Democrats' Bad Romance With Hollywood  

A blog about business and economics.
April 15 2013 11:31 AM

The Worst Buckraking Is the Kind You Don't Realize You're Doing

The big through-line in Noam Scheiber's piece on former Obama administration officials cashing in is that there are certain sensitivities and levels of mixed feelings. And after all it makes sense. If you're trying to parlay your connections and inside knowledge into financial gain, you can't go do things that anger all your former colleagues. But he does note one exception that I think is important and actually more pernicious than the other examples he explores in more detail:

There’s also the entertainment industry, which is “a for-profit corporate space that’s a safe area for Democrats,” says a former White House staffer. “You can go work for Harvey Weinstein and make all this money.” Obama aide Michael Strautmanis recently left to help oversee “corporate citizenship” at Disney, and Jim Gilio, a White House spokesman, now represents talent at a Los Angeles entertainment law firm.

It seems to me that where corruption problems really get bad is when you don't even see the corruption. Normally a buckraker needs to walk the line between the use of his access and connections and his need to avoid spending too much of that capital down by aggressively pushing indefensible positions. But in high-level Democratic Party circles, the entertainment industry is somehow seen as different from other corporate sectors—intrinsically viewed with less suspicion. And that's when your corporate lobbying gets extremely effective and when the policy consequences can get really pernicious. Scheiber leads with a good story about how Michelle Obama's former communications director helped Siemens get a plug in the State of the Union. It's a great example of influence-peddling, but also a great example of its normal limits. The fact of the matter is that the program Obama highlighted really was a great fit for the themes of the 2012 State of the Union. But Hollywood has really managed to turn off the critical thinking functions of many Democrats, leading to a situation where the backlash against SOPA/PIPA had to be lead by Republicans.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Books
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.