The Wash. Post Has A Lobbyist As A Writer; Here Are 12 Times They Didn't Disclose Conflicts Of Interest

Editorial Page Editor Says The Post Wasn’t “Initially Clear Enough With” Ed Rogers “On Our Expectations” But Defends Paper

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

The Washington Post has repeatedly failed to inform readers about major financial conflicts of interest in pieces by opinion writer Ed Rogers. Rogers is a leading Republican lobbyist who has used his Post column to advocate for the interests of his firm’s clients without disclosure in at least a dozen instances since the beginning of 2016.

Rogers writes for the publication’s PostPartisan blog. His columns also regularly appear in the Post’s physical edition and are syndicated across the country through its syndication service.

The Republican lobbyist is the chairman of the BGR Group, which he co-founded in 1991. The firm is one of the country’s largest lobbying groups and had over $17 million in lobbying revenue in 2016.

His Post credentials are touted to potential clients in his corporate biography, which states: “Since 2011, Ed has been an opinion writer for the Washington Post, where he writes about politics and the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., from a Republican point of view.”

Lobbying experts told Media Matters that the Post’s arrangement with a lobbyist of Rogers’ stature is “rare” and “highly unusual.”

Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and author of The Business of America is Lobbying, said that “It's pretty rare for a megalobbyist to have a gig as a columnist in such a prominent venue.”

He added that while it’s hard to quantify how much the Post column helps his lobbying business since Rogers “has plenty of influence with or without his columns ... it almost certainly helps him. I can't imagine his gig as a Post columnist isn't part of his pitch to potential clients.”

Tim LaPira, a James Madison University associate professor who studies lobbying, agreed that the Post’s “arrangement is highly unusual.”

“Most lobbyists do not promote ideas in the public domain on their own behalf, under their own name,” LaPira said. “I doubt anybody has ever kept track of how common it is for lobbyists to write regular columns like this because it is so rare.”

Rogers has repeatedly used his Post column to promote the lobbying interests of his firm’s clients over the years. Media Matters previously documented in 2015 how Rogers attacked environmental and financial regulations without disclosing his firm’s relevant clients. Rogers' columns subsequently included disclosures in some -- but not all -- pieces where he discusses environmental regulations.

In addition to environmental issues, Rogers has numerous potential conflicts on both the domestic and international front. He and his firm's colleagues have registered as agents for foreign governments and have counted Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as clients. Ukraine recently signed BGR to lobby for it as the country “seeks to strengthen its relationship with the United States.”

Media Matters reached out to The Washington Post and sent examples of Rogers’ writings with conflicts of interests. Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt respond by saying the Post wasn’t “initially clear enough with Ed on our expectations” but defended the Post and Rogers, and disputed “some” of Media Matters’ examples:

“We weren’t initially clear enough with Ed on our expectations. We do believe genuine conflicts should be disclosed, he is committed to doing so, and has done so numerous times. Some of what you flag here does not strike me as that kind of conflict. For example, we make no secret of the fact that Rogers is a conservative Republican whose firm lobbies for business interests; the fact that he would criticize Hillary Clinton for wanting to raise corporate tax rates I don’t think would surprise readers or strike them as stemming from a hidden conflict of interest. If he lobbies for a specific client or specific issue and then writes about that specific client or issue, I think readers should be made aware, and I’m confident Ed agrees.”

BGR Group did not reply to a request for comment.

Media Matters reviewed Rogers’ opinion pieces from the start of 2016 through today and found that the Post is failing to properly disclose when Rogers and his clients’ lobbying interests intersect. These disclosure violations include:

  • Praising President Trump for rescinding a fiduciary rule that protects investors without disclosing that BGR is lobbying to repeal the rule.
  • Criticizing the Dodd-Frank financial rule without disclosing his firm is lobbying on the issue.
  • Criticizing politicians for their attacks on the financial services industry without disclosing that he and his firm have been paid to lobby on behalf of financial services firms.
  • Praising the Tomahawk missile strike against Syria without disclosing that he lobbies on behalf of the missile maker.
  • Pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline without disclosing that BGR is lobbying for a firm that has been pushing for its implementation because it would financially benefit from its approval.
  • Pushing for environmental deregulation and a lowering of the corporate tax rate without disclosing his firm is lobbying on those issues.

