The plot to get Fumento

We previously encountered Tom Giovenetti, president of the IPI think tank when he told me that IPI keeps its funders secret:

Second, regarding whether we take money from Microsoft, IPI has an absolute policy of protecting our donors’ privacy. I’m sure if you donated money to IPI, you would appreciate that policy.

Giovenetti has now weighed in with an NRO column defending pundit payola. I’m linking to the director’s cut on his blog. Giovenetti starts with an attack on conservatives who think that journalists should disclose their funding:

But after seeing a smattering of silly columns and blogs by conservatives on this issue, I thought it was probably past time for me to provide some much-needed context.

The silly conservatives that he is referring to are: Cathy Seipp, Tim Blair, Cathy Young and Michelle Malkin.

Giovenetti goes on for a while about how Javers is running a political campaign against the right. Then he has this:

But the third reason we did not take action against Peter is that, while it’s easy for inexperienced young writers and bloggers to opine in retrospect about how “I’d never, ever do that,” in the thirteen years I’ve been president of IPI, to the best of my knowledge IPI has never been asked about financial disclosure by a newspaper. There have been no clear policies, no rules, no precedents. Rather, the rules are being asserted now, in hindsight, by politically-biased accusers, and their new rules are being given time to crystallize by the hesitancy of organizations to stand up against the accusers, and by naive conservatives who don’t see this effort for what it really is.

Well I asked him (see above). I don’t see how that doesn’t count just because I’m not a newspaper. Nor are folks making up new rules. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is not new and states that journalists should disclose unavoidable conflicts of interest.

Giovenetti goes on to misrepresent the reason for Fumento’s firing:

So, because Fumento’s work was supported by corporations, the left hangs a cloud of controversy over it, even though everything seems to have been done in a completely above-board and legal manner.

The controversy is because Fumento did not disclose his payments from Monsanto. This is not “completely above-board”

Meanwhile Fumento tells us some more scary stuff about the “Enemies List” that he claims is designed to eliminate conservative writers.

Paul Rodriguez, a writer for Newsmax, indicated to me he’s seen the list. But so far as I know, one list was handed to the NYTimes and one to Business Week. That makes it hard to get ahold of. That there IS a list is readily deducible from Waxman and Javers calling the same people about the same alleged pay-for-play column. It would be awfully coincidental otherwise. My best guess (derived from the best guesses of others) is that the bad actors are Fenton Communications and the Environmental Working Group. But until I have proof, I leave it at that.

And via Cathy Seipp I find that Luke Ford reports some interesting details from a Fumento radio interview:

Fumento says his job is coming to an end at the Hudson Institute in the next month. “A little bit of it has to do with my not having a column anymore. My being involved in this scandal. They know I didn’t do anything wrong but there’s this taint. There’s been scandal involved in his name. That’s why Scripps dropped me. They didn’t even consult me.”

Fumento says it is the practice for fellows at think tanks to solicit corporate money (as Fumento did). “Hudson finally said enough is enough.” …

I called in to Prager’s show. I was the first caller on this topic.

Luke: “A journalist can not go soliciting money from people he plans to write about. Michael Fumento asked for money from Monsanto and various agribusiness companies to finance his [2003] book [BioEvolution]. He did not disclose it in his book. It’s an elementary matter of journalistic ethics. He should be fired.”

Prager: “Who should’ve fired him?”

Luke: “Anyone who employs him as a journalist. He did something beyond the pale. If I’m going to write about somebody, I can’t go to them and ask them for money to write about them. He didn’t disclose it in his book and he didn’t disclose it in his columns.”

Michael: “These rules are new to me. In fact, they are new to everybody. Are you a writer?”

[My answer did not make it on the air.] Luke: “Yes.”

Michael: “These rules are new to me. They are new to everybody. That’s exactly what Business Week did. They invented new rules and applied them retroactively. I don’t care much for retroactive rules. I’m willing to follow rules that are made up before I do something.”

I think that these rules are not retroactive. It is elementary journalistic ethics that you do not solicit funds from people you plan to write about.

Michael: “The book took four years to write. I got far less than minimum wage to write it.”

Dennis: “In retrospect, you should’ve mentioned the [Monsanto] grant.”

Michael: “Yes.

“The other way the other side [the Left] works is that they do not [concern themselves with truth].”

Fumento keeps painting the issue as a Left-Right debate when it is a matter of journalistic ethics. “Whenever you analyze research, you examine the funding,” notes a caller. “For your guest to say that all of a sudden there are new rules…to not disclose your source of funding. Corporations do not give away something for no value. To say that this is a new rule is an egregious misstatement for scholars and scientists.”

Comments

  1. #1 Tom Giovanetti
    February 11, 2006

    Some corrections, for the record:

    1. I never saw Michelle Malkin’s comments on this, so I was not referring to her when I called some “silly.” Same goes for Cathy Young. And it’s just another instance of your arrogance that you think you can read my mind and know who I was thinking of.

