The Buying of the Blogosphere 2008? is questioning whether Hillary Clinton is buying favorable publicity at Daily Kos. During the 2004 campaign Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos came under criticism for taking a “consulting job” with the Dean campaign and reportedly was paid well above the customary amounts for such technical consulting. Subsequently his site became a major factor in promoting Howard Dean in the blogosphere. During the campaign I frequently criticized Kos for misquoting Kerry and for distorting his positions, but it is impossible to know for sure if this was intentional due to financial incentives or simple ignorance. Zephyr Teachout, head of internet outreach for the Dean campaign, later did admit that the Dean campaign’s goal was to obtain Kos’s support in the blogosphere. repeats the old questions about Kos during the 2004 campaign and also notes that Hillary Clinton is paying $4900 a week for ads at Daily Kos. Checking the rates at the Liberal Blog Network verifies that the second position ads, which Clinton is currently running, cost $4900. The premium position ads, with none currently sold, run $9000 and standard ads cost $2900 per week. The only ads in the Liberal Blog Network which are more expensive are on the premium sidebar at Talking Points Memo, running $10,000 per week.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with the Clinton campaign paying Kos $4900 per week. Unlike the situation where he was paid an inflated amount with the hopes of obtaining his support by the Dean campaign, this is Kos’s usual ad rate. While expensive, it is justified as the site has over 4 million ad impressions per week, by far the highest in the ad network. You certainly cannot blame Kos for taking the ad money. Similarly, it could make sense for Clinton to purchase such ads in the hopes of improving her relatively poor standing among liberal blog readers. For example, her current ad features a call for Gonzales to resign which might improve her reputation among liberal blog readers who click through and come to her site.

The question is whether the ad buy is affecting her coverage. charges that Kos’s attitude towards Clinton has improved since the ads were purchased and compares his posts on her from before and after the announcement. We cannot exclude the possibility that this is affecting his decisions, however it is not the only possible explanation. Peter Daou has been very aggressive in contacting bloggers and trying to improve our impression of Clinton and perhaps either his influence or Clinton’s campaigning have made a favorable impression. It is also possible that seeing the Republican prospects has caused bloggers with close ties to the Democratic Party to take a less critical view of the Democratic front runner, realizing that a year from now they might be backing Clinton regardless of their feelings.

While it might be true that Kos’s posts on Clinton have been kinder than before the ad buys, it should also be noted that Hillary Clinton is hardly the favorite over at Daily Kos. John Edwards has dominated the straw polls and there is also considerable support for Al Gore should he enter the race. There is even a Draft Gore ad up, although at the lower standard ad rate. Still, we must keep in mind the financial motivations at stake when reading the opinions at blogs which command ad prices at this level knowing that the ads might be influencing the coverage of the nomination battle.

Update (September 15, 2007): This post has received several recent links, including a diary at Daily Kos from people who do not believe that Kos has treated their candidate fairly. At present there are no ads from the Clinton campaign, and (while I haven’t been monitoring this) I do not believe Clinton has been a heavy advertiser at Daily Kos for quite a while. While I sympathize with those who have found some of Kos’s posts to be unfair, the argument that it is based upon financial factors is even weaker now than it was when this post was originally written.

Update II: Considering how hot a topic this has become I have added a follow up post on the front page.

Bob Edwards Speculates on Gore Run

More speculation on Gore–this time from Bob Edwards, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition and now at XM:

Bob Edwards: Watch Gore’s waist

XM Satellite Radio’s Bob Edwards has a theory on former Vice President Al Gore’s chances of entering the presidential race: It’s inversely proportional to his waistline.

At a speech last week before the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, the former NPR host said, “Gore was a bit heavy when I talked to him, and it’s long been said of Gore that you know he’s running if he loses weight. People who’ve seen him since my interview tell me he’s lost some weight.”

Edwards said if he had gotten a majority of votes but didn’t get to take office, “I would so be running again.”

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Obama Roundup: Gaining in Polls, Liberal Voting Record, and Position on the War

Barack Obama seems to be all over the news today. Rasmussen shows that he has pulled within five points of Hillary Clinton, who still leads 35% to 30%. While the polls mean little this far out, this follows two other recent polls which show Obama gaining. Clinton has been helped by the feeling that her victory is inevitable, and reports of polls such as these can bring that into question. Of course Hillary Clinton has additional advantages, such as better organization so far. This is seen in this report from The Hill of Obama missing out on millions of dollars by not returning calls from potential donors.

We are also likely to hear a lot about the latest survey from The National Journal which ranks Obama as the most liberal candidate running–even more liberal than Dennis Kucinich. While amusing, there is far more to perceptions of electability than how liberal the voting record is. These voting records are also poor measures for comparing candidates, which is obvious from reviewing the actual votes upon which this is based. Even if the composition of the votes gave a good measure as a member of Congress, they are a weak predictor of what someone would propose as President when not limiting to voting on what has made it out of Congressional committees. A member could have a lot of extreme ideas, or perhaps a number of excellent moderate ideas, which are not reflected in these scores as they didn’t involve a floor vote. The evidence seen of Obama’s ability to work with the opposing party is also more meaningful than how liberal he scores within his party.

The Boston Globe tries to argue that Obama’s record on Iraq is more nuanced than it actually is. They cite issues such as voting for appropriations while we are actually at war and reluctance to set a fixed deadline as nuanced, however these are peripheral issues. The real question remains whether the candidate would have taken us to war unnecessarily. This description of Obama places him in a far more favorable position on the war than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards:

Obama’s aides hand out copies of a 2002 speech he gave in Chicago, two weeks after the Senate gave President Bush the power to wage war. In it, Obama denounced the coming war as “dumb” and “rash” and said members of Bush administration were trying “to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives and in hardships borne.”

In recent weeks, Obama has said his early opposition to the unpopular war is significant.

“I think it’s a contrast between me and the other candidates,” he told The Des Moines Register earlier this month. “I have consistently believed that this war was not just a problem of execution, but was a problem of conception.”

Politico Speculates on a Gore Run

Although Al Gore says he doesn’t plan to run, John Harris isn’t buying it

The logic of politics suggests Gore has already given his answer. He is not raising money. He is not urging friends and associates to stay on the sidelines until he makes a decision. He has said repeatedly that he has no plans to run. Shouldn’t we take him at his word?

Not yet, we shouldn’t. The logic of psychology and even history suggests that Gore should run. And if he should run, it is hard to believe that a man who has organized most of his adult life around public service and the pursuit of the presidency won’t in the end actually do it.

He also wonders if Gore does run, can he let it rip:

Next time he runs for president, things will be different. That was Al Gore’s pledge to Democrats after the 2000 election: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d just let it rip. To hell with the polls, the tactics and all the rest. I would have poured out my heart and my vision for America’s future.”

Congress Investigates Republican Rewriting of Climate Reports

Conservatives have an easy answer for reality’s well known liberal bias (to paraphrase Stephen Colbert). They simply ignore inconvenient facts. This policy is especially helpful for industries involved as it appears all they need to do is to have their lobbyists rewrite science as needed. The New York Times reports:

A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005, defended the changes he had made in government reports over several years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the “climate team leader” for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports on the editing in The New York Times. The White House said his resignation was not related to the disclosures.