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Saturday, January 15, 2005
I Want to Be a Team Player, But....Multiple Updates!

Roger has a post about Hugh Hewitt's appearance on O'Reilly last night, and links to this transcript.

O'Reilly & Hugh are talking about the story on the Kos/Armstrong payments from the Dean campaign, which I have blogged about previously. But I gotta disagree with Hugh here:

HUGH HEWITT [AUTHOR]: No, Bill. In fact, the idea of payola is very dangerous. Bloggers on the take are very bad for the business of blogging. Blogging of real journalists, and people like Power Line and like InstaPundit and myself, we don't like it when Daily Kos shows up on the take of the Howard Dean campaign. Now Daily Kos says, this is one of the bloggers from the left, says he disclosed it, but not to the satisfaction of anyone who watches him. I didn't know.

Now I can't help contrasting this to the story about Jon Lauck and Jason Van Beek, who both ran pro-John Thune blogs that were funded by the Thune campaign and that never disclosed that funding (although it was reported in a South Dakota newspaper during the campaign). I slammed the two, especially Lauck, who reportedly received $27,000, particularly because I had frequently linked his Daschle v Thune blog as a source of uncontaminated by liberal media bias news about the race. Granted, I knew he was a partisan Republican. I didn't know he was a paid part of the Thune Campaign. As I put it in a comment on Captain's Quarters, it's the difference between Peter Beinart and Terry McAuliffe. Beinart's a Democrat but we all know that he feels free to offer constructive criticism of the Democrats in public. We all know that Terry McAwful is not going to be criticizing the party. So we give Beinart just a tad more credibility than we would Terry.

Anyway, that's why I got hot under the collar at the time; in my opinion Lauck had been presenting himself as Beinart when in reality he was McAuliffe. And not just on the blog, but in appearances on Hugh's radio show, and in articles published in National Review Online. NRO's editor, Kathryn J. Lopez, commented in the Corner just the other day that she would not have published those articles had she known.

Hugh's response to Lauckgate was appropriate, if a little understated:

That having been said, the two blogs that received support from the Thune campaign ought to have declared that support. It is prudent to anticipate criticism and to disarm it by disclosure.

But how do you square that response with his indignation over Kos? Remember, Kos disclosed . See the little disclaimer in the corner? It was written about in a couple of articles including this one in the New York Times Magazine.

Moulitsas's [aka Kos] ''friendly relations'' with particular candidates got him into a public fight with Zephyr Teachout, who became briefly famous last winter as the guru of the Dean Internet campaign, which in fact employed Moulitsas for several months. Over the summer, she complained in several online forums, and to Moulitsas directly, that he and other bloggers were blurring the lines between editorial and advertising, lines that had always been sacred in journalism. According to Teachout, they were posting comments in support of candidates for whom they were also working as paid consultants and not explaining that conflict of interest, or at least not fully enough for Teachout.

I want to root for the home team, here, but I also want to be honest. There are lots of reasons to criticize Kos, but this does not seem to be one of them. I'd add that even if the Lauck/Kos comparison were perfect (i.e., that Kos had not disclosed), I'd probably still feel angrier at Lauck on this particular issue. Why? Because I was the one being deceived by Lauck's blog. If I read anything on the Daily Kos I would have generally not trusted it anyway. Indeed, for this reason it probably makes more sense for each side of the blogosphere to police itself. Nothing I or any conservative blogger can write is going to affect what Kos or MyDD does anyway, right?

So that this doesn't just come off as criticism of Hugh, what should be the standard? In my mind it's full disclosure. I don't think it's realistic to expect popular political blogs not to take advertising dollars from candidates. Captain's Quarters and other blogs accepted advertising from political candidates this election cycle, and I think that's fine as long as it's disclosed (as advertising, by its very nature, is). What about fund-raising? Many blogs did fund-raising for candidates; I would not be surprised if some didn't get a little "scrape" for themselves. Again, this is probably fine as long as it's disclosed.

Update: Captain Ed has much the same take.

Update II: Hugh responds to criticism from the pro-Kos bloggers.

Lauck is in the same position as Kos of failing to make adequate disclosure, though I doubt very much that his disclosure would have changed anyone's opinion about his blog because it was so specific and so pro-Thune to begin with.

That's not a standard; for one thing couldn't Kos could argue that he was pro-Dean to begin with? Realistically, if Kos's disclosure was insufficient, then you can't turn around and forgive Lauck.

Update III: Hugh linked to this post by Chris Suellentrope of Slate. Crucial passage:

Moulitsas' crime isn't taking money from Howard Dean. He, too, can get away with a suspended sentence for insufficiently disclosing his role in the Dean campaign once he was off the payroll. The hanging offense is that Moulitsas took money from other, undisclosed, political clients. And while he may have disclosed—in 2003—that he wouldn't disclose them, that's not good enough.

Okay, so that brings Kos pretty doggone close to the level of Lauck, I would say.


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