The WaPo Digs Deeper

The WaPo now has its very own Howard Kurtz story reporting its very own pay-to-play scandal. But in my opinion, it raises as many questions as it answers.

For this story, Kurtz relied on interviews with Katharine Weymouth, the WaPo’s publisher, and Marcus Brauchli, WaPo’s Executive Editor. But he did not get an interview with Charles Pelton, the guy being blamed anonymously–by "Two Post executives" who may or may not be Weymouth and Brauchli–for the flier.

Weymouth, the chief executive of Washington Post Media, said in an interview. 


Moments earlier, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said in a separate interview …


Two Post executives familiar with the planning, who declined to be identified discussing internal planning, said the fliers appear to be the product of overzealous marketing executives. The fliers were overseen by Charles Pelton, a Post executive hired this year as a conference organizer. He was not immediately available for comment. 

Now, if you’re a newspaper trying to reassure readers that you’re not selling access, then don’t you think you owe it to readers to avoid any anonymous sourcing here? Instead, the appearance is that Weymouth and Brauchli are doing damage control by anonymously blaming Pelton for all of this, yet not allowing Kurtz to speak with Pelton directly to learn what his understanding of the conferences were.

On top of that, look at this amazingly decontextualized quote Kurtz gives us from Weymouth.

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth today canceled plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers offered lobbyists access to Obama administration officials, members of Congress and Post journalists in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.

"Absolutely, I’m disappointed," Weymouth, the chief executive of Washington Post Media, 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."

See the problem? Kurtz doesn’t tell us what Weymouth was responding to when she said she was disappointed! Is she disappointed that the fliers got circulated outside of intended clients? That they had to cancel the pay-to-play conferences? That their management system is so bad they sent these out unvetted? That they fired Dan Froomkin? That we haven’t yet invaded Iran? Okay–the last two are a stretch, but Kurtz doesn’t tell us precisely what Weymouth is disappointed about. 

And the rest of that paragraph doesn’t help things. Yes, Weymouth admits that the fliers shouldn’t have gotten out without being vetted. But Weymouth’s claim that the fliers didn’t represent what they "were attempting to do," followed by the claim–made in an ambiguous tense–that "[they]’re not going to do any dinners that impugn the integrity of the newsroom," still leaves uncertain precisely what they had been intending to do.

It’s only later in the story when–in a paragraph sourced both to Weymouth and that pesky anonymous executive who sure looks like Weymouth again–we get more claims about what the plan was.

Weymouth knew of the plans to host small dinners at her home and to charge lobbying and trade organizations for participation. But, one of the executives said, she believed that there would be multiple sponsors, to minimize any appearance of charging for access, and that the newsroom would be in charge of the scope and content of any dinners in which Post reporters and editors participated.  

Weymouth admits that they were going to have a pay to play in her home. But then someone who appears to be her, again, makes a comment that doesn’t deny that "multiple sponsors" may be no more than the two in question, and only claims the newsroom had control in that same anonymous voice. In any case, how does the presence of multiple sponsors–whether it be just two or ten–avoid the appearance of pay-to-play, so long as the idea is to get in the room with the decision-makers?

Now, Howie Kurtz deserves to be mocked, mercilously, for his granting of two executives who may or may not be Weymouth and Brauchli anonymity to squirm out of their pay-to-play problem. But he does admit that even if the newsroom did control how reporters participated, there remains the yet undenied appearance that Weymouth was–and perhaps remains–happy to charge for access to herself.

Access to Weymouth herself, a granddaughter of longtime publisher Katharine Graham who took over as chief executive of Washington Post Media last year, would be deemed valuable by those trying to influence The Post’s editorial policies and news coverage. 

And we know–because Anita Dunn is quoted admitting that the WaPo approached HHS executives to attend the conference–that the WaPo was going to invite the policy makers to this conference as well.

So even in the most charitable interpretation, Weymouth was going to charge lobbyists $25,000 to $250,000 to meet with–the WaPo hoped–executives from HHS in Weymouth’s living room.

Update: This is rich!! Howie Kurtz somehow couldn’t find Pelton for his article. Maybe that’s because this is what Pelton had to say when OmbudAndy found him.

The flier came out of the office Charles Pelton, who joined The Post recently to find ways to generate business through conferences and events. The Post, like many struggling newspapers, is desperately seeking new sources of revenue.