     Here are 12 examples of how the Post is failing its readers:

    Department Of Labor Fiduciary Rule

    BRG Lobbied For MassMutual On “Legislation Related To The Proposed DoL Fiduciary Rule.” In 2016, President Barack Obama issued rules for the Department of Labor requiring that, as The New York Times noted, “all financial professionals who provide advice related to your retirement money must provide recommendations that are in your best interest.” President Trump has since delayed the rules. BGR’s lobbying disclosure for financial services company MassMutual stated last year that it lobbied on “legislation related to the proposed DoL fiduciary rule.” MassMutual has publicly criticized the proposed rule, claiming it “will hurt Americans.” BGR received $220,000 in 2016 from MassMutual to lobby. [The New York Times4/6/16; NPR.org, 2/17/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, Boston Business Journal, 4/6/16; OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17]

    Rogers Praised “Rescinding President Barack Obama’s Retirement Account Advisory Business Regulations Before They Can Go Into Effect.”

    In just two weeks as president, Donald Trump has already taken some substantive measures on the economy, including his executive order generally reducing regulations and controlling regulatory costs; requiring pipeline projects to be completed using iron or steel products manufactured in the United States; revising Dodd-Frank; and rescinding President Barack Obama’s retirement account advisory business regulations before they can go into effect in April. Plus, Trump made Wilbur Ross, his commerce secretary nominee, one of the adults in charge of the NAFTA negotiations. In doing so, Trump defused a potentially ugly situation and sidelined some of his more bombastic advisers. The NAFTA overhaul is a critically important move, and it’s good that Trump has given Ross a powerful White House embrace. [The Washington Post2/6/17]  

    Dodd-Frank

    BGR Lobbied For MassMutual On Dodd Frank. BGR also lobbied for MassMutual on “Dodd-Frank regulatory implementation provisions relating to insurance companies” and “HR 5983, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016,” which would roll back Dodd-Frank. [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17; The New York Times9/13/16]

    Rogers Praised Effort To Roll Back Dodd-Frank.

    In just two weeks as president, Donald Trump has already taken some substantive measures on the economy, including his executive order generally reducing regulations and controlling regulatory costs; requiring pipeline projects to be completed using iron or steel products manufactured in the United States; revising Dodd-Frank; and rescinding President Barack Obama’s retirement account advisory business regulations before they can go into effect in April. Plus, Trump made Wilbur Ross, his commerce secretary nominee, one of the adults in charge of the NAFTA negotiations. In doing so, Trump defused a potentially ugly situation and sidelined some of his more bombastic advisers. The NAFTA overhaul is a critically important move, and it’s good that Trump has given Ross a powerful White House embrace. [The Washington Post2/6/17]  

    Financial Services Industry

    BGR Lobbied For Financial Services Companies. Rogers’ group collected $270,000 in 2016 lobbying on behalf of Franklin Resources in 2016. A 2016 lobbying disclosure report stated that BGR had provided “strategic advice and counsel on legislative and regulatory actions that are impacting or may potentially impact Franklin Resources and/or the financial services industry.” BGR also lobbied for financial services providers LetterOne Holdings, MassMutual, and PGP Investors. Rogers personally lobbied for Franklin and LetterOne. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17,  4/21/17, 4/21/17]

    Rogers: Hillary Clinton Should Defend The Financial Services Industry And Attack Sanders As Having “No Idea What The Financial Industry Does.”

    First, Clinton should do more — not less, more — live TV. Her net performance is pretty good during the debates and in interviews; she just has to do a better job of preparing for the tough questions. Clinton’s campaign is plagued by two big, corrosive questions. One, she needs to address the issue of her relationship with big banks and Wall Street. She and her family — and I say family because even Chelsea Clinton worked on Wall Street for a while, and her husband is a Goldman Sachs alumnus and currently runs a hedge fund — have been especially close to Wall Street, and it is painful to watch Hillary Clinton try to suggest otherwise. Perhaps Clinton could actually learn something from how Donald Trump unabashedly embraces his experiences. Rather than pretend she doesn’t know the big players on Wall Street, Clinton should use her familiarity with the financial services industry to suggest she knows how to corral them without killing them. Clinton should say, a la Trump, that “I know these people,” “Sure, I took their money” and “I know what they care about and how to make them get in line.” Clinton should argue that Sanders has no idea what the financial industry does or what its pressure points are, but as a former senator from New York, she can easily pinpoint its vulnerabilities. Clinton should look those who question her Wall Street ties straight in the eye and bluff them into silence. [The Washington Post2/8/16]

    Tomahawk Missile Strike Against Syria

    BGR Lobbies For Tomahawk Missile Maker Raytheon. Rogers personally lobbies for Raytheon, which manufactures the million-dollar Tomahawk missiles used in the recent Syria strike. BGR received $120,000 in 2016 for lobbying on “Defense and communications procurement; Defense appropriations and authorizations.” [Media Matters4/11/17]

    Rogers Praised Trump’s Handling Of Syria.

