Yesterday, The Hill ran a straightforward op-ed opposing regulation of payday lenders by one Gerri Gutzman, with this byline:
Gerri Guzman is executive director of Consumer Rights Coalition (CRC). CRC is a consumer-based organization dedicated to ensuring that Americans will continue to have access to all forms of credit.
It was pretty typical stuff, as far as pro-payday lending op-eds go:
Today, I represent an organization of more than 115,000 of these consumers from every state in the nation. They are hardworking Americans who have limited financial options….
These are the people who will suffer most if Congress passes financial reform legislation that would create a massive, new federal government agency—the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA)—to regulate consumer financial products.
Today, The Huffington Post ran a blog post attacking opponents of regulation of payday lenders in general, and Gerri Guzman in particular, by one Zach Carter, with this byline:
Economics Editor, AlterNet; Fellow, Campaign for America's Future
The thrust of Carter's complaint was that Guzman (and The Hill) should have disclosed that she worked for an organization funded by payday lenders. He uses phrases like "truly outrageous" and "open assault" and generally gets pretty het up about the whole thing. He is, as you might gather, a fan of regulating payday lenders.
Here comes the utterly predictable twist: Carter, who writes frequently about issues related to employment and labor, consistently fails to disclose that the Campaign for America's Future is largely funded by <tiny ironical drumroll> unions! (Note: I don't vouch for the total accuracy of that link, or this one, which says the same thing. They're oldish, and possibly from semi-batty groups. But union funding is pretty clearly part of the Campaign for America's Future budget, and the point is that it took me 30 second to find that info.)
And as far as I can tell, Carter cracked The Case of the Corporate Whore wide open with a touch of Google sleuthing. The proof that he cites is from Guzman's own testimony at a public record of an Arizona state senate hearing, not a conversation he overhead in the back of a smoky cigar bar. It's the sort of thing that can be turned up same kind of searching that I did after seeing his byline.
Maybe they should both disclose—readers tend to be interested in who is signing the checks, though I don't much care one way or the other. But the point of this little hypocrisy holler is to note that lots of the people whose names appear in op-ed pages frequently have a combination of money from "viewers like you," special interests, and corporations behind them. It doesn't make what they have to say any less interesting, nor does it make the groups "fake." I'm happy Carter found some moneyed interests to juice up his megaphone, and that Guzman found the same for hers. Professional advocates tend to have a good command of the arguments on each side of the issue, so they write pretty good op-eds. Carry on, both of you.
For more on conflicts of interest, check out Alleged Exxon Mobil Whore and Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey here. For more on payday lending, read me here. (Disclosure: As far as I know, I am not funded by the payday lending industry, though some of my best friends are people who have been, and they sometimes buy me drinks. Because that's what friends do.)