A few days ago, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor/publisher of The Nation and winner of #BiggestLiberalAsshole2012 Heat 5, tweeted this:
Erin Burnett should go work for the Goldman Sachs consulting group– or moonlight for them while she’s doing anchor duty on cable tv.
If CNN anchor Burnett knew or cared who the fuck vanden Heuvel is, she might well reply that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. After all, who’s the bigger fraud here: a former Goldman Sachs financial analyst doing news for CNN or the fabulously rich heir to a dirty fortune doing partisan hackery as left-wing politics? In any event, vanden Heuvel should be careful with spitballs aimed at corporate and finance industry hacks, considering some of the people who work for her. Like Ari Melber, for instance.
According to his bio in The Nation, Melber is the magazine’s “net movement correspondent, covering politics, law, public policy and new media.” What the bio doesn’t say is that Melber is also an associate at Cahill, Gordon & Reindell, a large Manhattan law firm catering to the corporate sector and Wall Street, where he is a protégé of CG&R partner Floyd Abrams.
Abrams is a free speech legend, most famously for defending the New York Times’ right to publish the Pentagon Papers. But Abrams is increasingly more famous for defending the First Amendment rights of corporations, joining with Kenneth Starr, for example, to shoot down the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill; arguing before the Supreme Court in support of Citizens United; and as counsel for Standard & Poor, defending that company’s deliberately inflated bond ratings as protected free speech. In a New York Times profile, Abrams was quite candid about this work:
People sometimes have views of what side of issues I should be on that have little to do with reality. I don’t spend my life simply working for the A.C.L.U.
We don’t know what role Melber played in Standard & Poor’s bid to secure a First Amendment right to commit fraud, but an internet search reveals that he has helped Abrams with another disreputable client, the Motion Picture Association of America, preparing briefs in support of copyright infringement legislation that has been universally condemned by human rights and free speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.
Below are three letters Abrams and Melber prepared for members of Congress in support of the legislative bêtes noires of internet freedom advocates: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) and The Protect IP Act, the successor to COICA.
- Letter to House Judiciary Committee RE: SOPA
- Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee RE: COICA
- Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee RE: The Protect IP Act
Abrams and Melber also represent Time Warner and The National Cable & Telecommunications Association. In July of last year, they petitioned the FCC to let expire, on First Amendment grounds, the access rules requiring large, program-producing cable companies to lease those programs to smaller companies. Later in the year the FCC did, in fact, let the rules expire in what was considered a big win for the cable giants and no one else.
So, is there anything wrong with a rising liberal personality moonlighting as an errand boy for corporate dirtbags, especially when one of the dirtbags is the MPAA and the rising personality bills himself as a ‘net movement correspondent’? Well, Melber seems to think so.
On the laughably high-minded and tellingly brief “Disclosures” page of his website, he states:
I think that disclosures can advance transparency and enable readers to factor in additional information when assessing a writer’s work
- but then further on he coyly says
I am a practicing attorney, and do not publicly comment on or write about my clients.
In fact, you can search his entire web site and not even find the name of the firm he works for. Nor will you find it in his Nation bio. When Melber plays the generic, mediagenic partisan Democrat on MSNBC, CNBC or CNN, it is invariably as ‘correspondent for The Nation’, not attorney for CG&R.
But, you may ask, does Melber actually lie about anything? Does he promote the interests of his clients through his ‘journalism’ ? Well, yes and no. You can look through Melber’s unbearably banal work for The Nation — which consists mostly of conformist, partisan fluff — and you won’t find one mention of SOPA, COICA, Protect IP, or the Motion Picture Association of America. In other words, Melber’s clients are the beneficiaries of a helpful silence. Remember the huge web blackout to protest SOPA? The Nation’s ‘net movement correspondent’ didn’t write about it. Remember when former Senator and MPAA CEO Chris Dodd blasted congress people for taking MPAA money and not delivering votes? Melber didn’t write about that either.
Then there’s that partisan fluff, which is a client service in its own right. Abrams/Melber client Time Warner was among the largest donors to Obama’s 2012 campaign. So was Comcast, which in addition to being a member company of the group for which Abrams and Melber petitioned the FCC, also co-owns MSNBC and CNBC, where Melber is a paid contributor. Obama’s big contributors surely appreciate such radical left journalism as Obama Campaign Launches Sexy Lena Dunham Ad and Report: In the Debates, Romney Broke the Rules More Than Obama. Underwhelmed readers should at least be pleased that, according to his online Disclosures, Melber does ‘not make financial donations to political candidates’ nor ‘work or consult for political candidates.’
Ok so this guy’s a bad joke. But they’re all jokes, right? The whole Nation magazine/GE Comcast/MSNBC hack daisy chain? Well, mostly yeah – with maybe a handful of exceptions at The Nation lending legitimacy to the rest. But with Melber, who is a shill in the most literal, classic sense, the joke is particularly broad and particularly bad. If some people still don’t get it, it’s because they don’t want to.
Since this was first published almost a year ago, Melber has updated his Disclosures page with this:
From 2009 to 2013, I was a practicing attorney. I am not currently practicing law on behalf of any clients, and I generally refrain from publicly commenting on, or writing about, my former clients in my role as an anchor and writer.