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WaPo cancels lobbyist event
politico.com ^ | July 2, 2009 | Mike Allen and Michael Calderone

Posted on 07/03/2009 6:29:55 PM PDT by neverdem

WaPo cancels lobbyist event
By: Mike Allen and Michael Calderone
July 2, 2009 08:04 AM EST

Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said today she was canceling plans for an exclusive "salon" at her home where for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."

With the Post newsroom in an uproar after POLITICO reported the solicitation, Weymouth said in an email to the staff that "a flier went out that was prepared by the Marketing department and was never vetted by me or by the newsroom. Had it been, the flier would have been immediately killed, because it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do." 

Weymouth said the paper had planned a series of dinners with participation from the newsroom “but with parameters such that we did not in any way compromise our integrity. Sponsorship of events, like advertising in the newspaper, must be at arm's length and cannot imply control over the content or access to our journalists. At this juncture, we will not be holding the planned July dinner and we will not hold salon dinners involving the newsroom. “

She made it clear however, that The Post, which lost $19.5 million in the first quarter, sees bringing together Washington figures as a future revenue source. “We do believe that there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events that simply enhances what we do - cover Washington for Washingtonians and those interested in Washington,” she said. “ And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.” 

Executive editor Marcus Brauchli was as adamant as Weymouth in denouncing the plan promoted in the flier. “You cannot buy access to a Washington Post journalist,” Brauchli told POLITICO. Brauchli was named on the flier as one of the salon’s "Hosts and Discussion Leaders."

Brauchli said in an interview that he understood the business side of the Post planned on holding dinners on policy and was scheduled to attend the July 21 dinner at Weymouth’s Washington home, but he said he had not seen the material promoting it until today. “The flier, and the description of these things, was not at all consistent with the preliminary conversations the newsroom had,” Brauchli said, adding that it was “absolutely impossible” the newsroom would participate in the kind of event described in the solicitation for the event.

"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. ... Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders."

The flier promised the dinner would be held in an intimate setting with no unseemly conflict between participants. “Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No,” it said. “The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

Brauchli emphasized that the newsroom had given specific parameters to the paper’s business staff that he said were apparently not followed. He said that for newsroom staffers to participate, they would have to be able to ask questions and that he would “reserve the right to allow any information or ideas that emerge from an event to shape or inform our coverage.” That directly contradicts the solicitation to potential sponsors, which billed the dinner as “off-the-record.”

“Our mission in the news department is to serve an audience,” Brauchli said, “not serve our sponsors.”

“We do not use the Post’s name or our journalists to gain access to officials or sources for the benefit of non-news purposes,” he continued.

Brauchli said that Post employees on the business side — not the newsroom — would have been responsible for seeking participants for this event. Reporters, he said, would not solicit sources or administration officials. Brauchli said that he did not know who was invited or who accepted.

Ceci Connolly, a Post reporter who covers health care, told POLITICO that she had been told there would be a dinner and that she would be invited. However, Connolly said, she “knew nothing about sponsorships and had not seen any flier or invitation.”

Brauchli declined to comment on whether anyone on the business side would be held responsible for the abortive plan. He said that would be a decision for either Weymouth or Stephen Hills, The Post’s president and general manager. 

But regarding future events, Brauchli said: “I would hope that everybody in the Washington Post Company is always sensitive to the importance of the newsroom’s integrity and independence.”
Charles Pelton, The Post business-side employee listed as the event contact, seemed to dispute Brauchli’s version of events.

Pelton was quoted by Post ombudsman Andy Alexander in an online commentary as saying that newsroom leaders, including Brauchli, had been involved in discussions about the salons and other events.“This was well-developed with the newsroom,” Pelton told Alexander. “What was not developed was the marketing message to potential sponsors.”

According to Alexander, who called the flier a “public relations disaster,” Pelton told him: “There’s no intention to influence or peddle.” “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,” referring to charges that President Bill Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Pelton did not return a phone call from POLITICO. 

If POLITICO had not reported on the flier this morning, Brauchli said he expects someone would have seen it before the event and, given the obvious ethical issue, it would have been canceled.

Kris Coratti, communications director of Washington Post Media, a division of The Washington Post Company, said the flier “came out of a business division for conferences and events, and the newsroom was unaware of such communication. It went out before it was properly vetted, and this draft does not represent what the company’s vision for these dinners are, which is meant to be an independent, policy-oriented event for newsmakers.

"As written, the newsroom could not participate in an event like this. We do believe there is an opportunity to have a conferences and events business, and that The Post should be leading these conversations in Washington, big or small, while maintaining journalistic integrity. The newsroom will participate where appropriate."

