"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest.   Appearance of impropriety.   We've heard these phrases a million times with regard to politicians, mouthed by members of the media to castigate politicians (usually Republicans) as corrupt.  

Well, maybe I've been naive, but here's something I never knew.   In a country where arguably the main problem is the insidious, cancerous effect of public sector unions and their benefit packages on the public purse, and private sector unions and their benefit packages on whole industries (see the auto industry), reporters covering politics are often themselves members of unions with close affiliations to those same unions.  

For instance, it had never occurred to me that the newsroom of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was unionized.   But they are... reporters at the Journal-Sentinel are members of the Newspaper Guild, which in turn is an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America and the AFL-CIO.  

That's important:  the CWA gave over $29 million in campaign donations between 1989 and 2012 (more than $2 million a year), all of it to Democrats, according to Open Secrets.   Over the same period, the AFL-CIO gave over $19 million, with 92% going to Democrats.   You'd expect people who belong to those organizations to slant Democratic, and hard-left Democratic at that, wouldn't you?

Indeed, if you go to the Milwaukee Newspaper Guild's website, you'll see links to the CWA, as well as the AFL-CIO and the Newspaper Guild's national union webpage.   On those websites, you'll see stories like this, supporting the recall of Governor Scott Walker; and stories like this supporting the "Occupy Wall Street" mobs.  

If stories on the web-sites of affiliated unions slant so far left, is it any wonder why the Journal-Sentinel's news coverage also slants left?

A judge who had this kind of conflict of interest, even if he weren't inclined to recuse himself from ruling on the facts of a case, might feel obliged by judicial ethics to disclose it to the parties before him and would undoubtedly quickly receive a motion to disqualify.   Shouldn't reporters with this kind of conflict of interest, when covering local, state and national politics, make similar disclosures?

Hat tip:  Charlie Sykes.  

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