Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief, emailed several people close to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to give him a “heads up” that his name would appear in a pending article about lobbyists, according to Wikileaks.
The Eilperin article was published in March 2015, and was titled, “Obama promised to curb the influence of lobbyists. Has he succeeded?”
Throughout the email exchange uncovered by Wikileaks, Eilperin tried to reassure Podesta that his place in the pending story is just “one line” buried late in the story. She also reached out to several people to make sure that it did not catch Podesta “off guard.”
“I just wanted to give you and John a heads up on a story that might run as early as Monday,” Eilperin wrote March 22, 2015, to Eryn Sepp, who had worked as an assistant to Podesta at the Center for American Progress (CAP).
Long story short, it’s about the ethics rules Obama adopted in 2009, and how they’ve been implemented. In that context, I mention that some WH officials have had ties to advocacy groups and activists before entering the WH even if they weren’t formally lobbyists. I mention that John accepted donations from Hansjorg Wyss and Tom Steyer when he headed CAP, and obviously they care about environmental issues. I had asked Frank about this when John was still in the WH, but we never closed the loop on this.
Anyway, it is just one line well into the text of a long story, but I didn’t want it to catch you both off guard.
To make sure that Podesta got the message, Eilperin forwarded her email to Frank Benenati, an administration EPA official. She again tried to minimize the impact on Podesta and reassured that she doesn’t “mention anything specific about the Wyss contract.”
I sent this note to Eryn yesterday, 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. 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 Wyss and Steyer were CAP donors while he headed the organization.
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?
Podesta asked Benenati to find out “where she is coming from on this?” Benenati replied to Podesta, saying he would reach out and then shortly after, emailed him another message from Eilperin with the exact quote from the story, and her request to “let me know if there are any issues with it”.
“And the liberal think tank Center for American Progress–which former White House senior counselor John D. Podesta founded, and helped lead 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.”
Let me know if there are any issues with it, but the donations from Steyer and Wyss are a matter of public record. I’m not mentioning the contract Podesta had with Wyss because you never got back to me on that, and I didn’t want to mention it without getting some sort of response in advance.
Eventually, Podesta decided it was “probably not worth worrying about.”