Let'sjust make shit up and call it a column
Your staff sucked
Blogging for Dollars
Hang Daily Kos, but not for taking money from Howard Dean.
By Chris Suellentrop
Posted Friday, Jan. 14, 2005, at 6:52 PM PT
Journalists think blogging makes everyone one of them, but not everyone wants to be a journalist. That's the lesson from a long-running discussion among prominent political bloggers that spilled into the pages of the Friday Wall Street Journal. The Journal's lede: "Howard Dean's presidential campaign hired two Internet political 'bloggers' as consultants so that they would say positive things about the former governor's campaign in their online journals, according to a former high-profile Dean aide." The "high-profile aide" is Zephyr Teachout, the former head of Internet outreach for Dean. Teachout earlier this week blogged on the subject of "Financially Interested Blogging." She wrote, in part, "In this past election, at least a few prominent bloggers were paid as consultants by candidates and groups they regularly blogged about."
The word "blogger" connotes enthusiastic amateurism, but nowadays bloggers can be PR flacks, salesmen, and yes, party hacks. The New York Times Magazine's cover story on the liberal blogosphere discussed Moulitsas' awkward place in "the established machinery of the Democratic Party" and noted that the Dean campaign "in fact employed Moulitsas for several months." In April 2004, the Weekly Standard called him "a Democratic political consultant on the make." In December 2003, USA Today noted that "some candidates have hired him as their Web consultant." Despite all this, the Times Mag somehow convinced itself that Moulitsas was one of the "amateurs" on Dean's "thrill ride." NBA ballers get to play in the Olympics now, but calling Moulitsas an amateur shows how far the standards have fallen since the days of Jim Thorpe.
Still, my verdict is to let Armstrong free with a slap on the wrist. Joe Trippi's hiring of Armstrong because of MyDD.com was one of the most-reported anecdotes of the primary season. What's new is Teachout's revelation that the Dean campaign hired Armstrong because they wanted him to give them good blog, not because they wanted his sage political advice. But Armstrong didn't know that, so it's tough to be too hard on him for it.
Moulitsas is a different case. He's never pretended to be a journalist—this past October, he told National Journal, "I am part of the media. But a journalist? No. If I had put a label on it, I would say I am an activist."—but in the year since he stopped cashing Dean's checks, he's gained a reputation as "the liberal Instapundit" and the most popular left-wing blogger. And while it's true that his role as a Dean consultant was disclosed and reported in the press on multiple occasions, it came as a surprise this week to a whole lot of people, including a lot of prominent bloggers. Perhaps more important, the people who were aware of Moulitsas' consulting work aren't 100 percent comfortable with it. "Markos is infamous for these kinds of issues. That may be too strong a word. But it's come up with Markos before," Nicco Mele, the Dean campaign's Webmaster and director of Internet operations, told me. "I can find you threads on Markos's own site about it."
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. DailyKos raised money for a dozen congressional candidates this past election. Which, if any, of them paid Moulitsas for the honor of directing his grassroots minions to part with their wallets? If you gave one of Moulitsas' preferred candidates money, wouldn't you like to know if Moulitsas' endorsement was purchased?
The lesson for a campaign is obvious: Got a story you can't convince a mainstream reporter to run? Leak it anonymously to a blog on your payroll. Then get a local reporter to write a story on the controversial, gossipy, local political blog. Soon everyone in town will be talking about the story you leaked to the blog. Voila! Eventually a mainstream news organization will run a story on the rumor that "everyone is talking about." Or they'll do a "what people are buzzing about on the Internet" piece. And no one will know that the blog post was a paid placement until after the election.
If Moulitsas takes money from political candidates in 2006 and 2008 without telling you who's paying him, stop giving his recommended candidates your dollars. Here's what Moulitsas wrote about payola pundit Armstrong Williams' assertion that "There are others" on the government dole: "Until names are named, we can assume every conservative pundit is on the White House's payola rolls." That's questionable logic, but let's take Moulitsas up on his challenge: Until names are named, we can assume every Daily Kos candidate this past election wrote him a check for his consulting work.
Oh, where to begin.
First, you would have to be really stupid to have not known that he worked for Dean and other political candidates during 2003. After all, it was how he fed himself. Again, is there proof of anything like what Suellentrop is suggesting? If it's being debated on his site, what kind of secret was it.
The fact is, according to Kos, the Dean campaign didn't even care what he had to say, so it was hardly a successful relationship.
Now, Suellentrop is doing something grossly unfair, he's conflating what Kos did in 2003 from what he did in in 2004. Again, a phone call would have cleared this up. As the site became more profitable, he cut back on his consulting work. By the time I met him in August, he had stopped doing consulting work completely. I don't believe he worked on any campaigns in most of 2004 or acted as a consultant. I wish Suellentrop had actually done some research before making allegations here. But that would be fair and this is anything but fair.
Also, the candidates were chosen with reader participation and candidates made their case, hardly needed if Kos was getting paid. It was a fairly open process, and one of the candidates, Ginny Schrader, was noticed by the readers, not Kos, after Jim Greenwood retired.
Now if Suellentrop has some evidence he was lying, let's see it. Or that candidates forged their FEC filings. You know the public documents which show where campaign funds go and which every consultant has to file.
But notice how the Beltway Kool Kids Klub junior members leap to their defense. With no evidence, and just conjecture, you create a story which is mostly supposition and fiction.
OK, it's time to take the Michael Moore strategy and start sending lawyer letters out. Suellentrop is making shit up, or in journalese, conjecturing about stuff he can't even come close to proving. I mean, if he can't prove it, he needs to withdraw the column. It's not libel, but it's pretty close to defamation. It won't end until Kos starts getting aggressive with people. Fucking ridiculous. And shitty reporting. All you have to do is call the candidates and Kos and see if their stories match. It's Reporting II. Real basic shit. But that's not the story which certain people want to read.
Oh yeah, the Dean campaign was run by some grudgeholding amateurs. Jesus, this was a born to lose staff.
Oh yeah, his e-mail address is email@example.com.
I cannot believe this shit.
This is why I won't work with campaigns. I don't want grudgeholding staffers shitting on me later on. Unfucking real. I know there's an anti-Dean agenda here, but this is bordering on libel. Suellentrop is accusing Kos of not only being corrupt, but committing federal crimes. WITH NO EVIDENCE.
It also reminds me why I hate politics. Fucking asshole.
posted by Steve @ 2:50:00 AM