Jane Hamsher, Queen Bee of a curious, dying online breed known as the Dilettante White Left (AKA 'the .35 of one percenters') has filed for Chapter 7 dissolution of CommonSense Media, an internet advertising network founded in 2007.
From the vantage point of your intrepid reporter, this latest sign of financial woe within the Hamsher Cult is both entirely predictable and richly [intentional pun alert] deserved.
Creditors include, among others the Daily Kos, National Review Online, the Drudge Report, plus Firedoglake and Hamsher herself.
Hamsher's audience dwindled during previous years as her reader's blog, MyFDL, came to be increasingly dominated during the first Obama term by the inchoate and often incoherent rants of elderly white people railing against America's first African-American President, scapegoating him personally for virtually every single social, economic and foreign policy problem, both real and imagined, most of which have dogged the United States at least since the 1980s.
Over time, MyFDL became known mostly as a sort of a 'crazy aunt in the progressive blogosphere's attic' laughingstock. Hamsher herself steadily lost personal mojo among the blogging elite as her readership polarised itself into little more than yet another cranky third-Green Party adjunct group during the 2012 election.
Meanwhile, as everyone now knows, the political zeitgeist had changed in ways that were not discerned by self-absorbed ranters of either the Tea Party or Fake leftist nut fringes. President Obama quietly won a relatively easy and resounding victory in his 2012 re-election bid.
The finances of donor and ad supported blogs such as Firedoglake and Daily Kos tend to be shrouded in secrecy as privately-held businesses are not required to publicly disclose earnings.
Hamsher, reached by phone, referred The Huffington Post to her attorney, Warren Gorman, who declined to comment.
In the absence of transparency which is the ironic byword of many so-called progressive blogs, a reading of the tea leaves indicates that Hamsher's FDL donation stream may very well have spiralled downward along with her readership since the 2008 election.
For one thing, as the 2012 election season deepened into summer and blog participation increased cyclically across most political web sites, it was not uncommon for solicitors masquerading as anonymous commenters to directly or indirectly solicit donations from other commenters in My FDL threads, sometimes using cult-style shaming tactics in the process. Whether these were officially promoted by Hamsher or simply volunteer FDL acolytes is not known.
Another 'tell', FDL's two most renowned staff bloggers, Marcy Wheeler and David Dayen, have both left the blog in recent years. While their terminations were described as mutual decisions, left unanswered are questions of whether these were simply layoffs in a bad economy or the result of ideological differences or some other reason.
Hamsher's exceptionally good at getting people to put their money where her mouth is. But because Firedoglake is a blog that's dependent on financial support from PACs, it makes me wonder how much of her outrage is real and how much is driven by the constant need to fire up donors.
I posed that question to David Ferguson, who used to be in charge of Firedoglake's "Late Night FDL" feature under his pseudonym TRex. He replied, "I would hope that Jane wouldn't be so cynical as to exploit her readers in any way. I do know that working for her, there was a constant sense of crisis. Everything was always a blazing, four-alarm emergency, and I think some of that is what comes through on her blog. I don't know whether that's something she's working for effect or if that's just the way she is. Some of her alliances over the last year have genuinely surprised me, though, particularly with regard to the flap over the health care bill."
Hamsher was widely criticised for her handling of two PACs that collected nearly a half million dollars of donations for numerous "progressive causes" as regularly advertised on FDL.
The FEC reports show that Hamsher's PACs are a significant source of income for Firedoglake, but my experience trying to question her about them suggests that she's not big on transparency.
FDL Action PAC supports liberal causes and candidates, often with targeted campaigns such as "Tell Blanche Lincoln and Mike Ross to Act Like Democrats." Accountability Now's stated goal is to recruit primary challengers against members of Congress who "sell out the interests of their constituents in favor of corporations," according to its site.
Accountability Now collected $113,695 in donations during 2009, as it reported to the FEC, and spent $169,992 that year on nine consultants. Six of those people managed the committee: The PAC paid Hamsher $24,000, another $24,000 to PAC cofounder Glenn Greenwald of Salon.Com, $65,710 to two executive directors and $38,047 to two management consultants.