I once had the words "Zephyr can go to hell" attributed to me in a NY Times Magazine article, even though I said them jokingly to the reporter. Now, I repeat them not so jokingly.
Here's the "controversy", courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:
Howard Dean's presidential campaign hired two Internet political "bloggers" as consultants so that they would say positive things about the former governor's campaign in their online journals, according to a former high-profile Dean aide.
Zephyr Teachout, the former head of Internet outreach for Mr. Dean's campaign, made the disclosure earlier this week in her own Web log, Zonkette. She said "to be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal." The hiring of the consultants was noted in several publications at the time.
From the same article:
The two men, who jointly operated a small political consulting firm, said they didn't believe the Dean campaign had been trying to buy their influence. Both men noted that they had promoted Mr. Dean's campaign long before they were hired and continued to do so after their contract with the campaign ended.
Mr. Zuniga said they were paid $3,000 a month for four months and he noted that he had posted a disclosure near the top of his daily blog that he worked for the Dean campaign doing "technical consulting." Mr. Armstrong said he shut down his site when he went to work for the campaign, then resumed posting after his contract ended.
(Psst, WSJ -- my last name is "Moulitsas". And I know you're a right-wing media outlet and all, but how about noting that two pro-Thune bloggers in South Dakota were paid over $30K by the Thune campaign without
disclosing the fact?)
Zephyr says she bought us, but the facts are that I never blogged, and Markos had a prominent disclaimer. Oh, but we didn't know? Right. I worked and worked on the net for 2 years to get the netroots behind Dean, and was asked by Joe Trippi to come to Burlington in December of 2002, and finally got there when I could, in August of 2003, signing an explicit consulting contract of our duties between Armstrong Zuniga and Dean for America. While there, I coordinated and directed the expenditures of all internet advertising for the campaign.
What Zephyr (who wanted our firm to hire her) just did was hand a return (unfactual though it is) to the Republican bloggers that are moving up against Democratic activists gaining traction against Armstrong Williams being a shill for the Republicans with taxpayer dollars.
Fact is, my consulting work for Dean was noted in over a dozen articles written at the time. And it was disclosed in this post
, and in a front-page disclaimer, right under the site logo. (See the site on the Way Back Machine
, and also notice how the Meetup graphic was for the Democratic Party, not the Dean campaign.)
So what's going on? Zephyr is obsessed with imposing journalistic standards on the blogosphere. We can debate the merits of this issue, and good points can be made on both sides (I think it's a dumb idea). But what Zephyr did, and which I find unconscionable, is that she took the Armstrong Williams issue, and made up shit about our involvement with the Dean campaign to score points.
And "made up shit" is the right way to word it. Jerome created the first Dean website in early 2002. He created the first Dean-centric blog. He signed up the Dean campaign for MeetUps and convinced Trippi to promote the service. In other words, Jerome was the father of the Dean netroots. That's why the Joe Trippi (not Zephyr!) eventually hired "us" (and by "us", I mean Jerome). As that WSJ article notes:
The Dean campaign's adroit use of the Internet helped make its long-shot effort credible.
And the person responsible for many of those successes was Jerome.
Jerome quit MyDD (which was bigger than Daily Kos at the time, traffic wise) and moved to Burlington to work the campaign, and eventually took over the campaign's online advertising. I did next to nothing (the campaign viewed me as an outsider and shot down just about every one of my suggestions), but I still slapped up that disclaimer since my firm was under contract.
Zephyr's efforts to score points for her pet cause has given Kos-obsessed wingnut bloggers an excuse to blur the Armstrong Williams issue. (And to those Kos-obsessed wingnuts I say -- "Hi!")
WilliamsGate is fucked up because 1) he took taxpayer money (it's your money, as Republicans like to say), and 2) he didn't disclose the payments. So how that can relate to the fact that 1) we didn't take taxpayer money, and 2) it was all disclosed, is beyond me. (I sort of "debate" this with Instapundit here.)
Bloggers will get hired by more and more campaigns, on both sides of the ideological divide, and I think that's a great thing. I'm generally out of the consulting biz (though I'll get back in if I feel inspired to do so), but others will get a shot, and they will deserve it. And as long as they disclose when their writing conflicts with their paid gigs, who gives a shit? Well, Zephyr, policewoman of the blogosphere does.
Update: Jeralyn over at TalkLeft goes disclosure crazy.
Update II: I toned down the title of this post. Zephyr has taken quite the beating and it's time for all of us to lay off. The message has been sent. Whether she understands the root of the problem is irrelevent. As far as I'm concerned, she's over. We should all move on.
As one poster noted, it's a target-rich environment out there. Let's train our guns on the real enemy.
Update III: Intrepid SF Chronicle columnist breaks story: "Dean consultant in Berkeley builds 'blog' into influential tool". One year ago!!
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