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Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue

As if there isn't enough news to write about, the Wall Street Journal (free link) picks up on a spat that's going on in the blogosphere over fallout from the Armstrong Williams consultancy flap. It repeats what Markos of Daily Kos and Jerome of MyDD told their readers ages ago - that they had been hired by the Dean campaign as consultants for a period of time. Jerome shut down MyDD while he was working for Dean and Markos kept the disclosure on the front page of Daily Kos for the duration of his consultancy.

Very few bloggers make a living by blogging. Most are lucky to take in a few bucks through donations and advertising. There is nothing wrong with bloggers being consultants. In this case, Jerome and Markos went the extra mile to disclose it. So where's the story? Answer: There is none.

Instapundit has more on the non-controversy, which was started by another former Dean worker, Zephyr Treatout, who blogs under the name Zonkette.

Disclosure: Markos designed TalkLeft in its present format at no charge which I disclosed here . I had lunch with him and his wife and child last May. He disclosed it here and I disclosed it here . I received an e-mail from him yesterday on another topic, and disclosed it here. I'm typing this on a laptop I received as a contribution from a generous TalkLeft reader, which I disclosed here. See how ridiculous this gets? Oh, and I get paid to blog by Denver's 5280 magazine on their site, and I disclosed that here.

Can we go back to the real story now, which is that talk show host and columnist Armstrong Williams was paid by the Bush Administration with $240,000 of your taxpayer dollars to promote the Administration's "no child gets ahead left behind" policy and did not disclose the compensation. And that Government payment to journalists and media mavens to publicize one point of view should be condemned. End of story.

Update: Memeorandum has a roundup of bloggers commenting on the story.

Update: Everyone's got the disclosure bug now. Read Kevin Drum and Roger Ailes . But the best thing about Roger's post is this comment which made me laugh and nod along in agreement:

I have no interest in collectively building a culture online where we figure out norms for people who both consult and write online so that readers can have the tools to be skeptical, active participants.

Too many ivory towers, people need to climb down. This is blogging we are talking about. What's next? Will we be asked to submit our writing for peer review before posting?

Update: Jesse at Pandagon gives his disclosures.

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  • Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:00:55 PM EST
    The one way in which it is not a non-story is that the matter of transparency and disclosure is important for both bloggers who want t be taken seriously and people who read blogs and are trying to determine who to take seriously. So if the conversation can be steered towards that more general issue, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 11:55:40 PM EST
    It all comes down to the word "control" The issue Is a non issue but some would love to see Bloggers go-away for good, see some don't like the idea that people like to talk and write about issue's and our little government really can't stand that.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 12:04:13 AM EST
    Williams was being paid with taxpayer money to sell Bush policy, while supposedly being an independent voice. It was totally dishonest, and maybe against the law?

