Lobbying in the Washington Post

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Sometimes you don’t have to do more than open your newspaper to get lobbied in Washington. Last week, the Washington Post ran a profile of the centrist Louisiana Senator-turned-lobbyist John Breaux that ran more like a promotional piece for Breaux’ clients, and their positions on bills, more than anything else. While this short little A19 article certainly doesn’t rise to the level of Jack Abramoff paying op-ed writers to pen positive essays supporting his client’s positions it does give print space to a lobbyist selling his clients. This is surely something to complain about. And the Washington Post does get letters.

One such letter complains about just this issue in the Breaux article:

I kept looking for the disclaimer "paid political advertising" in the Verbatim "article" by Steven Mufson [Federal Page, Nov. 7].

The piece was clearly a compilation of views by clients who pay former senator John Breaux (D-La.) to represent their interests. And then what he does is lobby on behalf of those interests. We are all familiar with this type of lobbying — using the media to get the views of particular interests into the press so as to blur the line between "news" and advocacy.

— Larry Bruneel

This sounds like a perfectly sound complaint about advocacy masquerading as journalism. However, it gets a little dodgy when you read the line underneath the name Larry Bruneel.

The writer is a lobbyist for an energy company.

Bruneel just happens to be the lobbyist for the International Transmission Company (ICT Transmission). ICT Transmission is “in the business of transmitting high-voltage electricity throughout southeastern Michigan, providing the gateway for energy delivery to the Midwest and for the international markets to our neighbors in Canada.” The Post article that Bruneel is “complaining” about contains this paragraph:

Breaux is plugging for something called the Community Power Alliance, which includes integrated utilities that do everything from generating power to maintaining the lines to individual homes. The repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), in the name of greater competition, created separate power generating and transmission companies. The group Breaux represents opposes efforts by regional transmission grids and new generating firms to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give them greater access to the integrated companies' local transmission lines.

I guess that Bruneel doesn’t have truly honest motives in his “complaint” about placing “paid political advertising” in the Post. His Letter to the Editor is a clever form of lobbying as well.

By the way these guys are two Democratic lobbyists. I hear that the new Democratic majority plans on severing the ties between Congress and K Street. Good luck with that.

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