Putting the latest tempest in a teapot behind us.
My old friend Greg Letiecq opened a can of worms Thursday and yesterday with a couple of posts discussing the economics of blogging about politics. Our own Jeanine Martin echoed some of the concerns raised by Greg here.
The gist of the complaints (textual and subtextual) is that certain contributors to the Virginia blogosphere, namely the political professionals associated with Bearing Drift, a property of Virginia Line Media LLC, are behaving unethically (being “on the take”) by writing favorable things about candidates without disclosing financial ties to those candidates’ campaigns.
Here’s my take.
We in the right-leaning Virginia blogosphere benefit enormously from the active participation of people who actually participate in the political process in capacities beyond merely being observers. Most of the people who blog on politics tend to also be active participants in some capacity or another. Many, like myself, hold positions or are active within the GOP. Others are career campaign professionals, some are lobbyists, and still others are various species of consultant (campaign, policy, communications, media). The one thing that unifies us? We believe strongly in our candidates and our causes, and we all tend to write in the way that advances them. This is just and proper.
I agree with Greg that this work may lead to a conflict of interest and the appearance of impropriety when bloggers look to be shilling for a candidate without disclosing financial ties. And Greg isn’t the first or only one to have ever leveled these kinds of accusations. In fact, it’s a rare week in the Virginia blogosphere during campaign season when someone isn’t accusing someone else of being “on the take.” These kinds of charges are especially common when it’s your own ox that seems to be getting gored.
Without needing to split hairs about whether an individual or a firm is retained by a candidate, or who within any web of financial ties and equity relationships profits from a campaign, I can say I think these types of accusations are usually without merit. But sometimes they hit the mark squarely.
In this case, Shaun has made a frank disclosure of the ethics policy at Bearing Drift.
Bearing Drift’s policy on conflicts of interest is very simple: (1) disclose, and (2) don’t talk about your client. Our contributors have worked for people such as Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, Marty Williams, Ken Cuccinelli, George Allen, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell, various members of the House of Delegates and State Senate. So strict is our code of ethics, that during my time on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors, not once did I politically leverage Bearing Drift for my interests there. We have removed, and many contributors have voluntarily removed themselves, if they believe the conflict of interest to be that strong. Nor will you find any Bearing Drift editor talk about their profession here. It’s a gentleman’s agreement, shared by ladies and gentlemen.
I’ll take Shaun Kenney and Jason Kenney at their word. As my wife says—herself the product of a very large extended Italian family from Boston—they’re good Irish Catholic boys, and stand-up guys.
I won’t get into arguments about ad revenues and the like, except to say that such things are self-disclosing, and so even if they create a conflict of interest, that conflict is necessarily laid bare.
Greg, for his part, has been somewhat reckless in his criticisms. We’re talking about people who make their livelihoods in this business, who feed their kids and pay their mortgages with their political work, so one cannot just throw names and accusations around willy-nilly.
That said, I think Greg has probably also done us all a bit of a service by providing for a moment of catharsis, in which we can examine ourselves and emerge on the other side cleansed and (if necessary) chastened. So let’s leave it there. If you’re profiting from your blogging on behalf of a particular candidate or cause, disclose it or expect to be challenged on your ethics. Sometimes it isn’t a big deal, and sometimes it is, but either way you should think about it before you post. It’s that simple.
Now, we should all leave this tempest in a teapot behind us, and get back to the business of beating RINOs, wackos, squishes, nativists/apologists, LINOs, wingnuts, etc. And oh yeah, Democrats, too.
One last thing, about those good Catholic boys…they’re not afraid of a good brawl, especially where their family is concerned. So if you’re going to “get up in their business,” then you’d best saddle up, cowboy…you’re in for a bumpy ride.