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:22:41 AM EST
    Williams was paid, who else has been paid with taxpayer's money? And how many of them are on the Wall street journal's payroll? As subscribers to any publication it is imperative news organizations uncover who has taken money for propaganda work. If they will not, we need to signal our distrust of any work published. Williams was not the only one. He is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:39:59 AM EST
    One point. It's absolutely wrong to say that (regardless of whether or not you think kos did anything wrong) this affair has no comparison to the armstrong williams revelations since kos wasn't paid with taxpayer money. While Governor Dean may have opted out of receiving public funds during the primaries...the money he used in his campaigning did not come out of his personal pockets. It came out of the pockets of the regular people who contributed money to the Dean campaign at an almost unprecedented rate. While that money may not be exactly taxpayer money...it is the money that came from the taxpayers. I am not...at this moment...slamming Kos. And I am certainly not slamming Governor Dean who I admire and I supported. But people who write about politics, whether in blogs or newspaper columns, have no f-ing business taking money from politicians. It IS a question of ethics. But, hey, I'm just preaching to the moderate choir members who only want to hear themselves. It's also quite fascinating to hear all the people attacking a fellow Democrat because of her timing and the fact that she's attacking a democrat. Meanwhile, two days before the day in Congress when the votes are to be certified, Kos writes a hate filled post calling the bloggers who got people to make phone calls to John Conyers and the Barbara Boxers fraudsters. But the moderate attacks on the liberal factions of the party, for some reason, don't matter as much. The ironic thing about the whole matter. This will probably hurt Dean more than it will Kos. The moderate Kossacks rally around their leader like no other troop in the Democratic Party. Dean will probably be hurt in his quest for the DNC chair...and a scumbag that thinks the war in Iraq is a worthy war will take control of the party...and maybe the Koses of the blogosphere won't get any monetary kickbacks...but they will gain even more power. Any blogger that doesn't think election reform should be the number one priority for the left (next to opposition of the war) might as well be a member of P-NAC.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#6)
    by john horse on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 04:14:39 AM EST
    One thing I wonder about is how Williams services were procured by the Department of Education. Is there a procurement or contract file? How fair and open was the process by which William's services were procured? Was this a sole source procurement? If not, who else made bids? Who in the DOE was responsible for contracting Williams? All of this, and more, should be in the procurement or contract file.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ray Radlein on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 06:04:05 AM EST
    This is an absolute non-issue from the POV of Dean. He hired a guy to work on his web site and his internet strategy; he hired another guy to consult on internet and grassroots outreach issues. Both of them were completely above board at the time, and made their connections known to everyone in no uncertain terms. Heck, people were still beating Markos over the head with Dean months after he had quit working with the campaign. Trying to blow any of this back on Markos, Jerome, or Dean himself is just plain stupid.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 06:31:16 AM EST
    Agreed that this episode can't hurt Howard Dean, but it can and will hurt Markos Moulitsas. There's a difference between being hired as a consultant, where you're being paid to give advice, and being hired as a shill, to produce writing favorable to the boss's cause in the guise of unbiased authorship. Mr. Moulitsas never made his exact role in the Dean campaign sufficiently clear; disclosing his contract as a 'consultant' was not enough. The real question is, to what extent did the Dean campaign pay for favorable editorial treatment on dKos? It was right for Jerome to shut down MyDD while he worked for the Dean campaign, because then there could be no doubts about his impartiality. Mr. Moulitsas has showed poor judgement and lost his cool on many occasions; this is just one more. He seems like a nice guy personally (could use a little anger management therapy, maybe), but I think he is a poor spokesman for progressives. What's rarely pointed out is that few dKos members visit the site to read Mr. Moulitsas himself, or any of the other 'guest bloggers'. There are plenty of better-informed and more articulate liberal columnists out there. dKos is all about the host of interesting progressives who are private citizens, who just show up there to talk to each other. It's not so much a blog as a community site, though many mistakenly assume that the punditry is the draw.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 06:42:18 AM EST
    Ernesto and et al - Well, if your issue is receiving taxpayer dollars, then read this. "For example, the Environmental Defense Fund, which lobbies against Bush Administration positions on everything from the Kyoto Accord to oil drilling in Alaska, received almost $350,000 in taxpayer dollars last year. In 2001, the League of Women Voters, which lobbies for affirmative action legislation and against Bush Administration environmental policies, received $20,000. Planned Parenthood, openly fighting what it calls George W. Bush's "War on Women," received more than $400,000 in taxpayer assistance. The National Council of La Raza, which opposes all sorts of immigration reforms, received $875,000 in government dollars in 2000. The AARP, fervent foes of Social Security and Medicare reform, received a staggering $73 million in a single year during the mid-'90s, according to the Heritage Foundation. Further, as a 2001 Cato Institute report revealed, groups making up the Fair Taxes for All Coalition opposing Bush's first-term tax cut -- encompassing 170 groups as varied as the NAACP, NOW, and the National Council of Churches -- took in $618 million in taxpayer money between 1996 and 2000. Although federal law currently forbids government money from being used to lobby for more government money, researchers at the Cato Institute found such minor rules mattered little in the scheme of things. "After all, money is fungible," John Samples wrote in the 2001 report. "Government funds given for programs and services allow an organization to devote other money to advocacy efforts. The federal money also necessarily builds those organizations' base of support and infrastructure, which enhances their advocacy efforts.".... ..."If you think Armstrong Williams is bad, wait 'til you get a load of the American Beeb [BBC], or the proposed $150 million 'Center for Strategic Communication,' which would dole out money to deserving bloggers, among others," Reason magazine's Matt Welch wrote in a recent column. "Hell hath no propagandist like a government on a mission." Ron Brynaert has it exactly right. "But people who write about politics, whether in blogs or newspaper columns, have no f-ing business taking money from politicians. It IS a question of ethics."

