Further Confirmation: Despite Claims to Contrary, Political Operatives Used JournoList

July 29th, 2010 12:49 PM

The Daily Caller released a new JournoList scoop today, and this one's a doozy. It confirms that reporters on the liberal media listserv did in fact collaborate with political operatives and campaign officials to spin media coverage in favor of Barack Obama.

The latest piece further debunks JournoList founder Ezra Klein's claims - also taken on by this humble blogger - that the email list did not include campaign or government officials, and was not used to manufacture talking points.

In fact, two members of the Obama campaign, Jared Bernstein and Jason Furman, were JournoList members during the race. Jeff Hauser reportedly signed a number of JournoList emails "Campaign Manager, Shulman for Congress," while he worked on New Jersey Democratic congressional candidate Dennis Shulman's campaign.

And talking points were a much-discussed issue. "JournoList’s greatest challenge is to make sure an actual win by Obama translates into winning the battle for political impact," Houser stated on one occasion. It doesn't get more explicit than that.

As the Daily Caller's Jonathan Strong notes,

In the conversation that followed Hauser’s post, not one Journolister expressed surprise or disapproval. No one rebuked Hauser for telling journalists how to carry water for a politician. Despite the group’s supposedly “very strict” ban on political operatives and explicit partisan coordination, Hauser remained a member of Journolist for almost two more years.

Hauser's post was hardly the only instance of talking point coordination on JournoList. As I noted last week, another JL member told the list he thought that "the non-official campaign has a big role to play in defining Palin, shaping the terms of the conversation and saying things that the official [Obama] campaign shouldn’t say."

Shortly after that email was sent, conspicuously similar language - albeit without some of the vitriol hurled by "non-official campaign" operatives - appeared in a Huffington Post piece by then-campaign adviser Jared Bernstein.

Bernstein left JournoList after he began work as Vice President Biden's chief economic adviser. But his collaboration with JournoList did not stop, and neither did conspicuous similarities between information shared on the list, and memes showing up on lefty blogs around the Web.

Strong reports:

Even after the campaign ended, and he had joined the Obama administration, Bernstein continued his contact with the group. In May of 2009, Bernstein contacted Ezra Klein to pass a message along to list members.

"Calling all Journos," Bernstein wrote in a message relayed by Klein. "I thought we got too little love from progressive types re our tax changes targeted at businesses with overseas operations. We’re maybe going for another bite at the apple this Monday," he wrote. Bernstein invited members of the list to join him on a conference call on the issue a few days later.

A number of JournoList members were not impressed with whatever was said on the call, but

Bernstein’s effort did appear to bear fruit elsewhere, however. "I’ve heard that there’s some disappointment in the administration that they haven’t gotten the level of progressive love they feel they deserve for their ambitious proposals to curb abusive corporate tax loopholes," wrote influential liberal blogger Matt Yglesias the next day. Yglesias went on to attack opponents of the plan, noting "how absurd some of the abuses the administration is trying to curb are."

As a reminder, Klein explicitly stated in 2009 that the list was not used to create talking points and that "There are no government or campaign employees on the list."

In fact, as demonstrated above, the list was explicitly used to create talking points beneficial to Democratic candidates, and there were a number of active campaign officials on the list.

In addition to active campaign and government operatives, however, a number of individuals joined JournoList after leaving a government post, or left the list when they went to serve in the Obama administration.

Strong compiled a list of those individuals:

Ilan Goldenberg, now an advisor on Middle East policy at the Pentagon, was a member until he joined the administration. Moira Whelan left Journolist to work at the Department of Homeland Security. Anne-Marie Slaughter left to work at the State Department. Former Journolist member Ben Brandzel is now a top staffer at Organizing for America, the political arm of the Obama White House.

Josh Orton, a former spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NM), became Obama’s deputy director of new media during the 2008 presidential campaign. After the election, he joined Journolist.

The list is a product of the ever-swinging revolving door between Democratic politics and liberal journalism, and demonstrates the near-impossibility of ensuring that no government or campaign officials made in on JournoList.

On JournoList, there was a very fine line between operative and reporter.