Fumento and cash for comment

Fumento has written a reply to Cathy Seipp’s article. Mostly he whines about how mean Seipp was. The only substantive bit is this:

Read the Business Week piece. It takes three whole minutes. Nowhere does it say I took money for any column or story. It says I solicited a grant from Monsanto for a biotechnology book I was working on. (It doesn’t say, but should, that such solicitations from philanthropies and corporations are the general rule for writers of policy books.) It says my think-tank employer accepted the grant and paid me a salary while I worked on the book.

Using a bizarre set of rules that writer Eamon Javers made up on the spot, applied specifically to my circumstances, and then made retroactive, Javers decided — bizarre though it sound — that a book grant received in 1999 should be disclosed in columns written in 2006 — and presumably forever.

But Javers didn’t make up any rules. All he did was call Scripps Howard and ask them if Fumento had disclosed that he had been paid by Monsanto in the past. Scripps Howard decided that Fumento should have disclosed the payment and fired him. The column in question did not just mention Monsanto in passing — it sounds like an ad for Monsanto’s new products. Here it is edited down to its essence:

… Monsanto … Monsanto … Monsanto … Monsanto … Monsanto … Monsanto … Monsanto …

Fumento makes a big deal about the length of time between the $60,000 grant from Monsanto and his Monsanto-boosting column, but fails to mention that he in his book he somehow could not find any space to disclose that Monsanto had paid for it.

Seipp also comments on Fumento’s complaints:

Fumento says (after suggesting that his nemesis, Business Week’s Eamon Javers, has a “grease-lined hat”) I should not have cooperated with the NY Times. According to his way of thinking, we on the right are all in this together, and should circle the wagons against any attack. But I have no more sympathy for that argument than I do for the notion that Jews should support Jack Abramoff.

In comments, Seipp adds

I say that Fumento has long been suspected of being on the take because for years, ever single time his name has come up in conversations I’ve had with journalists or p.r. people, they’ve said he’s on the take. It was like a Homeric epithet — the rosy-fingered Dawn, the on-the-take Michael Fumento. I never asked about it, had no inside knowledge, and was not particularly interested in the topic. Other people brought it up, not me.

Meanwhile, Bruce Bartlett has come out in Fumento’s defence:

In the Fumento case, however, no Monsanto money flowed into his bank account. The money went to Hudson to support its overall program. There is no evidence Mr. Fumento benefited monetarily. Therefore, to my mind, there was no ethical lapse and no justification for punishment. Mr. Fumento is still employed by the Hudson Institute.

However, Monsanto money did flow into Fumento’s bank account. The grant was for the book and paid Fumento’s salary. And the ethical lapse is Fumento’s failure to disclose to the readers of his book that Monsanto had paid him to write it.

Bartlett sees the whole thing as some sort of plot against conservatives.

I think this is all part of an effort to demonize perfectly reasonable, standard fund-raising to inhibit conservative think tanks’ ability to compete in the realm of ideas with liberal newspapers, television networks, universities and foundations.

If liberals and Democrats can make it seem a policy institute receiving any corporate money automatically taints all the work of its writers and researchers, they will have a great victory.

I think ethical conduct requires you to disclose funding sources. Bartlett seems to believe political advantage for conservatives trumps ethics

In an odd coincidence, $60,000 was also the amount that Bartlett’s think tank, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute was paid in a cash for comment case back in 1994. Philip Morris wanted some group to campaign against a proposal to increase taxes on cigarettes and ADTI gave them this pitch (my emphasis)

Our three key executives, Cesar Conda, Bruce Bartlett and myself, will run this campaign and we will devote the full energies of our operation and its consultants to this task. We plan to activate our key Advisory Board Members, including Jack Kemp, Robert Kasten, Dick Armey, Michael Boskin and others to mount a public awareness campaign immediately (see enclosed list of Center on Regulation and Economic Growth participants).

As you can see from our press in recent months, we are in a position to deliver. We would like to request $60,000, or $30,000 a month, to implement this program.

Needless to say, Bartlett did not disclose the funding from Philip Morris in any of the op-eds he wrote attacking the cigarette tax. The full story is here.

Comments

  1. #1 jre
    February 1, 2006

    Fumento is just giving you a big ignoring,Tim!
    Contrary to popular belief, it’s not Fumento but Tracy Spenser that’s obsessed with your criticism.
    And, to be fair, there is no way Fumento can spare any time for you until he is done giving John Quiggin that shredding he promised.

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