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The Lobby Industry and Investigative Journalism

A hat tip to Steve Benen who has been pinch hitting for Kevin Drum of the 'Washington Monthly'. Benen had a provocative piece this weekend on Ken Silverstein...the investigative journalist, a rare breed nowadays, who wrote a very clever expose for the July issue of 'Harper's' about DC's lobbying industry.

Silverstein wanted to understand how, exactly, these firms operate when approached by 'an ethically-dubious client'. So, after huddling with his Harper's editors, Silverstein approached two major DC lobyist firms and falsely claimed he was a consultant from a London enegy-firm representing Turkmenistan, 'an ugly, neo-Stalinist regime' to to see what the response of a well-paid and well connected D.C lobbyist firm would/could do for a price.

Read Silverstein's humorous expose in Harper's or at least the non-paying portion, in which Gerald Cassidy, a former staffer for George McGovern, boasted about how much he had improved the image of Equatorial Guinea strongman Teodoro Obiang, who has ruled this small oil-rich west African country since a violent coup d'etat in 1979 when his uncle was executed. Cassidy's 'repackaging" of Obiang has been no mean feat since Obiang has continued to allow rumours that he is a cannibal to circulate.

As was expected the lobbyists decried how 'unethical' Silverstein was when 'the gig' was revealed, but Silverstein points how easily and willingly they believed in him, simply for greed. 'Lobby Shops for Turkmenistan: Will lie for money'

But for the breach of protocol of duping and exposing lobbyists like Cassidy, Silverstein has not been praised by many of his peers; instead, he has been chastised by fellow journalists such as Howard Kurtz who wrote 'Stung by Harper's In a Web Of Deceit', "no matter how good the story, lying to get it raises as many questions about journalists as their subjects."

In Silverstein's rebuttal, in an op-ed defense ' Undercover, under fire', in Saturday's 'The Los Angeles Times' he invoked:

a long tradition of sting operations in American journalism ....where there is a significant public interest involved, particularly given Congress' as-yet-unfulfilled promise to crack down on lobbyists in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

(Silverstein ends by saying) I'm willing to debate the merits of my piece, but the carping from the Washington press corps is hard to stomach. This is the group that attended the White House correspondents dinner and clapped for a rapping Karl Rove. As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being "balanced" means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth.

I'll take Nellie Bly any day.

Hear, hear.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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