BusinessWeek’s Javers Hints That More Paid Pundit Stories May Be Coming

By: Dave Astor

People interested in journalism certainly know a lot these days about Doug Bandow and Michael Fumento, who lost their columns after BusinessWeek revealed they took money from Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Bandow) and agribusiness giant Monsanto (Fumento). But less is known about the reporter who exposed these previously undisclosed payments.

He is Eamon Javers, 33, who joined BusinessWeek just last April after stints with CNBC and then Congressional Quarterly. Javers works as Capitol Hill correspondent for BusinessWeek out of the magazine’s Washington bureau.

Javers told E&P he and his colleagues in BusinessWeek’s D.C. bureau often focus on “the intersection of business and politics,” which has only recently come to include revelations of paid punditry.

Abramoff certainly symbolizes one way business and politics can intersect. After Javers’ initial reporting on Abramoff, a former associate of the now-disgraced lobbyist told him that Bandow had received money to write columns favorable to some of Abramoff’s clients.

After doing some investigating, Javers called and e-mailed Bandow without getting a response. Then Javers contacted the libertarian Cato Institute, where Bandow was a senior fellow, and the columnist subsequently agreed to talk.

“Considering that he was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, he was very straightforward and gave me plenty of time,” recalled Javers, whose Dec. 16 story also noted that another man — Peter Ferrara of the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation — had taken money to write Op-Ed pieces promoting Abramoff’s clients.

Javers’ expose resulted in Bandow resigning from both the Cato Institute and Copley News Service, for which he had written a column since 1983.

After the Bandow story ran, Javers of course wondered if other columnists might have taken undisclosed money, too. That led to his Jan. 13 BusinessWeek Online story revealing that Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, solicited $60,000 from Monsanto in 1999 to write a book. Scripps Howard News Service dropped Fumento’s column the same day for not disclosing that he had received the Monsanto grant.

How did Fumento — who has often written positively about Monsanto — react to the BusinessWeek piece? Javers said that reaction was probably best exemplified by Fumento’s quote in the story about a “witch-hunting frenzy” going on.

Javers received many e-mails (he’s not sure of the exact number) after writing his two stories. Few of the messages were from conservatives decrying the articles — perhaps because BusinessWeek is not perceived as a partisan publication. Javers did receive a number of tips about other possible paid punditry, so one or more future stories on that topic may be in the offing.

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