The Assassinated Press
Report-A-John-Gate: Post Rent-A-Reporter Program Goes Public. Washington Post Co. Cancels Corporate Dinners, After Fliers for Program Appeared on Telephone Poles Around City.
Swamped With Thousands of Wrongful Death Suits and Homicide Indictments, George Halvorson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, Turns to Post to Snuff Health Care Reform. “You dumb fucks supported Dick Cheney and his utter bullshit leading up to the invasion of Iraq,” Halverson says. “Why not help the health insurance industry that kills Americans in their beds instead of sending them half way around the world to die?”
Journalistic Boundaries Brought Into Focus. Post Charges $25,000 a Journalist. FOX Immediately Lower Its Price to Ten Bucks and a Case of Ripple.
By BOWAND KURTZIE
Assassinated Press Staff Writer
July 3, 2009
Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth yesterday canceled plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers that offered corporate underwriters access to Post journalists, Obama administration officials and members of Congress in exchange for payments as high as $250,000 had appeared stapled to telephone poles all over the Washington DC area under the signs that read “Will Tow Your Old Car For Free.”
"Absolutely, I'm disappointed we got found out," Weymouth said in an interview. "This should never have happened. The fliers got out and the little nigger kids we get to deliver them weren't vetted. Fortunately, they didn't represent all that we were attempting to do. We're not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom without getting the money up front."
The fliers were approved by a top Post marketing executive, Charles Pelton, who said it was "a big mistake on his part to ‘intern’ a bunch of street kids to get out the fliers for free" and that he had done so "without vetting it with the newsroom and asking if “twenty five grand was enough to listen to Kaiser Permantente CEO George Halvorson drone on about the thousands of wrongful death suits files against his company and why a single payer plan may lead to higher survival rates among patients but would be a disaster for his golf game."
Pelton said that Kaiser Permanente had orally agreed to pay $25,000 to sponsor a needy reporter at a July 21 “smash health-care reform” dinner at Weymouth's Northwest Washington home, and that Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) had agreed to be a guest.
Pelton, who serves as general manager for conferences and events, said he had invited two-dozen business executives, advocates for private insurance and presidential health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle. But a White House spokeswoman said no senior administration officials had agreed to attend, and an aide to DeParle claimed she had received no such invitation.
Preyer Breakfast “Look, Nancy doesn’t do these sorts of pay and prey for less than $50,000 up front,” said her spokesperson, Grace Kaiser. “And believe me, we haven’t sen the dough.”
Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he was "appalled" that the plan got out. "It confirms that access to Washington Post journalists was available for purchase," Brauchli said, “not that such an assertion needed much confirmation.” We would never renege our our "promise to corporate America to enforce our usual skeptical questioning of poor people because that would threaten the good name of The Washington Post among our corporate payola pals. Why the fuck would I want to screw up a good thing?"
The Post Co. fliers offered an "intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth." The fliers, which said participants would be charged $25,000 to sponsor a single salon and $250,000 to underwrite an annual series of 11 sessions, were reported yesterday by Politico.
The full-color flier for the July 21 dinner said: "Bring your organization's CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama Administration and Congressional leaders . . . Profitable? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. Mounds of CIA coke." The dinner, it said, would involve "health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post . . . an exclusive opportunity to participate in the demise of health-care reform especially any single payer plan among the select few who will actually get it done."
Weymouth, a right wing twat, who had edited the marketing copy, said that "we will never compromise our journalistic integrity for less than $50,000. We’ve got standards. Besides the fucks we’re lying for stand to make trillions." She said other news organizations sponsor similar conferences and that she remains comfortable with the basic idea of lobbyists or corporations underwriting dinners with officials and journalists as long as those paying the fees have no concerns about a favorable outcome for the kleptocracy.
But precisely what amount would be acceptable remains unclear. Asked whether the forums she envisions were buying access to Post journalists, Weymouth said, "I suppose you could see it that way if you weren’t in on the shakedown, but that is not the way I would spin it." She said the situation would be comparable to a company buying an ad in the newspaper with the tacit assurance that in the future it "could buy the content" on that page. “Or better yet, the content will reflect a favorable outcome for the company as is always the case in my paper.”
Billed as Little Bilderberg
Brauchli, who is listed on the flier as a host and discussion leader, had been involved in discussions with Weymouth and other executives stretching back to last year. He said he made clear to the company's marketing division that Post journalists would participate only if they could control the price of any such conference. The discussion had focused on whether this would run against “free market” thinking that found ‘price controls’ abhorrent. The journalists wanted “their payola to be whatever the market would bear,” Bruachi said. Brauchli said his conditions included multiple sponsors for an extended series of forums which would drive up the price per journalist, rather than companies financing a journalist dinner involved in their industry; a balanced lineup of wealthy participants from across the top one percent of the economic spectrum; a keynote speech by Rick Santelli; a Bohemian Grove style skit put on by members of the Congressional Finance Committee and NAM; a cash bar; music by Bono; and no surcharge for the invited guests.
