In the world of D.C. think tanks, getting your name in the papers is a big part of demonstrating your effectiveness. And when a paper runs a puff piece actually headlined "When It Comes to Testimony, He's a Go-To Guy," that's way better than a full-page ad.
That's the favor that USA Today's Gregory Korte (12/5/13) extended to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who ran the Congressional Budget Office in the George W. Bush era, was a McCain campaign economic adviser and now runs a right-wing think tank called the American Action Forum. The paper explains that he can deliver "soundbite-friendly policy analysis in five minutes or less"–which, it should be noted, is actually a long time to deliver a soundbite.
USA Today says he "has carefully cultivated a reputation as a good witness" and once "earned a reputation as a straight-shooter from Sen. John McCain, who put him on his 2008 presidential campaign." As if that all weren't good enough, a Republican lawmaker weighs in to say, "He's actually a green eyeshades guy who speaks like the average Joe."
Of course, there are less flattering things one could say about a guy who has helped giant corporations mount a campaign to cut their taxes, ran a misleading campaign claiming the Obama White House is waging a "war on coal" and claimed in 2011 (ABC This Week, 9/4/11) that Obama administration stimulus policies meant that "we are headed straight toward a Greek-style fiscal crisis."
Perhaps those are the wonky soundbites someone like Holtz-Eakin can deliver. But when all criticism of his work is left out of a piece, what USA Today delivers isn't news–it's a press release.