Cash for comment

by John Quiggin on December 20, 2005

Cato Senior Fellow Doug Bandow has resigned following the revelation that he wrote (for pay) articles promoting the interests of Jack Abramoff’s clients, including the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands and the gaming interests of the Choctaw tribe. This is disappointing – I liked Bandow best among the Cato crew (unless you count Julian Sanchez). And the amount of money involved was piddling – $2000 a pop or about $24K all up. A quick-and-dirty consultancy job could have brought in a similar amount, without raising any conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation is sticking to his job despite taking Abramoffs cash. No surprise there.

In Australia, we had an extensive controversy over cash for comment. The leading offender, Alan Jones, not only got off unscathed but went on to play a prominent role in stirring up the recent Sydney race riots.

But the question that really strikes me is this: If Bandow’s relatively minor ethical lapse is a sackable offence, how can Cato continue to harbour Steve Milloy? He’s not only a corporate shill of the worst kind, but a walking offence to civilised standards of behavior. Cato Institute President Edward Crane, who has failed to sack Milloy, ought to resign before Bandow.

{ 17 comments }

1

Tim Worstall 12.20.05 at 7:28 am

“…about $24K all up. A quick-and-dirty consultancy job could have brought in a similar amount, without raising any conflict of interest.”

Any hints on where to find such jobs? Unfortunately I wasn’t considered important enough to comment for cash….just the boring old freelancer’s rates from the publications themselves. Am I not right wing enough or something?

2

Daniel 12.20.05 at 7:46 am

I agree with Tim here; John’s consultancy rate is quite a bit in excess of what the rest of us might hope to make. This is presumably because JQ does consultancy on things where he knows what he’s talking about, but in that case is it usefully analogous to a Cato scholar?

3

Barry 12.20.05 at 8:38 am

John, Milloy is still employed because, in the end, CATO is a brothel. Producing analyses with a predetermined outcome is what they are in existance for. We see the difference between them and AEI because AEI has very recently engaged in what would, in the literal brothel world, be a public orgy with bestiality. If Bush’s Social Security destruction plans had succeeded, we’d see CATO cheer the destruction of Social Security, even as they stepped over the bodies in the street.

4

Matt 12.20.05 at 9:21 am

Somewhat off topic (well, maybe a lot off, but since you did mention it…) Did _any_ major blog (by which I mean, of course, the ones on the blog roll here) have anything to say about the Australian race riots? I was quite surprised to see nothing said, as, apparently, thousands of drunk Aussies went around to hunt down the darkies in their midst. The NY times coverage was not so good- repeating nonsense about Australia’s “long history of immigration” without once mentioning that much of that history was part of the “white australia” program, the recent controversies about keeping all the darkie refugees in concentration camps in the desert, essentionally withdrawing from large parts of the convention on refugees, the fact that illegal immigration rules are (according to an Australian immigration judge friend of mine) enforced only against the darkies, etc. You’d think this sort of stuff my have been relevent for discussing the riots, and that it’s the sort of thing that some bloggers might have mentioned. I kept expecting the Aussies here to talk about it, at least. (Not that you have a duty to- I just expected it.) I don’t mean to hijack the thread, so let me say, the cash for comment stuff is bad, and the “I liked all those causes anyway” defense given by Bandow was pretty lame. Sorry to rant off topic.

5

Richard Bellamy 12.20.05 at 9:32 am

And the amount of money involved was piddling – $2000 a pop or about $24K all up.

Spoken like a true non-Philadelphian. Over here in the “K-Mart of Corruption”, you can apparently get a vote in your favor for under $500.

6

Tim Lambert 12.20.05 at 9:41 am

No surprise that the Institute for Policy Innovation isn’t bothered by cash for comment. Here is their president on why he keeps IPI’s funding sources secret.

7

Sebastian Holsclaw 12.20.05 at 11:33 am

I think the issue with Milloy is that his conduct was that of an enormous jerk with no common sense who spouted his mouth off, but did not act to represent a conflict of interest.

8

Barry 12.20.05 at 11:42 am

Sebastian, IIRC, Milloy was involved in trying to get some junk science inserted into epidemiology, at the behest of the Tobacco Institute. That should be enough to get him off of the payroll of any honest ‘think tank’. As for the rest of his shenanigans, try Tim Lambert’s blog:

http://timlambert.org/index.php?s=milloy

http://skepdic.com/refuge/junkscience.html

9

New Yorker 12.20.05 at 1:13 pm

You folks are a bunch of nancies complaining about a straight shooter like Milloy. I rarely see anyone here take issue with the “Bush = Hitler” crowd that so permeates western academia, though their comments are certainly more egregious than anything emanating from Milloy.

CT simply has no credibility as a site where dialogue can be conducted, given the constant, overt bias.

10

John Quiggin 12.20.05 at 2:41 pm

Tim W., I was probably guilty of rhetorical overstretch there, but I’ve seen quite a few consultancies billed at $20K or more, which had less substantive content than a couple of dozen Op-Ed pieces, and served mainly as decorative props for the client’s lobbying efforts.

Matt, I wrote a little about the riots on my own blog, some time after the event, but I didn’t feel I had anything very useful to say, that hadn’t already been said by other Australian bloggers.

11

Matt 12.20.05 at 3:11 pm

Thanks, John- I’ll check out the places you like to. I’m interested to read more on it, especially since, as I’d mentioned, the local coverage of it was not so good.

12

Tom Giovanetti 12.20.05 at 11:17 pm

The article in BusinessWeek that started this whole thing, upon which all subsequent articles and Paul Krugman’s commentary are based, omitted important statements and resulted in a complete misrepresentation. All subsequent who have written on this topic are guilty of passing on misrepresentation without bothering to fact-check. You can view IPI’s and Ferrara’s statements at http://www.ipi.org

13

Buce 12.21.05 at 12:02 am

I think one thing all us nancies ought to do is to begin every conversation with these guys by asking–were you paid to make this utterance? How much, and by whom? Not likely to yield much positive information, but it will prick a little pomposity (don’t go there, Buce), and it will keep things in perspective.

14

John Quiggin 12.21.05 at 12:27 am

Tom G, I read both statements before posting. They are entirely consistent with what I’ve written above. Ferrara openly admits that he took Abramoff’s cash, and he is sticking to his job.

The fact that Ferrara did the pay-for-play stuff first and was hired by IPI later doesn’t seem to me to be material, certainly not enough to justify a special mention in the context of a two-sentence aside. The various other quibbles offered in the statements are similarly nugatory.

As regards IPI in general, I refer readers to Tim Lambert’s link at #6.

15

Tim Worstall 12.21.05 at 6:56 am

#10.

John, if you’d like to point to a few of those opportunities?

16

John Quiggin 12.21.05 at 2:16 pm

This v interesting guide to PR consultants says: “It’s not unheard of, for example, for a PR consultant to ask for a monthly fee of $25,000 or so, exclusive of expenses or special projects”, and makes it clear that you may get very little for your money.

17

Kriston 12.22.05 at 2:44 pm

To split hairs unnecessarily, you’d ruffle a lot of feathers in certain circles by equating Reason with Cato. The latter have that gorgeous glass building downtown (in DC), from which they look down on the sex-n-drugs libertines at the magazine.

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