"There’s no intention to influence or pedal," Pelton said this morning. "There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation," referring to charges that President Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Pelton said newsroom leaders, including Brauchli, had been involved in discussions about the salons and other events.

"This was well developed with the newsroom," he said. "What was not developed was the marketing message to potential sponsors."

And for some reason, Weymouth was instantly available to Howie Kurtz, but not to the paper’s Ombud.

Weymouth is out of town. 

  1. oldtree says:

    Too bad they don’t believe their paper is profitable in any other way. They sure know how to end any sense of credibility though, don’t they?

    • WilliamOckham says:

      At least I’ll have something to do over the long weekend even if the CIA IG report isn’t released (but I still think they’ll slip it out this evening…).

  2. dakine01 says:

    Is there anyone outside of DeeCee and the Beltway Cognescenti that would believe the WaPo0 has any journalistic integrity left to give away?

  3. Teddy Partridge says:

    WaPo was selling lobbyists access to its own sources. Those sources they’s worked so hard to cultivate — and protect — were to be served up, alongside the reporter whose notebook they slithered out of, to people paid by corporate America to influence our national discourse.

    Another question is: had Congresspersons, their staff, or Administration officials been contacted yet to participate? What were THEY getting out of this ugly deal?

    • emptywheel says:

      Article says:

      White House communications director Anita Dunn said today that The Post Co. had approached officials at the Health and Human Services Department to participate in a Weymouth dinner later this month. But, she said, “no senior Obama administration officials had accepted any invitation for the ’salon.’”

      No word on whether DiFi agreed to attend so long as WaPo reporters continued to insist it was beyond the pale for constituents to demand their Senators represent their interests, rather than their donors.

      Maybe a DiFi constituent wants to call and ask?

      • Peterr says:

        Howie has been rewriting the article throughout the day, but never noting that he is updating earlier reporting.

        I’ve got copies of 11:44 AM (Brauchli’s initial reaction), 12:22 PM (Weymouth’s initial cancellation of the dinners), and now 1:04 PM (with the addition of the Anita Dunn reaction).

            • Rayne says:

              I actually know that rule; it means Pelton is out of line of sight but in the building with his cell phone shut off, possibly at direction of counsel.

              • emptywheel says:

                Silly Rayne! You’re assuming that by “not available” Howie actually meant he had tried to call him. When Katharine says, “No Howie, I think it better that you not talk to Pelton,” that means “not available.”

                The NYT did the same thing when they didn’t want their reporters to talk to the business side people who were in on the Libby coverup and the Judy in Iraq secrets.

                • Rayne says:

                  The silly part:

                  SCENE: cubicle at offices of Washington Post, two chairs back to back, occupied by Howie and Andy, both on phones at same time.

                  Howie: Hey Katherine, thanks for your time. Can I have Andy pick up this line? He’s got a couple questions for you.

                  Katherine: Sorry, I can’t hear you, you’re breaking up! * CLICK *

                  At the same, on the other phone:

                  Andy: Hey Charles, thanks for your time. Can I have Howie pick up this line? He’s right here with me and he’s got a couple questions for you.

                  Charles: Oh, incoming call I MUST take, got to run, sorry! * CLICK *

                  Bet you Pelton is gone and collecting unemployment and a severance shortly, like all good sacrificial lambs.

        • pmorlan says:

          WaPo rewrites all of the time without noting the changes. Let us know if there is anything of importance that they left out of the later versions.

      • Loo Hoo. says:

        Capital switchboard closed, gal in the San Diego office said I would need to call DC for her schedule. (She has no opinion on the public option until there is a bill to look at.)

  4. Rayne says:

    Who else was going to be invited to these dinners?

    Was Froomkin released because they couldn’t sell his appearance at any of these gigs, unlike members of the already well-established Washington Post Writers’ Group?

    Or did lobbyists already indicate they only wanted certain people at these events?

    Hooboy…so many more questions.

  5. Peterr says:

    The story is told of an exchange between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor, where Sir Winston asks if she would sell her body for one million pounds. She thinks, and says “I suppose for that amount I might.”

    He replies “Would you do it for one pound?”

    Horrified, she says “Certainly not. What kind of a woman do you think I am?”

    “Madam, I believe we have already established that. Now we are just haggling over the price.”

