Over the last day or so there has been a fair amount of debate about whether or not Mark Levin should have disclosed a fairly consistently large purchase history by the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) of his book before he endorsed the organization. The ire is mostly directed at National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Brad Dayspring, Communications Director, for tweeting this Thursday:
Fishy: Senate Conservatives Fund spent hundreds of thousands of donor dollars to make Mark Levin’s book a bestseller http://t.co/8VXaUrisJf
— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) January 9, 2014
No doubt if Mark Levin responds to this post, he will point out that I’m unforgivably not appropriately famous, but: I feel that I must not only concur with Brad Dayspring that some disclosure may have been appropriate (although ‘fishy’ was probably, ah, too confrontational), but I must also disagree with Erick that there is a reductio ad absurdum argument requiring the NRSC to acknowledge their connection to k*i*d*d*i*e p*o*r*n (I ain’t about to link the two in Google searches).
Let’s start with the facts. I’m presenting these facts with no opinions on meanings, or assumptions. These are simply the undisputed facts as I have found them.
- SCF has spent $427,006 on purchases of books by Mark Levin since September 10, 2013.
- Mark Levin has promoted the SCF both on his show and on Twitter/Facebook multiple times during that same period.
So, taken together: what do these two facts mean? Given Levin’s character/beliefs/ideologies, and given SCF’s penchant for wanting to provide conservative materials and books at events or as gifts… very likely, nothing at all. Like-minded individuals and groups tend to like, buy, and talk about the same things. However, disclosures are not intended to explain why an inappropriate relationship is just Jim-dandy. Disclosures are intended to avoid even the appearance of impropriety by making sure that everyone knows existing relationships. In fact, disclosures exist precisely to prevent anyone from believing the relationship is inappropriate. It is not even mildly offensive to expect someone to do this: it is simply a good and ethical practice.
However, it is also an annoying practice, which is why people find it at best a chore, and worst a minefield.
Consider this scenario: you are, say, a video producer and you have clients. You’re also a writer. That means that you’re often in the position of having the opportunity to write about a video you’ve made for a client. The temptation is to give a glowing report on the video you’ve made (as you’re often in complete agreement with whatever the video says) without mentioning that you were paid to make it. The problem is – like it or not, – this automatically causes some people to doubt the veracity of your endorsement. It’s not always fair, but it is understandable. At this point, you have a somewhat annoying choice: get someone else not financially tied to it to write their thoughts, or else write it yourself and provide a disclosure.
And if you do the former, you will still get the inevitable comments from people to the effect of “Oh? You like the video you were PAID TO MAKE? SELLOUT SCUMBAG!!!!!”
We live in a world where the SCF and Mark Levin largely agree with each other on political issues. We also live in a world where Politico’s Chief White House Correspondent quietly embeds advertisements in what appears to be news. In both cases, when money changes hands, it’s just better to go ahead and let everyone know, Hey, I love X, Y, and Z: and I would even if we didn’t have a relationship that involved money. People don’t like to feel tricked. They like to know when they are being targeted by an ad. If they aren’t – but you could still see how someone else might think otherwise – well, it’s best to let everyone know that’s not what is happening. It’s not that hard, and it’s not asking that much.
On Erick’s take that Dayspring’s opinion warrants airing of any and all relationships of his own, I think that said take fails the fallacy test. I don’t think anyone was suggesting that Levin disclose all relationships he has with anyone for any reason, prior to mentioning them. This was about a specific disclosure of financial relationship. So I guess all this is to say that I don’t really have a problem with Brad Dayspring’s take on Levin’s non-disclosure**.
I suppose my advice to both parties would be this: to Mr. Levin, I would (humbly, and non-famously suggest) that a quick acknowledgement that the SCF is a great customer (in addition to being a great ally) is not the worst thing in the world. To Mr. Dayspring, I’d suggest that he may want to consider modifying histTwitter opinions to sound less confrontational and more conversational. Maybe saying “should’ve disclosed,” as opposed to “fishy” (which carries an tone of indictment)?
Now, if everyone could get back to hating each other for completely different reasons, that would be great. Or, here’s a radical thought: go smack around the Democrats. They’re always worth smacking around.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*I promise you, Mark Levin’s publisher would have made him aware of an Amazon purchase of several hundred thousand dollars.
**Full disclosure: RedState has had a bit of a problem with Brad’s takes on a bunch of other stuff.