Summers and Conflict of Interest, Ctd

I'm not especially eager to dive back into the briar patch over Larry Summers' income. But Greg Sargent's piece about big liberal blogs being furious over not getting advertising revenue from liberal interest groups casts the notion of a conflict of interest in an odd light. Several bloggers complained to Sargent that they are often asked to push a group's message but get no advertising revenue in return. In response to the criticism, one of those groups, Americans United for Change, says it will start advertising on the blogs.

But these blogs -- FireDogLake, Daily Kos and others -- almost universally criticized Summers for having a conflict with interest with the hedge fund industry. The argument was that you can't expect Summers to do a good job regulating the industry when he's accepted money from it in the past. (I'm not convinced by that argument, although I think it's a perfectly reasonable position to take.)

But I wonder why the argument about a conflict of interest wouldn't also apply to the blogs. Would they be expected to do a fair job covering the movement from which they receive financial support? I mean that question seriously and not as an attempt to make some gotcha point about the hypocrisy of liberal blogs.

Are there distinctions to be made between the two cases? There are probably good arguments about the societal role of liberal blogs versus the role of Summers, and I am interested to hear them. And I'm sure the positions these blogs take preceded their income from movement groups. On the other hand, I think Larry Summers positions on regulation preceded his earning an income from D.E. Shaw. But that's back into the briar patch...

(H/T to Eugene Volokh, who has a similar question: "I wonder whether it's quite right for authors who publish their own opinion and news commentary to demand a "two way street" in which the authors get advertising money from the people they praise.")