    • skdadl says:

      To be fair to Lady Astor (and that’s going some for me), that exchange is more usually and believably attributed to George Bernard Shaw and some lady socialite. It’s also the kind of thing Shaw might have made up about himself.

      Lady Astor and Churchill did have their sharp exchanges, but not about sex at that level, since they didn’t like each other and she wouldn’t have wandered into that so cluelessly. More typical (from rough memory):

      She: Sir, if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee.

      He: Madam, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        And to paraphrase another purported exchange,

        He: “Lady Astor, you’re ugly.”

        She: “Mr. Churchill, you’re drunk.”

        He: “Tomorrow I’ll be sober, but you’ll still be ugly.”

  6. phred says:

    I’m thoroughly enjoying watching the WaPo desperately search for any reputable explanation of this. They won’t find one, because no matter how you frame it, this is a perfect picture of pay-to-play. So I’m curious about the range of prices: $25k to $250k. What does the low end get you? Cocktails on the lawn before dinner? And what does the high end get you? A smoke in bed after dessert? One would have to assume a range of services were being offered at the Weymouth brothel, I just wonder what they are? And where does the payola go? Does the Madam offer a cut to her stable of prostitutes: campaign contributions to the politicians, bonuses to the reporters? Or does it all go in her pocket to pay for new red velvet drapes?

  7. dakine01 says:

    Oh and the comments on the Kurtz piece are a riot. They look to be running roughly 90% in full blown mockery.

  8. Dalybean says:

    Howard Kurtz is not reporting this. He is trying to CYA. His boss, Marcus Brauchli, was named on the flier as one of the “Hosts and Discussion Leaders.” Now Kurtz wants us to believe that Brauchli is “appalled,” as if he didn’t know?

  9. acquarius74 says:

    In watching telecast hearings I have often seen congresscritters hold up a copy of the WAPO and quote it and have it entered into the Congressional Register like it was The Word from The Book. I’ll have to pay close attention to the names of those quoters in future.

    Wonder what you get for the el cheapo price? and the whammo price of $250,000???

  10. Teddy Partridge says:

    Looks like $25k got you sponsorship of one “event” while $250,000 underwrote the entire series of eleven planned dinners — sorry, just two sponsors per event, I know you lobbyists are lining up with your checkbooks.

    The WaPo simply must disclose what public officials they’ve contacted about these salons. Total transparency, right Little Katharine?

    • phred says:

      Nice — pay for 10 blow jobs and the 11th is on the house. That’s just fabulous. You just can’t make this stuff up.

  11. emptywheel says:

    Note the update: OmbudAndy got Pelton on the record saying newsroom knew (though hadn’t seen the flier). And for some reason, Howie Kurtz was able to find Weymouth, but OmbudAndy wasn’t.

  12. Waccamaw says:

    Unfortunately, the group that’s gonna come out of this whole debacle looking and smelling the worst will be the administration. The reich wing will say nothing about the waho getting the bucks; they’ll have the WH peddling lobbying fees for political coffers. If any of us hit one of their sites at this very moment, I’d bet my last dollar that’s the storyline.

  13. Frank33 says:

    At least this plan it makes it easier for lobbyists to interact with bribes to Adminstration and Congressional leaders. It is a relaxed setting with no snoopy journalists present. Also, no CONFRONTATION allowed. That is not done in The Village.

    One such flier said: “Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama Administration and Congressional leaders . . . Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it.”

  14. WilliamOckham says:

    Here’s the best part:

    But, one of the executives said, she believed that there would be multiple sponsors, to minimize any appearance of charging for access, and that the newsroom would be in charge of the scope and content of any dinners in which Post reporters and editors participated.

    The anonymous executive knows what Weymouth believes! It’s hilarious. Weymouth is the publisher of the newspaper and Kurtz is perfectly comfortable writing a sentence that allows an anonymous source to make claims about Weymouth’s beliefs. That one sentence tells you everything you need to know about the Washington Post.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Kurtz is acting as a de facto Ombudsidiot doing damage control. But if, after having interviewed Weymouth on the record for this piece, the anonymous source telling us what Weymouth believes isn’t Weymouth, Kurtz and the anonymous source ought to be fired.

    • emptywheel says:

      The point being that that makes it perfectly clear that Weymouth is the one demanding anonymity–along with Brauchli.

