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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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December 16, 2005

On the Take

Business Week Online reported today that another syndicated columnist was on the take. Unlike other recent syndicated columnist the White House was not paying Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute. Bandow decided to really sully any journalistic principles he harbored and accepted money from indicted Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Business Week Online reports that Bandow took at least $2,000 for 12 to 24 columns touting Abramoff's clients. Bandow has resigned from the Cato Institute.

The poisonous mix of money, power, politics and press is on full display in this story. These threads are so tightly woven in Washington D.C. the players are tripping over themselves to advance agendas and protect egos that mean little to the American people. It is time the industry reevaluate its use of pundits and think-tankers, especially with reader trust so low. It is becoming clear that these Pundit Thinkers do not understand and/or do not care about journalistic ethics. When a newspaper allows a writer to abuse reader trust it becomes hard for readers to take newspapers seriously. As an industry we have been trying explain to readers what we do and why. This does not help. What is frustrating is that it is so easily avoidable. There is so much talent in the world of journalism. Tap into that, not some insulated pundit only capable of Washington Think without any regard for journalism's ethics.

This story also highlights how far lobbyists have penetrated every institution in Washington D.C. Armed with bottomless checkbooks from powerful clients lobbyists have their way with Congress, the White House and now the press. This lock the mighty have on our nation's politics is not new, but I fear it has become more ingrained. The Abramoff indictment will get some headlines, but will not change anything. I can't imagine a sea change of attitudes in Washington D.C. The lobbyists will keep at it armed with brief cases of cash, while newspaper credibility will suffer with every story about an abuse of reader trust.

I am curious what readers think. How damaging is it when a columnist gets caught taking payments for columns?

Respond to Ryan.

 
Posted by Ryan Blethen at December 16, 2005 03:43 PM



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December 2005

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