Earlier this morning, Brauchli sent an e-mail entitled “Newsroom Independence” to his staff explaining his position.

"Colleagues,” Brauchli said. “A flier was distributed this week offering an 'underwriting opportunity' for a dinner on health care reform, in which the news department had been asked to participate. The language in the flier and the description of the event preclude our participation.

"We will not participate in events where promises are made that in exchange for money The Post will offer access to newsroom personnel or will refrain from confrontational questioning. Our independence from advertisers or sponsors is inviolable. There is a long tradition of news organizations hosting conferences and events, and we believe The Post, including the newsroom, can do these things in ways that are consistent with our values."

The first "Salon" was to be called "Health-Care Reform: Better or Worse for Americans? The reform and funding debate." More were anticipated, and the flier described the opportunities for participants:
“Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000 … Hosts and Discussion Leaders ... Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post ... An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done. ... A Washington Post Salon ... July 21, 2009 6:30 p.m. ...

"Washington Post Salons are extensions of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard," the flier says. "At the core is a critical topic of our day. Dinner and a volley of ideas unfold in an evening of intelligent, news-driven and off-the-record conversation. ... By bringing together those powerful few in business and policy-making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues, Washington Post Salons give life to the debate. Be at this nexus of business and policy with your underwriting of Washington Post Salons."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked Thursday in the briefing room if anyone from the White House was invited to attend the salons, and what the policy is for attending such events.

"I don't know if anybody here was," Gibbs said. "I think some people in the administration, writ large, may have been invited. I do not believe, based on what I've been able to check, anyone has accepted the invitations."

Gibbs said that the White House counsel would review such invitations and that they "would likely exceed" what would be considered appropriate.

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: mikeallen; nevermind; paytoplay; salon; wapo; washingtonpost; wp
That was the copy of the source code of the printer friendly version. Here's a link to the first version this Politico story.

Washington Post sells access, $25,000+

When you follow the link for that story, you get the story I'm posting here.

1 posted on 07/03/2009 6:29:55 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Congratulations, Democrats and Washington Post. Never has naked bribery and the selling of influence been advertised so plainly.


2 posted on 07/03/2009 6:35:07 PM PDT by Tax Government
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To: Sub-Driver; Robert A. Cook, PE

Sub-Driver, when I followed the link from your excerpt, this is the story I got. It appears to be a major rewrite by Politico.


3 posted on 07/03/2009 6:35:54 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

Here is what I got back from the Ombudsman at the WP — he said at the link you don’t do drafts on glossy paper.

Thanks for writing. As ombudsman, I operate independently from the newsroom and Post management. Here’s what I wrote about the “salons” situation: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ombudsman-blog/2009/07/wps_salon_plan_a_public_relati.html#more


4 posted on 07/03/2009 6:38:43 PM PDT by PhiKapMom (Mary Fallin for OK Governor/Coburn for Senate 2010 ! Mark Rubio for FL Senate 2010!)
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To: PhiKapMom

Thanks for the link!


5 posted on 07/03/2009 6:42:56 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

From Wiki: A salon is a gathering of stimulating people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings, often consciously following Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (”aut delectare aut prodesse est”). The salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical salons of the 17th century and 18th century, were carried on until quite recently in urban settings among like-minded people of a ‘set’: many 20th-century salons could be instanced.

However, in Weymouth’s case, she was selling admission tickets at $250,000 per lobbyist. “Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.” Weymouth & those participants prostituted themselves upon the altar of RAT greed.


6 posted on 07/03/2009 6:43:26 PM PDT by lilylangtree (Veni, Vidi, Vici)
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To: neverdem
Just a brief note on the internet notes: "Williams & Connolly partner Greg Craig,... blah blah blah".

This old gal's biography notes: "A former associate at William & Connolly, a prominent law firm in Washington, D.C., Weymouth ... blah, blah, blah...."

I'd just guess Ms. Weymouth was going to sell a date with Greg Craig (and maybe even with his buddy Fidel Castro) for $250,000 or so.

I remember when you could go down and see Greg "doing a number" for a client on the sidewalks. Toss him a quarter or something.

This is the guy who invented "litigation street theater", so why not "buy a White House staffer".

Something tells me this is all very much a violation of the law. Yet, with Greg Craig there, why not Eric Holder, and David Bois ~ and maybe some young children for them to play with ~ no doubt Weymouth is willing to trot them out for the benefit of the crowd's entertainment.

7 posted on 07/03/2009 6:46:19 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: neverdem

I heard right back from him when I wrote. He went right after the Post for their actions.