    I don’t want to jinx anything, but President Trump may be experiencing the best sequence of events since he became president. Just this week, he received bipartisan support for his military strike in Syria, secured Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court, had impressive meetings with both King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of Egypt, caught a break with the Susan Rice scandal, and it appears he has walked away from a successful encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping — all without knocking it off the rails with a wayward tweet. And it’s not just me saying that, no less than Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass wrote that this was “arguably [the] best of Donald Trump’s still young presidency, from [a] successful strike in Syria to confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.” Imagine that, decisive and poised presidential action from the president himself.

    The president is receiving mostly positive coverage as a result of the strike in Syria, but even Trump’s critics are talking about him in a serious way. There has been no discussion of chaos during the strike or wild tweets and off-key chatter that diminished the significance of the action that was taken. Most analysts and political commentators are describing the attack as a calculated, level-headed decision by a president whose foreign policy disposition has been ambiguous. And oh, by the way, it doesn’t hurt that Trump did something so adverse to Russia in Syria. It showed that Trump is perfectly capable of acting with brutal hostility toward a vital interest of Vladimir Putin’s.

    […]

    In politics, just like in golf, luck counts. The fact that Trump launched an attack against Syria while his Chinese counterpart was present and able to witness the aftermath in the media was a powerful stroke of good luck for the White House. In case Xi needed any reminding of just how serious Trump may be about taking action in North Korea, the Syria attack couldn’t have been a better example or come at a better time. By all accounts, expectations for their meeting were low. But reports indicate that Trump and Xi had substantive, mostly positive conversations, perhaps leaving the Chinese president with a lot to think about. It looks like he may have walked away with a better impression of how Trump thinks and how his administration functions. [The Washington Post4/8/17]

    Keystone XL Pipeline

    Rogers’ Firm Lobbied For Caterpillar, Which Said It Would Financially Benefit From Keystone XL Pipeline’s Approval. A 2016 form for BGR stated that it lobbied for Caterpillar to “provide counsel and strategic guidance on federal activity regarding infrastructure improvements.” Caterpillar stated on its government affairs website that “has an interest in” the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval because “Caterpillar pipelayers, excavators and track-type tractors are used in the North American pipeline business.” BGR received $310,000 in 2016 for its lobbying work. [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17; Caterpillar, accessed 4/21/17; OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17]

    Rogers Criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders For His “Wacky” Position On The Keystone XL Pipeline.

    It is safe to say that presidential campaigns are mostly about peace, prosperity and the character of the candidates. In none of these categories does Clinton approach the court of public opinion with clean hands. Most voters do not want an Obama third term — yet in order to get through the primaries, Clinton has had to embrace all things Obama. She has had to embrace the weakest economic growth of any postwar recovery and the first recovery where the economy did not grow at least three percent in any year following the end of the last recession.  She has had to temporarily disassociate herself from longtime Clinton family allies and benefactors on Wall Street and in the business community while espousing Obama’s anti-business mantra. Not to mention, she has had to swing to the left to adopt Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wacky positions on the minimum wage, trade, the Keystone XL pipeline and whatever else. [The Washington Post6/3/16]

    Rogers Dismissed Liberals’ Concerns Over The Keystone XL Pipeline. (The Post piece did disclose that Rogers’ firm “represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries” but made no mention of Rogers’ ties to a company that “has an interest in” the pipeline being built).

    The left’s opposition to Tillerson will largely be grounded in the fact that he comes from an oil company. Let’s face it: The people who don’t want the Keystone XL pipeline or the Dakota Access pipeline, who oppose drilling or fracking anywhere and who think that de-carbonizing the economy is possible are the same people who will lead the fight against Tillerson’s confirmation. There is almost nothing Tillerson can say that will satisfy these people. Many among the global warming alarmist crowd approach the topic of climate change with a near-religious zeal. [The Washington Post1/5/17]

    Environmental Regulations

    BGR Group Lobbies For Numerous Energy Companies. In 2016, BGR lobbied for Chevron, JKX Oil & Gas, Nuclear Energy Institute, Southern Co., and WEC Energy Group. Rogers personally lobbied for JKX Oil & Gas and Southern (JKX's registration start date with BGR was September 1, 2016). [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17; 4/21/17]

    The Post Has Been Inconsistent In Disclosing Rogers’ Anti-Environmental Conflicts. Rogers frequently criticizes environmental regulations in his Post writings. In some instances, Rogers included a disclosure noting his firm’s clients, writing: “Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.” In several instances, Rogers did not include such a disclosure. This piece only takes issue with those that do not, which are noted below. [The Washington Post1/5/17]

    Rogers Attacked Liberals For Promoting “Policies, Often Under The Guise Of Environmental And Global Warming Activism, That Suppress Development, Growth And Good, Middle-Class Jobs.”

