Ceci Connolly Was the “Play” in the WaPo’s Pay2Play Dinner

Close to the end of OmbudAndy’s long assessment of his paper’s Pay2Play scandal, he includes this tidbit:

Brauchli conferred with Pelton about the salon dinners. At one point they showed up at the newsroom desk of reporter Ceci Connolly, who covers health care, which was to be the discussion topic of the July 21 dinner. Subsequently, she said, "Charles asked me for some contact phone numbers and e-mails, which I provided."


On June 17, another Word document was provided by Pelton to The Post’s advertising staff soliciting a $25,000 sponsorship — "Maximum of two sponsors" — for the July dinner. Under "Hosts and Discussion Leaders," it listed Weymouth, Brauchli and "Other Washington Post health care editorial and reporting staff." It said participants could "Interact with core players in an off-the-record format."

A week later, the flier was distributed to the ad sales staff.

At the same time, e-mails were being sent over Weymouth’s name to lawmakers and others inviting them to the July 21 dinner. They said she, Brauchli and "health care reporter Ceci Connolly" were hosting the evening. An accompanying invitation said it would be off the record and noted that it would be underwritten by a single sponsor, Kaiser Permanente. [my emphasis]

Somehow I just knew Ceci Connolly would be involved in this Pay2Play.

That’s because she has spent the last month "reporting" stories that scold progressives for insisting on real reform. There was the article, for example, where she said,

Activists say they are simply pressing for quick delivery of "true health reform," but the intraparty rift runs the risk of alienating centrist Democrats who will be needed to pass a bill. 

And falsely claimed Adam Green could offer no reason for a public option. Problem is–that’s not what she asked him.

Connolly then asked me why progressives were picking a political fight on the public option, as opposed to another issue. I guess the fact that it’s the #1 domestic issue of the day — one that affects millions of American families — wasn’t explanation enough.

I figured she was looking for a quote summarizing the political stakes, so I though for a moment and said, "The public option has become a proxy for the question of whether Democrats will stand on principle and represent their constituents."

I was quite proud of that answer. It summarizes what a lot of people are feeling — the public option is the "line in the sand" issue for Democrats, something Chris has written about here on OpenLeft several times. 

Connolly’s take on that quote:

Green, in an interview, was hard-pressed to articulate a substantive argument for the public plan but said that it "has become a proxy for the question of Democrats who stand on principle and represent their constituents."

WHAT? Connolly asked me a question on the politics, and when I gave her an answer on that, she said I didn’t answer on the substance?

More recently, Ceci Connolly reported on a poll and focused on the 80% who were satisfied with the quality of their care, and not the majority who are dissatisfied with the health care system overall in this country.

Ceci Connolly is a reporter with an egregious bias for the status quo and unquestioning beltway "centrism" (never mind that the beltway is far to the right of the country on this).

What a surprise, then, that she was not only the beat reporter dangled out to participants in the Pay2Play dinner, but was also asked to help facilitate the presence of her sources.

But don’t worry, the WaPo wasn’t selling coverage to those who want to silence those looking for real reform. They appear to have already done so.

Update: Valley Girl has more on Ceci "Pay2Play" Connolly’s work.

From Howie’s WaPo link here: Ceci Connolly sez- article linked above July 4:

Obama Urges Groups to Stop Attacks– Advocates Should Turn Attention to Promoting Legislation, President Says

In recent weeks, liberal bloggers and grass-roots groups such as MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Service Employees International Union and Progressive Change Campaign Committee have targeted Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.).

Ceci Connolly from June 28 WaPo article- here.

Health-Care Activists Targeting Democrats- Sniping Among Liberals May Jeopardize Votes Needed to Pass Bill

In recent days– and during this week’s congressional recess– left-leaning bloggers and grass-roots organizations such as
MoveOn.org, Health Care for America Now and the Service Employees International Union have singled out Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) for the criticism more often reserved for opposition party members.

If nothing else she knows how to use cut and paste. And, I thought, well… she has an agenda… let’s see…

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    Another sacrifical goat offered up to try to protect Weymouth. Perhaps if they fire her or she resigns, the problem will go away. Perhaps the sphinx might turn an handspring, too.

    At least this time, it looks as though they’ve found someone actually involved to try to lay off some of the blame.

    Boxturtle (Thinks Ms. Weymouth should just resign and slink away in the darkness)

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree. Weymouth is the biggest problem here.