      Remember Rule #1 on identifying anonymous sources–they are almost always quoted on the record elsewhere in the article. Or, in Howie’s case, quoted in the same clause.

      • Rayne says:

        Damn, why didn’t anybody teach me that rule? Always late to these old school media events where they hand out the rules.

        Like to know what events Weymouth has already had at her residence, and just how much she’s already written off for the use of her home.

        Unlike public forums, no angry protesters would be outside and there’d be no access by other competing press or dirty fucking hippie bloggers.

        Wonder if her home has an audio recording system, too…?

          • Rayne says:

            It’s actually rather schizoid for Howie to be reporting on this, although I can’t really think of anybody else they’d stick on the assignment.

            Imagine being forced to do the investigative coverage of your own employer after a former co-worker/now competitor calls and asks for a response to a story they are about to break regarding pay-for-play?

            He may be doing some drug therapy just to get through this mess.

            • emptywheel says:

              Again, the Judy (and Jayson Blair) parallels are instructive. They put decent investigative people on the team. Of course, if they don’t want any secrets found out, Howie’s probably the guy to get.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        The only reason she would need to be anonymous is because she’s lying through her teeth. She doesn’t want to take responsibility for making a false claim. She knows that, Kurtz knows that, and any informed reader knows that. Everybody who is ‘in on the game’ knows what’s going on, but Kurtz also knows that nobody else in the media will call him or his boss on it. They are pathetic.

        • emptywheel says:

          That or it’s just a nice charade to prevent Pelton from going AWOL as he gets thrown under the bus. Everyone knows that’s Weymouth, but so long as it’s not the Publisher saying, “blame the weasel in marketing,” everyone can retain what is left of their dignity and no Graham descendants have to be exposed in their full embarrassing state.

          I gotta say, Weymouth caught up with Pinch on shilliness pretty quickly, didn’t she?

  15. prostratedragon says:

    It’s existential disappointment, Marcy, no doubt induced by Ockham’s “best part.”

  16. NelsonAlgren says:

    Ombud Andy is probably really pissed now. If he thinks he had it bad trying to read all the email about the Froomkin firing, this is going to be a lot worse.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Is she disappointed that her organization attempted such a bizarre selling of its little remaining credibility or is she disappointed because the premature publicity means she’ll have to lower her price?

      • Teddy Partridge says:

        Or disappointed that the organization she leads is the subject of a controversy in her own newspaper. Or disappointed she was found out. Or disappointed her vacation has been interrupted by reporters. Or disappointed in the quality of Kurtz’s groveling. Or disappointed she picked up the phone at all. Or disappointed her caller-ID seems not to work in the Hamptons.

        So many disappointments, so little time.

  18. prostratedragon says:

    The flier came out of the office Charles Pelton

    Oh, let’s try laughing them to death!

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Weymouth makes clear what her profession is. The unanswered question is how much she charges for it.

  20. prostratedragon says:

    “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,”

    Grab that life preserver, Pelton!

        • phred says:

          Excellent suggestion! New dictatorships are always in need of a solid propaganda outlet and WaPravda has just the credentials they are looking for… Besides, if everyone in Honduras is required to subscribe, it would give the WaHo’s readership numbers the boost they really need! It’s a win-win for everyone — well, except Honduran citizens of course…

  21. fatster says:

    What’s up with this?

    ‘”There’s no intention to influence or pedal,” Pelton said this morning . . . ‘

    Did Pelton/Kurtz mean intent to peddle, which it appears to be. Or was this a little Freudian slip and they are now trying to pedal on down the road? The faster the better, I’ll bet.

  22. Arbusto says:

    How many other august Papers/Media “facilitate” an intimate soiree for power brokers and our ever corruptible Congress to get what they want, and out of the public eye. It’s just a finders fee.

  23. foothillsmike says:

    Pelton said newsroom leaders, including Brauchli, had been involved in discussions about the salons and other events.

    “This was well developed with the newsroom,” he said. “What was not developed was the marketing message to potential sponsors.”

    So the pimping was set up just not the advertising.

  24. Peterr says:

    Some of the comments at OmbudAndy’s are pretty creative:

    Captain Renault (Brauchli): I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
    [a croupier (Weymouth) hands Renault a pile of money]
    Croupier (Weymouth): Your winnings, sir.

    Bottom line: If Brauchli didn’t know this influence peddling was going on, he’s too damn stupid to be a reporter, much less an Exec. Editor.

