Are Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas (of the famous Daily Kos) engaged in a pay-for-play scheme in which politicians who hire Armstrong as a consultant get the support of Kos? That’s the question that’s been bouncing around the blogosphere ever since The New York Times’s Chris Suellentrop broke the news last Friday about a 2000 run-in Armstrong had with the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged stock touting. But Armstrong, Kos, and other big-time liberal bloggers have almost entirely ignored the issue, which is a bit surprising considering their tendency to rapidly respond to even the smallest criticism.

Why the strange silence in the face of such damning allegations? Well, I think we now know the answer. It’s a deliberate strategy orchestrated by Kos. TNR obtained a missive Kos sent earlier this week to “Townhouse,” a private email list comprising elite liberal bloggers, including Jane Hamsher, Matt Stoller, and Christy Hardin Smith. And what was Kos’s message to this group that secretly plots strategy in the digital equivalent of a smoke-filled backroom? Stay mum!

As usual, I wasn’t invited, but then I don’t smoke that stuff. As for the scandal aspects, well, this seems to me like politics as usual. Perhaps, following Kinsley’s Law, that’s the real scandal, but — except to the extent, probably small, that this causes Kos’s readers to lose faith in him as something new and special — I don’t see a big scandal in this, though I can’t help noting that if something like this were going on on the right, the bloggers of the “Townhouse” list would probably be somewhat less charitable.

But remember — it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up!

UPDATE: Ann Althouse: “I wonder who’s the leaker among the elite bloggers.”

Outside the Beltway has a roundup, and notes that Stirling Newberry is accusing The New Republic of libel, though his post doesn’t actually say that the email isn’t genuine. (He may want to look here for some libel advice.) He also attributes the story to both “Nasty Republicans” and “establishment Democrats.” It’s a conspiracy so vast . . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Patrick Kelly emails: “FWIW, I put a link to the TNR article in the comments at Firedoglake (Hamsher and Smith’s blog), it didn’t last 5 minutes.” Hey, it could have been worse.

And Will Collier observes: “Yep, this one just crossed the entertainment threshold. Time to make some popcorn.”

MORE: Zengerle says it’s all about the Benjamins for the liberal bloggers. “Kos (along with Armstrong and Bowers) gets to decide which blogs belong–and don’t belong–to Advertising Liberally, which means a lot of these blogs’ financial health hinges upon staying in Kos’s good graces. Is it any wonder they’re so obedient?” Still no scandal here, exactly, but boy would these guys be making a stink if this stuff were happening on the right. (Via the Hotline Blog.)

Meanwhile, Blogometer asks: “If Kos is so beholden to Armstrong, why would he support James Webb? Webb wasn’t the candidate of choice in Mark Warner’s world.”

And as an aside, I see some blog-commenters are speculating that Kos is gay. Why that should matter, I don’t know, but I remember — back when the blogosphere was younger and people were nicer — commiserating with Kos over his wife’s miscarriage (my wife and I had several) and assuring him that it didn’t preclude successful pregnancies later on, which I believe his wife has since had. So try to keep things at something better than a seventh-grade level.

STILL MORE: Kos is defended at TAPPED: ” I’m a member of the Liberal BlogAds Network. I’ve mocked Kos’s “Libertarian Democrats” concept, derided his elevator pitches, and generally been surly and disagreeable when it suited me. The idea that Markos can just throw folks off the list is a bit silly, particularly for any of us who remember the endless e-mail thread when Jerome and him tried to create some uniformity in the rules for entry.” Also, see Max Sawicky: “I have run afoul of Kos — f** him and all — and I am still in the network. Got an ad or two this past month too. If you’re big enough for exclusion from the network to be financially meaningful — I’m not, that’s for sure — then being excluded would not prevent you from getting ads independently. There are other blog networks too.”

Blue Crab Boulevard: “it sounds like old fashioned backroom politics. Not exactly cutting edge. . . . The email is a different story. If lefty bloggers are indeed following Kos’ directions to starve the story of oxygen by not writing about it, those bloggers may damage themselves in the long run.”