      But Ceci Connolly is part of it. I’d be happy if they just took her off the health care beat and put her on style or something.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        No wonder Howard Dean gets such short shrift and sabotage from national reporters. It doesn’t seem likely that Connelly even ‘gets’ someone like Howard Dean.

        His view of politics is so radically different from a Rove or an Abramoff, so built on the concepts of socially constructive human interactions and such faith in the fundamental decency of people to find enough courage to do the right thing that he kind of gives PoliticsAsPayola a pass.

        Connelly doesn’t seem to grasp that politics does not have to be a synonym for ‘payola’. Like too many political writers (especially those who infest right-wing Think Tanks), her view of ‘political behavior’ is so incredibly constrained to the fields of PR and payola that she honestly doesn’t seem to ‘get’ politics AS A MEANS OF public education, or of personal growth.

        I can understand why, if she’s been in the DC of Rove/Abramoff and the Ralph Reed wannabees, she might hold that small-minded, cynical view of ‘politics’.

        But to reduce ‘politics’ to nothing more than an vast complicated financial transaction — which is precisely what Rove, Abramoff, Reed, Bush, Cheney, Frist, and the rest of the GOP did (and which fits to a chilling degree the ‘economic-political theology’ of a group like The Family, as explained by Rachel Maddow and Jeff Sharlet last night at msnbc) is to win short term battles for resources and lose long term public trust.

        Howard Dean is so far ahead of these guys that they’ll never see how brilliant he is. But I had assumed — obviously, incorrectly — that at least a few in the media had enough brains and perspective to examine the social, cultural significance of Howard Dean and what he may portend for politics.

        Barak Obama is president, and Rahm is pissy about Dean, but if you step back 50 paces and look at the larger timecycle since 2004, it’s clear that health care would not have been able to build this much momentum, nor would Obama have been able to build the organization he needed to win, without the absolutely brilliant, innovative, creative groundwork that Howard Dean accomplished.

        The fact that Connelly can’t see the forest for the trees in this much larger picture of how health care came to the fore (with Dean driving it heavily since 2004), and where it fits in the larger context of economic meltdown and social upheaval is almost incredible to watch.

        Some smart reporter is going to kick ass — maybe a Matt Taibbi of health care reporting — when they start with Howard Dean and then follow the social relationships, rather than the money.

        • Nell says:

          It might be even more helpful to your analysis to step back 500 paces, to the 1990s, to see that the corporate-dominated political and media culture in which someone like Ceci Connolly thrives is a bipartisan creation.

          The Democratic Party of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Terry McAuliffe, and the people who led the party up until Dean’s DNC chairmanship had no use for, and no real conception of, people-centered politics or party building at the base. 50% + 1, take the political landscape as a given and and try to make deals with enough of the existing “influentials” to get some pale version of your agenda through. Heaven forbid you should take your case to the public and make a political fight on their behalf and with their active support.

          Obama and Clinton both represented a step backward in the relationship between grassroots activists and the corporate overlords; Obama’s was just going to be more in tune with the 50-state strategy and base party building during the campaign. Afterward? Back to the nineties in either case.

          In the particular case of the WaHo “salon”/brothel, this is made clear by the obvious expectation that some of the WH health care staff would be taking part (e.g., Nanette DeParle, one of the record number of non-Congressionally-overseen ‘czars’ in this administration). Larry Summers, another oversight-free representative of Obama’s FIRE base, has already participated in several of these whorefests.

  2. Loo Hoo. says:

    Ceci’s got her own website.

    Ceci Connolly is a nationally-known print reporter and television commentator with 20-plus years experience. She is available for freelance writing, public speeches and facilitation.

  3. NCDem says:

    From her site on facilitation.

    In 20-plus years in print and broadcast media, Connolly has mastered the art of guiding stimulating conversations on a range of topics.

    A true facilitator does not guide the discussion but lays out the parameters of the topic, areas that may be explored, and a timetable for completing the tasks. Except to keep the focus in line or to adjust timeline, they need to standback and allow the group to move forward. Ceci doesn’t believe that people can operate without her.

    • bobschacht says:

      I think you may be reading too much into the word “guiding”. I think it is a legitimate word for describing what good facilitators do, because they guide the process, but not the substance, of the discussion.

      Bob in HI

  4. Valley Girl says:

    Oh EW- I guessed Ceci Connolly was involved, but that was a hunch, and I didn’t have the goods. Thank you!

    She is an egregious piece of work, as I discovered, and I only had time to scratch the surface- I put this together bec. Howie asked me to- after I kept bombarding him with emails about her… some good links, imho!


