Fake Op/Eds: Think Tanks and Piggy Banks

Two opinion columnists and fellows at conservative think tanks have admitted to taking money from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to write favorable columns about his clients. The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow, who had a syndicated column with Copley News Service, "accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s." Bandow resigned from Cato, and his column has been suspended. The Institute for Policy Innovation's Peter Ferrara also wrote "pay for play" columns for Abramoff, but, unlike Bandow, he isn't remorseful. "I've done it in the past, and I'll do it in the future," Ferrara said. Ferrara's boss also says the arrangement isn't "wrong or unethical." None of the columns contained any disclosure. BusinessWeek noted that the columns "provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff team were using to try to sway Congressional action."


Editor and Publisher also has a couple of stories about the Bandow scandal, titled "[http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001699832 Bandow, Syndicated Columnist, Admits Taking Money from Abramoff]" and "[http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001700011 Cal Thomas and Connie Schultz Weigh in on Bandow Payola Scandal]."

Thomas, a conservative columnist himself, says what Bandow did was "a big no-no" that "damages the credibility of everybody ... I'm getting tired of this." Other conservative columnists, including [[Armstrong Williams]], have also gotten caught recently in similar payola scandals.

Schultz, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, says she is "outraged" and "appalled" that Bandow describes his actions as a "lapse in judgment." She noted that "a lapse suggests a temporary or accidental stumble, while he admits to taking money from Abramoff '12 to 24 times' at $2,000 or so a pop. At that rate, it had become a second income."

She noted that although the payola scandals have all involved conservative pundits, the scandal hurts columnists of all ideologies. "I don't think most readers, when faced with yet another story about yet another corrupt columnist, distinguish between conservative writers and those who are moderate or liberal," she said. "I wish they did, because the pattern is clear, but I don't think that's what happens. We're all tainted by the stain."