    Posted by: wabbott | July 2, 2009 2:21 PM

  25. Peterr says:

    I think tomorrow’s front page at the Post will have a Message from the Publisher.

    The only question I have is whether it will be above or below the fold.

  26. brendanx says:

    from comments on Kurtz’s article:

    It’s a common problem in corporate America marketing departments. They always are taking it on themselves to setup meetings for outsiders in their bosses homes -dinner time seems always to be perfect because the rest of the family is almost always going to be there as well.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Snarkily said. Ms. Weymouth no doubt lives in G’town, so her staff must constantly invite themselves over for tea and biscuits and gin and all that, and must frequently bring Senators and Reps – and lobbyists who make more than Ms. Weymouth. Noblesse sans oblige and all that.

  27. foothillsmike says:

    Question for Gibbs at presser: How does the president feel about WaPo pimping access to staff to lobbyists and interest groups.

        • phred says:

          LOL! That was good : )

          For your amusement here are a couple of fund raising suggestions posted by jcck in the comment thread at Kurtz’ article:

          How much to punch Krauthammer in the groin????

          How much to spin George Will’s bowtie?

          This could be a fun little party game…

          How much to get Milbank to write “I will not say dickhead” 100 times on the chalkboard?

          • Rayne says:

            How much to get Milbank not to wear that damned smoking jacket again?

            Better yet, how much to make the smoking jacket part of his WaPo mandatory uniform?

      • Waccamaw says:

        Dial-up = no vids. Can you summarize briefly, please?

        delete – previously answered. Thanks.

  28. Dalybean says:

    The fact that Andrew Sullivan has not yet weighed in on this scandal makes me suspicious that the Washington Post lifted its idea of “underwritten” salons from David Bradley and The Atlantic, which Howie Kurtz reported on in April.…..00891.html

  29. brendanx says:

    There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation…

    Weymouth is no mere portrait on the wall. And the transaction would be on the table, not a bed.

  30. foothillsmike says:

    From Raw Story

    Gibbs joked that the White House Counsel advised him to ask how much each question from the Washington Post will cost him. Then the press secretary mocked checking his shirt pockets before quipping, “I seem to have forgotten my AmEx.”

    In response to a question from a New York Times reporter, Gibb said that some might have been invited, but that, as far as he knew, no one at the White House had accepted any invitation to attend any of the paper’s salons.

    • HotFlash says:

      The first question that any lobbyist thinking of forking out $25,000 to ‘underwrite’ one of these little deals is, “Who will be there?” Admin movers-and-shakers were promised, there have to be some who have agreed to be there. And for $25,000 they wouldn’t be flunkies. And how much to attend for non-sponsors? They will be asking ‘who’ as well.

      And why doesn’t WaPo link to the flyers? Shouldn’t we be seeing original source documents? Why can’t WaPo do journalism, they should be taking lessons from Emptywheel.

      And finally, off to put a little more money in EW’s fund.

      • foothillsmike says:

        It seems that the opportunity to get a favorable “news” story in WaPo would have a certain value too.

    • Waccamaw says:

      Gibbs is starting to get on my very last nerve. But I guess you can’t work up a case of righteous indignation if the WH were planning involvement… he goes for the joke instead.

      Note to gibbs: leave the comedy to Franken….and pretty much anyone else…….’cause you suck at it!

  31. Dalybean says:

    Here is Howard Kurtz on The Atlantic dinners, which appear to be very similar to the Post salons:

    The Bradley dinners are different because of their regular nature — a floating group of 12 to 16 journalists, with specialists added depending on the subject matter — and the rarefied level of access. Others who have dined include General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, former Bush White House aide Karl Rove, Gen. David Petraeus, White House economic adviser Larry Summers, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.…..891_2.html

    • prostratedragon says:

      Definitely worthy of note —always had thought that the mag’s move from Boston to DC a few years ago coincided with the sale of its soul— but on a quick skim didn’t look as blatant a pay-for-play for lobbyists as this. I guess that could change later, eh?

    • Dalybean says:

      The Atlantic salons were Jeffrey Goldberg’s idea. Who knew Goldberg was such a little marketer? Perhaps the original idea came from the Israel Lobby, for whom Goldberg has apparently toiled for years? It would also explain Goldberg’s fat salary for which he does little that I can see besides taking stenography on occasion.