  5. whitewidow says:

    Let’s never forget her role in all of the lies about Al Gore. She was the worst offender.

    Ceci,stop. You’re hurting America.

  6. LabDancer says:

    I continue to propose that what fearless leader and we here for her turn of mind values see as BAD p.r. for WaPo as a “newspaper”, including exposing Ceci C. for precisely what she is, WaPo ownership and management see as GOOD p.r. for what they are trying to accomplish — which is to promote and normalize the idea of lobbies regularly itemizing their paying of large, rounded-off sums of money to WaPo as a prudent, even shrewd, and certainly accepted business practice well within the orthodoxy of what lobbies do and the parameters of what customers of their services can and should accept from them.

    To me, it looks like some bright bulbs from the WaPo owner/management side on the one hand and from the upper regions of the Bizarro World of lobbies on the other figured out that this is something like a genius stroke in providing a ready answer and evidence exhibit to the customer base of lobbies in response to questions about transparency and return on investment.

    I’ll give one example, lightly disguised to protect the client [there were a number like this] and also myself: a health professional, a leader in the particular field to some, the subject of resentment by others in the field due to financial success and fame/notoriety and the priesthood of the field having to reflexively acknowledge both as some sort of ‘model’ for standards in the field, consulted me about one what was characterized to me as “business investment”, which readily emerged as one among several in the same vein, which category eventually emerged as one vein among a web of similarly bent and corroded pipe-dreams of varying degrees of social acceptability: from long-view investment strategies that pretty quickly took on the appearance of stock scams, to immigration sponsorships programs that appeared might well be in actuality prostitution and slave labor funnels, to investments in research and development projects that would emerge as snake oil cons, to — the most transparent and socially acceptable of the bunch — cash calls for special projects from the industry’s leading associative bodies.

    And the last was where the arguments were strongest and the show and tells of proof the weakest. To people like that client, more of mine, and many many more of many many others, this entire storyline, including WaPo’s apparent self-flagellation, puts a smile on the face while approaching the putting green at their country club golf course or downing the fois gras with a pernod at the feedbag of the industry lobbyist’s fundraiser.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      what they are trying to accomplish — which is to promote and normalize the idea of lobbies regularly itemizing their paying of large, rounded-off sums of money to WaPo as a prudent, even shrewd, and certainly accepted business practice well within the orthodoxy of what lobbies do and the parameters of what customers of their services can and should accept from them.

      Am I the only one to be struck by the juxtaposition of Barak Obama in Africa pointing out that prosperity requires rooting corruption out of your economic and political processes?

      Because the WaPo is behaving consistent with what I’d term ‘the Abramoffization’ of politics: big money drives political decisions. Period.

      I find it a hopeful sign that it was evidently a health care lobbyist who routed this item to Politico. A few years back, I started to hear a few staunch Rep acquaintance bitching about the ’shakedown’ that politics in D.C. had become (to say nothing of the lack of GOP brains and talent there, but I digress…)

      It would be interesting to know the motives that prompted a lobbyist to expose this WaPo scam.

      Sure, they’ve lost tons of revenue and are desperately seeking ways to regroup. But to do it in a way that basically sanctions lobbyists as THE key players (over and above the electeds) shows how shaped they’ve been by a political environment in which Rove was seen as a ‘brilliant strategist’ and Abramoff was viewed as ’successful’.

      IMHO, these people need to garden more, find a few new hobbies, and find some type of activity that allows them a much better perspective on the tawdry nature of what they appear to not only take for granted – but actively enable and promote.

      Very, very sad to see the paper behind the W’gate look like a pack of moral midgets.

  7. flounder says:

    The way they are freaking out, I predict that we are going to find out that some sort of preliminary “Salons” already occurred.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      I’m thinking not. The blogosphere has had this in it’s teeth for a week with no story and that’s FOREVER in cybertime.

      I think the freaking is Weymouth and her apologists trying to find a solution other than a different publisher.

      Boxturtle (Not that we should expect anything different from her successor)

      • alabama says:

        Don’t you suppose they were still freaking out over Froomkin when this thing came down? There has to be a lot of anger at every level of the operation. Hers is not a big happy family….

  8. fatster says:

    O/T, just one more example of O-team promises not kept.

    Has Obama Forgotten NAFTA Promise?

    Friday July 10, 2009

    “The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was an important point in Obama’s Presidential Campaign platform. However, he seems to be backing away from his promise to renegotiate the agreement. In a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in April, Obama said that any NAFTA renegotiation would need to wait until after the economic crisis passes. Any disruption to NAFTA trade could further slow the economy.”


