by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A Washington Post reporter gave former White House Senior Counselor John Podesta advance reassurance she was withholding information about his ethically compromising financial links to a Democratic mega-donor.
“I just wanted to make sure John Podesta had a heads up that his name will be in a story concerning the White House’s ethics policy, which could run on Monday,” WaPo White House Bureau Chief Juliet Eilperin told then-Obama White House Assistant Press Secretary Frank Benenati in a March 21, 2015, email.
The story appeared March 22, 2015, under the headline, “Obama promised to curb the influence of lobbyists. Has he succeeded?”
White House officials being tipped off in advance by journalists about a story could add new fuel to longstanding charges by critics of what they describe as a too-cozy relationship between Washington politicians and influential reporters.
WikiLeaks made the Eilperin email public Tuesday as one among thousands of emails to and from Podesta, who had left President Barack Obama’s White House in February 2015 to take over as national chairman of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“I don’t mention anything specific about the Wyss contract (since I never got a response from you on it), but I do mention that both [Swiss billionaire and Democratic funder Hans] Wyss and [Silicon Valley investor Tom] Steyer were [Center for American Progress] donors while he headed the organization,” Eilperin told Benenati. Podesta was the founding chairman of CAP, a liberal think tank.
“This is just one line, pretty low down in the piece, but I don’t want him to be surprised since we never discussed it face-to-face. Can you just make sure he gets this note over the weekend,” Eilperin asked Benenati. Benenati is now associate administrator for the Office of Public Affairs at the EPA.
As Eilperin warned, her story did note that Podesta as CAP chief, “before joining the administration to oversee its climate and public lands agenda — had accepted major donations from environmentally minded billionaires Tom Steyer and Hansjorg Wyss before he joined Obama’s staff.”