03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is The Washington Post Liable For False Advertising?

Newspapers are in trouble. Big, end-of-the-road death spiral big trouble. The Boston Globe was recently pulled off the market because its owners who shelled out $1.1 billion for the paper were a little upset at the $35 million offer plus assumption of some debt that they received.

This isn't pennies on dollars, this is pennies on hundreds of dollars. Nice.

Yesterday, we saw even more hard, bad numbers for the newspaper industry.

On a comparable basis, ABC reported that for the 379 newspapers filing with the organization, average daily circulation plunged 10.6%...

Every six months, these papers are losing big time readers. Like:

The San Francisco Chronicle lost more than a quarter of its daily circ, down 25.8% to 251,782. Sunday was off more than 22% to 306,705.

Being a long since reformed economics major, I can tell you, you lose 25% of your business every six months, it's not long before there's no business left to lose.

So I suppose we should be sympathetic with the newspapers as they take every single dollar of advertising revenue they can come up with, but recently, we saw a full page ad in The Washington Post that showcased the problem with the newspapers themselves.

The Post accepted a full page ad, retail value in the range of $40,000, from a group called "" Now, you might think that The Washington Post would want to have this group put a disclaimer on their ad, because this group is fully-funded by the oil companies. In fact, it is a project of The American Petroleum Institute.

Now, I am sure The Washington Post will say, we can't verify who is actually placing the ad, we're too busy cashing the $40,000 check to stay afloat, but I think they have a responsibility to their readers to explain who is putting the ads in their paper.

Of course, the real issue here is the false claim within the ad. From

On October 15, 2009, ran a full page ad in the Washington Post falsely claiming clean energy and American power legislation would "cost two million American jobs." In reality, an American investment in clean energy technology would create up to 1.9 million green jobs across every single state.

So the American Petroleum Institute runs an ad under another name in The Washington Post and makes a blatantly false claim in the ad. It doesn't surprise me that energy companies are going to lie about clean energy but it does surprise me that The Washington Post is accepting money and helping them do so.

Is this false advertising? I think so. And false advertising is illegal. It's too bad there isn't prosecution on things like this, and all of the clean energy smears out there. A lot of people see them, though, of course, 10 percent fewer people than would have seen them six months ago.