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Ouch! Cash for quotes scandal hits blogosphere

Submitted by Simon on Sun, 12/03/2006 - 11:41am

The NYT exposes thirteen bloggers - mainly left, a couple on the right - who took money from politicians and waxed effusive about those candidates on their blogs.

The hall of shame includes: Jerome Armstrong and Scott Shields (MyDD, Kos), Peter Daou (HuffPo,, Jon Henke (AllenHQ; QandO); David Sirota and Jesse Taylor (Pandagon).

All the more staggering is that this is being reported in the New York Times, which makes it far harder for the guilty on the left to dismiss it, and the overwhelmingly left-leaning list makes it hard for the righties to dismiss, either. Taking money from politicians isn't a crime, but it is, without any doubt, unethical to take money from a politician and to write puff pieces for them on your blog without disclosing the interest. Jon Henke might at least have the defense that anyone who went to a website called "AllenHQ" would have expected to find a nest of shills, but I rather imagine that your average Kossack or MyDD reader thinks of themselves as "standing up to the man," and certainly doesn't go there expecting to hear bought and paid for men defending their benefactors.

Regular readers of SCOTUSblog will be familiar with the "full disclosure" notices that routinely accompany commentary there, because often, the posters or commenters are involved in the cases. That is how to do it properly: if you have a direct, unvarnished financial stake in what you're writing, it should be declared.

I'd like to state, emphatically, that John McCain has never given me any money for defending his role in the nuclear option. If he'd like to, on the other hand, I can offer him good rates on his vote against the FMA, too... ;) I might add that I've never gotten a red cent from Newt, Nino or Rudy for all the complimentary things I've said about them over the last couple of years. Pay up, lads! ;)

HT: Althouse, who observes that "Politicians: If you're worried a blogger might undercut your campaign, know that about $2,000 a month will not only cut off the criticism; it will buy you a stream of free ads, written by a free ad writer. What a bargain!"

Update: In a marvellous feat of unintended irony, Armstrong's and Shields' fellow MyDD blogger had a post yesterday titled Institutionalizing Corruption.

In the comments: One of the bloggers involved, Jon Henke, stops by to tell his side of the story.

Let's not forget the

Let's not forget the rich-but-somewhat-deranged "volunteer" top-level "progressive left" bloggers in the mix, who work for free in the "plausible deniability" area...hmmm, that particular space seems to have an inordinate share of "for rent" bloggers.

Full disclosure: I have never been paid to blog, it's actively cost me professional money at times, and to the best of my knowledge none of my fellow contributors here at SF are paid to blog. If they've been getting cash under the table, I want my cut. The kids gotta eat.

ADDED: The original piece was written for MSNBC but can be found here. And some few of those listed, such as Scott Shields of MyDD and Jesse Taylor of Pandagon, put their regular blogging on hiatus to take the paid work. Ain't nothing wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with getting paid when you make full disclosure. It's when you get paid to spew forth strokage from your purportedly "independent" blog that you're well over the line.

You've completely missed the point.

The article did not even remotely allege that we took "money from a politician and to write puff pieces for them on [our] blog without disclosing the interest". All of us were explicitly campaign bloggers. AllenHQ was the official campaign blog of the Allen campaign. I left a full disclosure at the bottom of every single QandO post I wrote, even those with no relation to the campaign.

The same was true of other bloggers. They weren't taking money and writing "puff pieces". They were explicitly, and with disclosure, operating as campaign staff. There's no suggestion that I or most others operated dishonestly.

He's got you, Simon. I've

He's got you, Simon. I've been backtracking these, and I've not yet found a paid blogger who did not either suspend blogging while doing the political work, or fully disclosed their conflict of interest where pertinent if they continued "outside" blogging.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It's not a scandal. It's people getting paid to do something their political employers obviously think they're good at. No unethical conduct. No inherent reprehensibility.

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