Several of our Capitol Press Corps colleagues got an amazing and amazingly stupid offer a few days ago, apparently based on the idea that unlimited money can buy unlimited things—state laws, the people who write them, parts of the state constitution.
A public relations company hired by Rex Sinquefield’s Grow Missouri organization has sent letters to several political reporters offering to pay them $250 per article to write two or three articles a month favorable to Sinquefield’s causes for the Grow Missouri blog. At least one of the offers said the authorship of the articles could be kept secret because there would not be a byline.
“Hi, Alex,” says the cheery salutation from Molly Berry of Skyword to Capitol Press Corps colleague Alex Stuckey, “I would love to discuss a potential writing opportunity with you. I came across several of your articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website and I really like your work…Based on your writing style and level of expertise, I think you would be a great fit.”
“Hi Jason,” says the equally cheery salutation from Molly Berry to colleague Jason Rosenbaum. “I would love to discuss a potential writing opportunity with you. I came across several of your articles on the St. Louis Public Radio and St. Louis Beacon websites and I really like your work…Based on your writing style and level of expertise, I think you would be a great fit.”
The Columbia Daily Tribune’s Rudi Keller, who sits next to me at the Senate press table, got one of the emails. “I came across several of your articles on the Columbia Tribune website and I really like your work,” she wrote. He says the paper’s city editor, Matt Sanders, also got one of the letters.
Rudi is a tremendous detail guy in his reporting. He started digging and wrote in the Tribune that Skyword “describes itself on its website as a company that creates advertising that resembles news articles or lifestyle features intended to sell a product or political idea.”
Clearly this is an organization with high ethical standards.
Rudi was told by Skyword’s CEO that the solicitations were a “mistake.” And a spokeswoman for Grow Missouri claimed to be ignorant of Berry’s solicitation.
Grow Missouri is the Sinquefield-financed group that spend a huge wad of money last year on advertising to pressure state lawmakers to overturn a Nixon veto of a tax cut bill Sinquefield wanted. When that $1.3 million dollar effort didn’t work, Grow Missouri used more than $600,000 additional Sinquefield financial fuel to try to defeat four Republican Representatives who didn’t do Sinquefield’s bidding last year. All four, however, won their primaries after letting constituents know of the effort by outsiders to defeat them.
Well, golly Miss Molly, we feel rather badly because you apparently think we are not worthy of solicitation. After all, we are going to be retiring soon and will start living on a fixed income and, well, you know—–
Or do you think our principles are so much higher than Alex’s or Jason’s or Rudi’s or Matt’s that we’re not a candidate for creating advocacy that “resembles news articles?” Be careful how you answer that because you might be insulting these colleagues of mine if you say “yes.” Oh, wait, I think you’ve already done that.
Don’t try to make it up to me now. It’s too late. I don’t forget a snub.
Besides, I’ll fire anybody in my shop who accepts your kind offer.