Friday, January 25, 2002

Peggy Noonan describes some work she did for Enron. In response, Andrew Sullivan continues to bitch about columnists writing about companies that they have been paid by in the past, wailing:

Am I hallucinating? Peggy Noonan now joins the $50,000 Enron pundit club. At least she discloses the sum in her column (even if you have to do some math to figure it out). Why doesnt she just say the total? Same reason as Krugman. Its damning.

Yet, having read Noonan's piece, and Krugman's Times column on his own work for the company, I'm more struck by Sullivan's omissions.

Both Noonan and Krugman make a point of saying that they were doing typical work (speechwriting in Noonan's case, economic consulting in Krugman's) for their usual fees --- or actually, in Krugman's case, at a discount. Yet in none of his endless blather on the subject has Sullivan seen fit to mention the fact, leaving readers of his blog with the impression that the payments were bribery.

So, Sullivan's claim seems to be that actually doing work for a company disqualifies you from commenting in public on that company's affairs. Evidently, he feels that the high calling of punditry should be left to those like himself, who have remained within the journalistic temple their entire lives, and stayed free of the taint of filthy lucre by never getting a real job.

And why the high test of purity? Well, he says here that pundits "often have more influence than individual Senators".

So Krugman could have proposed amendments to that Bush tax bill, or even threatened a "hold" on it, and all he did was whine in the Times. Who knew?

(Update: Different conservatives have different ways of showing their obsessions. Virginia Postrel, to her credit, put up an item Tuesday acknowledging that Krugman's hourly rate at Enron wasn't out of line for the work he was doing, that he fully complied with the Times' strict conflict-of-interest policy, and that there isn't all that much of a story here. But when he tried to defend himself with his Friday column, she coughed up a screed arguing that he shouldn't have. Krugman's column is about 750 words. Postrel's argument that, I think, it wasn't worth the attention runs to nearly 1000).


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