  9. garyg says:

    Ahem. Sorry to be pedantic, but their is a persistent typo in this piece; should read

    “Feci Connolly”

    EW you have been on fire!

  10. Arbusto says:

    Bill Moyers had a scathing editorial at the close of his latest Journal regarding the WaPo and pay for play. The program interviewed Wendell Potter, a past SIGNA VP who had a come to Jesus moment and now pushes for health care reform. I’ve rarely seen Moyers so animated with a guest or a topic. He was pissed! Watch the program; it’s worth it.

  11. bobschacht says:

    drational @4:

    So she was selling influence contacts on the side. WaPo was trying to cut in on her action.

    As a trained facilitator, I strenuously object to the conclusions to which you have jumped. A good facilitator is neutral with respect to the substance of any facilitated discussion, and is responsible only for shepherding the process to help the participants achieve their goals.

    Of course, I have no knowledge whether Ms. Connolly was any good at facilitation, or whether she used her position to inappropriately manage the process. But you offer no evidence of that.

    Bob in HI

  12. Teddy Partridge says:

    Good to know that Katharine’s job is secure, though. I think.

    “Marcus has learned a lesson. I have learned a lesson. Everyone has learned a lesson,” Weymouth said.

    “I’m the leader of the organization. If anyone should have stopped it, it should have been me,” she added, saying that whether she remains as publisher is “up to Don,” her uncle.

    When the question was put to Graham, who was traveling, he e-mailed: “Katharine is an outstanding publisher of the Post; she understands the values that are central to the Post and upholds them very well.”

    And that, it appears, might be the core of the problem — the publisher understands the papers’ central values and upholds them very well.

    • greenharper says:

      Ah, Ceci. Your grammar. Not, “[I]t should have been me.” Rather, “[I]t should have been I.”

  13. fatster says:

    O/T Harper’s publisher speaks out.

    John R. MacArthur: Obama a very smooth liar

    01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, June 17, 2009


    “IT ISN’T QUITE FAIR to call Barack Obama a liar. During the campaign he carefully avoided committing to much of anything important that he might have to take back later. For now, I won’t quibble with The St. Petersburg Times’s Obamameter, which so far has the president keeping 30 promises and breaking only six.

    “And yet, broadly speaking, Obama has been lying on a pretty impressive scale. You just have to get past his grandiloquent rhetoric — usually empty of substance — to get a handle on it. I offer a short, incomplete list, which I’m sure others could easily enlarge.”


  14. dcblogger says:

    I can’t wait for Somerby’s take on this. Ceci Connolly led the war on Gore, was one of the worst offenders in smearing Dean in 2004 and was part of the weasel corps who helped Medicare Part D(eath) pass. She is one of the worst.

  15. peterboy says:

    where do we get this sort of legitimate commentary on a major networ about obvious atrocities when Bill Moyer is gone????????

    • NewsNag says:

      ….yes, and from someone with such fierce intelligence and spiritual gravitas as Moyers. Who will tell the Romans once we don’t have Bill?

  16. Bluetoe2 says:

    Was Cece doing all the cooking or was this Beltway Brahmin leaving that up to her “colored” help?

  17. tjallen says:

    Strikes me that, although the flyer and the marketing guy came from the Post, the push (or pull) comes, in a sense, from the huge reserves of cash that the lobbyists and corporations have put in play in DC.

    I can see this WashPo case happening in either of two ways:
    1. Publisher needs more money for WashPo, sees loads of it on Lobbyist desks, and makes plans to get some of it for self, or
    2. Lobbyists work with WashPo marketing dept already, and one of them suggested the plan.

    My point is that it is the large slush funds of taxpayer and customer money sloshing around lobbytown that leads to this corruption, and only secondarily do (morally weak and financially needy) individuals, from Reps and Senators to Publishers, fall in the corruption trap.

    Corporations see Washingtonians as proper instruments for the advertising investments which they add to the products we buy. We are paying to corrupt our own government and press.

  18. tjallen says:

    Maybe the stockholders of American companies need to tell their company directors to stop wasting our profits paying to corrupt our government and institutions.

    Maybe a Federal law could direct that companies get permission from each stockholder to spend money on lobbying – in the same way a law was proposed a few years ago that union members must be consulted individually before spending union dues on lobbying.

    All this money floating around DC corrupts everything and distorts everything. Rather than attacking the corrupt, can’t we attack the corrupters?!