Glenn Beck
Even fans of conservative talk show host and author Glenn Beck would probably concede that he can be -- to put it mildly -- a bit of an alarmist.

Among his many conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios is a prediction of a total economic collapse, precipitated by the collapse of the U.S. dollar and hyperinflation that would put the billion-dollar bills of Zimbabwe to shame.

But owning gold bullion isn't enough to save you. On multiple occasions, Beck warned his audience that the government, thanks to an order dating back to FDR, had the power to seize most gold from you if it so desired. Exempt from its clutches, however, are antique and collectible coins, he explained. So any survivalist worth their year's supply of Spam and bottled water knows only gold coins are worth stockpiling.

Beck's talking points match up almost word-for-word with the sales pitch used by one of his ongoing sponsors, Goldline International, a company that also uses him as a paid endorser.

On Nov. 1, Goldline executives and salespeople were charged with 19 criminal counts by the Santa Monica, Calif., City Attorney's Office, which worked with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office on the case.

Founded in 1960, Goldline is based in Santa Monica and has more than 400 employees and annual sales exceeding $500 million.

The complaint charged that "Goldline runs a bait-and-switch operation in which customers, seeking to invest in gold bullion, are switched to highly overpriced coins by using false and misleading claims."

Among the tactics cited by investigators is "training salespeople to induce in customers fear of government confiscation of bullion and to tell customers that the overpriced coins were exempt from such confiscation." Sound familiar? (In fairness, there was a Depression-era order intended to stabilize the dollar and prevent a run on banks; only one prosecution ever resulted and it is debatable it could still be enforced, given the end of the gold standard).

Among the alleged acts of false advertising: "stating that the European coins they were promoting could be 'liquidated privately'; offering gold bullion for sale, in commercials and on Goldline's Web site, with no intention of selling it; stating that bullion could be 'purchased online' with a button on its Web site, when it could not be purchased online; and referring to the European coins they were promoting as 'rare.'"

"The so-called bait-and-switch allegation is preposterous because bullion accounts for more than 40% of the ounces of gold sold by the company during the past year," Brian Crumbaker, Goldline's executive vice president, said in a statement, countering what he called "numerous errors."

Beck continues to endorse and publicly defend the company, as do several other conservative pundits touted on the Web site with the tagline "Credibility: the most influential voices of today trust Goldline."

"Credibility" might not be the word that comes to mind for those inclined to think Beck's Chicken Little rhetoric about the economy had a profit motive.

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