More on Kosgate
Duncan Riley> Kosgate has erupted across the Blogosphere with many prominent bloggers now commenting on it. Instapundit and BuzzMachine are worthy of reading on the matter.
A common theme is that Kos has done “nothing wrong”, which is, legally right, but I would argue morally incorrect. Kos points out to a disclosure he posted at the time here, which is fair enough, but unlike the Marqui Bloggers there was no disclosure on the main page, just one post long since berried in the mass of content posted to the site. At the end of the day, most of us did not know that he was paid by the Dean Campaign, in their words, for favourable comment. Does the fault then lie with us, the readers, for not knowing. Kos would undoubtedly argue yes. Yet he made little effort during this time to disclose the knowledge in a manner that would assure reader awareness.
Would this be such a big deal if it had been a smaller blogger? probably not. Kos is an uber-blogger who has been quick to attack others that have taken money for comment, yet was ready to do so himself, although in this case, some time in the past. He argues that there is a world of difference himself and Armstrong Williams, as in Williams case he took taxpayer funds and Kos took campaign funds. In an open, transparent democracy I see little difference, only that the public funds are obviously on public record, and will always (although not always immediately) be open to public scrutiny, whereas the funds of a campaign in a US political system that does not have the same disclosure laws as other countries (such as Australia), would be secretive, and therefore different.
I don’t intend to editorialise further on this matter, as there is an important exercise that must emerge from this. The debate on Blog Ethics must continue, and we must, as bloggers, establish what is right and wrong so that others do not make the same mistakes again in the future.
Whilst not being familiar with the details of Armstrong Williams’ case, I do believe there is a very significant difference between accepting taxpayer funds and accepting campaign funds. The difference, however, relates more to the donor than the receiver.
Not disclosing money received for editorial is bad form and ultimately self-desctructive for those that set themselves up as commentators. You are right in pointing out that it makes little difference where this money comes from – in the end the compromise in integrity is the same.
However, the moral and legal implications for the donor differ depending on who they are:
People give money to a political campaign to support a cause or a candidate. It’s not unforeseeable (in fact, it’s probably reasonably likely and accepted) that some of these funds would be spent on engaging consultants who help portray the candidate or cause in its best light. Given that, people who give funds to a campaign probably see their usage to pay someone like Moulitsas as entirely reasonable.
Taxpayer funds are very different. When a person pays tax they do so under the impression that such funds will be used for provision of services such as health, education, defence, etc. Usage of funds for partisan political gain seems undemocratic (in that it gives the government of the day a huge lead in their ability to convey their messages over that of the opposition) unfair, and very hard to justify (in that taxpayers do not given prior consent for their monies to be spent this way, and in fact, regardless of political shading, probably do not agree with such frivolous spending when there are much larger problems that tax dollars should be spent solving).
When you said there was little difference between the two practices I’m not sure whether you were referring to the donors or the receievers, but I thought it’d be worth making the point that, in certain ways, there are in fact very significant differences.
Actually, Kos did have a disclaimer on his front page. In the left side bar he had a short statement that he was a consultant for the Dean campaign. I believe that it linked to his longer post explaining his role in that campaign, though I’m not sure.
Granted, the statement was short, small and easily overlooked, but it was there, and I believe that is stayed up as long as Kos was employed by the Dean campaign.