  32. Mary says:

    WO – in case you didn’t see it from the last thread, Mad Dog linked info on the ACLU FOIA extensions @ 42 in the last thread:

    The 35 docs are supposed to be filed in a redacted form today.

    They also didn’t really request an extension of time to turn over the IG complaint, they were requesting an extension of time to get their motion for summary judgement on not having to turn it over in place.

    • Rayne says:

      Jeebus, absolutely right, that is FAR too slick not to have been signed off by somebody with budget control; this was produced out of house by an P&R/ad firm (where was Pelton last, by the way?).

      Got to wonder what the $5.5M these salons should have raised would have bought Washington Post Media…

    • phred says:

      You’re right, the actual flier is worse than simple quotes. The picture of the woman in a hospital bed at the top is appalling. These bastards are playing games with other people’s lives and they don’t give a damn.

      So lets think this through a little shall we? Two sponsors max per salon, but they will offer 11 salons for a cool $250k. So, two CEOs could pop for the entire series. Pfizer? Kaiser-Permanente? And poof, 11 nights of fine dining and paid for access intended to influence health care insurance “reform”. Chump change to corporate America.

      Somebody needs to get her ass hauled before Congress for a thorough investigation. Not that it will happen.

      • brendanx says:

        The picture of the woman in a hospital bed at the top is appalling.

        Weymouth will be serving her underinsured liver at the first salon.

      • Rayne says:

        They don’t even actually have to hold the salons, if you think about it.

        A cool $5.5M for a bunch of people to show up at Weymouth’s home once a month and rub shoulders, without much fuss or hassle.

        A few drinks, a little pressing of the palms…strictly non-confrontational.

        • phred says:

          Exactly, except it is only half a million. A paltry sum really. Weymouth really is a cheap date trick.

          By the way, I missed Milbank’s smoking jacket, did he complete the outfit with a pipe and slippers? ; ) How ’bout a couple of bunnies like Hugh Hefner? ; )

          • Rayne says:

            Sorry, the half mil is only the first of the series.

            (11) salons x (2) underwriters x $250,000 = $5.5 mil

            I imagine they skipped the holiday season and didn’t go for a full 12-month agenda…

            Or maybe they skipped August because nobody — not even the White House — rolls out new product in August.

            • phred says:

              I thought it was $25,000 per salon or $250,000 for all 11. If so, then 2 (sponsors) x $250,000 = $500,000 or half a million. Am I misreading the flier?

              • Rayne says:

                You’re right, my bad; hate that gray font on grayer background they used on that brochure.

                Half mil is way, way too cheap. Would have been a snap for one lobbying firm to buy the entire thing at $250K, chump change when you consider how much money is on the line based on the content they are addressing.

                Something about this smells for this reason.

                [edit: think about it: for the number and kind of people they could have at one of these events, $25K per event doesn’t even cover the cost of catering replete with quail wings, let alone shush-yo-mouth money for the journos on board.]

                • phred says:

                  No worries, just wanted to make sure we had obtained the right price for Madam Weymouth’s services ; )

                  And I agree, half a mil is pin money to these people. WaPo isn’t just a whore, she’s a cheap whore. Even more insulting really when you think that the whole point is to bury the public option. One would like to think the public interest was sold out for a much much higher price.

                  • Rayne says:

                    Here, for the purposes of contrast:

                    Pfizer’s daily sales of a well-known ED medication are $5.0M PER DAY.

                    Pin money? meh. Not even a fraction of the cost of a day’s advertising for the same single drug.

                    If I were Weymouth I certainly wouldn’t have damaged my brand by settling for this kind of cash. Total market cap of all Washington Post Company (of which the paper is a subset) is only a little over $3B. The potential brand damage could knock off a third of that in a hurry — and for freaking chump change, pennies in the street kind of money.

    • HotFlash says:

      Yes! Thank you for the link!

      Healthcare Reform: Better or Worse for Americans? The reform and funding debate.

      “Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds.”

      Hmm, and it’s July 21, less than 3 weeks away, so they must have some (most?) of the guest speakers confirmed. Names, I want names! And their speaking fees. Should we start calling likely congress-critters to ask them if they’re booked? How about Max Baucis for starters?

      • Rayne says:

        Oh, I think there are other names we need to ask about as well, given how close this was.

