The National Press Club has posted video of its journalism awards dinner, which is illuminating in its own way about the self-congratulatory culture of journalism. One interesting moment came when Bloomberg News got an award for its coverage of campaign finance. Accepting the award, a Bloomberg reporter, Jonathan Salant, said, "I believe that the First Amendment gives us the power and the responsibility to watch over those in power." He went on:
In this case, we chronicled how millions of dollars in secret money was spent, primarily to help elect Republican lawmakers. In some cases we found not only were the sources of the money hidden but so too were the expenditures. We're seeing this play out again in 2012, with the same groups, and some new ones, spending millions of dollars without telling the public who is funding the ads they are seeing.
The same First Amendment that Mr. Salant hails also protects the campaign spending he seems so disturbed by. That went unmentioned in his remarks.
A FutureOfCapitalism community member writes, "Of course, this is also how system is supposed to work. First Amendment gives people the right to political speech; the First Amendment also gives journalists the right to write about those expenditures. So maybe there is nothing here for you. But on first blush it seemed weird for Bloomberg journalists to cite the First Amendment in criticizing practices allowed by the First Amendment."
One might also observe that if a concern in campaign finance is preventing corruption, secrecy in political spending could actually help prevent corruption. If the politicians don't know who is paying for the ads, it makes it more difficult for the politicians to repay the donors with favors like government contracts.