At the same time, lurking at the bottom of the LAT piece is a passage that reinforces a point Walter Shapiro recently made here at CJR: the “campaign-industrial complex” often serves the interests of consultants at least as much as donors. Consider:

The center appears closely linked with DCI Group, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in under-the-radar corporate campaigns.

At least five groups that received large grants from the center paid more than $9 million in services to DCI Group or Direct Response, a mail and phone-bank company…

For example, the center gave more than $2 million to the similarly named Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights, a Virginia-based nonprofit formed in spring 2009, five weeks after the center. The two organizations share the same Phoenix accountant and records custodian—both former DCI employees, according to their online resumes.

The coalition staged rallies in 2009 to lobby against the so-called public option, a government medical insurance proposal eventually dropped by the Obama administration. The center provided 80% of the coalition’s budget; nearly all went to DCI and Direct Response for consulting and voter contact.

No one will be shedding any tears for the anonymous billionaires whose donations helped pay for some consultant’s vacation home. And it’s possible that the good folks at DCI really were best-equipped to advance the agenda of the center’s donors. But this is a nice catch by Gold and Tanfani, and a reminder that there are plenty of mercenary motives—which may not be consistent with political effectiveness—in these circles.

It adds up to some nice work by the LAT. And one final note: the article prominently mentions, and links to, items by the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics and the investigative blog Republic Report where important parts of the story were first reported. While newspaper blogs have long been pretty good about incorporating outbound links, many papers have been frustratingly slow to embed links in the online versions of print articles. It’s good to see that changing.

Greg Marx is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.