WaPo fails to disclose contributor's connection to Obama WH

Meet Patricia McGinnis, a contributor to the Washington Post’s policy blogs, and a big fan of Barack Obama.   For instance, in January of this year, McGinnis decried the “chilling partisanship” of Republicans objecting to Obama’s agenda in Congress, and offered Obama “high marks for his policy choices” and saluted how Obama has “risen to every challenge by calling on his excellent leadership team,” a remark that seems highly ironic in the wake of the Gulf crisis.  In April 2009, McGinnis hailed Obama’s foreign policy and derided the “saber rattlers,” calling his approach “smart” and not “soft.”

McGinnis may have had good reason to go soft on Obama herself, as John Byrne reports at Raw Story, and the Washington Post may have known it:

A week after a Washington Post blogger was forced to resign, in part, because conservatives felt that the paper wasn’t properly labeling his political ideology, an examination of West Wing payroll statistics by RAW STORY reveals that the Post is failing to disclose another blogger’s connection to the White House.

The Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports Friday, “More than 460 White House employees are paid a combined $38.7 million in salary, according to White House payroll statistics released Thursday as part of an annual report to Congress.”

“Three people — an adviser, a policy adviser and a special assistant — work for free,” O’Keefe notes, without naming any of them.

Those three people are: Special Assistant to the White House Council on Women and Girls Maggie Chen; Dr. Shale L. Wong, an adviser to the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama on childhood obesity; and Patricia G. McGinnis, Advisor to the Obama White House on leadership programs for Presidential Appointees.

McGinnis’ Georgetown biography notes that she “is the former President and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government, where she created and led a number of innovative programs to improve the performance of government, during her 14 year tenure” and also “serves [as] a panelist and blogger for the Washington Post ‘On Leadership’ website.”

In other words, the Washington Post allowed someone connected to the Obama administration to write opinion columns in its blog section without ever revealing her connection to the administration.  That conflicts with the Post’s ethics policy, as Byrne notes, which considers undeclared connections to government “the most objectionable” of conflicts of interest.  The Post has allowed the Obama White House to have a shill presenting propaganda without ever informing its readers of her connection.

Nor is this just the Post’s ethics problem.  The White House hasn’t paid McGinnis for her assistance, but they allowed her to contribute to the Post without themselves disclosing her connection.  The only way this got discovered is through another form of disclosure altogether, and one obviously not intended to out McGinnis.  It’s just another example of sleazy opacity in an administration that proclaimed itself the most transparent in history.

The main onus here falls on the Post, however.  It’s their responsibility to disclose these conflicts of interests for their readers, especially when someone with a connection to the current administration uses their platform to play Hail to the Chief.

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