WaPo Salon Scandal: Editors, Lawmakers Deny Knowledge
The revelation that the Washington Post had planned to hold corporate-sponsored "salons" with public officials at publisher Katharine Weymouth's house continues to have repercussions in media and political circles. The White House issued an ethics reminder to staff, while lawmakers and Post editors have tried to distance themselves from the event.
White House counsel Greg Craig reminded administration staffers that they operate under strict ethical guidelines.
The memo from Craig to White House officials said White House officials are required to seek approval before attending events sponsored by a non-government entity.
"As we have advised in a previous memo (see attached), federal ethics rules restricting the acceptance of gifts govern your ability to accept free admission to events put on by a non-governmental sponsor," Craig wrote.
Editorial staff at the Post said they were unaware of the business proposal, and lawmakers have said that they did not know the dinners would raise money for the paper.
Weymouth issued a staff note saying that the flier had been prepared by the paper's marketing department and "was never vetted by me or by the newsroom." Had it been, she said, it "would have been immediately killed, because it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do."
But emails inviting politicians to the salons came directly from Weymouth's office, and the flier advertising the events explicitly stated the cost for sponsors.
Lawmakers who had been invited said they were not told the events would make money for the newspaper. But the Post had separately sent fliers seeking sponsors who would pay $25,000 for a single "salon" or $250,000 for 11 events.
Rep. Jim Cooper's office said the Tennessee Democrat received an invitation this week to attend a dinner on July 21 at the house of Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, was also among those asked to attend.
In both cases, the invitations came as personal e-mails from Weymouth's office.
The Post also described the flier as a "draft," but their own ombudsman pointed out that this draft was "printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care."