UPDATE: Post CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth has canceled the series of dinners, saying, "Absolutely, I'm disappointed...This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren't vetted. They didn't represent at all what we were attempting to do. We're not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom."
The Washington Post found itself the object of much criticism this morning after Politico's Mike Allen reported on a Post "salon" series, promising private, off-the-record, non-confrontational dinner discussions with Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and Washington Post reporters and editors, for $25,000 per person, marketed to lobbyists. "Bring your organization's CEO or executive director literally to the table," reads a flier. The dinners are to be hosted at the home of Post CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth; the topic of the first one, advertised int the flier, is health care.
Evidently a lobbyist felt uncomfortable with the ethics of it--a newspaper appearing to peddle influence in a $25,000-per-ticket lobbying session, serving as interlocutor between lobbyists and the White House, assuring the cooperation of its editorial staff, and perhaps the chance to influence reporters--and gave a copy of the flier to Allen. Lots of bloggers shared the sentiment. The Post's Ezra Klein, one of the paper's most notable health care experts, called it "appalling" and said he would have refused to attend, had he been invited or informed.