It’s just lazy to attribute policy differences to donor cash. It’s lazy and it’s usually wrong. I’m no babe in the conservative woods. I know there are grifters and cowards out there (they exist in every movement), but the idea that one can engage in dialogue with any serious strand of the movement by attributing long-lasting, well-argued positions to “follow the money” is just odd.

Grift and cowardice should be identified on a case-by-case basis, and the markers are often quite clear. Sudden changes of position from losing to winning political movements or politicians can be a red flag. Dramatic departures from past statements raise eyebrows. But even grifters and cowards make arguments, so it’s almost always better to address the argument than to try to peer into the writer’s soul.

The “Conservatism Inc.” phrase is particularly pernicious. It’s of a piece with the old claim that critics of GOP presidents or any given right-wing political movement are motivated by a desperate desire for New York Times column inches or to be welcomed into some kind of particularly alluring Washington, D.C., cocktail party circuit.

It’s a sneering dismissal that implies both that your opponent is a paid drone and that the writer is a bold dissident. It’s insulting and self-aggrandizing all at once.