The whole Olbermann flap over political contributions misses the point of the unholy alliance of money, the media and the punditocracy. The question isn't who are news correspondents giving their money to - which is all in the public record if you look hard enough at FEC reports. But rather, who's GIVING money to these journalistically self-styled soothsayers. If I'm worried about the undue influence of a bribe, I look for who's getting, not who's giving.
To that end, a good place to start would be full disclosure of extracurricular speech making income for all TV journalists and pundits. Newsweek, in its inaugural "Power 50" list of the highest paid pundits just last week made the point that Keith Olbermann doesn't give many paid speeches. But as for his colleagues, that's another story.
For example, at the allegedly prestigious Washington Speaker's Bureau (motto: "Connecting You with the World's Greatest Minds"), here is a quick list of MSNBC and NBC regulars who are eligible to receive legal, but undisclosed, sums of money from the highest bidders: Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, Norah O'Donnell, Lawrence O'Donnell, Mike Barnicle, Michelle Bernard, Tom Brokaw, Pat Buchanan, Jim Cramer, Bob Dotson, Willie Geist, David Gregory, Mark Halperin, Phil Lempert, Eugene Robinson, Luke Russert, Joe Scarborough and Richard Wolffe.
Of course, NBC's not alone. CNN's paid pundits and anchors who can be booked for a fee include: Paul Begala, Gloria Borger, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Anderson Cooper, David Gergen and Howard Kurtz
And to round out the WSB's roster of pundits with their hands out, here's a few from other news organizations:
CBS: Katie Couric, Greg Gumbel, Bob Schieffer
ABC: Christiane Amanpou, Ann Compton, George Stephanopoulos
PBS: Gwen Ifill, Jim Lehrer
Bloomberg: Charlie Rose, Margaret Carlson
FOX: Bret Baier, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke, William Kristol, Sarah Palin
And that's just from one speaker's bureau. Premiere Speakers Bureau in Franklin, Tennessee, also can book you Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and more!
If the Juan Williams debacle (and the Alex Castellanos imbroglio from last year) taught us anything it's that it matters who's paying our pundits. When networks describe their pundits as "political analysts" and "contributors" it's unclear if they're being paid by the networks for their unbiased opinions, or if they're shilling for the trade association who flew them to Pebble Beach the week before. The FEC discloses individual political contributions just fine. But now when are the networks and speakers bureaus going to follow suit?
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