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How much is that op-ed in the window?
December 16, 2005 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Op-ed Payola, not just for the White House anymore. An outcry arose over the Bush administrations payments to multiple columnists to push the Bush agenda without disclosing the payments. Now it turns out Jack Abramoff had op-ed columnists on his payroll too. Doug Bandow has just resigned as a senior fellow of the Cato Institute after being discovered taking payola from Abramoff's clients. Josh Marshall claims this practice is endemic in DC. There are even shops in DC that specialize in ginning up bogus 'man on the street' opeds which they then get placed on major oped pages. Another area where my reporting showed this to be very common was among foreign lobbyists, a number of whom had ex-foreign service officers and various other foreign policy bigwigs on retainer to write opeds advocating on behalf of their clients. Actually, 'write' overstates the matter. The lobbying firm writes the OpEd and the expert signs it.
posted by publius (37 comments total)

 
It's certainly been a hell of a news day. It's coming thick and fast now. Are we reaching a tipping point? I'm not holding my breath.
posted by unSane at 8:30 PM on December 16, 2005


The fourth estate is looking a little run down as of late.
posted by publius at 8:35 PM on December 16, 2005


Clownhall?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:52 PM on December 16, 2005


Lemmie fetch my pitchfork...Who's on torch duty?
posted by Balisong at 8:57 PM on December 16, 2005


Fuck. That smarts.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:01 PM on December 16, 2005


News can be bought? I'm shocked.
posted by IronLizard at 9:05 PM on December 16, 2005


It looks like Michael Jackson is in his eleventeenth hour.
posted by svenvog at 9:11 PM on December 16, 2005


shameless gossip concerning Jack
posted by hortense at 9:19 PM on December 16, 2005


MSM just doesn't get it. The blogosphere is the future.
posted by brownpau at 9:27 PM on December 16, 2005


What I find amazing is this quote:
Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist's clients. "I do that all the time," Ferrara says. "I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future."
He freely admits it and then thinks anyone would ever want to publish his op-ed again? How is this any different from a stock analyst hyping stocks that they own without revealing their ownership interest? Pathetic.
posted by caddis at 9:36 PM on December 16, 2005


Actually, I know someone who does this kind of work, writing op.ed pieces submitted to major papers under the name of a foreign head for PR reasons. It's really not much different than speech writing. Dont look behind the curtain, politics is not pretty. Just dont get caught.

Oh those CNN live talking head interviews? The persons who is being interviewed (their PR people actually) wrote up the questions to be asked ahead of time, and the PR people shop around to different news channels to see who wants the package.
posted by stbalbach at 9:41 PM on December 16, 2005


How is this any different from a stock analyst hyping stocks that they own without revealing their ownership interest? Pathetic.

Actually, "journalists" are supposed to hype their own viewpoint. The analogy is that Exxon or Phizer or a certian president pays someone to push forward a viewpoint. (or stock) Even that is OK, as long as it is disclosed up front. To withhold that Phizer or Exxon paid some commentor to push for more Phyzer or Exxon projects is bad ethics, and reflects such on both the commentor and the pushing party.
posted by Balisong at 9:46 PM on December 16, 2005


and then thinks anyone would ever want to publish his op-ed again?

Maybe he says this because he knows they will? I mean, Novak still has a job (albeit at FOX News, now). Judy Miller isn't hurting. Jeff Gannon is still gallivanting around town.

Hell, look at G. Gordon Liddy. He served time and now he's a hero to the thugs on the right. There is no depth too deep to sink in the modern GOP machine.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 9:48 PM on December 16, 2005


very interesting stbalbach. I'd like to heard some more dirt.
posted by puke & cry at 9:55 PM on December 16, 2005 [1 favorite]


The lobbying firm writes the OpEd and the expert signs it.

So that's why all the op-eds read like they are written by the same person. (except the ones by Molly Ivins, nobody can match her folksy, deadpan style)
posted by tweak at 10:10 PM on December 16, 2005


Has anyone heard of a liberal commentator being bought yet? Genuine question.
posted by unSane at 10:24 PM on December 16, 2005


It looks like it's time for another media conference on blogger ethics.
posted by teece at 10:27 PM on December 16, 2005


The end of the U.S.A?

The saddest toll, just now, I will try to forget.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:42 PM on December 16, 2005


I'm not surprised really. Whenever the President makes some goomba statement, the sudden outpouring of support for whatever it might be makes it clear that there's a cottage industry of people on-hand for this purpose. Think of it as the psyche of our nation's very own internal rationalization mechanism.
posted by JHarris at 1:20 AM on December 17, 2005


stbalbach: Actually, I know someone who does this kind of work, writing op.ed pieces submitted to major papers under the name of a foreign head for PR reasons. It's really not much different than speech writing.

I don't think that is the issue...

When you hire a ghost writer, the employer sets the agenda and pays the money, and it is the employer's name that appears at the top. That is dishonest, in a way, but as you say, it is common practice.

In this case money is being paid so that someone will attach their name to an opinion. That is like hiring a media personality to endorse a product. Payola is a very good analogy.

Oh those CNN live talking head interviews? The persons who is being interviewed (their PR people actually) wrote up the questions to be asked ahead of time, and the PR people shop around to different news channels to see who wants the package.

