OP-EDS FOR PROFIT: A disappointing story about Doug Bandow and the ubiquitous Jack Abramoff. I’ve had PR people offer me considerable sums to write op-eds, going back before InstaPundit, but I’ve always declined. That fact, and the fact that the topics in question weren’t political in an obviously partisan sense, makes me think that there’s a lot more of this going on out there.
UPDATE: Jonathan Adler reports similar experiences.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Ronald Stack emails:
I used to work at a PR/public affairs agency. Soliciting op-eds, letters to the editor, etc. in support of the client’s position was SOP. We only solicited people who we determined actually to support our side, because (a) they could withstand follow-ups from reporters and (b) they didn’t ask for money.
Note that in many cases the authors were public officials or others who could not legally accept payment. Note also that the agency would often draft the articles that were to be submitted under the supporter’s byline. The client paid us for those, but we did not pay the supporter.
Despite “PR ethics” being a classic oxymoron, my recollection is that we saw a difference between renting someone’s expertise (and paying them as we would any freelancer) and renting their prominence or reputation.