Politico's dirty little secret blasted by WaPo blogger

It’s going to be an unsettling day for the Ruling Class in Washington, DC. One of the little tricks that keeps the Beltway media-special interest alliance prosperously spinning along has been exposed to the light of day by Washington Post blogger Eric Wemple. In a long piece devoted to Politico’s Mike Allen, Wemple chronicles the confluence of advertising and journalism via what a practice called “native advertising,” inserting material that looks like it could be an ordinary item written by a journalist, but which actually is paid advertising.  Wemple describes native advertising as “the tricks that publishers deploy to elide the domains of journalism and advertising.”

To illustrate the practice, Wemple challenges readers to decide which of the following items from Allen’s Daily email “Playbook” column are advertising and which are written by Allen as “journalism”:

1) “The economy is not growing fast enough to create the jobs we need to reemploy the unemployed and create new opportunities for young Americans just starting out. We can boost growth and jobs by producing more domestic energy, expanding trade, modernizing our infrastructure, and reforming our tax, regulatory, and immigration systems. Higher growth won’t solve all of our problems, but we can’t solve any of them without it. Learn more about the Chamber’s American Jobs and Growth Agenda at http://www.uschamber.com/issues. **”

2) Ahead of tax day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce promotes its agenda for tax reform: “Renew all expiring tax rates and incentives right away. … Stop threatening small businesses with higher taxes. … Make our companies and workers more globally competitive. … Taxpayers deserve a system that is simple and clear, one that spurs growth, encourages investment and innovation.” http://bit.ly/HQH7W8

3) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an ambitious new agenda to generate stronger, more robust economic growth, create jobs, and expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more about the Chamber’s American Jobs and Growth Agenda at http://www.uschamber.com/issues. **

4) ”U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch ‘On the Road With Free Enterprise,’ a two-month cross-country road trip to promote ‘the principles of free enterprise and the best of America. Your Free Enterprise Tour Guides will see the sights, check out local events, talk to businesses, and share it [online]. More than 900 teams applied to be the Free Enterprise Tour Guides, and after months of poring over applications, two teams remain: Jen and John, and Nate and Joe. You can vote [here] once per day.’www.FreeEnterprise.com/tour”

Answers: 1) and 3) are paid ads; 2) and 4) are Allen’s own work.

This is bad enough, but much worse is this:

A review of “Playbook” archives shows that the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of “Playbook.” The pattern is a bit difficult to suss out if you glance at “Playbook” each day for a shot of news and gossip. When searching for references to advertisers in “Playbook,” however, it is unmistakable.

Examples offered by Wemple include the Chamber of Commerce, BP, and Goldman Sachs, all of which advertise, and receive complimentary coverage from Allen’s newsletter.

I first learned of the power of Allen’s Playbook newsletter by reading Mark Leibovitch’s book This Town, which is an exploration of the incestuous relationships among the government industry, special interests, and media forces which make up today’s Ruling Class based in Washington, DC. For these insiders, Allen’s newsletter is both requited reading, telling people what is happening that day, and a plum to be mentioned in, especially having one’s birthday mentioned. It comes across as a bizarre mix of junior high school cliquishness and power politics.

The rise of Politico, owned by Allbritton Communications, has changed the media power structure in DC, with one of the biggest losers being the Washington Post. Well-known WaPo journalists John Harris and Jim VandeHei left the paper to start up Politico, bringing along other WaPo stars such as Mike Allen. So there may be more than a bit of professional jealousy lurking in the background of this report by Wemple, but that should not impede the fundamental point.

Lefties consider Politico right-leaning, while most conservatives including me consider it left-leaning. It depends, I suppose, on whether you think the DC establishment, committed to expanding government and expanding its own power and wealth thereby, is left-leaning or not. If rent-seeking big private interests capture government to enrich themselves, that is not free-market conservatism, it is an example of the State grabbing more and more power.  But to the vulgar left, the fact that a corporation makes money defines the act as somehow “conservative.”

The rise of the DC colossus, sucking wealth from the private economy, is part of the restructuring of the relationship between Americans and their government putting power into the hands of an elite. That elite is now exposing to the rest of us some of its dirty little tricks. There are many others, of course.

Hat tip: Mark Levin