I could have a meltdown and say don’t believe those numbers.” Gallagher answered before switching to the third person.
“Those numbers aren’t right. They can’t be right because I was – listen – Gallagher was winning going into the New Year’s Eve weekend. Gallagher was up by about $1,500. And somehow – and I found out how you did it. I mean, I found out the secret weapon. And this is a life lesson. This is The Tortoise and the Hare. This is called work ethic. When you go in and work on New Year’s Eve and you browbeat people into end of year tax deductions.”
“I did. I did. I did.” Bennett agreed cheerfully.
“And meanwhile I’ve got my feet…propped up trying to drink...eggnogs [for] the holiday and I’m not working. I take a few well-deserved days off – therein – the victor lies the spoils. You win – was it $83,000? My goodness, you booked about, what, $15,000 in the last couple of days.” Gallagher noted.
“Yeah. The numbers exactly Mike since you asked –”
“Since I asked,” Gallagher chuckled.
“…Are $83,942 for Bill Bennett and for Mike Gallagher $71,346.” Bennett responded.
“And going into Monday I was up. It was like $70,000 to your $69,000 and I thought – you know – I told my team: heck, surely he’s not going to work New Year’s Eve. He certainly isn’t going to make his team work on New Year’s Day. He’s not that cruel. So we’re fine, we’ve got this thing in the bag.” Gallagher opined.
“Why does this not feel like praise to me?” Bennett queried.
“...I agonized over this call…you may have heard this about me, I don’t like to lose and lose I did…” Gallagher conceded.
“...I take comfort though; I tell myself, well, I could be Paul Ryan today on the fiscal cliff debate. I could be waking up with a…fiscal cliff headache. Instead I just got beat by my friend Bill Bennett…” going on to inquire whether he had anticipated a flood of donations from his listeners at the eleventh hour.
“I did but let me just say this…I’m never happy. I’m never satisfied. You and I totaled $154,000…together. You know what Prager got?” Bennett asked.
“Better than that, right?” Gallagher answered.
“$176,000 – you traveled with Newt earlier last year.” Bennett inquired.
“I did. Yes sir.” Gallagher assented.
“Has [Sheldon] Adelson now moved from Gingrich to Prager – writing big checks to Prager?” Bennett teased.
Later in the call Gallagher further lamented his loss to Bennett.
“...But the bad thing about Prager is he doesn’t gloat like you do. I mean, the little known secret about Dr. Bill Bennett is what a fierce competitor you are. And I wanted to beat you so bad. You were the only one. [Hugh] Hewitt’s a nice guy. I mean, he’s nice, he plays well. [Michael] Medved plays well with others. Prager – happiness hour – Mr. Sunshine. You are vicious. And you just decided you were going to take Gallagher and not only were you going to throw him to the ground but you were going to rub his face in the mud. And you did.”
“Claude, did you tell this guy one segment only – and at most. He's going on and on…” Bennett quipped.
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