BLOGGERS WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST….As I read through this CBS column on political bloggers that Kevin linked to on Wednesday, I was struck not by the business about Atrios, but by the news that two purportedly independent South Dakota bloggers were on the payroll of John Thune’s campaign for much of the past year. It raised some questions in my mind about the ethics of blogging without disclosing a paid connection to a candidate. And it also solved a little mystery for me.

I’d always wondered why some little twerp out in South Dakota insisted on pursuing some crazy “Daschle intimidation” conspiracy theory on his blog–twisting my words to do so–despite repeated emails informing him that his theory was totally without merit and requesting that he correct the record. USD law student Jason Van Beek authored, until recently, the South Dakota Politics blog. He also received $8,000 from John Thune’s campaign in the third quarter of this year and coordinated his blog efforts with SDSU professor Jon Lauck, author of Daschle v. Thune (a blog that carried the innocuous tagline “Analyzing the biggest Senate race in the USA”) and recipient of an impressive $27,000 from the Thune campaign.

Last year, I was the subject of a creative, but utterly false, conspiracy theory Van Beek wove–he wrote that I was “silenced” by the Daschle campaign, implying that I had damaging goods on the senator and was muzzled because of it, and then concluded that the disappearance of my blog archives after I switched hosting companies was the result of an intimidation plot to erase my earlier writings. (In fact, I had defended Daschle several times until one of his staffers told me to chill out before some overzealous blogger imagined that I was writing at the behest of the Daschle office instead of the other way around. Ironic.)

When I emailed Van Beek with the real story and asked him to issue a correction, he ignored me, posted my email on his blog, and huffed that it was my responsibility to correct the record. He then decided that the fact that he could no longer find my archived posts about Daschle was proof-positive that the Man had shut me down, ignoring my explanation that a doctoral program, full-time job, full-time blogging, and my dad’s recent heart attack left fixing my archives at the bottom of a very long to-do list. All of which makes sense now that I know he was a paid political operative and not just a very rude independent blogger who refused to acknowledge facts that didn’t fit his political predilections.

Although it was obvious from their writing that both of these men are conservatives who support John Thune, neither ever disclosed their financial connections to the Thune campaign on their blogs. While not illegal, this is, to say the least, very shady. The practice deserves some debate before the next go-’round in the campaign cycle.

UPDATE: I’ve corrected the post to reflect that Van Beek wrote the South Dakota Politics blog and Lauck the Daschle v. Thune blog–I’d switched them around. My bad.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.