8 posted on 07/03/2009 6:46:29 PM PDT by PhiKapMom (Mary Fallin for OK Governor/Coburn for Senate 2010 ! Mark Rubio for FL Senate 2010!)
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To: neverdem

How does this differ from other political fundraisers?

Both parties’ various committees and most candidates offer small, intimate/exclusive affairs to lobbyists for donations up to the maximum amounts permitted. I suppose those don’t then lead to positive media coverage?


9 posted on 07/03/2009 6:53:42 PM PDT by EDINVA (A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul -- G. B. Shaw)
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To: EDINVA
REVISED DEAL: For $25,000 the Wash/Po will let you watch several construction workers manhandle Rahm Emanuel.


"O-o-o-o-o, I can't wait.

===============================================

TWITTER: Other Deals offered by the Washington Post

For $25K, Boswell will let Manny Acta tattoo a Nat's W on his a**.

For $500K, Charles Krauthammer will write a series of columns advocating war with a country of your choosing.

For $10,000 the WaPo will review your stimulus package and they won't mention that it promotes socialism!

For $25k, we'll have Woodward write a book on you.

For $250k, it will actually be complimentary.

For $5000, WaPo will let you write the same psychopathic op-ed http://tr.im/qD3b that you wrote in WSJ 3wks ago http://tr.im/qD3y

For $200K Katharine Graham will rise from the grave and shimmy for you.

For $5,000 George F. Will will speak on the topic of your choice without resorting to baseball metaphors

For $10K, Tom Sietsema will finally review Mrs. K's in Silver Spring.

For $25,000, you can have Katharine Weymouth in Katharine Weymouth's house.

For $7000, (Dana) Milbank will whisper "Dick!" to your enemies while wearing a wacky orange duck hunting get-up.

For $29.99, David Broder will take his teeth out.

For $15000 film critic Dan Zak will add a "c."

For $30000 Richard Cohen will fly to your house & yell at those annoying kids on your lawn.

10 posted on 07/04/2009 6:28:28 AM PDT by Liz (When people fear govt, we have tyranny; when govt fears the people, we have freedom.)
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To: All
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the deals Thursday in the WH briefing room.

"For $25K, after I do my Baghdad Bob impersonation, I go into my Vinnie Barbarino act."

11 posted on 07/04/2009 6:32:27 AM PDT by Liz (When people fear govt, we have tyranny; when govt fears the people, we have freedom.)
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To: Liz

LOL


12 posted on 07/04/2009 6:40:14 AM PDT by maggief
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To: maggief; stephenjohnbanker

"For $25K, would you let your wife play Butt Bingo with the staff of the Wash/Po?"

13 posted on 07/04/2009 7:03:23 AM PDT by Liz (When people fear govt, we have tyranny; when govt fears the people, we have freedom.)
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To: Liz
For $5,000 George F. Will will speak on the topic of your choice without resorting to baseball metaphors

Who ever wrote this missed a slow, hanging curveball.

It should have been :

For $5,000 George F. Will will speak on the topic of your

For $50,000 George F. Will will speak on the topic of your choice without resorting to baseball metaphors

You have to pay for more to get him to not use baseball as the yardstick for all other human endeavors.

14 posted on 07/04/2009 7:05:38 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Chrysler and GM are what Marx meant by the means of production.)
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To: KarlInOhio

Oops. I left out “choice” on my $5,000 line, embarrassing me as much as going out to play shortstop without a glove, requiring the humiliating trudge across the infield back to the dugout.


15 posted on 07/04/2009 7:07:59 AM PDT by KarlInOhio (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Chrysler and GM are what Marx meant by the means of production.)
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To: neverdem
Yes, it's a (mildly covered up) re-write by Politico; but the WashPo did acknowledge setting up the events, did not cancel the remaining linked events between the WashPo and the Obama-employed administrators (For money going to the WashPo) discussing and planning and “influencing” politics.

Sure, they are now claiming that the newsroom isn't going to attend “non-confrontationally” - but the owner is getting paid 25,000.00 per person = the newsroom is getting paid for for these.

16 posted on 07/04/2009 7:45:11 AM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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To: KarlInOhio

Sure. But George Will does not pretend to be a “unbiased” reporter, and IS deliberately presenting his ideas as an political observer or is employed specifically as an confrontational speaker: like when he is opposed by three or four liberals on a talk show.

It is the reporter’s and editor’s bias that is present 24/7 on ABCNNBCBS!


17 posted on 07/04/2009 7:47:45 AM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but socialists' ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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