THE BLOG
08/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pay for Play - Conservatives Busted Again

Cross-posted from Open Left

How much of what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read in newspapers or online as "conservative" or "centrist" opinion is actually paid for by corporate interests? In fact, how much of what we think of as "conservatism" itself is actually just paid corporate PR?

A story about "pay for play" is surfacing today in Politico. And to reward good behavior: I say good for them.

The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group's endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.

For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: "Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU's Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU's board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)"

This follows the story the other day about the Washington Post and then reports of other media outlets selling "access" to lobbyists.

I have followed this stuff for some time, and I venture to say that most -- not all but most -- of what I see coming out of the so-called "conservative movement" appears to have been little more than corporate pay-for-play for many years.

I started thinking about this back when the "conservative" position was pro-logging. Remember how they mocked the spotted owl? (The spotted owl is an "indicator species," or a shorthand way to judge the health of an entire ecosystem.) I wondered why the logging industry was a cause for conservatives, but not the fishing industry, which was greatly harmed by the logging practices advocated by conservatives. The answer turned out to be that a guy who ran a corporation that had made a ton of money looting S&Ls (how come no one remembers the S&L Crisis?) had bought a lumber company and was destroying all the old-growth redwoods was hooked into (i.e. paying) the conservative movement. (Please read the links and follow the links there!) And so the "conservative" opinion became that logging old-growth forests was a good thing. Cash payment was the reason for this core pillar of conservative ideology. (The whole thing ended up paying off even more handsomely, probably thanks to more conservative movement backscratching.)

Over the years I have seen one after another example of this use of the so-called "conservative" movement to drive the interests of particular corporations, in exchange for money. We used to see it serving tobacco interests. Now we see it serving oil and coal interests -- and right now insurance company interests.

A few years ago I said at a YearlyKos panel, Ethics, Corruption and Movement Politics,

So, like I said the conservative persuasion machine and media echo chamber quickly moved past that initial far-right funding to also take in big corporate money. But corporate money is "interested" money - it necessarily has strings or it would not be given. And the strings necessarily go back to the interests of the corporation - not the public or the country - or even the conservative movement.

The movement followed the money and started to change from pure ideology to lobbying for the interests of the corporate backers. The think tanks began making arguments in support of what were little more than paying customers.

The corporations saw an opportunity and took over the so-called "conservative movement" and big, big, big money

As I said at the start of this piece, "How much of what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read in newspapers or online as "conservative" opinion is actually paid for by corporate interests? In fact, how much of what we think of as "conservatism" itself is actually just paid corporate PR?" I think the answer is pretty clear at this point, and that is most of it.