Most of you are no doubt familiar with the Washington Post salon scandal, where people with very deep pockets were invited to pony up $25,000 USD in order to have a dinner at the house of publisher Katharine Weymouth.
What would you get for that kind of scratch? The movers and shakers at the newspaper would personally introduce you to the movers and shakers at the White House, as well as the reporters who covered them. Pay them cash, and the good folks at the WaPo would create an instant handshake relationship with the very people who are shaping the future of the country, and those who shape public perception of same. If you are a representative from a special interest group, a corporation or lobbyist, this was like sounding the dinner bell at fat camp.
As the article I linked to above points out, this sort of thing is done all the time by newspapers with their foot in the White House press room door. But this time around it was just a bit too blatant to pass the smell test. The wage slaves in the WaPo’s very own bullpen, the ink stained wretches that are never invited to any of the best shindigs because they are “gray people”, screamed bloody murder. No one had asked them, they claimed. HA! Like anyone who spends their days in a newspaper’s board room on the top floor would ask what a reporter thought when bucks were on the line!
I’m rehashing this sordid, tawdry, thoroughly predictable scandal because Glenn focused our attention (as well as the majority of the blog reading world) on an op-ed written by The Atlantic‘s very own Marc Armbinder. Perhaps in an effort to head off similar outrage that would be directed at his own meal ticket, Armbinder makes full disclosure that The Atlantic has been holding similar soirees for years. He even goes so far as to publish an internal Email that was sent down from on high by David Bradley, the chairman of the board at Atlantic Media.
Neither Armbinder nor Bradley dares to utter the dreaded words “lobbyist” or “influence”. Instead the events are presented as nothing more than a polite and genteel discussion, something that someone pining for their old college days might sponsor to relive the thrill of their respective Debating Society. According to Bradley, all sides are carefully included, carefully moderated, carefully civil. He also claims that these dinners are of great constructive value because the participants “…find no other place for such purposeful, engaged, constructive conversation across walls.” Bradley also puts a great deal of emphasis on how there can be no hanky-panky influence- and access-peddling going on because everything that happens at the get-together is strictly off the record!
Uh-huh. And people pay tens of thousands of dollars a pop just to be able to eat rubber chicken and meet people with a different point of view? They can do that over at my house for a lot less money! I’ll even throw in a guarantee that I won’t breathe a word of what goes on inside the privacy of my home. What happens in Chez Rummel, stays in Chez Rummel!
All of the comments to Armbinder and Bradley’s ridiculous attempt at whitewash are worth reading, but the very first one raises questions that I really want to see answered. What the hell do the people shelling out that kind of long green expect in return? According to Bradley, they get nothing of any real value. But that can’t be right since, by The Chairman’s own admission, thousands of people have taken part in penny packets of thirty at a time! That is, what, a minimum of 700 dinners over the past six years???
Damn! I’m in the wrong business!
To quote David Mamet, everyone needs money. That is why it is called “money”. I find it impossible to even contemplate the idea that there are so many ultra-rich idiots that are willing to pay big cash for absolutely nothing in return. Idiots rarely work their way up to ultra-rich status, and those who have it handed to them through inheritance rarely hang on to it for long. They must have expected good value for their bucks, and they must have received that value because they keep coming back for more.
So what did they get? Bradley won’t tell us.