‘Wash Post’ Launches Epic 25-Part Web ‘K Street’ Series

By: E&P Staff

In a bold move, and experiment, The Washington Post launched today an unprecedented 25-part series, starting in print but continuing on the Web. It’s written by longtime Post writer and editor Robert G. Kaiser, and will run Monday through Friday for five weeks.

Called “The Citizen K Street Project,” it focuses, as the title would indicate, on lobbying in the nation’s capital. Chief editor is Jeffrey Leen, and it will include photos and video.

“In the coming weeks, Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Washington Post, will tell the story of Gerry Cassidy’s career and the evolution of his firm in a unique fashion, combining the resources of both The Post and washingtonpost.com,” the newspaper announces today. Summaries will appear in print but the story will run in full only on the Web.

Here’s how the mammoth series is introduced today at www.washingtonpost.com

Thirty-eight years ago, a young lawyer named Gerald S. J. Cassidy left his job in Florida on a legal aid project for migrant workers to come to Washington. He went to work on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, chaired by Sen. George McGovern (D.-S.D.). Cassidy worked for McGovern on food stamps, school lunch programs and the like for six years, then left with a colleague to establish a consulting business. They thought they could use their knowledge of Congress and the federal bureaucracy to help businesses and institutions navigate the nation’s capital. Instead, they ended up helping to change Washington itself.

They developed one big idea for a business that proved amazingly successful: the earmarked appropriation for individual institutions. Tufts University was their first client to win an earmark, $27 million to build a human nutrition research center. This success was the first recorded example of lobbyists making money by persuading Congress to send money to a private institution that had asked for the money without any government agency proposing the project. Within a few years this upstart lobbying firm had dozens of clients and was making millions of dollars.

The original partnership broke up after ten years, but the business boomed. Cassidy & Associates became the biggest lobbying firm in town. Its success contributed to an explosion of lobbying as imitators tried to copy the Cassidy method. Lobbyists became important sources of cash for the politicians they lobbied, and as campaigns became ever more expensive, lobbyists’ contributions became ever more important. Over time, the rise of lobbying helped create a new culture of wealth in the nation’s capital. And Gerald Cassidy himself amassed a fortune of more than $100 million….

Kaiser will tell the story in a serial narrative that will chart Cassidy’s path and the transformation of the lobbying industry in Washington. While the serial continues, The Post will publish daily reminders to readers and synopses of each installment. The series will conclude in the newspaper and on the web on April 8.

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