When I first started reading the Journolist revelations, my thought was “these guys are jackasses and propagandists of the worst sort, but I don’t see a direct influence on policy here.”
Now that’s entered the realm of possibility:
Jared Bernstein, chief economist for Vice President Joseph Biden, served in 2008 as an economic adviser to the Obama campaign. At the same time, he was a member of JournoList, the controversial progressive email list.
Bernstein’s bio at Politico, which appears not to have been updated since 2008, states: “He is an economic adviser to the Obama campaign.”
He was known to many for his regular appearances on the financial channel CNBC. His primary employer in 2008 was the Economic Policy Institute, a pro-labor progressive think tank, but according to his bio when appointed to the Obama-Biden Administration, he also was a member of the Panel of Economic Advisers of the Congressional Budget Office.
Reached today at the Office of the Vice President, Bernstein revealed that his position with the Obama campaign was as something called a “surrogate.” “I was not paid by the campaign,” he explained. “They would call me from time to time to represent their positions, that side of the debate.”
Asked when he left JournoList, Bernstein replied, ‘‘I think I left the list around the time I came here.” Bernstein was announced as Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to the Vice President-elect on December 8, 2008.
One question that has arisen in the last week is how closely JournoList members, not only discussed how to shape the news to advance the fortunes of Barack Obama, but coordinated with the Obama campaign. Jared Bernstein’s position as an unpaid adviser and surrogate shows that there was at least one direct link between JournoList and the Obama campaign.
Like roaches in a kitchen, there’s never just one. How many other connections were there between the Obama campaign (and now the Obama White House) and this list of progressive journalists? Was there any coordination? If so, on what and how much? Given the early attempts by the White House to coordinate propaganda “outreach efforts” with artists through the NEA, I think it’s fair to ask these questions about the members of Journolist, too. Note that while Bernstein says he left Journolist when he joined the White House, he was a member of it while an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office, and thus in a position to influence policy.
The more that comes out, the more the credibility of any journalist on that list falls to shreds.
UPDATE: At Legal Insurrection, Professor Jacobson reminds us of an incident at the White House involving Jared Bernstein that takes on possibly new significance in light of recent news. A summary quote:
So… An Obama campaign operative interacted on the Journolist with sympathetic media types in the run-up to the election, and then rewarded favored Journolistas with a visit to the White House.
Nothing to see here, move along.