You are right, Jim. I ought to have disclosed my relationship with Straight Talk America earlier. The reason I didn’t do so is because I was not being paid ‘to blog’. I have been a political consultant for fifteen years. That’s what I was doing for Straight Talk America: providing political consulting.
Around the end of April I started to help a colleague who is a consultant for Straight Talk America in a professional capacity. He subcontracted some political work to me. Originally, I was not working directly for Straight Talk America. Over time, however, the relationship continued to grow, though I had no contract and I did not expect the relationship to last very long.
By late-May or early-June it became clear that Straight Talk America’s reform agenda would benefit from a strong voice in the New Media and I began to represent myself as being affiliated with Straight Talk America when pitching stories to other bloggers.
Nevertheless, I still had not been officially hired and didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss business on my blog while still in negotiations. Once I received word that I was, indeed going to be retained by Straight Talk America for an extended period of time I disclosed that information on my blog and on my company’s site, if perhaps a little later than I ought to have.
Obviously, everything that I write on ABP is heartfelt and sincere; everyone who knows me knows this is the case. My consulting business and my blog are two different entities (in fact, my blog isn’t even an “entity” in the legal sense, it’s just a blog). Others who blog at ABP are–and I suspect, will remain–highly critical of Sen. John McCain at times.
That said, you are right, Jim. I ought to have at least disclosed to my readers that I was developing a professional relationship with Straight America while writing about the current and future political scene.I agree with Jim and Pat that the information should have been disclosed sooner. I also have no doubt that Pat did not write anything on his blog or anywhere else that he did not believe sincerely. I appreciate that he acknowledged his mistake. This can serve as good instruction for other bloggers, especially as the elections near. One thing that attracted me to blogs, and that is different from traditional journalism, is that the reader always knows where the blogger is coming from, and that helps them to understand how they came to hold the opinions they do. Even when a blogger is anonymous, the reader generally knows their party affiliation, political philosophy, and sometimes (depending on how sharing a blogger is) even what they had for breakfast that morning. Business relationships are important to that understanding and need to be disclosed in order for the reader to properly process the information they receive from blogs.
Now for my disclosure: I have known Pat Hynes for over two years and he has been incredibly kind and generous to me as a new blogger. He provided me the opportunity to guest blog at CrushKerry, and then ABP, and has given me (free) advice and words of encouragement at various times over the past two years. Even though I believe Pat has not said anything he did not truly believe regarding the 2008 election, or any other topic which relates to John McCain, the fact that his company has a relationship with McCain gives him a view of the Senator, and those who work with him, that others do not have and that undoubtedly colors his perception to some extent. For the record, I have been extremely (sometimes brutally) critical of the Senator and expect that, from time to time, I will continue to be.