They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Newsweek And Oil Lobby Team Up To Host Climate Change Event With Lawmakers

Dw080613018-jpg
Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell

"Newsweek is pleased to be co-hosting this panel discussion with API," says the email, which adds that "notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate" have been invited. The event is scheduled to be held December 1 in a Senate meeting room.

It's not clear whether the discussion is on or off the record. A representative from Newsweek did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPMmuckraker. [See Late Update: The discussions are on the record, and reporters are invited.]

API has been a key opponent of serious efforts to address climate change, spending over $3 million lobbying on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill this year. This summer, Gerard sent a memo to API member groups that laid out a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as ordinary citizens urged Congress to oppose global warming legislation. Newsweek itself covered that news, as an example of "how astroturfing is taking over local activism."

But at other times recently, the magazine has gone easier on the oil industry. In September, Newsweek ran a story by Newsweek International editor Rana Foroohar entitled "Big Oil Goes Green For Real," which infuriated environmentalists by asserting that oil industry investments in alternative energy were no longer just green-washing, but rather were "the real deal."

The planned December event is by no means the first collaboration between API and Newsweek, or its parent, the Washington Post Company. In February 2008, the news weekly and the oil lobby held a panel discussion on "Globalization Trends and Energy and the Growing Competition for Resources." That event featured Foroohar, the author of the recent Newsweek story lauding big oil, as well as Tony Emerson, the managing editor of Newsweek International, API's then-CEO Red Cavaney, and an energy specialist for the Chamber of Commerce. Emerson, moderating, described API as "an advertising partner."

In March 2009, Newsweek and API teamed up again on an event titled "Energy Policy Perspectives for a New Congress and Administration." That one, held on Capitol Hill, featured Gerard, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, and, as moderator, Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas.

And today, the Washington Post is running a full page ad from a group called Energy Citizens, attacking climate change legislation. Energy Citizens is essentially a front group for API -- the two share a Washington address, and the astroturf rallies that API organized this summer were officially projects of Energy Citizens.

This summer, amid an uproar, the Washington Post canceled plans for an exclusive "salon" at the home of the paper's publisher, where for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists off-the-record access to Obama administration officials, members of Congress, the paper's own reporters and editors.

Here's the complete email from Newsweek's External Relations Manager Jennifer Slattery:

From: Jennifer Slattery
Sent: Mon Nov 02 18:36:27 2009
Subject: V.I.P. Invitation / Newsweek Executive Forum - Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?

Dear XXX,

The editors of Newsweek cordially invite you to attend Newsweek's Executive Forum entitled, Climate and Energy Policy: Moving? This Capitol Hill policy forum is scheduled on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at XXX in the XXX in the United States Capitol.
There will be an informal reception immediately following the discussion.

The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

These additional program announcements will be made in the coming days and you will be apprised of these updates.

Newsweek is pleased to be co-hosting this panel discussion with API. To R.S.V.P. please click the below link and register for the event.

...

Please don't hesitate to let us know if you need additional information or have further questions.

We look forward to hosting you on Tuesday, December 1 and value your continued interest in energy issues of importance.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Slattery

Manager, Newsweek External Relations

Late Update: Mark Block, Newsweek's director of external relations, responds, telling TPMmuckraker that the events with API are on the record and designed to attract press coverage as news events that address timely issues.

Said Block:

Newsweek is honored to be at the center of a topical news discussion with a diverse, wide-ranging audience of both panelists and audience members within our required on the record format.

Block said that in addition to API, 20-30 of the magazine's other major advertisers have been given an opportunity to co-host panels, but most advertizers don't have a single issue focus that lends itself to an event in the way the oil lobby does.

Block added that Newsweek has hosted 5 such events with API, and said there are "very strict church and state policies that have to be followed." He said the magazine doesn't consult API on who else will be invited to serve on the panel, or on what questions will be asked. "In no way do they prompt the perspective [of the discussion] by saying, 'here's the thing that I want to be asked about,'" he said.

These policies have to exist, said Block, "otherwise it appears orchestrated. And it really is not."

Asked whether Newsweek planned to invite a representative from an environmental group to the upcoming event, to balance Gerard's appearance, Block said the magazine "would definitely consider that opportunity," if there were a high-profile environmentalist who might be appropriate. But he said that because members of Congress would likely also participate, time constraints might dictate against it.

Progress overnight on deployment of new commenting system. We hope to move into a short beta-testing phase shortly.