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Dec 14, 2004 9:49 am

More Lauck ...

I reported earlier on the undisclosed $27,000 subsidy paid by the campaign of Senator-elect John Thune of South Dakota to history professor John Lauck of South Dakota State University for his blog, Daschle v Thune, which was favorable to the Thune campaign. This CBS News report notes that, for some time, Duncan Black of Eschaton, also did not disclose his subsidy from Media Matters."People are free to say whatever they want to say and not reveal any financial inducements and not reveal in whose pay they are," Eugene Volokh commented."Now there is an exception for speech that urges the election or defeat of a particular candidate." How that exception relates to blogs is unclear, says the CBS report. Nonetheless, David Adesnik at Oxblog recalls having praised Lauck's blog during the campaign and now feels betrayed by Lauck's non-disclosure of the Thune campaign's subsidy of his blog.

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Ralph E. Luker - 12/14/2004

Jonathan, I don't know where Lauck's blog was hosted. It had a typepad address. You may enjoy Eschaton. I found the relentless fundraising, the profanity, the intellectual vacuity pretty dreadful and it's pretty clear that Atrios wanted out of higher ed because that's not where his heart was and his students could tell it. Even when he had an academic appointment, Atrios was constantly complaining of poverty, but so what else is new?

Jonathan Rees - 12/14/2004

Or it could be that Black was making lots and lots of money on ads. I've been reading Eschaton since the Trent Lott thing a few years back and I'm almost certain that his is the first blog I ever saw with ads on it. Even before that you could buy him stuff on his wish list while he was still anonymous. His readers even bought him a new laptop at one point.

While this may be tacky, Atrios/Black wasn't fooling anybody. He is hosted on Blogspot and he has a following because he is an interesting and entertaining writer, not because he was an academic. Where was Lauck's blog hosted, by the way?


Ralph E. Luker - 12/14/2004

Adam, I don't think anyone could read either Duncan Black/Atrios or Lauck and mistake them to be impartial observers of current American politics. But as David Adesnik pointed out, it changes things if you know that the partisanship is subsidized -- if you know that the advocate is being paid to advocate. And, it changes things, even if Volokh claims that there's no legal obligation to disclose. Somehow, I think Black was eventually a little cleaner because he left his academic appointment, came out of his pseudonymous closet, and disclosed his reliance on Media Matters for a living. It _could_ be that Atrios did those things because a) his students thought he was a lousy teacher (look up his evals); and/or he consulted an attorney in the fierce exchange over his pseudonymity and was advised to do so.

Adam Kotsko - 12/14/2004

One of the points of confusion that in the stories Atrios posted about his failure to disclose his employer is that someone apparently felt that Atrios was trying to pass himself off as objective. Can anyone have really believed that that was the case?

Robert KC Johnson - 12/14/2004

I regularly read the blog, since I know Lauck's academic work. Though I supported Daschle in the race and it was clear that Lauck backed Thune, there's a big difference between reading what's purported to be a pro-Thune blog written by an academic and what actually was a Thune campaign p.r. vehicle.

Ralph E. Luker - 12/14/2004

There was no advertising on the blog; nor was there notice on it that it was subsidized by the Thune campaign. Professor Lauck was an adviser to the Thune campaign and was being paid to promote a cause he already believed in -- as was Duncan Black at Eschaton. Black had already left his academic position. Lauck had not.

John H. Lederer - 12/14/2004

what the terms of the "subsidy" were?

Were they paid for advertising on the blog? If so the New York Times was subsidized by the White house.

For doing something not directly involving the blog? In between in ethical considerations.

For presenting a particular viewpoint? Ugly.

Regardless..I too am disappointed not to know of the payments from the author.

However,fwiw, as I recall the blog (dimly), it was not one highly dependent on the reputation of the author.