WaPo cancels paid White House-Congress-lobbyist hook up

Submitted by Edward Harrison of Credit Writedowns.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more questionable in Washington, then along comes this (hat tip Tom).

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.

This is not a joke, it was a serious plan whereby the Washington Post was set and ready to use its publisher’s home to bring together lobbyists on the one side and White House and congressional people on the other. Boy, I wish I had that kind of access. But, then again, I would have to pay a lot of money. On second thought, maybe it’s not a good deal. But, hey, if you are a health care lobbyist (the type of lobbyist this event was designed for), then you’ve got the dosh. Why not? Apparently, not every lobbyist felt that way.

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."

To sum up, the Washington Post, which last nearly $20 million in the first quarter, has made bringing people together another proposed revenue source. In this case, it was to bring together lobbyists and government and was to be paid by the lobbyists for doing so. When some invited lobbyists felt this was a conflict of interest, Politico was able to get its hands on an invite. As a result, the Post cancelled the event.

Oh, and by the way, if you think that U.S. health care reform proposals are not heavily influenced by lobbyists, you might want to read the full account below.


Washington Post cancels lobbyist event amid uproar – Politico

Update 940AM: Below are some additional sources with reports of damage control by the Washington Post.

Washington Post Flap: How They Played It – Karen Tumulty, Swampland
Pay-for-Chat Plan Falls Flat at Washington Post – NY Times
Post Co. Cancels Corporate Dinners – Washington Post

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About Edward Harrison

I am a banking and finance specialist at the economic consultancy Global Macro Advisors. Previously, I worked at Deutsche Bank, Bain, the Corporate Executive Board and Yahoo. I have a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. As to ideology, I would call myself a libertarian realist - believer in the primacy of markets over a statist approach. However, I am no ideologue who believes that markets can solve all problems. Having lived in a lot of different places, I tend to take a global approach to economics and politics. I started my career as a diplomat in the foreign service and speak German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish and French as well as English and can read a number of other European languages. I enjoy a good debate on these issues and I hope you enjoy my blogs. Please do sign up for the Email and RSS feeds on my blog pages. Cheers. Edward http://www.creditwritedowns.com


  1. patrick neid

    While everyone is focused on the Post the reality is the White House is the larger issue. Who approved this plan to begin with? Where was the money going?

    The fact that you have not asked these questions raises eyebrows.

  2. Kelli K

    When you offend the amour-propre of a Washington lobbyist, well, you know you have attained a new ethical low.

    Well done, WaPo. Last trace of integrity safely disposed of.

  3. Edward Harrison

    patrick, there is a video on the linked post at Politico where Robert Gibbs gives the official response to those questions about the white house.

  4. RTD

    The best government money can buy – one dollar one vote.

    The economic problem of concentrated benefits with diffuse costs is the Achilles heel of modern democracy.


  5. patrick neid

    I had seen the Gibbs non response. My complaint still stands–there is no way the Post was organizing these "shakedowns" without White House winks and nods. This is simply the Clinton tea ceremonies moved to a different mansion.

    I guess with this pimping show exposed there goes the Lincoln bedroom on the weekends!

  6. Bill


    and the Publisher, Ms. Weymouth, is shocked, just shocked……..and disappointed:

    ""Absolutely, I'm disappointed," Weymouth said in an interview. "This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren't vetted. They didn't represent at all what we were attempting to do. We're not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom."


  7. eeeeeekonjohn

    One only wonders whether how many of these occurred in the past without the scrutiny.

  8. Dan Duncan

    Edward…are you kidding me? At that press conference, Gibbs was either glib or ridiculously vague. Do you really accept those "answers" as being a legitimate response from the White House?

    WaPo was going to charge 250k for the get-together. How do you think such a transaction goes down?

    "Hey, Dick Lobbyist. We're having a shin-dig over at our publisher's crib next week. It's not exactly a BYOB affair, but do bring 250k–in cash. There'll be Finger-Food Hors d'œuvre and 2 oz. glasses of house merlot. Obama officials are expected…as are lots of chicks! It's gonna rock. Oh yeah…and don't forget to RSVP!"

    Of course Obama officials knew about this. Patrick Neid is correct: Obama's involvement is the bigger story.

    We know WaPo's excuse: It sells a product is no longer suitable for wrapping dead fish. It's a last act of desperation before being purchased by the National Enquirer.

    What's Obamas'?

  9. Edward Harrison


    We're on the same page. Obviously that's why I posted the story, isn't it? It's not like I have a bugaboo about the Washington Post.

    But, of course, the government has plausible deniability on their side in hat there is no smoking gun – no one accepted.

    On the other hand, the Post comes up looking pretty tawdry.

    As for my take here, the last line sums it up: "Oh, and by the way, if you think that U.S. health care reform proposals are not heavily influenced by lobbyists, you might want to read the full account below."

    This is not the only way lobbyists are getting their case across.

  10. "DoctoRx"

    Yet another example of why George Washington was reluctant to leave his farm to become President

  11. "DoctoRx"

    Also: re Dr. Harrison's last response: IMO the government has implausible deniability.

    "Plausible deniability" was Nixon administration terminology for the cover-up.

  12. Hugh

    The WaPo is making a play to be the Village Voice, i.e. the go to rag for DC Villagers and Beltway insiders. You can see this in the WaPo's years long fellation of the Bush Administration and in its recent revamp of Newsweek. This latest adventure in pimping and facilitating crony government and crony capitalism crashed only because it was made public prematurely by another "news" organization, the Politico, probably because it hadn't thought of it first.

  13. MaxH707

    I can just hear Sen. Ensign now saying, "I'll have a gin and tonic with my high colonic."

  14. Hal Horvath

    Our legislature is compromised, since we consider lobbying normal.

    Corrupt is accurate.

    What would non-corruption look like?

    People lobbying Congress would be individually pressing their own issues, without being paid to do so by any other parties. 2nd, no forms of any kind of quid-pro-quo (vactions, resorts, dinners) with members of Congress or officials of gov. — this would result in trial, some convictions, mandatory jail time, loss of office.

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