Not long ago, I heard from a trusted source that Patrick Hynes, a political consultant, was working for Sen. John McCain.
Hynes was one of the bright minds behind CrushKerry.com, now AnkleBitingPundits.com. My source said that without disclosing his compensation or affiliation, Hynes had blogged about McCain, touting his likely 2008 candidacy, and criticizing likely presidential primary foe Mitt Romney.
On Thursday, July 20, I called up Straight Talk America and asked Craig Goldman, the PAC’s executive director, if the rumor was true, that McCain had hired Hynes.
“Never heard of him,” was the response. How about Hynes’ firm, Marsh Copsey and Associates? “Never heard of them either.” Could Hynes be working with some other organization affiliated with McCain? His Senate office, any campaign organization set up for a 2010 Senate reelection campaign, or the Reform Institute? The word was no. So I shrugged; perhaps my source had misheard something.
Until yesterday, when I saw a day-old announcement on AnkleBitingPundits:
New Media Strategics is thrilled to announce it has been retained by Straight Talk America, the organization headed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which is dedicated to a powerful reform agenda.
NMS President Patrick Hynes, a longtime political consultant, author and blogger, stated, “It is an honor to work with Sen. John McCain to bring New Media tools to the cause of reform. With the power of the New Media, Straight Talk America’s reform agenda will reach more people and energize more activists than ever before.”
Was Goldman lying? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt; he said that he knew Straight Talk America was involved with New Media Strategics, but that he didn’t recognize the name “Patrick Hynes” until he made some phone calls to other individuals in the PAC. (Hynes obviously had departed his old firm, Marsh Copsey, and moved to this new one.) He said he had been making an effort to reach me and correct his statement, but was not able to find my number. Fair enough.
While the announcement came July 25, Goldman said that New Media Strategics had been under contract with McCain’s PAC, Straight Talk America, since May. Hynes has, since that initial payment, posted several items praising McCain and critical of Romney.
On July 6, he wrote, “Romney Stiffing New Hampshire Towns by $3.2 Million,” declaring, “When next he visits New Hampshire to troll for votes, absolutely dreamy Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will have a new issue to dodge (like abortion, gay marriage, and immigration). It turns out, Marvelous Mitt’s Massachusetts has stiffed New Hampshire towns to the tune of $3.2 million for flood control costs.”
On July 11, Hynes examined John McCain and the Religious Right:
…It was only a short time ago that Sen. McCain took a lot of grief for mending fences with the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Anti-McCain politicians, pundits, and bloggers cannot have it both ways: McCain cannot be a finger-in-the-wind liberal and a suck up to the Religious Right.
The truth? Well, Sen. McCain is not likely to be the candidate of the Religious Right. In my opinion, Christian conservatives will not vote for a single candidate as a bloc in the Republican primary. I have stated as much before. Sen. McCain’s words will anger some in the Religious Right. Others will be unbothered by it; impressed instead that he is reaching out to them. I believe the latter are in possession of a more rational perspective.
On July 13, after Hugh Hewitt wrote a very critical post about McCain, Hynes wrote a post entitled, “Is Hugh Hewitt the Kos of the Right?” He concluded:
While I don’t believe Hugh is the Kos of the right, one question lingers in my mind: Who died and made Hugh Hewitt King Republican? …
Here is Hugh, essentially deciding who gets to be a Republican, and who does not. Sounds a bit presumptuous, if you ask me.
For the record, Sen. McCain’s remarks seem to have been taken out of context and misconstrued and then blown way out of proportion. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would suspect Hugh of bashing McCain in the services of Mitt Romney, who Hugh, it has become increasingly obvious, supports along with Arlen Specter.
Fascinatingly, when one RedState diarist
posted his suspicions that several Romney supporters were coordinating their efforts to tout the Massachusetts governor on that site, Hynes wrote in a July 19 post, “Romney Caught Playing the Kos/Armstrong Blogger Game
.” (This would presumably be the game in which you hire a blogger/political consultant and he writes about a candidate without disclosing his compensation from said candidate.)
[And now, some disclosure in a story about disclosure: I have to point out that Governor Romney was approached by my publisher, Simon & Schuster/Touchstone Fireside, to write the introduction for my forthcoming book, Voting to Kill. Romney did not write the introduction (in the end, the editors and I decided not to have one), but did offer a nice blurb that ended up on the back cover. That and a handshake at a party in Boston before the 2004 Democratic Convention are the extent of my interaction with Governor Romney. Although, come to think of it, Hugh Hewitt also offered a blurb.]
To his credit, Hynes did note in a post about McCain contributing to the PorkBusters blog that, “Full disclosure: I helped Sen. McCain’s office facilitate placement of this guest post.” That does indicate an established professional relationship between himself and McCain. However, that statement is a bit less detailed than, say, “The firm that I am president of has been working for several months for McCain’s leadership PAC. For example, on May 23, we were paid $16,500.”
I contacted Patrick Hynes and asked for his side of the story. After an amicable off-the-record discussion, he sent me this e-mail:
You are right, Jim. I ought to have disclosed my relationship with Straight Talk America earlier. The reason I didn’t do so is because I was not being paid ‘to blog’. I have been a political consultant for fifteen years. That’s what I was doing for Straight Talk America: providing political consulting.
Around the end of April I started to help a colleague who is a consultant for Straight Talk America in a professional capacity. He subcontracted some political work to me. Originally, I was not working directly for Straight Talk America. Over time, however, the relationship continued to grow, though I had no contract and I did not expect the relationship to last very long.
By late-May or early-June it became clear that Straight Talk America’s reform agenda would benefit from a strong voice in the New Media and I began to represent myself as being affiliated with Straight Talk America when pitching stories to other bloggers.
Nevertheless, I still had not been officially hired and didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss business on my blog while still in negotiations. Once I received word that I was, indeed going to be retained by Straight Talk America for an extended period of time I disclosed that information on my blog and on my company’s site, if perhaps a little later than I ought to have.
Obviously, everything that I write on ABP is heartfelt and sincere; everyone who knows me knows this is the case. My consulting business and my blog are two different entities (in fact, my blog isn’t even an “entity” in the legal sense, it’s just a blog). Others who blog at ABP are—and I suspect, will remain—highly critical of Sen. John McCain at times.
That said, you are right, Jim. I ought to have at least disclosed to my readers that I was developing a professional relationship with Straight America while writing about the current and future political scene.
I don’t think Hynes is a bad guy. There's nothing wrong with working on a candidate's PAC or on his campaign, and there's nothing wrong with blogging about that candidate. The error is in not informing readers. I think bloggers have an obligation to disclose their relationships to entities in which they have a financially compensated relationship or interest. There’s no reason to think that anything Hynes wrote is anything less than his unvarnished opinion; but his readers ought to be informed that McCain is not just his favorite presidential contender; he is, ultimately, a client.
By the way, the fact that this occurs on the campaign of John McCain - Mr. Campaign Finance Reform, Mr. “the clarion call for greater disclosure has been heard and it is time we acted” — is… fascinating.
(UPDATE: Hynes is taking his lumps and welcoming comments on his site here.)
(Another Update: Dear folks at the Hotline: Next time you take all the facts from my reporting and put them on your site, could you at least mention me by name, instead of "some conservative blogger"?)