Mike Allen’s recent report on the controversial Washington Post lobbyist dinners has sparked a furor. One thing that’s been largely overlooked is the fact that the invitations to administration officials and members of Congress differed markedly from the “sponsorship opportunity” fliers sent to lobbyists. See for yourself: I’ve gotten a hold of an invitation and an accompanying personal email from Post publisher Katharine Weymouth to Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, a key figure in the health care debate.
The takeaway here is that the invitations to members of Congress looked nothing like the fliers to lobbyists that offered “nonconfrontational” access to elected officials and a sponsorship rate sheet that reportedly ranged from $25,000 to $250,000 dollars. The Cooper invitation emphasizes “dinner, dialogue and debate,” with the only clue to the evening’s commercial aspect being the “underwritten by Kaiser Permanente” line at the bottom. The detailed email from Post publisher Katharine Weymouth to Rep. Cooper does not mention a sponsor or any lobbyist presence, emphasizing only the policy nature of the discussion with Post editor Marcus Brauchli and health care reporter Ceci Connolly. So it’s no surprise some elected officials feel blindsided.