Fargo Forum Doesn't Disclose Conflict Of Interest In Editorial Praising New Lobbying Venture

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Politicos in western North Dakota are buzzing about the creation of the Valley Prosperity Partnership, seeing it as an organized effort to compete with western interests for state tax dollars.

Indeed, the Fargo Forum praises the VPP today in an editorial today noting that the group will be hiring a lobbyist soon.

“VPP has identified six broad areas of focus, but the first two are pivotal to almost everything else. They are attracting and retaining workers; and water supply and flood control,” the Forum editorial board writes. “Those factors in the valley’s economic development equation affect all other aspects of the regional economy. Without good workers, business and industry cannot grow. The threat of water shortage and/or catastrophic flood inhibits investment.”

To be sure, there’s nothing at all wrong about the creation of the VPP. It is our right as Americans to organize and petition the government. There will be disagreement over the VPP’s agenda, much of it geographic it seems based on early reaction, but that doesn’t make the group illegitimate.

What is problematic is the fact that this group was founded by William Marcil Senior, who is chairman of Forum Communications Company. The company which owns television stations, radio stations, and most of the state’s largest newspapers.

And when the Forum sang the praises of the VPP in today’s editorial, they didn’t disclose this obvious conflict of interest.

That’s kind of important, don’t you think? Certainly the Forum is fond of rooting out such conflicts in their coverage of political affairs, which is as it should be. But they need to apply that standard to themselves as well.

There is some uneasiness about a lobbying group being founded by the chairman of a company which also owns most of the state’s major media outlets. You would think it would behoove the folks at Forum Communications to disclose their connection to the group.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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