To recap what by now is a familiar story: the Washington Post ran an article suggesting that Koch Industries would be the principal beneficiary of the Keystone Pipeline by virtue of its minor leasehold interest in Canadian tar sands–a complete fiction. I took the article apart here and here, pointing out, among many other things, that Keystone would actually be damaging to Koch’s economic interests. In the latter post, I also noted the tight connections between the authors of the Post story and the Democratic Party, particularly coal magnate Tom Steyer, the Democrats’ principal money man.
Then, just a few days after the Post’s article ran, Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Henry Waxman used it as a pretext to send Koch a long letter demanding various documents and posing a series of questions about Keystone. That led me to pose the question whether the Post’s article was a put-up job, coordinated with the Democratic Party in the persons of Whitehouse, Waxman or Steyer. I wrote to the Post asking for information about the roles played by Whitehouse, Waxman and Steyer in the genesis of the Keystone story, but despite repeated requests from me and our readers, the paper failed to respond.
Now the third shoe has dropped, with still more evidence that the Post’s fictitious article was a Democratic Party plant. This morning Politico sent out its popular Mike Allen Playbook, which sells sponsorships. Today’s edition was sponsored by Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate. This notice appeared at the bottom of the Playbook email:
** A message from NextGen Climate: Charles & David Koch, come out of the shadows, your company is one of the biggest leaseholders in the Alberta tar sands – how much do you stand to benefit if Keystone XL is approved? We challenge you to answer the tough questions & debate us in public?: http://WLOL.US/9h
NextGen Climate is a non-partisan organization focused on bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics. Founded by investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer, we act politically to avert climate disaster and preserve American prosperity. Working at every level, we are committed to supporting candidates, elected officials and policymakers across the country that will take bold action on climate change-and to exposing those who deny reality and cater to special interests.”
So Steyer’s group, like Waxman and Whitehouse, has used the Post’s tar sands story as the basis for its attack on the Koch brothers. This raises once again an urgent question of journalistic ethics. Did the Washington Post coordinate with some combination of Henry Waxman, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Steyer to plant a false story so that the Democrats could use it to attack Koch Industries?
It is curious that there was no apparent news hook for the Post’s tar sands story. It was based entirely on a foolish report by a far-left group that came out last October, and was thoroughly debunked at that time. Why, suddenly, did the Post take an interest in Koch’s trivial tar sands leaseholds? Was it because the reporters (or people higher up at the Post) were asked to do so by their allies Whitehouse, Waxman, and Steyer? Is it coincidence that one of the authors of the Post’s fictitious story, Julie Eilperin, also did a fawning puff piece on Steyer for the Post? Or that her husband is employed by an organization on whose board of directors Steyer sits?
If the Post’s article wasn’t a plant, then why won’t any of the people involved–firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org–come out and say so? Why the continuing silence? If the Post published a false article at the behest of the Democratic Party, it is a journalistic scandal of the first order. Yet the Post, well aware of the questions that are being asked, has refused to answer them. Likewise with Waxman and Whitehouse. Will Steyer tell us what role he played in the publication of the Post’s misleading article? Not likely: silence is the rule, all around.
But if the stonewalling continues, the inference that the Post collaborated with prominent Democrats to smear the Koch brothers with a false story will become overwhelming. Let’s try it again: it is time for more politely worded emails to the addresses above, asking the Post to respond to the many questions that have been raised about its false tar sands story. If they still remain silent, it will be time to start drawing conclusions.
UPDATE: I have sent the following email to Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson and Martin Baron at the email addresses above:
Mr/s _______, you need to answer the many questions that have been asked about whether your false article about Koch Industries and the Alberta tar sands was written in collaboration with representatives of the Democratic Party, including but not limited to Henry Waxman, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Steyer. More evidence of such collaboration has now emerged:
If the Post ran a false article at the behest of the Democratic Party, it is a journalistic scandal that may be unprecedented in our modern history. You need to respond.
More emails to the same effect may finally prompt the Post to stop stonewalling.