Monday, December 19, 2005

How the media is purchased

Op-eds for sale
A columnist from a libertarian think tank admits accepting payments to promote an indicted lobbyist's clients. Will more examples follow?
A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s.

"It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it," Bandow said from a California hospital, where he's recovering from recent knee surgery.

After receiving BusinessWeek Online's inquiries about the possibility of payments, Cato Communications Director Jamie Dettmer said the think-tank determined that Bandow "engaged in what we consider to be inappropriate behavior and he considers to be a lapse in judgment" and accepted his resignation. "Cato has an excellent reputation for integrity, and we're zealous in guarding that," Dettmer said.

Bandow has written more than 150 editorials and columns over the past five years, each identifying his Cato affiliation. His syndicated column for Copley News Service is featured in several hundred newspapers across the country. Bandow's biography on the Cato Institute Web site says he has also appeared as a commentator on all the major television broadcast networks and the cable news channels.

MULTIPLE TRAVAILS. A former Abramoff associate says Bandow and at least one other think-tank expert were typically paid $2,000 per column to address specific topics of interest to Abramoff's clients. Bandow's standing as a columnist and think-tank analyst provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff team were using to try to sway Congressional action.

Bandow confirms that he received $2,000 for some pieces, but says it was "usually less than that amount." He says he wrote all the pieces himself, though with topics and information provided by Abramoff. He adds that he wouldn't write about subjects that didn't interest him.

Abramoff was indicted in Florida in August on wire-fraud charges in relation to his purchase of a Florida casino-boat company. He faces trial in January in that case.

Separately, a Senate committee and a Justice Dept. task force are investigating allegations that Abramoff defrauded some of his clients -- a handful of American Indian tribes that had gotten wealth from running casino-gaming operations on their reservations. Abramoff's business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to corrupt public officials with gifts, including political contributions, and defrauding clients, and is cooperating with the ongoing probe.

Read the full article at : Business Week online.
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/dec2005/nf20051216_1037_db016.htm
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