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The Post’s Miniberg Group

So now we know what it takes to plead your case before the Powers That Be in Washington, D.C,: $25,000 a pop, and if you buy ten sessions you get one free:

Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said today she was canceling plans for an exclusive “salon” at her home where for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff.”

With the Post newsroom in an uproar after POLITICO reported the solicitation, Weymouth said in an email to the staff that “a flier went out that was prepared by the Marketing department and was never vetted by me or by the newsroom. Had it been, the flier would have been immediately killed, because it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do.”

No, I think it’s pretty clear what Weymouth was trying to do. She tried to sell access to Washington’s power brokers, sort of a miniature Bilderberg Group — except that you could buy an invitation to a seat at the table.

The lame attempt to blame Marketing doesn’t wash; Weymouth is reported to be a very hands-on manager who moved the publisher’s office from the 7th floor at the Post down to the 5th, next to the newsroom. So we’re supposed to believe a flyer about dinners at her home went out without her blessing?

The Post’s newsroom went ballistic when word of the “salons” got out. Executive editor Marcus Brauchli said his staff would have nothing to do with events like the ones described in the Post’s flier.

“Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate,” says the one-page flier. “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. … Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders.”

Weymouth may be backpedaling, but she’s not done yet:

She made it clear however, that The Post, which lost $19.5 million in the first quarter, sees bringing together Washington figures as a future revenue source. “We do believe that there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events that simply enhances what we do – cover Washington for Washingtonians and those interested in Washington,” she said. “And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.”

Oh, there’s no question about your integrity. It’s like the old joke about the wealthy man who offers a million dollars to a waitress to sleep with her for a night. When she accepts, he lowers his offer to ten bucks.

“What kind of woman do you think I am?” she replies indignantly.

“We’ve established that,” he says. “Now we’re just haggling over price.”

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