Many of the most influential sources of news in Washington, D.C. are funded by America’s biggest corporations, which often have a direct interest in the news they’re sponsoring.
Leading D.C.-insider news outlets, including Politico, Axios and Punchbowl News, rely largely on newsletters with integrated advertising and sponsorships to distribute their content to key decisionmakers in American politics. Those newsletters are frequently sponsored by Big Tech firms, defense contractors, Chinese mega-companies and other corporate interests.
Politico’s Playbook, the original digital newsletter for Washington insiders, is read by tens of thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, political staffers, lobbyists and consultants every morning. Monday’s edition was sponsored by Google, with integrated blurbs touting the company’s efforts to help small businesses and woman-founded startups. Other Playbook posts within the past month have been presented by Facebook, the American Beverage Association (a lobbying group) and Amazon.
Axios, a Politico rival founded by former Politico employees, has its own Playbook Rival, Axios AM. Last week’s editions were presented by Bank of America. The week before that, Google. Punchbowl News, a newer competitor in the D.C.-insider news landscape, has had its flagship newsletter sponsored by Facebook, Alibaba (a Chinese ecommerce giant) and Blackstone in the past week.
There’s a trend not only of these news services read by America’s most powerful being funded by major corporations, but oftentimes by the same corporations: just recently, Google and Facebook. Perhaps even more striking is that the policy-specific newsletters offered by outlets like Politico and Axios are sponsored by corporate interests competing directly in those spaces.
For instance, Monday’s Politico Morning Energy newsletter was sponsored by Chevron; Politico Morning Money was sponsored by Blackstone; Politico’s Pulse and Prescription Pulse healthcare newsletters are presented by PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) and PCMA (Pharmaceutical Care Management Association).
Axios readers are treated to Axios Generate presented by ExxonMobil, Axios Vitals presented by the American Hospital Association and Axios Login presented by Ericsson, a 5g equipment provider.
Politico previously scrubbed any evidence of sponsorship of its national security newsletter by Lockheed Martin, America’s biggest weapons manufacturer. The branding deal was widely criticized after being highlighted on social media. More traditional media isn’t immune to similar conflicts of interest, though — last year, the Washington Post ran an op-ed criticizing the prospect of withdrawing from Afghanistan, without disclosing the fact that the author was on the board of Raytheon, a leading defense contractor.
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