In launching the probe into gold sales, investigators in L.A. and Santa Monica are opening a new front in a long-running and very public dispute over the way Goldline has turned the sale of gold into a massive retail operation that capitalizes on popular conservative figures – most notably Glenn Beck.
The marriage of conservative talk and gold sales appears to make sense – both have traditionally targeted an audience that is skeptical of the government, concerned about the nation's economic future, and uneasy about inflation and the stability of American currency.
The promotional strategy appears to have been beneficial both to Goldline, which boasts $500 million in sales, and to such conservative figures as Beck and former presidential hopefuls Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, all of whose broadcasts are peppered with Goldline advertisements.
The symbiotic relationship is on full display during broadcasts of Beck's daily television show, and on a promotional video Beck shot for Goldline where he said, "The people that I trust are the people at Goldline. And you can talk to the people on the phone. They're not going to pressure you. If it's the right thing for you and your family and you want some insurance, trust the people at Goldline." And on Goldline's website, where visitors can hear Beck's testimonials. And in the direct pitch from Goldline sales associates over the phone, where one recently told a caller, "Now just so you know, Glenn Beck is a client here. He's been with us several years."
But the potent blend of conservative talk and gold sales has brought scrutiny, initially from the political left. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, called the relationship between Goldline and the conservative talk shows an "unholy alliance."
"There is an unholy alliance, I call it, between the commentators on Fox News and Fox News' advertising policies to sell ads to these guys," Weiner said. "If you're going to advocate for buying gold, it's certainly your right to do that. But you should tell your viewers there's a dumb way and a smart way to buy gold And very often those advertisements are for a very dumb way to buy gold."
Weiner's congressional office conducted its own investigation into the firm's sales practices and said his complaints about Goldline are not just a matter of politics. Weiner told ABC News that neither the sale of gold nor the promotion on conservative broadcasts is the real problem. The rip off, as he called it, was in Goldline's push to get consumers to buy gold coins instead of pure gold.
"Once they get people on the phone, they basically steer them into these so-called collectible coins and that's where the rip off becomes really profound," Weiner told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross.
"So there's no other value that these coins have because they're unusual or because there's a mistake in them?" Ross asked.
"There's no doubt about it, that there's a whole universe of rare collectible coins and I know nothing about that field," Weiner replied. "Except to say this: Goldline doesn't sell those coins."
Goldline disputes this, saying the company sells "a variety of products ranging from the most common bullion coins to exceptionally rare certified coins."