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Mike Crute, left, and Dom Salvia, have parlayed their penchant for arguing politics into a popular radio show, The Devil's Advocates, which has become a vital part of the programming at The Mic 92.1 FM, one of the longest lasting progressive stations in the country.

AMBER ARNOLD — State Journal

Over the years, Madison progressive radio station The Mic 92.1 FM has always had a variety of local programs, some weekdays and others filling time on weekends. Some have short runs, others stick around for a while.

None had a more unlikely path to the air than the station’s current centerpiece show, “The Devil’s Advocates.”

Mike Crute, who had advertised on the station for years as owner of CCL Management, a property management firm, approached Scott about using the station’s facilities for a show where he and his old UW-La Crosse buddy Dom Salvia would discuss current events. He pitched it as something akin to sports talk.

“I got this idea that somehow two buddies talking at the end of the bar would make good radio,” Crute said.

He was thinking it would just be an Internet show, but then Scott suggested they put it on the air. “The Devil’s Advocates” debuted as a one-hour Saturday show in February 2012, with Crute’s business as the only sponsor.

By November of that year, they were on weekdays for an hour and quickly expanded to two hours and then its current three-hour drive-time format.

Crute had worked in radio in La Crosse before going on to other businesses, while Salvia had no radio experience, although he had operated a number of construction, staffing, real estate and financial services businesses.

Their business model for the show is reflective of a trend in radio, where the station has gone from employing talent to contracting it. The Devil’s Advocates Radio is an independent operation.

Crute and Salvia buy the time from the station and line up sponsors for 15 minutes of advertising each day – they currently have about a dozen full-time sponsors and several other seasonal ones – and The Mic gets the rest of the commercial time.

“We’re profitable now,” Crute said. “We have had to persevere, much like The Mic.”

And what started out as a hobby has become a full-time job for both of them.

Their show has brought another different element to the station in that it is not entirely progressive. While Crute is a hardcore progressive who was inspired by attending one of Schultz’s shows at the Barrymore, Salvia describes himself as a libertarian who openly admits to having voted for Walker in the recall election.

Where Air America grew out of anger directed toward the Bush Administration, “The Devil’s Advocates” has become the place to argue about Walker and his ascendance on the state and national scene.

“I would like to give absolute credit to Scott Walker for the success of our radio program,” Crute said.

“I think I have extra credibility because I voted for the guy,” Salvia added. “I took a lot of grief for that and, of course, I’ve evolved from that position.”

Both were arrested during the protests at the State Capitol, and they’ve parlayed that experience into an even higher profile for the show by taking their cases to court. Crute has already won his case and Salvia’s is headed toward federal court this summer

Their personal involvement has only deepened their connection with their listeners.

“The audience was craving what we’re giving,” Crute said. “The biggest resistance we got was to Dom. They did not like him. Some said they would turn it off because we’re not a true progressive product.

“But if it was just the Mike Crute show I would be the Rush Limbaugh of the left. I would just devolve into three hours of Walker bashing every day.”

The unique combination of personalities has allowed the show to develop a different list of guests. There are the usual Democratic voices from Rep. Mark Pocan to the minority statehouse leaders. But they also have landed frequent interviews with conservative U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who has made news with several of his interviews on the show.

“It’s amazing that some of the politicians lend their credibility to us,” Crute said.

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Dennis Punzel covers Wisconsin Badgers volleyball, women's basketball for the Wisconsin State Journal.