- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

The founders of two politically influential liberal blogs, known for their bare-knuckle attacks on Republicans and errant Democrats, are being knocked for promoting political candidates for whom one of them works as a paid campaign consultant.

Bloggers and news organizations have begun to question the close relationship between Markos Moulitsas, creator of the widely read DailyKos.com, and Jerome Armstrong, creator of MyDD.com and a political consultant.

“When you hire Armstrong for consulting, do you get something besides good advice?” the National Review Web site asked, posing this additional question: Are campaigns that hire Mr. Armstrong really seeking “good buzz from Markos and the support (financial, volunteering) of Kos readers?”

Mr. Armstrong is working for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, whom Mr. Moulitsas praised effusively in a December interview.

“The talk of the blogosphere last week was ‘Kosola’ — allegations that Moulitsas wrote favorably about candidates with whom he or his close friend and co-author Jerome Armstrong has financial relationships,” Jonathan Darman writes in the current issue of Newsweek in a piece titled “The War’s Left Front.”

The story got juicier when the Web site for the liberal New Republic magazine obtained an e-mail Mr. Moulitsas sent out to a select list of bloggers, asking them to “ignore this [story] for now.”

“It would make my life easier. … If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let’s starve it of oxygen,” he wrote.

Massie Ritsch, chief spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors ethical issues in the political world, said, “It’s a blog-eat-blog world, and bloggers, especially the more influential ones, should expect to feel the same kind of heat that they turn on to the mainstream media and politicians.”

But supporters of the two men say they violated no professional rules or ethics.

“They do not see themselves as journalists but think of themselves as progressive activists. They have a different set of ethics, a different set of standards about what it is OK to do,” said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute in San Francisco.

The Media Bloggers Association has rules requiring full disclosure of “conflicts of interest, including personal relationships, financial considerations or anything else that might influence or appear to influence your independence and integrity.”

Robert Cox, a spokesman for the group, said the two Web loggers are not MBA members.

The recent flap is not the first time questions have been raised about the two men entering in and out of the business of writing political blogs and traditional campaign consulting.

Several years ago, as their blogs caught on and their activist readership base grew, so did political offers to work in campaigns. Howard Dean’s campaign manager Joe Trippi hired both of them in 2003 to help the former Vermont governor build the Internet effort that fueled his early meteoric rise in the presidential primaries.

But according to National Review Online, Mr. Moulitsas disclosed that he worked for Mr. Dean, and Mr. Armstrong ceased blogging while a consultant. They wrote favorably about their former client after leaving the campaign.

They formed a consulting firm in January 2003, co-authored a book on the political power of the Internet and dissolved their business partnership at the end of 2004 campaign.

Since then, however, Mr. Armstrong has had a string of political clients, including Ohio Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Mr. Warner’s presidential exploratory committee, Forward Together.

Mr. Moulitsas has written or spoken favorably about some of Mr. Armstrong’s clients, including more recently Mr. Warner’s candidacy.

Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Mr. Warner, said Mr. Armstrong’s role as a blogger and a political consultant posed no conflict for him or the former governor’s presidential campaign.

“Jerome heads an Internet team that runs our Web site and blog that turns out e-mail messages to people who sign up,” she said.

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