CBS has published an article discussing in part the effect of the Dakota Blog Alliance on the hottest Senate race in the country: "Blogs: New Medium, Old Politics." Excerpt:
Internet blogs are providing a new and unregulated medium for politically motivated attacks. With the same First Amendment protections as newspapers, blogs are increasingly gaining influence.
While many are must-reads for political junkies, are some Internet blogs also being used as proxies for campaigns? In the nation’s hottest Senate race, this past year, the answer was yes.
Little over a month ago, the first Senate party leader in 52 years was ousted when South Dakota Republican John Thune defeated top Senate Democrat Tom Daschle. While more than $40 million was spent in the race, saturating the airwaves with advertising, a potentially more intriguing front was also opened.
The two leading South Dakota blogs – websites full of informal analysis, opinions and links – were authored by paid advisers to Thune’s campaign.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.
The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.
Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican candidate.
No laws have apparently been broken. Case precedent on political speech as it pertains to blogs does not exist. But where journalists' careers may be broken on ethics violations, bloggers are writing in the Wild West of cyberspace. There remains no code of ethics, or even an employer, to enforce any standard.
A CBS reporter complaining about "dirty tricks" and "ethics"? When will the hilarity end?
I began my blog a year before Thune declared his candidacy. I became a consultant for Thune in July of 2004, a year and six months AFTER I began blogging. From the beginning, I have always been very clear about my political predilections. I consistently told readers of my blog that I was pro-Thune. If my blog was a "proxy" for the Thune campaign then it can fairly be said that the Argus Leader and CBS have been proxies for Democratic campaigns since time immemorial. The difference is that I tell everyone I am not an objective observer. To this day, the Argus Leader and CBS hold themselves out as objective observers. I think blogs in general have pretty much exploded that notion. Yet the "mainstream media" continue to splutter about "dirty tricks" and "ethics" and make a nauseating show of wrapping themselves in virtue.
Oh, and what a relief it is to know that by excercising my fundamental right of political speech, no laws were apparently broken. You'd think that would go without saying. Not, apparently, anymore.