Home/Daniel Larison/The Bandow-Ambramoff Scandal

The Bandow-Ambramoff Scandal

Bandow has admitted that he took thousands of dollars from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to his clients. He resigned from the Cato Institute yesterday and apologized for his “lapse of judgment.” ~Editor and Publisher

I haven’t too much to add, except that it is a pity that Mr. Bandow apparently thought a few thousands of dollars were worth more than his integrity. Whatever the merits of so-called drug reimportation from Canada, this sort of shoddy deal will give proponents of free trade a cheap and easy victory when they have already had far too many. It is doubly unfortunate that Mr. Bandow’s connection to Abramoff also led him to endorse one of the better modern swindles, the Indian gaming casino.

Hat tips to Stephan Kinsella at LRC Blog and Andrew Sullivan.

Bandow isn’t the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist’s clients. “I do that all the time,” Ferrara says. “I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.”

Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles.

“It’s a matter of general support,” Ferrara says. “These are my views, and if you want to support them, then that’s good.” But he adds that at some point over the years, Abramoff stopped working with him: “Jack lost interest in me and felt he had other writers who were writing in more prominent publications,” Ferrara says. ~BusinessWeek Online

My previous remarks about Mr. Peter Ferrara were based on apparently incomplete and misleading reporting in Businessweek Online’s article and subsequent reports quoting that article. According to the statements released by Mr. Ferrara and Mr. Giovanetti of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), and distinct from the admissions made by Mr. Bandow, Mr. Ferrara apparently did not take money for writing op-eds favourable to Mr. Abramoff’s clients in the strictly quid pro quo way that Mr. Bandow has acknowledged doing.

However, Mr. Ferrara’s financial involvement with Mr. Abramoff in the form of occasional “contributions” given after the fact is hardly thoroughly reassuring, and the fact that Mr. Ferrara did not alter his views in the process hardly makes his practise a ringing endorsement for ethical op-ed writing. The fact remains that he received undisclosed payments as a result of writing things with which Mr. Ambramoff agreed, and it does not require a “naive purity standard” to see the potentially corrupting influences in the practise. The lack of disclosure is itself an ethical breach, and a cynic might see such “contributions,” when coming from someone like Mr. Abramoff, as encouraging bribes in another form. It is worth noting that The Manchester Union-Leader and The Washington Times viewed these “contributions” as being questionable enough that they have suspended Mr. Ferrara’s columns.

In fairness to IPI, whatever involvement Mr. Ferrara has had with Mr. Abramoff, none of Mr. Ferrara work for them had anything to do with Mr. Abramoff or, it seems, with anyone else and IPI categorically opposes “pay for play” op-eds. It should be said that Mr. Giovanetti did himself no favours with the phrase “naive purity standard,” which could have easily appeared to mark indifference to unethical conduct thanks to the misleading way BusinessWeek cast those quotes.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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