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 06:47:02 AM EST
    Ron Brynaert says: While Governor Dean may have opted out of receiving public funds during the primaries...the money he used in his campaigning did not come out of his personal pockets. It came out of the pockets of the regular people who contributed money to the Dean campaign at an almost unprecedented rate. While that money may not be exactly taxpayer money...it is the money that came from the taxpayers. That last formulation is rather pedantic. All the money that goes through Wal-Mart's cash registers every day comes from taxpayers too. That doesn't make Wal-Mart a public-sector industry. We're all taxpayers. When we talk about "taxpayer money" we mean the money that came from taxes. People who sent money to Howard Dean weren't expecting it to be spent on social programs. They were expecting it to be spent on a political campaign, which means it would go toward promoting speech that advances the candidate's profile. That may mean advertising, it may mean sponsoring a speaking tour for a pundit from a think tank, and it may mean underwriting a weblog. Lots of people who write about politics are taking money from political organizations. A politician's campaign is essentially that. To say that people who write about politics should never take money from politicians blurs a line: a campaign is an organization that exists to promote a candidate. The government, on the other hand, does not have and must not take that role.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 07:14:30 AM EST
    Vogelfrei - Surely you jest. Many people who write about, talk about, chatter on TV about, blog about, are not taking money from the government, or politicians. And any who do have an ethics problem, and won't be taken seriously, irrespective of any disclaimer. And if you have trouble understanding that, then there was a real short fall in your education. Note: This does not include advertsing that is labeled as such.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#13)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 07:49:40 AM EST
    Jim, Are we to believe that no conservative lobbyists receive government money? Also, I think the real issue here is that, you know, Williams claimed to be impartial all along. It's sort of like if government lies and propaganda had a disclaimer at the end saying "This message brought to you by the US department of lies and propaganda. It is not true." They could say whatever they want, and there wouldn't be a problem. Ditto for people publicly disclosing their relationships with politicians. Jerome did it. Kos did it. Everyone knew and got to decide whether to keep reading them. Williams, on the other hand, conveniently forgot to tell us that he had turned into a full-blown propaganda mouthpiece for the Bush administration. I'm not sure how this causes confusion amongst right-wingers.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 07:52:13 AM EST
    Not even the same thing in any case payola is a specific crime and Williams has admitted he did it. More of that crap media put out by the liars on the right. Proof that the WSJ doesn't get it and doesn't care if they do..they only want to promote the agenda of the rightwing loons.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#15)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 07:52:49 AM EST
    Oh, and there's a whopping big difference between telling someone to design your web site and telling someone exactly what to say. Namely, the latter makes it pretty obvious that you're a paid propagandist.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:31:08 AM EST
    All the money that goes through Wal-Mart's cash registers every day comes from taxpayers too. um, i hate to quibble - but this argument is a bit wrong. if i work under the table and never pay any taxes, and yet i shop at walmart, the money i give to walmart does not come from a 'taxpayer' - except in the sense that i paid the sales tax on my items. the real argument here, i think, is that government money (or money the government recieves from collecting taxes) is gathered whether or not the citizen wants to pay it. a donation is given freely, and a citizen is under no obligation to contribute. taxes are taken. now, i don't think you can claim victim when the politician you elected sends your tax money to things you don't support. that's they way our country works - by the people, for the people. we elect them to do our will. when they do not do our will, we replace them. so if you don't like what dean did, don't vote for him, support him, or contribute to his campaign. if you don't like what kos did, don't read him (he can be a bit shrill for my taste anyway), don't contribute to him, don't visit his site. i personally don't think anyone did anyting wrong, but that's just me.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:32:33 AM EST
    scar - A little moral equivalency this morning? Read before writing. I never said Williams was anything but wrong. But, if your issue is tax dollars, you can see the folks getting it to push an agenda. That is as wrong as paying Williams. So no exceptions. It is just wrong. KOS had a disclaimer. That's fine. In my mind it turned his whole Blog into advertising. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of people like to read advertising.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:51:27 AM EST
    PPJ, The AARP, fervent foes of Social Security and Medicare reform, received a staggering $73 million in a single year during the mid-'90s, according to the Heritage Foundation. I don't think so

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#19)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 08:52:50 AM EST
    Above was me

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#20)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 09:32:38 AM EST
    "Paid propagandist" thank you, scarshapedstar for putting into words what I aspire to be. In the spirit of full disclosure I declare myself a Paid Propagandist. Send cash, check or money order to ZuDfunck.com. We'll fix you right up. Oh and I hope your scar clears up soon. Bye, Love you all...Z

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 09:37:38 AM EST
    PPJ proudly demonstrating again and again no critical thinking just spewing of freeper talking points

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 09:53:29 AM EST
    While that money may not be exactly taxpayer money...it is the money that came from the taxpayers. Ron, the difference is HUGE. Contributions are voluntary. Taxes are not. This is government sponsored propaganda. [link deleted, not in html format] Ms. Teachout should be criticized even though she is a Democrat - especially because her actions were self serving and the comparison itself is a distortion.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#22)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 10:03:24 AM EST
    Yes, ever since that fateful day, DailyKos has been one nonstop ad for the Dean presidential campaign, even after the Dean campaign, technically, ended. Everybody stopped reading it. (in Jim's universe)

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 10:12:09 AM EST
    But, if your issue is tax dollars, you can see the folks getting it to push an agenda. That is as wrong as paying Williams. So Jim, are you also against taxpayer funding of the NED?

