‘Politico’ editor held ‘secret contest’ with Clinton aides at State Dep’t to name a column

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When Bernie Sanders goes on about the “establishment” and how it rigs our democracy, the media often roll their eyes. This is a story about what Sanders is talking about.

Earlier this week Gawker exposed the degree to which Hillary Clinton’s aides manipulated a willing press corps to get favorable coverage of Clinton as secretary of state. Based on a FOIA of emails written by Clinton’s spokesperson Philippe Reines, reporter J.K. Trotter revealed that Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic allowed Reines to dictate portions of an article in exchange for access to a Clinton speech. At Reines’s bidding, Ambinder then described the speech as “muscular” and named prominent figures in her audience, including Dennis Ross, the mediator who is so favorable to Israel.

Mike Allen, White House correspondent for Politico, also described the speech as “muscular,” Trotter reported; and Allen also allowed Reines– “Clinton’s notoriously combative spokesman and consigliere”– to ghost-write an article about the State Department for Politico’s “Playbook.”

I’ve been reading through the emails that Gawker published and noticed one disturbing story that Gawker missed. In September 2009, Mike Allen sent a note to several State Department and White House officials titled “Secret Contest”– to name a column at the publication. [Page 113 at the link] Allen’s tone was fawning:

hoping you-all might be nice enough to confidentially help me suggest a name for Laura Rozen’s column, launching next week.

SCIF or SVTS might be a little too obscure, but that’s definitely the idea.

alas, “The Cable” and “Situation Room” are perfect, something that lingo and colloquial, yet comprehensible. Foggy Bottom, The Oval, etc.

would be super-grateful for any brainstorms.

appreciatively, M, cell [redacted]

Philippe Reines, photo from Beacon Global Strategies
Philippe Reines, photo from Beacon Global Strategies

The note went to Reines, who was then a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton; Andrew Shapiro, then assistant secretary of State for Political Military Affairs; Sarah Feinberg, a high White House aide; Jeremy Bash, then chief of staff to the director of the CIA; Jon Lovett then a speechwriter for President Obama, and a couple other names I can’t pinpoint.

The officials evidently responded. An email from Laura Rozen to Allen that same day states (unconvincingly):

man these are really great. sitrep, scif, PDB, the principals’ committee, terrific.

Allen promptly shared Rozen’s email with his powerful friends. Ultimately the column was titled, Laura Rozen on Foreign Policy.

Clearly, journalists should not be having secret contests with the administration officials they cover to name parts of their publication. And while I’ve seen way too much journalistic corruption to get particularly outraged over one “secret contest,” what gives it importance is that Reines, Shapiro and Bash, who are all Clintonites, went on to form a foreign policy consulting shop called Beacon Global Strategies, which The Intercept reported two months ago supplies guidance to Clinton but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Eric Edelman, a former Bush administration Defense Department official, is an advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies and a leading foreign policy adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Edelman also founded a neoconservative foreign policy consulting group with Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor.

Bash previously worked for Jane Harman when she was a California congresswoman and secret defender of AIPAC, the Israel lobby group. Shapiro rates one substantive mention in Clinton’s book on her time as secretary of state: when he stood up for Israel’s access to advanced US military equipment, including during the Gaza conflict of November 2012 that killed about 100 Palestinian civilians and four Israeli civilians, per human rights reports.

When people say that Hillary Clinton’s ideas are neoconservative-lite, it’s because of this very consensus of Washington insiders. When Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq war, she was echoing this consensus. When she promised to invite Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in her first month in office, she was echoing this consensus.

When Bernie Sanders says that the political establishment and the corporate media establishment require a revolution, he is talking about this type of super-grateful coziness– which has produced such horrific results in foreign policy.

PS. I reached out to Mike Allen and Laura Rozen today to ask them about the secret contest. No answer. And BTW, Rozen is a fine reporter who for all the emails show was not in on the contest.


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I’m a little acronym challenged, and had to look all these up, although maybe an insider knows better: SCIF – sensitive compartmented information facility SVTS – secure video teleconference system PDB – project database? sitrep – situation report [fubar – snafu – ] Credit Rozen with choosing her own name… Read more »

I’m guessing you’ve already read this, Phil, but I’m posting it to all the readers who haven’t yet had a chance to do so: http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2016/02/hillary-clinton-kissinger-vacation-dominican-republic-de-la-renta Hillary vacations with a man who is literally responsible for genocide in Cambodia. But I guess brown lives don’t matter(and neither did black lives, until… Read more »

In not so distant future , certain internationalist will be able to stand tall astride the globe and advise the contenders for the top offices of Russia,China,India,Pakistan,Turkey,Lebanon,Egypt,Armenia, Georgia, Philliipine and Venezuela
same time .