Washington Babylon — June 13, 2008, 8:43 am

Bob Woodward, Sponsored by Citibank

I reported yesterday on the public speaking arrangements of David Broder and Bob Woodward, neither of whom has thus far replied to requests for comment. Here’s more on Woodward.

As with Broder, let’s start with Woodward’s past statements on the topic of journalists doing speaking gigs. In a 1996 Frontline show called “Why America Hates the Press”, Woodward said of the practice of journalism “buckraking”:

A lot of these people have never reported a story. I’m not going to name some of my colleagues who are very well-known for their television presentation–but they wouldn’t know new information or how to report a story if it came up and bit them. They’ve never done it. But they have created personas that go around and, you know, now and then will say something clever. Maybe make an analytical point that even is good to profound. But journalism is information, I think, and they don’t provide it.

Asked about journalists hitting the lecture circuit, like Sam Donaldson, George Will and Cokie Roberts, Woodward said: “I don’t think it helps their reputation.” (Even harsher words on “buckraking” came from the Post’s Ben Bradlee in American Journalism Review, which I cited yesterday).

But based on what I’ve found, Woodward has given dozens of speeches over the past five years (often at cushy resorts) including three to insurance trade groups: in 2002, the Group Underwriters Association of America and the Casualty and Property Insurance Underwriters, and in 2005 the American Council of Life Insurance. Woodward charges — at least his listed fee at the All American speakers’ bureau — between $30,000 and $50,000 for a single speech.

Woodward has given numerous speeches to banking and financial groups, including the American Bankruptcy Institute, the New York Bankers Association, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the Mortgage Bankers Association. That latter’s 2006 event–which featured Bill Clinton as the headliner and also had talks by Greta Van Susteren, Dee Dee Myers, and Andy Card–was sponsored by a smorgasbord of names from the recent sub-prime meltdown, including Countrywide Financial. Woodward’s own speech was sponsored by Citibank. (Note: Greta Van Susteren emailed to ask that I make clear that she was not paid by the Mortgage Bankers Association, but appeared as a favor to a relative. She said she had not accepted payment for a speech in many years and that “the reason I don’t accept fees for speeches is because I fear conflicts…and I get paid well at my job anyway. I would like all journalists to monthly list on line where they have given speeches and for what amounts of money.”)

Woodward has also spoken to many real estate conventions, including, in 2005, that of the American Resort Development Association, when his friend Richard Armitage followed him on stage. He’s spoken at multiple health care galas, such as the American Society of Consulting Pharmacists (2002), the Federation of American Hospitals (2005), and the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Other Woodward gigs in recent years have been before the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, the American Correctional Association, the American Trucking Association, and the National Confectioners Association, where co-speakers included G.O.P. pollster Frank Luntz (the goal of that event: “Help policy makers see who the American confectionary industry really is”).

And Woodward has more speaking gigs lined up for this year, including an event late this month for the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. On its website, the group says that its lobbying interests include efforts to cut financial sector regulation.

In his 1996 Frontline interview, Woodward said he gave all of his lecture money to charity, the charity in question being a foundation run by him and his wife, the Woodward Walsh Foundation. Woodward seems to have greatly increased his speaking appearances in recent years, which probably helps explain why his foundation’s assets have soared, from assets of $347,602 in 2000 to about $1.8 million last year.

Yet the foundation doesn’t seem to do much genuine charitable work. Last year it doled out a meager $17,555 in grants. Over recent years more than half of the foundation’s money went to Sidwell Friends, one of the richest private schools in Washington (with a reported endowment of over $30 million) that caters primarily to the children of the local elite (like Woodward’s children). Meanwhile, the foundation has also supported needy causes like “Citizens for Georgetown Trees,” which prettifies Woodward’s neighborhood, the “Little Folks Nursery School” (“For the 2007-2008 school year, the tuition is: For morning only–$12,150. For the full day–$14,900”), and In Town Playgroup, a private daycare outfit.

It makes one wonder what Ben Bradlee thinks of all this. You’re corrupted if you take money from corporate groups, but not if you give the money to charity? Even if it’s your own personal charity, and you get a tax break, and most of the contributions go to elite causes of direct interest to the donor? This looks to be the same sort of double-dealing and hypocrisy that Bob Woodward–at least the old Bob Woodward–would have been all over as a reporter, if a political figure were involved.

This article was reported with help from Sebastian Jones.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2017

Preaching to The Choir

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Monumental Error

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Star Search

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Pushing the Limit

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Bumpy Ride

Bad Dog

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
Article
Star Search·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 3, 2016, less than a month after Donald Trump was elected president, Amanda Litman sat alone on the porch of a bungalow in Costa Rica, thinking about the future of the Democratic Party. As Hillary Clinton’s director of email marketing, Litman raised $180 million and recruited 500,000 volunteers over the course of the campaign. She had arrived at the Javits Center on Election Night, arms full of cheap beer for the campaign staff, minutes before the pundits on TV announced that Clinton had lost Wisconsin. Later that night, on her cab ride home to Brooklyn, Litman asked the driver to pull over so she could throw up.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Bumpy Ride·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

One sunny winter afternoon in western Michigan, I took a ride with Leon Slater, a slight sixty-four-year-old man with a neatly trimmed white beard and intense eyes behind his spectacles. He wore a faded blue baseball cap, so formed to his head that it seemed he slept with it on. Brickyard Road, the street in front of Slater’s home, was a mess of soupy dirt and water-filled craters. The muffler of his mud-splattered maroon pickup was loose, and exhaust fumes choked the cab. He gripped the wheel with hands leathery not from age but from decades moving earth with big machines for a living. What followed was a tooth-jarring tour of Muskegon County’s rural roads, which looked as though they’d been carpet-bombed.

Photograph by David Emitt Adams
Article
Bad Dog·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abby was a breech birth but in the thirty-one years since then most everything has been pretty smooth. Sweet kid, not a lot of trouble. None of them were. Jack and Stevie set a good example, and she followed. Top grades, all the way through. Got on well with others but took her share of meanness here and there, so she stayed thoughtful and kind. There were a few curfew or partying things and some boys before she was ready, and there was one time on a school trip to Chicago that she and some other kids got caught smoking crack cocaine, but that was so weird it almost proved the rule. No big hiccups, master’s in ecology, good state job that lets her do half time but keep benefits while Rose is little.

Illustration by Katherine Streeter

Estimated portion of French citizens with radical-Islamist beliefs who grew up in Muslim families:

1/5

Human hands are more primitive than chimp hands.

Trump declared flashlights obsolete as he handed them out to Puerto Ricans, 90 percent of whom had no electricity in their homes; and tweeted that he wouldn’t keep providing federal hurricane relief “forever” to Puerto Rico, a US territory that the secretary of energy referred to as a “country.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today