But even with those caveats, the off-the-record format would ensure that The Post could cover up the discussions, even as its name was being used to lure high-profile newsmakers.
"We expressed our concerns and are disappointed by this outcome," Brauchli said of the fliers, which were labeled "Underwriting Opportunity." "I would ascribe it to a lack letting greed get the better of me and not being more discrete about how we fuck up the public."
Even without the newsroom's payola, the aggressively worded pitch conveys the long established fact that The Post is offers corporate interests access to administration officials and lawmakers, raising a separate set of concerns about how one can get a taste of this dubious partnership with those covered by the newspaper. The Post often questions whether unions, especially their unions, receive access or favors in return for campaign contributions, but protects corporate interests like a mother crocodile protects her eggs.
Speaking of reptiles, access to Weymouth herself, a granddaughter of longtime publisher Katharine Graham, another piece of work, 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 only if those editorial policies actually needed influencing. When has the Post ever not come down on the side of the rich?
Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communication, said news organizations should be a neutral broker among differing interests and that "what The Post was looking to do was to make a profit on the role of the convener because what shit assed little advocacy group was going to have the scratch to buy influence at the Post. . . . The idea of crossing a boundary line that seems to me painted so brightly white. I'm not astonished that it got this far. The fucking Post hates the poor as much as insurance executives do."
Pelton co-owned Modern Media, a California-based firm that staged conferences, before joining The Post Co. two months ago. "We should never imply that there's a possible link between coming to dinners with envelope stuffed with cash and access, either to the leaders or the policymakers or the journalists," he said, conceding that he had been "sloppy . . . in my enthusiasm to get the salons up and running without properly thinking through the implications of might happen if it got out." What’s Done In Washington, Doesn’t Stay in Washington. Everyone’s for sale and they advertise.
John Spragens, a spokesman for Cooper, said that once the Tennessee Democrat learned the details of the dinner, he would not have attended "a radioactive event. . . . You want to be put in a position as a congressman where people can see that someone's buying access to you. That way you can drum up more business. But the price and quid pro quos were just too low in this case. Mr. Cooper doesn’t drop trou in the same room with the Fourth Estate."
Sybil Wartenberg, a spokeswoman for California-based Kaiser Permanente, said the company had not made a final decision to finance the dinner -- no contract had been signed -- and was not attempting to buy influence. They’d rather rent. "Our organization is not as well-known on the East Coast," she said. "We're keenly interested in reform and want to be at the table for discussions to make sure nothing happens to adversely affect our bottom line."
The controversy led White House counsel Gregory Craig to remind administration officials that they need advance approval to participate in such events. His memo said that "federal ethics rules restricting the acceptance of gifts govern your ability to accept free admission to events put on by a nongovernmental sponsor. Do the favors for the fat cats now. Then when you enter private life reap your many quid pro quos for sucking kleptocratic dick."
A number of media companies charge substantial fees for conferences with big-name executives and government officials, but in many cases the sessions are open for news coverage which is supposed to make it alright.
This week, for instance, Atlantic Media is sponsoring the Aspen Ideas Festival, underwritten by Altria, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Ernst & Young, Mercedes-Benz, Philips, Shell and Thomson Reuters. Speakers include White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice who sells out Central Africa, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Google CEO and government informant Eric Schmidt, along with journalists for Atlantic and other media outlets.
Atlantic Editor James Bennet said the festival, co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute, "is open to the press . . . and we're videotaping it. We have editorial control over it. We decide what the panels are and who's on them. There are absolutely no constraints put on it at all except the corporate constraints we come to the table with."
In March, the Wall Street Journal brought together global finance leaders -- including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd -- for a two-day conference sponsored by Nasdaq and hosted by Robert Thomson, the Journal's top editor, and other editors and reporters. Outside journalists were invited to the session but they’re just a bunch of fucking corporate whores too. The entire farce was on the record and webcast by the Journal. Participants, who paid several thousand dollars in small bills in special Sriro Agnew envelopes to attend, also had a White House meeting with economic adviser Lawrence Summers, which was off the record and by personal cash donation to Summers at his request.
Where did you get this term ‘elite’?
The Journal also holds conferences with its All Things Digital unit. A session in May, described as offering "unmatched access to the technology industry's elite," was sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and Qualcomm, among others, and, like a mini-Bilderberg featured the CEOs of Microsoft, Yahoo, NBC Universal, AT&T and Twitter, as well as Weymouth, all involved in destabilizing the developing world for their own profit.
The New Yorker hosts an annual festival in Manhattan featuring its editors and writers along with other journalists, authors and entertainers. The gathering planned for October is sponsored by American Airlines, Delta, Westin Hotels and Banana Republic, all involved in further destabilizing the developing world for their own profit.
Weymouth has come under increasing pressure to find new sources of revenue and the Post’s option to cover up CIA and DIA crimes for cash has not been renewed in favor of new (and old) snitch darlings like Google and ITT. The Post Co. lost $19.5 million in the first quarter and just completed its fourth round of early-retirement buyouts in several years.