When I was working at CEI, I was offered cash payments to write op-eds on particular topics by PR firms, lobbyists or corporations several times. The offered $1,000 or more for an op-ed saying things I agree with anyway was a big deal given the salary structure at a small free-market non-profit. I turned down such proposals every time nonetheless. Send me good information, I would tell them, and if the information checks out, and the story is that good (as it often was), I’ll write about it on my own.
Part of what amazed me is the resistance that I would get from PR firms to this attitude. Even though the value of an op-ed by think-tank type is greater when the think tank is truly independent, they wanted to dictate what an op-ed might say. I also found they would often rather cut me a check (that they could turn around and bill to their client, with an overage) than provide me useful information. This approach serves the interest of PR firms and clients, but it doesn’t really serve the interests of the clients — but it persists nonetheless.