Examining the paid blogger defense

Other things have had me distracted for a while but posts on Daily Caucus and more recently on Thune v South Dakota finally clicked with some earlier fact-checking I did.

In defending the fact they did not disclose on their blogs that they were paid by the Thune campaign, two Daschle-bashing bloggers (and some of their compatriots) point to the Argus Leader story on bloggers reporting that one of them, Jon Lauck, was a paid consultant to the Thune campaign. As Jon said in a post on the subject, “[T]he Argus reported I was a consultant on the front page the month after I agreed to be one.” (Emphasis added).

That isn’t what the Thune campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission show. The Argus article ran on August 9. The FEC filings show Lauck received a $4,500 payment for “research consulting” on June 2 and an identical payment June 4, two months before the article. That’s a lot of research and consulting in four days! (The “June 4” payment precedes the other in the FEC paperwork and the online version looks like it could be May 4. However, the report purportedly covers May 13 to June 30 so, even though the right-wing would never do so for unholy liberals, I will give Jon the benefit of the doubt). Moreover, the FEC records show a $100 payment to him on May 14 for “mileage reimbursement.” Yet even if the first “consulting” payment was in June, that means Jon’s blog statement is not true.

The payment dates for “consulting” raise the question of whether they were an effort to avoid Board of Regents restrictions on consulting by faculty. This is particularly so since, in addition to the May mileage reimbursement, Lauck received more than $2,800 in “reimbursements” from the Thune campaign in March and April 2004. (I think it would be intriguing to see if and when he sought the requisite approval from SDSU for his activities and, if so, what it says.)

I don’t see this as some sort of -gate. It is interesting largely because of the effort these guys devoted to attacking the ethics of the mainstream media and perceived failure to disclose items that might impact its credibility. Even though Lauck’s blog purported to be “a serious analysis of the biggest Senate race in the country” by “a history professor, lawyer, and blogger”, it was conspicuously silent on his paid role with the Thune campaign. When combined with the misstatement in the one article the bloggers claim disclosed this fact, the willingness (desire?) to hide the ball says volumes about trustworthiness and credibility.

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