3 thoughts on “Armando, Political Blogging and Conflict of Interest – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I think you raise important points. I think one thing that others may be reacting to (may, I haven’t a clue) is that your call for disclosure requires that bloggers…the lowly bloggers mocked by the MSM (stupid term, but handy) to be far more above-board, ethical, and clean that all of the talking heads, pundits, and others that are on TV all the time.

    No disclosures from “political consultants” about who they are actively working with or have worked with (I’m looking at you Carville, especially when you say unflattering things about “your guys” opponent). The Republican talking heads are absurd…they do their actual consultant work on-air without disclosure and it is sickening, and wrong.

    With that in mind, however, dKos is about fighting to get Dems elected. I don’t know if deciding to play the game as is instead of raising the ethical level has been a conscious choice. If not, it should be, and that fact should be disclosed.

    Two more things. I think. One is, dKos is adamant about being about winning, not ideology. You can see where this attitude plays into the point above. Second, it seems pretty clear that questioning this stance is going to get you a lot of vitriol…in comments and also the short posts kos puts up every now and then telling people to shut up and not challenge him on specific issue. He’s an activist, dammit! (that’s me imitating him). Red state dems get kid glove treatment on cultural issues, blue states don’t. It is an interesting thesis, I think it has some merit. It should, however, be discussed.

    Finally, some disclosures are improper, either legally or ethically. However, they are easily overcome with some commons sense approaches. I do not reveal who my clients are (I’m a lawyer) because that is considered confidential by them (and sometimes the law). This may be the case in other situations (even in the case of some political consultants, who might be on “background” or on orders not to let people know they are working for Mr. X). However, if I were to ever pen a piece for public distribution arguing about the evils of the insurance industry, I would note that I often sue insurance companies, and that putting caps on awards would make me mad, and poorer. Same for any other issue. I don’t have to name names, I can express my general sympathies and how those sympathies bolster my income (and, ergo, my point of view has a possible, even probable, economic component). This would be more difficult of political types, but it sholud be. If you trash Dean in a public forum and are being paid by his opponent, you should mention it.

    So, if you are paid by Wal-mart and address an issue that affects Wal-mart, some disclosure is in order. However, if you are paid by a corporation and have comments about corporations in general, or unrelated legislation, or whatever, I don’t see the need for disclosure. For example, if you get paid by Wal-mart, but have something to say about net neutrality (assuming this isn’t your schtick), then your connection to one type of corporation isn’t germane to your discussion of others (giant evil retailer as opposed to giant evel telcos). If it is germane, then just mention it.

    Anyway, good thoughts, keep it up.

  2. All terrific points. Maybe you should publish this at Dkos? Unless that is you’d rather avoid flame wars.

    But I do have a question for you about Armando’s situation. If Wal Mart is a client and he wishes to write about say, national health insurance, saying that in the current environment employers are footing more than their fair share of health insurance costs (not that he would argue this, it’s just an example), how does he disclose this? Does he say something like: “I am a corporate attorney who has among my clients companies impacted by this issue.” THen of course the next question is would he make such a disclosure?

  3. Good point of clarification. My short (and trite) answer would be, where there is an apparent, or at least a self-known connection, disclosure is the best option. I am with you on the idea that more info is better. Your quote is a pretty good example of the type of disclosure that is appropriate “my clients are impacted by this (truncated)” but I would add “it is to the benefit of my clients that I take this position, which I do.” Of course, benefit to clients generally means benefit to person representing clients.

    I go round and round with this with my doctor friend. He wants caps on damages, I don’t. I freely admit that my interest in full compensation for injuries caused by doctors is based on my law practice (even though I don’t do medical malpractice, the idea of full compensation is something that is applicable in all kinds of law). He admits that he doesn’t like high insurance premiums (which are unrelated, but I’m trying to convince him of that). In short, we both admit our interests and then we can have a very contentious debate that involves fundamental principles, ideas of how society should work, what it means to be a victim, what should or can be compensated with money, what it means to be sued, etc. We both don’t pretend that our points of view are abstractly arrive at, and this is a good thing for encouraging debate, and yes, a greater appreciation of the issues and interests at stake.

    I’m pretty sure that you and I agree about this. With that in mind, what do you think about trying to be cleaner than the other guy when it seems like the dirty players always win?

    Have a good one.

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