    2. This issue is about what is being called “pay for play op/eds.” That’s clearly what I was referring to when I said IPI has never been asked about disclosure, and I specifically said newspapers. No, Tim, you don’t count as either a newspaper or a journalist. You are a raving nutter.

    3. Non-profit organizations in the U.S. have a specific protection against releasing donor information. Non-profits absolutely, without exception, do not have to make that information public. Now, some may choose to disclose, but most do not, and they are not required to do so. Sorry you don’t like that, but there’s nothing unethical about it.

    4. I absolutely stand by my characterization that this is a partisan witchhunt against conservatives. I can tell you absolutely that left-leaning orgazations do exactly the same thing, and there are dozens of left-leaning op/ed writers and columnists who have taken direct payments for their writing, without disclosure. But not a single left-leaning writer or institution has yet been mentioned. Wonder why?

    5. It is a complete mischaracterizataion for you to say I wrote defending “pundit payola.” It’s clear from IPI press statements that we have never engaged in this practice, and do not tolerate it. My article in NRO was explaining to people that the driver behind this witchhunt is partisan politics, not concern about ethics. And that’s a fact.

  2. #2 Bradley
    February 11, 2006

    Tom, who are the “left-leaning op/ed writers and columnists who have taken direct payments for their writing, without disclosure?”

    I dare you to name them, and give verifying information. Let’s see if their ethical breaches are like Fumento’s, or Bandows, or your own Ferrara’s.

    As a journalist, I have long known it is accepted practice for the journalist in question to disclose potential conflicts of interest. Fumento was flatly wrong when he failed to tell Scripps Howard of his payment from Monsanto. He betrayed their trust.

    At the very least, Fumento could have told Scripps Howard that his salary while writing BioEvolution came from a biotech company he had promised not to identify. Then Scripps Howard could have decided if that was sufficient disclosure.

    Now Fumento says he may be leaving Hudson, in part because he is no longer distributing his column through Scripps Howard — the column he was writing for free. Or was he?

    This whole pundit payola issue has been most refreshing. As a journalist, I’ll always remember that IPI doesn’t find anything unethical with the practice. Thanks for the disclosure. Your brazen attempt to defend sleaze is breathtaking in its audacity.

  3. #3 wcw
    February 11, 2006

    Hear, hear. I don’t care for which side you write — if you take serious money ($60k? c’mon, that’s a brand-new Porsche) from anyone, you have got to disclose it.

    There are a lot of “left-leaning” pundits I am just waiting to get more reason to dislike. Where’s our list?

  4. #4 Ian Gould
    February 11, 2006

    Tom: I can tell you absolutely that left-leaning orgazations do exactly the same thing, and there are dozens of left-leaning op/ed writers and columnists who have taken direct payments for their writing, without disclosure. But not a single left-leaning writer or institution has yet been mentioned. Wonder why?

    Go ahead and name them – I mean if there are “dozens” of them I’m sure you’d have no difficulty in naming, let’s say, six.

  5. #5 Meyrick Kirby
    February 11, 2006

    Tom Giovanetti:

    Now, some may choose to disclose, but most do not, and they are not required to do so. Sorry you don’t like that, but there’s nothing unethical about it.

    There’s a difference between illegal and unethical!

  6. #6 Meyrick Kirby
    February 11, 2006

    Tom Giovanetti:

    You are a raving nutter.

    Wanting transparency, especially where a conflict of interest may be present, what a crazy notion!

  7. #7 Rob
    February 11, 2006

    Let’s not be harsh. Tom has done us all a great favor. From now on we all have “IPI=PR firm” in our heads and so can safely ignore what they deal with.

  8. #8 Bradley
    February 12, 2006

    Tom Bethell tries to distract from the pundit payola issue in a Washington Times article: http://tinyurl.com/dqgo8

    “Complex issues of disclosure are involved in some of these journalism cases — questions I shall not examine.”

    Of course, it’s not complex at all. You don’t write articles about someone who gave you money without disclosing it.

    “Of greater interest is the implied argument that research funded by the government is pure and disinterested. That needs scrutiny.”

    In Bethell-speak, “of greater interest” means, “a straw man argument that nobody makes, that I made up on the spot, so I can knock it down and not have to criticize payola.”

  9. #9 BonGob
    February 13, 2006

    Rumours of a Leftist Fifth Columnn are clearly true – how else could even the semblance of credibility be so efficiently evaporated? Seriously, what else could these people have done to appear any less trustworthy?

    I’m curious, though: amid these splendid accusations that they’re being held to some spurious and improvised impossible standard, what do they think the term “disclosure” means? Presumably they’d heard of it; did they think it meant some sort of team spirit cheer?

  10. #10 z
    February 13, 2006

    “I can tell you absolutely that left-leaning orgazations do exactly the same thing, and there are dozens of left-leaning op/ed writers and columnists who have taken direct payments for their writing, without disclosure. But not a single left-leaning writer or institution has yet been mentioned. Wonder why?”

    Why are you asking us? I assume you’d be the right person to ask, Mr. Giovanetti, since you claim to know but aren’t naming names either.

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