        Ceci Connolly covers health care for WaPo; Ezra Klein blogs about it for them.

        Wonder if they had an invite already?

        Wonder if any of the Washington Post Writers Group of op-ed contributors like Kathleen Parker had invites?

        Reading that flier, I like these two bits the most:

        – Interact with key Obama Administration and Congressinal leaders, advocacy and business decision-makers–and the publisher, executive editor and health-car reporters of The Washington Post.

        – Build crucial relationships with Washington Post news executives in a neutral and informal setting.

        Um, was Howie Kurtz one of the news executives scheduled to appear?

        And this bit under Hosts and Discussion Leaders:

        – Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post.

        Who exactly in editorial staff was scheduled to appear at this first gig?

        You know there’s another question brewing here, too; these little shindigs with their glossy brochures take a little time to plan.

        What’s the NEXT one or two they had in the pipeline??? Because the next one is sitting on somebody’s computer or desk right now in the form of a marked up brochure draft…

        And since the wise idea to have these little shindigs came less than a year after Brauchli became exec editor, can Brauchli tell us whether these salons were his practice at his previous employer, Wall Street Journal?

  33. fatster says:

    Lawyers for US terror trial ask to visit CIA jails

    “Lawyers for the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be transferred to US soil for a civilian trial, set for September 2010, asked Thursday to see the secret CIA prisons where he was allegedly tortured.

    “At a hearing here federal judge Lewis Kaplan set the date of September 13, 2010 for the trial of Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was transferred to the United States on June 9.

    “Ghailani had been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison since September 2006 and is pleading not guilty to charges of taking part in the August 7, 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya.

    “According to his attorneys, Ghailani was handed over to US authorities in August 2004 by Pakistani police and was held prisoner in covert “black sites” operated by the Central Intelligence Agency until his transfer to the US naval base in southeast Cuba.”…..22009.html

  34. plunger says:

    This is a company destroying itself from the inside. They have no business model. They were complicit in everything that the government has done that led to the economy’s demise – and the demise of their own industry by extension. They are done – and many “journalists” who help to facilitate this outcome will be left to contemplate their very own role in the demise of the free press.

    Let them feed on each other and write their tell-all books to reveal how in-the-tank they all were for the oligarchs, whom they always assumed would pay and protect them.

  35. freepatriot says:

    what the fuck does THIS mean ???

    “There’s no intention to influence or pedal,” Pelton said this morning.

    so there was no intention to influence

    and no intention to pedal (pedal what, you stupid mutherfucker, a bicycle ???)

    what does that mean

    it CAN’T mean there was no intention to pedal influence, cuz that’s exactly what the fucking flyer says you would be paying for. For 25 large you get the chance to meet the people who really make the decisions

    so the Whores And Prostitutes Organization did not intend to pedal or influence, while they were pedaling influence

    is this word game supposed to fool somebody ???

    • phred says:

      It means Pelton didn’t actually read the flier. Highlighted in the upper left corner is this:

      An evening with the right people can alter the debate.

      That is clear cut influence peddling. If you want to alter (aka influence) the debate, pony up some cash and pull a chair up to the table…

  36. pmorlan says:

    The WaPo was already carrying the administration’s water on health care and now we find that they also planned to cash in with the lobbyists too.

    Perry Bacon Jr.: The Post is not covering single-payer (like the rest of the media) because the President of the United States has repeatedly ruled it out as an option. I wrote recently about a meeting he had with some House Democrats who were pushing the issue and he again said no

    • Dalybean says:

      It’s time for a FOIA request to ferret out Administration participation in these types of events to try and get more details on this type of corruption and whether it is coming from the Administration or the press and pundits. When you have people like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias saying, “That’s just the way it is,” the corruption has gone deep. I would assume these two have been taking stipends for participation in these types of events as I was offered twenty years ago but refused. This la-di-da attitude might explain why they are less than outraged at the pay-to-play at the Post.

      Is it true that Wal-Mart gave Center for American Progress $500,000 to sign on to their healthcare proposal? http://wonkroom.thinkprogress&…..rt-letter/

  37. obsessed says:

    Wapo has been buying access for years with its stenographic approach to journalism. Selling it down the food chain was a logical next step.

    • Leen says:

      When Bob Woodward came to Ohio University to speak recently is was a clown show. The Scripps school of Journalism here gave him some big award, Woodward beat his chest on the stage threw a few jokes out and then started beating the Iran war drums…hard.

