The Daily Caller Blew It: The Truth About Conservative Bloggers And Consulting

Over at the Daily Caller, they’re running a story called, “True stories of bloggers who secretly feed on partisan cash.” While there’s some validity to the story, parts of it are WILDLY overstated and it gives a very inaccurate impression of what’s going on:

Katie Couric once described bloggers as journalists who gnaw at new information “like piranhas in a pool.” But increasingly, many bloggers are also secretly feeding on cash from political campaigns, in a form of partisan payola that erases the line between journalism and paid endorsement.

“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.”

One pro-Poizner blogger, Aaron Park, was discovered to be a paid consultant to the Poizner campaign while writing for Red County, a conservative blog about California politics. Red County founder Chip Hanlon threw Park off the site upon discovering his affiliation, which had not been disclosed.

…But while Red County’s Hanlon expressed outrage at Park’s pay-for-blogging scheme, questions arose about his own editorial independence when it emerged that Red County itself had been taking money from the Whitman campaign.

In December of 2009, Red County received $20,000 from the Meg Whitman campaign, which has sent the site $15,000 a month since then.

The money is ostensibly for advertising, yet by conventional measures the numbers don’t add up. According to Quantcast, Red County reaches around 125,000 unique viewers per month. Two new media industry experts confirmed that, given such a readership, Whitman’s ad purchase is “ridiculously” expensive, surpassing the going market rate for such ads by 1,000 percent or more.

…Florida political blog Shark-Tank.net, which reaches about 15,000 viewers per month, is asking campaigns for $3,200 a month for a large banner ad. For that same price, an advertiser could purchase similar space on political blogs reaching over 1 million readers each week.

…Lowell Feld, who writes for the liberal political blog Blue Virginia, has received a considerable amount of money from Democratic campaigns, including $21,000 from Lt. Gov. candidate Jon Bowerback in 2009. Feld discloses his consulting work on his blog.

Jerome Armstrong, considered by many the founder of the liberal blogosphere, has consulted for numerous Democratic candidates, raking in tens of thousands of dollars in fees.

First of all, let’s talk about me: I have done some consulting. I worked on Duncan Hunter’s presidential campaign, I did 2-3 projects for the David All Group including this nifty contest where bloggers got paid $50 for writing the best anti-socialized medicine post in the blogosphere each week. All of that is disclosed in RWN’s FAQ section. Beyond that, I do still try to get some consulting work on the side, although by necessity, it has to be limited in scope so it doesn’t conflict with my blogging.

Now, as I just mentioned, I’ve done some consulting. I also know more conservative bloggers than anybody else, including the consultants. Do I get asked for recommendations on who to hire as a consultant? Yes. Do I have connections at a lot of political campaigns and organizations that hire consultants? Yes.

So, let’s address the primary allegation in the article:

“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.”

I don’t deal with that many state bloggers, so I can’t speak as to what’s going on with them. But, on the national level, with blogs you’ve heard of — what was said there is not only wrong, it’s spectacularly wrong.

To the best of my knowledge, there just aren’t that many name brand bloggers or even former name brand bloggers who do a significant amount of consulting work. Off the top of my head, let’s see there’s Lorie Byrd, Bettina Inclan, David All, Jon Henke, Patrick Hynes, Liz Mair, Soren Dayton, & Patrick Ruffini.

That’s not an exhaustive list and there may be a few more that I’m forgetting, but that should be a pretty good grouping of the main names — and if you already know who half of them are, congrats, you’re officially a blogosphere junky.

Now, you may be saying, “Okay, so there aren’t a lot of bloggers working as consultants, but what about the allegation that bloggers are being paid for favorable coverage?” Here’s my answer to that: I’ve been a blogger for almost a decade and I’ve been a professional blogger since early 2005. In all that time, I’ve never even had anyone offer to pay me for favorable coverage on RWN. That should tell you something.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that people don’t try to influence bloggers, but it tends to be more subtle than offering up payola. You’ll have politicians and companies buy ads on blogs just like they do everywhere else. They’ll occasionally even host dinners or lunches at these blogger conventions in an effort to get you in a room where they can try to bend your ear. But, that’s a far cry from buying favorable coverage.

Last but not least, I don’t want to give you the idea that there couldn’t be anything shady going on in the blogosphere if I’m not aware of it, but I’d be very surprised if there was any payola being doled out on a widespread scale and quite frankly, I’m in a much better position to know about it than anyone at the Daily Caller.

PS: Dan Riehl from Riehl World View was hit with a payola allegation in the article and he responds to it here.

Interestingly enough, I think I was one of the people who worked on the effort in question. Dan describes it here:

I devoted hours and hours of my own time over a period of months trying to coordinate an effort involving many top bloggers and the RNC to improve communications and legal, legitimate cooperation in a partisan sense.

However, I was unaware ANYONE got paid for that project. I certainly didn’t. However, near the end, the whole thing got a little chaotic, so perhaps there were some side projects going on that I missed.

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