I gather that this story (via Ace) has been getting a lot of attention over the last few days. People seem to be disgusted (and rightfully so) that a guy who is supposed to be a Christian leader has (allegedly) offered his endorsement for cash. First of all let me note that I have no opinion one way or another on the merits of this particular charge, and if they are true, then Vander Plaats deserves a great deal of scorn for the offer (and Santorum deserves scorn if he paid up). What really concerns me in this case is the media's treatment of it.
You see, it is an open secret that in certain parts of the South, this sort of thing goes on all the time. The usual way that the arrangement works is that a campaign will hire loads of preachers all over a district/state as "paid consultants" to the campaign. Of course, if anyone asks the campaign, they will say that the preachers are providing advice for voter outreach/turnout among people of their faith or something relatively innocuous. Of course, the real truth is that the preachers are being paid to tout candidates from their pulpits, which they do openly and often.
Why, you might ask, has this arrangement not been blown to smithereens by the media until now? Why, if this occurs, is the Vander Plaats/Santorum kerfuffle a media sensation? Well, because the candidates in question are Democrats and the churches are primarily black churches. Thus, the Southern media considers it to be ipso facto racist to even report that such a thing is occurring, or that it might be improper in any way. Some guy named Vander Plaats in Iowa, endorsing a Republican, on the other hand? Well, that's another story entirely.
Look, I cannot possibly think of anything scummier than an alleged man of the cloth demanding pay for a political endorsement. If Vander Plaats really did demand cash for an endorsement then I hope he is discredited with his flock and never trusted by anyone again. But it would be great if the media would utilize some of their newfound zeal for this kind of corruptness to uncover where it is lurking in plain sight on the other side of the aisle.