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RJ Eskow

RJ Eskow

Posted: October 2, 2007 12:09 PM

Did the New York Times Gets Played By Clinton's Campaign?


Here's the kind of coverage a campaign can't buy, from the New York Times blog (UPDATE: The post has been altered since we wrote this and a new paragraph's been inserted - but without noting the change or acknowledging the original oversight. See below):

A fundraising analyst, Costas Panagopoulos of Fordham University, said this morning that the Clinton fund-raising total is likely to convey an impression of superiority to voters than Mr. Obama will have to battle against.


"Clinton's blow-away third quarter fundraising total is likely to have, among other things, a profound psychological effect on voters," Mr. Panagopoulos said. "It will give the impression of growing Clinton strength -- both in terms of dollars and number of donors."

"Obama also raised impressive sums," he added, "but he may be seen as languishing relative to previous quarters. Obama's lackluster third quarter intake, relative to previous quarters, reflects, at least in part, waning enthusiasm for his candidacy and diminishing prospects for an Obama victory."

Wow. Pretty damning indictment of Obama's prospects, wouldn't you say? But here's something Patrick Healy, the author of the post, fails to inform his readership. From Mr. Panagopoulos' bio page on his website:
Dr. Panagopoulos was selected by the American Political Science Association as a Congressional Fellow during 2004-2005, and he served in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).
That should have been worthy of at least a mention, don't you think? After all, Mr. Panagopoulos describes Obama's campaign as "lackluster," "languishing," and suffering from "waning enthusiasm" and "diminishing prospects."


Mr. Healy should have asked whether his expert had ties to the Clinton campaign. failing that, Mr. Panagopoulos should have volunteered the information - even if this is his truly unbiased opinion.

Oh - and, for the record, the Panagopoulos bio doesn't say that he's a "fundraising expert," although he may well be. The subject's not even mentioned. This raises the question of how Mr. Healy found him in the first place. Was it a referral from Clinton's campaign? His readers deserve a clarification and explanation.

One last item: The Times piece says that "in recent weeks Clinton advisers and donors had asserted that he was probably on track to beat her again because his campaign was publicizing his success at recruiting new donors." Isn't that the old Rove trick of lowering expectations when you know you're going to do well?

Just a thought.
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UPDATE: Mr. Healy's blog entry was altered some time after we posted this. This paragraph was inserted between the "Clinton's blowin' 'em away" quotes and the "Obama's lackluster" quotes:

Mr. Panagopoulos worked in Mrs. Clinton's Senate office in 2004-5 as a congressional fellow of the American Political Science Association; he said he is not supporting or advising her or any other candidate in the 2008 race.
It's common practice when blogging to note such changes and corrections, to avoid the appearance that you're trying to mislead your readers. The post as originally written would not have noted this analyst's potential conflict of interest.

And we still don't know how Mr. Healy found him in the first place. As Atrios would say, "time to convene a blogger ethics panel."
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... and Patrick Healy emailed me to say the following:

In answer to your question, I met Mr. Panagopoulos last year when I spoke to a different professor's Fordham class on politics and fundraising. He gave me a business card and we talk from time to time. I found him thoughtful about politics and fundraising, and he has been quoted in several papers before ... I asked him in the interview today if he was advising or supporting any candidates. He said no. I asked Clinton advisers; they said he wasn't on their team. I checked fundraising records; he has not donated to her or any other candidate. Still, after I received email about his congressional fellowship in 04-05 from folks who had a concern about Mr. Panagopoulos and bias, I added the graf about his ties to Clinton's Senate office.


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