Wash. Post falsely claimed Blunt's wife does not lobby Congress

››› ››› SAM GILL

The Washington Post falsely reported that the wife of acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt "does not lobby Congress." In fact, Abigail Blunt is a registered lobbyist for Philip Morris, as she was in 2002, when Blunt tried to modify Homeland Security legislation in a way that would have benefited Philip Morris.

In an article in the January 11 edition of The Washington Post, staff writer Jonathan Weisman falsely reported that Abigail Blunt, the wife of acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-MO), is not a congressional lobbyist. In reporting on a move in 2002 by Blunt to modify Homeland Security legislation in a way that would have benefited tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris, Weisman noted that Abigail Blunt -- then Abigail Perlman -- was a lobbyist, but he then wrote that "[s]he does not lobby Congress." In fact, not only is Abigail Blunt currently registered as a congressional lobbyist, she lobbied Congress for Philip Morris at the time. Though she and Blunt were not married, they reportedly had a "personal relationship."

The weblog Fired Up! America was apparently the first media outlet to note the Post's error in reporting that Abigail Blunt "does not lobby Congress."

Rep. Blunt first took heat for the move in summer 2003 after a Washington Post report in June 2003 disclosed his involvement with Philip Morris. Democrats criticized the 2002 attempt to add a measure to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 intended to reduce cigarette smuggling, a provision many claimed was designed to benefit Philip Morris. At the time he was attempting to modify the Homeland Security Act, Blunt reportedly had a "personal relationship" with Perlman, a lobbyist for the tobacco giant. They married in 2003.

In detailing the controversy, the Post's Weisman reported that Perlman "does not lobby Congress." In fact, Perlman lobbied both houses of Congress for Altria Corporate Services Inc. (formerly Philip Morris Management Corp.) in 2002 and continues to do so under the name Abigail Blunt. Altria Group, which also owns Kraft Foods, changed its name from Philip Morris Companies Inc. in 2003; the tobacco division operates under the name Philip Morris International.

A lobbying disclosure report for July 1-December 31, 2002, indicates that Perlman lobbied both houses of Congress on behalf of Altria. She lobbied Congress on budget and appropriations bills (Page 4) and tobacco legislation (Pages 11-14). (The provision added to and then removed from the Homeland Security Act is not included with the bills listed in the disclosure.) Altria's lobbying report reflects Perlman's marriage to Blunt, and its 2003 "Year End" report lists her as "Abigail Blunt." The latest Altria report, "Mid-year" 2005, indicates that she lobbied the House on animal issues (Page 2) and both houses of Congress on budget and appropriations (Pages 4-5), food industry issues (Pages 6-7), health issues (Page 8), tobacco (Pages 13-14), torts (Pages 15-16), and trade (Page 17).

From a January 11 article in The Washington Post:

The stories are numerous. Just hours after Blunt was named to the House's third-highest leadership job in 2002, he unsuccessfully tried to insert a measure benefiting Philip Morris into the 475-page bill creating the Department of Homeland Security. Blunt's ties to the company are thick: He was very close to a company lobbyist, Abigail Perlman, at the time, and married her in 2003. She does not lobby Congress. One of his sons, Andrew B. Blunt, lobbies the Missouri legislature for Philip Morris.

Blunt has intervened in legislation on behalf of United Parcel Service of America Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt represented UPS in Missouri at the time. And the senior Blunt brokered a deal with then-Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) to fight for a vote on legislation that could open the door to Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco, a top priority of Philip Morris, because it is far ahead of rivals in designing products likely to gain FDA support.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
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