      No questions were allowed to come directly from the audience. Went through a moderator who filtered what the questions were and how they were stated. Pathetic boys club show.

      Many folks walked out of the auditorium shaking their heads. Woodward on the Plame investigation “much ado about nothing”

      Bob Woodward on the Larry King show
      Wash. Post’s Woodward’s misleading, disingenuous statements on Plame investigation

  38. freepatriot says:

    yet to hear a peep from chicken noodle network

    but I’m sure they’ll get right on this, right after they interview jermain jackson …

  39. freepatriot says:

    chicken noodle network and msnbc at the top of the 4 pm show ???

    Michael Jackson ???

    what the fuck ???

  40. Leen says:

    NPR’s All Things Considered reporting about the WaPo pay to play events right now. No link up at their site yet

  41. Blub says:

    so this is the new broadsheet business model – lobbyist facilitation services? They should just make it simpler for everyone and just sell rights to author stories under their byline. They could lay off all of their journalists AND their editorial staff (that’ll save a few nickels) and source all of their material from PRNewswire, upon receipt of check or money order (checks are accepted from rethugs and big corporations only.. all other groups need to use MOs). I’m pretty sure that’s how the San Diego Union-Tribune does it anyway, so why not WaPo?

  42. Dalybean says:

    I’ve just returned from a discussion at Matt Yglesias’ blog on this issue where I raised the question about whether the journalists themselves were paid stipends to participate in these events and the response was, “What would be wrong with that?”

  43. Funnydiva2002 says:

    Oh, delighted to hear they don’t intend to pedal. Wouldn’t want them bicycling newspaper gods and godesses to get smushed in DC traffic.
    And even if that’s a typo, it’s still not much of a denial.
    “Oh, no, dahlink, we wouldn’t peddle influence. So common…only little people peddle.”

  44. Dalybean says:

    The Washington Post’s acting like this was a big mistake is a crock. I just found this interview from December 0f 2008 with the marketing person for the Atlantic where she is bragging about the exact same pay-to-play business model of corporate-sponsored salon dinners that the Post was using.…..nters.php, which Howie Kurtz then wrote about in April of this year. Howie Kurtz and that whole crew at the Post are bald-faced liars in pretending that they weren’t doing the same thing as The Atlantic. Who will be holding The Atlantic and The National Journal to account?

  45. milly says:

    Silly me …I thought when g bush planted Jeff Gannon a male hooker in the WH press corpse for two years with none of the corpse picking up on the hooker in the midst….it was a joke.He did have a zany sense of humor.

    Come to find out it was business as usual and not a joke.

  46. PPDCUS says:

    Demise of the Fourth Estate

    For those of us who remember the days of Katherine Graham & Ben Bradley, it’s important to note that Watergate was an aberration. Graham, Bradley, Woodward & Bernstein all knew the risks of taking on the most powerful anti-constitutional regime before Cheney & Bush rode into town on an election decided by five votes to four.

    The Graham men prior to Katherine ran the Post like a country club where only the rich & powerful were invited, much like the Villagers’ paper of record today.

    If they keep this charade up for much longer, 2009 will be noted as the year the word journalism passed from common American usage.

    “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Thomas Jefferson

  47. Rayne says:

    Melinda Hennenberger, Editor in Chief at AOL’s Politics Daily, has an update which says Pelton invited a couple dozen business executives and White House health care adviser Nancy Ann DeParle (also points out that DeParle’s spouse works at NYT). Kaiser Permanente had voiced an offer to be one of the sponsors for the first salon.

    So much for the typical guest list of 20 or less; they hadn’t even rounded out the number of WaPo or Congressional attendees yet.

    Cannot believe Pelton pulled this out of his backside. This has to be something that was cooked up over time, had Weymouth’s consent since it was going to be held at her house (jeebus, can you imagine letting a marketing manager decide who’s going to be eating at a dinner party at your own house?). Really want to know if this was a standard across industry, or at least at Pelton’s previous employer. Would be no surprise to me if WSJ did this stuff after all.

  48. Nell says:

    Remember all the fainting spells six or seven years ago in reaction to Media Whores Online’s terribly, terribly uncivil name and attitude?

  49. EliRabett says:

    Isn’t selling access to public officials against the law? If so where is the justice department