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#24)
    by Sailor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 10:46:59 AM EST
    Kos declared the relationship, and it was for consulting purposes, not shilling. Armstrong DID NOT disclose the contract, and he was specifically paid to mention the "Leave No Child's Behind" law and to convince his fellow journalists, w/o disclosing his relationship to them either. Nice strawman, Ron Brynaert, but the issue wasn't whether the funds were tax dollars or not, the point was disclosure.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#25)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 11:46:02 AM EST
    Dearest No Name - If you want to dispute the AARP comment, fine with me. Of course to be effective you need to send and email to the author/magazine. There is still millions and millions and millins being given to organizations with agendas that all of the tax payers may not agree with. Dearest No Name # 2 - If critical thinking means I have to be a hypocrite, I leave that to you. Ernesto - Are you incapable of understanding simple sentences? "So no exceptions. It is just wrong." BTW - My eyes glaze over when people start talking about THE NEW WORLD OPRDER. Sailor - Disclosure is nice. But the real issue is taxpayer dollars being given to organizations to push agendas. scar - What are you complaining about? No one said KOS was evil. Just that once you have declared yourself part of an organization, don't expect people to view you the same way they would a non-aligned blog. If he quits, he quits. No bigf deal.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#26)
    by Sailor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 11:57:51 AM EST
    Sorry PPJ, no strawmen allowed; the real issue is disclosure. We know what the agenda is when Scotty McClellan, who is paid w/ tax dollars, says nice things about gov't plans. Same thing with identified gov't news releases. This is not true of fake news pieces inserted w/o disclosure or commentors taking money specifically to promote a gov't policy w/o disclosing the financial arrangement. Especially considering that Williams was previously critical of the NCLB.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#27)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 12:20:55 PM EST
    PPJ, Of course,to be effective you need to send an email to the author/magazine dude, you are a rock. And just as smart.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#28)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 01:31:10 PM EST
    Che - I could have said "Don't be a dumba*s. I just linked to an article. If you don't believe it, pi*s off." Instead I am nice and am rewarded with sweet nothings from you. Aint life wonderful? Sailor - Sorry, but I just put a pox on all of them. I do find it funny that those on the Left who want to pound about Williams get snitty when I bring up the dozens of other organizations taking taxpayer money. Also without disclosure. (Although someone could argue the disclosure is in their operating budget: Revenues. Of course Williams could also.)

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#29)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 01:37:00 PM EST
    Um, it's not ridiculous because you disclosed it. Suggesting a conversation about voluntary standards that would benefit everyone is a bad thing why, exactly? If you didn't believe in disclosure, you would not have disclosed. Why are you opposed to the idea of learning what can be learned from the voluntary international standards journalists try to adhere to, and seeing what similar standards might be drawn up to guide bloggers? I don't understand the problem here.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#30)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 02:13:54 PM EST
    God, Zephyr is either a Republican mole or a fool.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#31)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Jan 14, 2005 at 03:24:42 PM EST
    PPJ, Maybe I should have said stubborn as a rock. The point of my last comment to you was to point out that it would be a cold day in hell before you ever admit to being incorrect about anything. So you get the s**t. If you don't like the responses, then split. Or quit posting incorrect information.

    Re: Blogger Consultants for Dean: A Non-Issue (none / 0) (#33)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 15, 2005 at 09:43:40 PM EST
    Oh my goodness, I just found this "story" now... People couldn't SERIOUSLY be comparing TAXPAYER money paying someone on NEWS TELEVISION with campaign money being paid to some guys with personal web sites or someone who happens to have a blog being hired as a campaign internet worker??? That's hilarious. Nobody could take this as a serious comparison, could they? If they do, they must be very confused, or among those people with personal web sites who have DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR!!! Some people need to get a grip & stop living in their own VERY SMALL world (ie: the so-called blogosphere, which probably only makes up about .000000000000000000000000000001% of the world's population, if that).