Back in June, we told you about an investigation by popular conservative blogger Javier Manjarres into the arrest records of Republican congressional candidate Ozzie deFaria -- there were numerous complaints that included a fight at a children's soccer game and an alleged bruise on deFaria's ex-wife's arm, among other things.
DeFaria responded by saying Manjarres (and his blog, Shark-Tank.net) was in the tank for one of deFaria's primary opponents, Karen Harrington. He called Manjarres a "paid blogger," saying Harrington "pays him through a surrogate this election cycle." His campaign sent multiple venomous letters.
DeFaria offered no proof Harrington was paying Manjarres for anything. Now, however, there is proof: Manjarres is taking her advertising money.
This isn't bribery or under-the-table dealing -- it's just that Harrington is now an advertiser on the Shark Tank, in a deal that started last month (and has thusly not been disclosed in federal documents yet). But it highlights once again the precarious situation Manjarres is in: He's in charge of the blog's content and its advertising. How can readers be sure they're getting a fair deal? How can readers be sure Manjarres isn't pulling punches to keep his ad money coming in?
"You're always gonna get that," Manjarres said. "The same thing happened with Marco Rubio; the same thing happened with Rick Scott... You go to the site and boom, you see a big ad, right off the bat you're going to think, 'Oh, they're in favor of this person,' and it's not the case."
When it comes to Harrington, however, that is the case: Manjarres said in June that he supporting the Harrington campaign personally and called deFaria a "joke." He also, though, denied getting money from Harrington this election cycle. This, it should be noted, happened well before the Harrington ad campaign started.
Harrington Campaign Manager Anthony Bustamante said the campaign later approached Manjarres to advertise.
"He's read throughout the state, and it helps with our momentum," Bustamante said. "He's a very popular conservative site, and we just thought it would be good for the campaign."
When asked if the campaign would pull advertising if Manjarres started writing negatively about Harrington, Bustamante said that "it's hard to say on a hypothetical... He's been fair."
It's a question that was raised after the 2010 election by former New Times columnist Bob Norman
Republican candidates about whom Manjarres has written -- including Rubio, Gov.-Elect Rick Scott, Attorney General-Elect Pam Bondi, Sen.-Elect Ellyn Bogdanoff, and many others -- had paid more than $37,000 in campaign funds to Manjarres' blog company, Shark Tank Media LLC.
Manjarres says all the money was paid for advertising on the site, and he says it had minimal effect on his reporting. "The only favoritism I may have showed was that I didn't bash anybody [that advertised with Shark Tank] over the head," he told me this week.
While declining to "bash anybody over the head" who is giving him money could certainly rub people the wrong way, Manjarres also said in the 2010 interview that "I said [to candidates], 'Look whoever wants to advertise, it doesn't matter, because I am going to be objective.' Not that I portray myself as totally objective, because I'm very biased to the Republican side. I'm not saying I'm fair and objective, because I'm not. But if I make a claim about anyone, I'm going to back it with a public record that can be verified."
So when Harrington takes a snide picture of herself eating at a Chick-fil-A and it turns into "Harrington Smacks Down Wasserman Schultz on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," yeah, maybe the ads had something to do with it. Or maybe she's just the only one sending around pictures.
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