pundit payola

It came out last week that a couple of conservative pundits have been on the take from lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff. He would pay them up to $2,000 for columns and op-ed pieces that advanced the interests of his clients.

From: Pundit Payola – Money talks. It writes, too. By Michael Kinsley

This is just as bad as the Armstrong Williams stories from earlier this year. If you are getting paid to promote an idea, and do not disclose this fact; you are not a journalist. You are a publicist. What you are writing isn’t an article, it is a press release. And if you do not disclose your relationships relating to that opinion, you are not an advocate; you are a shill.

It’s disappointing that the CATO Institute lacks the brio to defend all this as the free market at work. We talk grandly about the “marketplace of ideas.” Why should that marketplace, unlike all others, ban money? Won’t Adam Smith’s famous invisible hand guarantee a good result?

Mr. Kinsley has a point there. Why don’t the people on the right just defend the idea of bribery as part of the free market? Why not fight for the deregulation of elections as to make payments (even secret payments) perfectly legal? Why not extend this to simply auction off the rights to legislation? I say this with tongue in cheek, but I find the lack of coverage of these scandals really upsetting. I realize it isn’t as sexy as the Monica affair, but this is really big news. As much as people on the right might protest, this is a clear example of the Republican culture of corruption in Washington.