Apparently the deconstructions I have been doing of Think Progress’s attacks on Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Industries, have hit home. That web site has now responded with a silly attack on me, titled “Blogger From Koch’s Law Firm Defends Koch, Doesn’t Disclose Ties.” Lee Fang writes:
Fighting back against public scrutiny, Koch Industries is relying on a small army of conservative bloggers, reporters, and lobbyists. Chief among them is John Hinderaker, a blogger at the “Powerline Blog.” However, in his now daily defense of the Koch brothers, Hinderaker has failed to disclose that his law firm counts Koch Industries as a major client.
I don’t know about “major,” but Koch Industries is a client of my firm. This is no secret; the firm’s web site lists Koch as a client and identifies four lawsuits in which we have represented Koch entities. (I had no involvement in any of those cases.) When I mention companies, I never say whether they are clients of my law firm. There are two reasons for this. First, try to I keep my political/media activities separate from the firm’s law practice, to the point of not even using a firm-owned computer to write posts.
Second, my law firm has thousands of clients. I’ve never tried to count, but I believe we have represented more than half of the companies in the Fortune 500. With respect to the vast majority of companies, I have no idea whether they are a client or not. If I were to undertake a practice of “disclosing” every time I mention a company that is a client of my firm, I would have to ask my secretary to run a computer search virtually every time I mention a corporation (or, for that matter, a person, since we also have individual clients) in a post. This would be a distraction for her and for me, and would convey no useful information to readers.
When I have a relationship to a company or person that is relevant to the subject matter of a post, I do disclose it. Thus, I did say that I had participated in one of the Koch-sponsored seminars in Aspen.
Earlier today someone from Think Progress named Scott Keyes called me on the telephone. He was less than fully coherent, but I understood that he wanted to ask me a question about whether legal ethics require me to disclose that Koch Industries is a client. The answer to that question is No. Lawyers are freely permitted to say nice things about their firms’ clients whether they identify them as clients or not (nasty things too, as long as they don’t disclose confidential information). Under some circumstances, however, it can be improper for lawyers to disclose to the public that a certain person or company is a client.
This next charge is classic Think Ignorance:
In addition, Hinderaker has defended the Bradley Foundation after we profiled the group and its support for Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). Hinderaker never disclosed that he is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, a front that has received over $3 million from the Bradley Foundation.
Here is a puzzle: how do you suppose those sleuths at Think Progress uncovered the secret that I am a fellow of the Claremont Institute, which I “never disclosed”? Maybe they got it from the “About Us” page of this web site, where we describe ourselves. This is a screenshot from that page; click to enlarge:
Seems like a pretty clear disclosure to me: “Both Hinderaker and Johnson are fellows of the Claremont Institute.”
Actually, in my case the Claremont connection is a bit of a joke. When we were first doing television, producers always wanted to know an affiliation that they could crawl across the screen while we talked. We didn’t want to use my law firm or Scott’s company for that purpose, since we keep our political work separate from our day jobs. So Scott came up with the idea of describing us as “Adjunct Fellows of the Claremont Institute.” Actually, to my knowledge there is no such thing as an Adjunct Fellow of the Claremont Institute, but we have used that title quite a few times over the years when people can’t seem to believe that we aren’t associated with any organization, but are just a couple of guys doing what we do in our spare time. I have high regard for Claremont, but I have never been there, and that organization has never paid me a nickel.
Here is the conclusion of Fang’s attack on me:
Asked about his failure to disclose his firm’s financial relationship with Koch, Hinderaker told ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes today that he has no comment.
Sorry, kid, you better go listen to the tape. (Midway through the conversation I asked Keyes whether he was taping it. He said that he was. Keyes did not disclose that he was recording the conversation until I asked him point-blank.) What I actually said to Keyes was not “no comment.” I told him that I would be delighted to give him an interview, as long as I can also interview Lee Fang. Keyes seemed taken aback, and asked what I wanted to question Fang about. I told him that I wanted to ask Fang why he never mentions Wal-Mart, and whether it is because Wal-Mart donated $500,000 to the group that owns Think Progress. I said I had lots more questions, too. Curiously enough, Keyes wasn’t excited about the prospect of turning Lee Fang over to me for an interview. I told him that I would be happy to answer his questions, as soon as Think Progress makes Fang available to answer mine. The offer still stands.
What is most notable about Fang’s attack on me (and others, too, in the same post) is that not once does he address the substance of anything I have written about Think Progress’s attacks. If Fang thinks that something I wrote can be disproved, now would be the time to speak up.
SCOTT adds: When I came up with the idea of our using an identification separate from our professional lives, it was after then Claremont Institute President (current Hillsdale College President) Larry Arnn had named us adjunct fellows as a result of his regard for our work. We have since been promoted to fellows by current Claremont Institute President Brian Kennedy, with no corresponding increase in our compensation, which remains a nice round number: zero. Maybe we should take that up with Brian.