Don’t assume liberals put principles before profits

Published: April 1 2014 | 8:28 am - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:01 pm in

Leland Yee, a Democratic state senator and candidate for secretary of state in California, has been a longtime champion of gun control. Last week he was arrested on numerous charges, including conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and conspiracy to illegally transport firearms. Yee, a prominent foe of assault weapons, allegedly took bribes to set up a meeting between an undercover agent and an international arms dealer to broker the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder-fired missiles. A lengthy FBI affidavit also describes Yee’s ties to a Chinese triad and his desire to help out Islamist militants.

So far no reporter has raised the possibility that Yee supported tighter restrictions on guns in order to keep gun prices high and Yee’s services in demand. Economist Bruce Yandle popularized the idea of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition. The apocryphal Baptists want to ban alcohol. Bootleggers don’t make much money when liquor can be bought legally at a grocery store or bar. So the bootleggers bankroll the Baptists’ effort to ban booze.

What’s interesting — and vexing — to me is this sort of analysis is all the rage when it comes to conservatives and Republicans, and utterly incomprehensible to most journalists when it comes to liberals and Democrats.

Consider the Koch brothers, the billionaire businessmen and philanthropists. The Democratic Party raises vast sums off demonizing the Koch brothers.

Meanwhile, many media outlets are all too willing to take their cues from Democratic talking points. For instance, the Washington Post recently ran a shockingly shabby story insinuating that the Kochs have a lot to gain from the Keystone pipeline. The story was debunked by John Hinderaker of the website Powerline. (The Kochs have no stake in the pipeline, and even if they did, so what?) But the Post’s piece was typical of the media’s fascination with the idea that the Kochs’ political activities are simply cover for their desire to maximize profits.

Profit maximization hardly explains why they’ve given hundreds of millions of dollars to cancer research, hospitals and the arts. And profit lust probably has little to do with why Charles Koch co-founded a non-profit libertarian think tank either.

I have no problem with journalistic skepticism or the search for ulterior motives. I just object to the idea that only Republicans might have them.

Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon recently chronicled how George Soros and new liberal golden-boy fat cat Tom Steyer have financial interests at stake in their preferred public policies. And yet they get glowing treatment from the press.

The irony is that it’d be in the media’s business interest to report on the seedy underbelly of liberal politics, too. But they don’t, because they actually do put their liberal principles before profits.

 

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