Well, it’s been a busy few weeks for the MSNBC Human Resources Department. Poor old Ed Schultz has been demoted, probably because he looks, sounds and acts way too much like the people who still rule the world. The rubes who watch MSNBC have made it clear that they’re not entirely unhappy with the status quo, but they want it tastefully appointed with youngsters, women, light-skinned African-Americans, and queers.
So the fat, old, white dude has surrendered his regular evening spot to the slim, young, white dude — Chris Hayes — in exchange for an unenviable 5:00-7:00 slot on Saturdays and Sundays. Hayes’ old weekend show, Up, goes to Steve Kornacki, an openly gay senior writer at Salon, previously a co-host of The Cycle, and easily Hayes’ peer in yappy bloodlessness. Mediagenic ‘analyst’, SOPA lobbyist, and cable industry errand boy, Ari Melber will take Kornacki’s vacant seat. Finally, analyst Karen Finney, a career Democrat and communications consultant, will helm a new weekend show created just for her.
It’s interesting that so soon after all the fuss about MSNBC’s relentless pre-election shilling, Finney’s lengthy career with the Democratic Party barely raises an eyebrow. Her service to the Party began in the Clinton White House, continued in communication work for various political campaigns and culminated in a four-year stint as a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. For MSNBC viewers — who dine on heady fare like whether Dear Leader’s visage should be carved into Mt. Rushmore and who troll the hapless Kornacki for saying ‘Obama’ instead of ‘President Obama’ — Finney’s long partisan resume is a feature, not a bug.
As I’ve said before, I don’t honestly care about the network’s more overtly partisan hacks, because the whole undertaking is so obviously a fraud. Marking some distinction between Finney and Melber, for instance, because Finney made her bones under official party auspices, while Melber merely lobbies against internet freedom, is part of the scam. Indeed, you could regard the increasingly blatant partisanship of MSNBC as something of a cover for the corporate and financial interests that dominate both parties and the media. So it’s fitting that emerging star Finney has her hands in all of it, having parlayed her campaign skills into campaigning for corporate and financial interests.
As an African-American woman and a board member of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Finney embodies the mythically crucial difference between good oligarchy and bad. As a corporate consultant, she embodies the more obviously crucial similarity. In her online bios, she touts her work for the textbook company Scholastic as somehow indicative of a commitment to education, but not her work for clients like the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), Wall Street’s largest trade and lobbying group.
SIFMA made headlines a few years ago when a leaked internal memo revealed its aggressive campaign to counter the ‘lynch mob’ arising from a ‘populist overreaction’ to the financial crisis. As Bloomberg reported at the time:
The meeting minutes and staff-written papers…outline the program crafted by polling, lobbying, and public relations companies paid at least $85,000 a month.
According to Bloomberg, leading recipients of the largesse included consultants from both sides of the political ‘divide’, including Michele Davis, a former employee of Henry Paulson and later a communications specialist for the Romney campaign; Conrad Belcher, a strategist and pollster for Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Republican strategist Conrad Black.
Karen Finney joined this collegially bipartisan collection of highly paid image renovators at least twice, once in 2010 and again last year, as a panelist at SIFMA’s annual meetings. Considering that her co-panelists included Black in 2010 and Belcher in 2012, there is no reason to assume that Finney’s participation ends with her speaking duties any more than it did for her co-panelists, though it would certainly be damning enough if it did.
An MSNBC ‘analyst’ such as Finney is essentially a part-time journalist, so standards about disclosure and speaking fees apply to her too. The Wall Street Journal forbids its journalists from accepting fees at all. The New York Times only allows it for talks at universities and for certain non-profits. Reuters only allows compensation for travel and accommodation. By any standard, compensated work for a large Wall Street lobbying group seems far beyond the pale. The reasons for this are obvious. Speaking fees are, at the very least, bribes. That Finney got invited to SIFMA’s biggest annual event twice in three years demonstrates that she didn’t do anything to piss Wall Street off in her role as an MSNBC analyst; or columnist for Politico, the Hill or Huffington Post; or as a political consultant. As a professional message manager with deep connections in government, she may have done a whole lot to help.
Naturally I don’t expect anyone with any influence to take up the matter of an extremely well-connected journalist selling advice and possibly influence to lynch-mob afflicted banksters. Almost all public lefts are still incorrigibly wedded to their tactical alliance with the DNC, and to careers reliant on swapping credibility with shinier, more corrupt enterprises. When I revealed Ari Melber’s connections to cable monopolists and SOPA, the only writers who took an on-the-record interest were two junior members of the Jacobin clique — Elias Isquith and Shawn Gude — who were concerned about my ‘bullying’ lack of ‘civility’ with regard to poor Melber, and who ridiculed me for calling the relationship between The Nation and MSNBC a ‘hack daisy chain.’ You would think someone like Vince Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights — an organization that allegedly opposes SOPA — would be inclined to raise questions about Melber’s day job. But instead, he did this:
Other writers, including some fairly big names, expressed concerns about Melber off the record, but were unwilling to say or write anything about it. Melber and his Nation boss Katrina vanden Heuvel ignored repeated requests for comment. At the time I was disappointed. Now I think it’s for the best. It shows, beyond all doubt, how deep the rot goes. Occasional moments of courage and integrity only confuse things.
UPDATE: Vince Warren has replied on Twitter to repeated requests for comments on Ari Melber’s SOPA lobbying:
Gotta wonder why someone would reply simply to evade the big question, and with no more than a mischaracterization of something else. I never said these people were ‘wedded to the DNC’; I said they were wedded to their tactical alliance with it. The clear implication to anyone reading (as opposed to name searching), was that this tactical alliance puts them on easy terms with MSNBC generally and sleazeballs like Ari Melber in particular.
Must be nice to have a career where missing the point of everything is a plus. I do, however, appreciate the implied concession to my point about careerism, though.
Read over this post from the MSNBC website, in which Warren and other civil libertarians helpfully offload Obama’s atrocious civil liberties record onto Congressional Republicans and his dedication to other pressing matters. I’d say Warren is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
UPDATE 2: My pal Walter Glass has made an excellent comment regarding Finney’s work for Scholastic. Some opportunistic sleaze here, also, it seems. She’s a real winner.