George Smith’s Non-Disclosure
by Al Diamon
Bag of wind: Outdoor writer George Smith doesn’t like to disclose his conflicts of interest.
So, he just doesn’t do it.
I’ve had some e-mail correspondence with Smith about this issue over the years, since I’ve pointed out his ethical shortcomings again and again and again. It’s plain from his responses that he doesn’t consider his business relationships with companies he writes about — several of them sponsor his website, in effect paying him to say nice things about them — to rise to the level of requiring disclosure. As for his sister’s involvement with various politicians and campaigns, that’s equally off the record. His editors at the Morning Sentinel, where he writes a weekly column, and the Bangor Daily News, where he has a blog, seem just as unconcerned.
The latest example of Smith ignoring the rules came on Feb. 28, when he posted a Bangor Daily piece on what a wonderful sightseeing attraction the wind turbines put up by First Wind have become for snowmobilers. First Wind is a sponsor of his site, but, as usual, he neglected to inform his readers of that fact.
Anti-wind activists were quick to jump on the omission, but even those who favor the projects should be appalled at Smith’s continuing refusal to air out his ties to the company.
Right stuff on right to know: Taken together, Steve Mistler’s story in the March 3 Maine Sunday Telegram, on attempts to limit the state’s open records law, and Kathryn Skelton’s article in the same day’s Lewiston Sun Journal, on the rapid increase in freedom-of-information filings, provided a comprehensive and disturbing overview of the value and drawbacks of transparency in government.
E-ventually: The Bangor Daily News has finally remedied one of the major shortcomings of its website by making available an “E-Edition” of the paper.
It offers the print version of the paper in an easily readable format “free for a limited time.”
Once that limited time is up, it’s not clear who’ll want to pay for the virtual BDN, since the same material (often updated) is available without charge on the regular website and through free apps. But until the charges set in, it’s nice to have this option, so that on mornings when the physical paper is late, I can read the comics.
Disclosure: The Bangor Daily News and The Bollard have a business relationship.
Duke-ing it out no more: Dr. Robert David Johnson of Scarborough is off the hook for a book he wrote about the 2006 Duke University rape case involving the school’s lacrosse team. According to a March 4 story by Bangor Daily News reporter Seth Koenig, Duke has dropped a lawsuit seeking the records on which Johnson based his book.
The whole matter wasn’t exactly a glorious victory for the First Amendment.
Johnson lost his claim to keep the material confidential in a lower court and had filed an appeal. After protracted legal bickering about the matter, Duke’s lawyers concluded Johnson had no documents of use to the school in defending itself from lawsuits by the players wrongly accused of sexual assault.
Bipartisanship? On March 4, Maine Public Radio’s Jay Field began his piece on proposed legislation to bar candidates who accept public campaign funding from also operating political action committees with this shocking bit of news:
“Shortly before last fall’s election, a PAC listing former Republican state Sen. Nichi Farnham as its principal officer made a contribution to her Democratic opponent.”
Which raises the rather obvious question: Why on earth would she do that?
The story doesn’t say. Possibly because that never happened.
The PAC associated with Farnham actually spent over $70,000 as an independent expenditure in an unsuccessful effort to defeat her Democratic opponent, Geoffrey Gratwick.
That Field didn’t understand that makes me wonder what else about this bill he doesn’t grasp.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.