    The party of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doesn’t like free enterprise or those who associate with it. They like social activists more than they like American workers. The national Democratic Party is composed of a circle of self-reinforcing members, including academics, feminists, environmentalists, government unions, Hollywood, minority and LGBT activists, trial lawyers and a host of financiers like Tom Steyer. What do they all have in common? These groups tend to have a parasitic relationship with private enterprises that actually employ people, particularly people who work in a trade. Democratic insiders promote policies, often under the guise of environmental and global warming activism, that suppress development, growth and good, middle-class jobs. The failure of the Obama economy speaks for itself. [The Washington Post5/18/16]

    Rogers Criticized Obama For Running “A Punitive Regulatory Regime Enhanced By A Pointless Passion For Global Warming Initiatives” And Having An “Anti-Business Bias.”

    The president and the Democrats are either oblivious or dishonest when they talk about their “economic success.” In what will probably be Obama’s most lasting legacy, he has run up the national debt by $10 trillion — more than all our other presidents combined — leaving future generations weighed down by the Obama debt. He has stifled small businesses with excessive taxation, perpetuated a punitive regulatory regime enhanced by a pointless passion for global warming initiatives and acted with anti-business bias that has all amalgamated to slow growth and spread discontent across the country. [The Washington Post6/23/16]

    Rogers: Democrats “Obsess[ing] Over Climate Change” Helped Them Lose The Election.

    If you’re still confused about why Democrats lost the election, look no further than the issues they prioritize. Instead of focusing on jobs, the economy and national security, the Democrats obsess over climate change, bathroom breaks and, curiously, sanctuary cities. Now is a good time for the Republicans to pick some fights, and the issue of sanctuary cities is a prime target. It’s a perfect reminder of what Democrats have become. As my old boss Lee Atwater used to say, “Never kick a man when he is up.” And right now, the Democrats are down, divided and in disarray. [The Washington Post12/8/16]

    Rogers Criticized Obama’s Global Warming Policy.

    To make matters worse, Obama has capitulated to and strengthened enemy regimes in Iran and Cuba. He scrambled our international priorities and declared global warming to be one of our most significant national security problems, requiring billions to be spent to lower carbon emissions in the United States at the expense of American businesses while giving China a pass. [The Washington Post12/29/16]

    Corporate Tax Rate

    Rogers’ BGR Group Lobbies On Corporate Tax Cuts. BGR lobbied for pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. on “corporate tax reform.” Amgen CEO Robert Bradway reportedly said the company would be “a clear beneficiary” of lowering the corporate tax. BGR listed “tax reform” as a lobbying issue for other clients such as Southern and Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17, 4/21/17; FiercePharma, 1/10/17]

    Rogers Praised Trump For Pledging To “Cut The Corporate Tax Rate From The Current 35 Percent Rate To 15 Percent.”

    Obviously, Trump’s able advisers had a hand in crafting what is a solid, Republican plan. I have said for years that we don’t have many problems that wouldn’t be solved by a few years of 4 percent economic growth. Well, the plan that Trump laid out yesterday calls for at least 3.5 percent growth per year — which, considering the anemic growth under President Obama, would be an economic boom. He also wants to cut the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent rate to 15 percent, and his plan eliminates both the death tax and the carried-interest loophole. Much of this is standard Republican fare that the Democrats and the usual suspects among their apologists will instantly criticize. But that’s okay, because finally, this campaign will be getting around to having arguments about policy.

    […]

    I’m not ready to say Trump would be a good president, but this a good plan. [The Washington Post9/16/16]

    Rogers Attacked Clinton For Saying She Would Make Corporations “Pay Their Fair Share.”

    As I read the economic policy speech Hillary Clinton gave in Michigan yesterday, as a partisan Republican, I was enthused by the prospects. Her economic plan isn’t even Obamanomics 2.0; it is Obamanomics 1.5. For those of you who haven’t read the fact sheet that the Clinton campaign released along with the speech, I encourage you to read it. Here’s the link. It’s a parody of what a real fact sheet should look like. And the tired, pedantic language Clinton uses is cringe-worthy. She wants to tinker around the edges with just more of the same: Raise taxes, spend more, send more money to Washington and give away more money here and there. One of my favorite lines is “Hillary will make sure that corporations and the most fortunate play by the rules and pay their fair share.” Gee, that’s a bold position. The way she sets up her positions to supposedly contrast with those of Donald Trump reads like a Goofus and Gallant page from Highlights magazine. [The Washington Post8/12/16]

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