Makes sense, but seriously wrong!
posted by Chuckles at 2:16 AM on December 17, 2005


wrong as in disturbing, that is... I don't doubt your words at all.
posted by Chuckles at 2:18 AM on December 17, 2005


BLOGGER ETHICS! BLOGGER ETHICS!!!
posted by rxrfrx at 4:54 AM on December 17, 2005


Wow, my faith in the Cato institute to fairly and objectively assess government policy has seriously shaken. Shaken!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:55 AM on December 17, 2005


The lobbying firm writes the OpEd and the expert signs it.

The fourth column is getting more like our current Congress every day!

The lobbying firm writes the bill and Tom Delay gets it passed as law.
And Delay has bragged about this.
posted by nofundy at 5:31 AM on December 17, 2005


Wow, my faith in the Cato institute to fairly and objectively assess government policy has seriously shaken. Shaken!

Honestly, during the Iraq war, the Cato Institute was one of the few right-wing think tanks that decided to actually form its own independent opinion on the matter, rather than deciding to become part of the right-wing noise machine and mindlessly shill for it, as the AEI and Heritage Foundation did. It made them appear independent.

But one thing you have to keep in mind is that the Cato Institute has always said that there's nothing wrong with prostitution. The only thing we don't know is whether a prostitutes' trade group paid them off to say this. (stolen from here)
posted by deanc at 6:19 AM on December 17, 2005


The entire political spectrum plays this game, the left as often or more often than the right.

Typically, in newsrooms all over the US, somebody sends a faxed PR release. Often from a "group" or "organization" of one person, that only exists for that one fax. The newspaper or news service would just do the slightest of re-writes, and no fact checking, before publishing it.

"Environmental activists" were some of the worst offenders using this technique. It reached its peak when the public suddenly got "crisis fatigue", from the innumerable efforts to agitate them in dozens of different directions.

The LA Times got severely double bitch-slapped, first when they bitterly complained that their largest advertiser, GM, had ordered them to cease and desist with their stories that bashed GM, or GM would pull its advertising.

Then, right when they were in full complaint, somebody noted a previous scandal in which they had been puffing a local stadium deal which had been another major advertiser.

The worst media offenders are occasionally highlighted when they get caught publishing urban legends and hoaxes.
posted by kablam at 7:01 AM on December 17, 2005


There is a big difference between somebody doing a reporter's legwork (what kablam describes) and payment for placement. One is sloth, the other bribery.
posted by caddis at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2005


It looks like it's time for another media conference on blogger ethics.

Hahahahaha!
posted by craniac at 7:14 AM on December 17, 2005


Well, so much for an informed public being an essential ingredient to democracy.
posted by maxsparber at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2005


The entire political spectrum plays this game, the left as often or more often than the right.

Sorry, kablam, but your press release metaphor is not only inappropriate, it's misleading in a way that has specifically become one of the GOP's major talking-points. Press releases are, basically, advertising. Journalists understand this, and only the laziest repurpose them into "stories" without scrutiny. A massive program by government agencies and GOP flaks to undermine the news-gathering process -- whether here or in Iraq -- is another kind of corruption, and there's very little of it on the left. What there *is* on the left is bullshit accepted too readily as fact, but that's a different animal.
posted by digaman at 9:19 AM on December 17, 2005


Can we have a metatalk as to why conservatives (like kablam) are always full of shit here?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:40 AM on December 17, 2005


Can we have a metatalk as to why conservatives (like kablam) are always full of shit here?

Hey, I'm a conservative. I think kablam in this specific instance is closer to being a skeptic/cynic in that he's asserting no knowlege is possible and 'everybody does it' etc. (and the term 'conservative' seems fairly flexible at this point in history, which is itself ironic)

But we do have accurate news and accurate news sources. There is no unreachable platonic ideal here.

I've been alive and paying attention for some time now and this administration has gotten the biggest blowjobs (Very SFW) of them all from the press as far as I can see.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2005


smedley: apology; I should say 'conservatards' in my above.

As a left-libertarian I do share some opinions with 'conservatives', though this commonground is seemingly disappearing year-by-year.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2005


I remember when that anti-SUV campaign "What Would Jesus Drive," came out a few years ago. There was an immediate avalanche of criticism from op-ed writers who were clearly taking their marching orders from somewhere.
I was impressed that this sort of turnabout, using the language of the American religious right against the people who normally dictate their mores, provoked such a panic. I wonder if it could be done again?
posted by atchafalaya at 12:23 PM on December 17, 2005


How is this any different from a stock analyst hyping stocks that they own without revealing their ownership interest?

Well, in a way it isn't and at least according to the CFA Institute it's unethical [PDF link]:
Standard IV B.7. Disclosure of Conflicts to Clients and Prospects. Members shall disclose to their clients and prospects all matters, including beneficial ownership of securities or other investments, that reasonably could be expected to impair the member’s ability to make unbiased and objective recommendations.
posted by Opposite George at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2005


'conservatards'

heh heh
posted by Smedleyman at 3:45 PM on December 18, 2005


At least some papers are doing the right thing.
posted by caddis at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2005


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