The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Tom Hamburger to retire after 48 years in journalism, a decade at The Post

Tom Hamburger (The Washington Post)

Announcement from National Editor Matea Gold, Deputy National Editor Philip Rucker, Senior National Investigations Editor Peter Wallsten and Democracy Editor Griff Witte:

With deep gratitude for his service to our craft and enormous pride in his accomplishments, we would like to share the bittersweet news that Tom Hamburger is retiring after an exceptional career in journalism, including a decade of producing consequential political investigations at The Post.

In his 48-year career, Tom has distinguished himself as a dogged reporter with a knack for revealing how powerful forces manipulate politics and government to serve their own ends, as well as an unfailingly generous and loyal colleague who constantly makes those around him better.

A Rochester, N.Y., native and Oberlin College graduate, Tom began his reporting as a Yankee in exile in Arkansas for Pine Bluff Commercial and later the Arkansas Gazette, with subsequent stops at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Washington bureaus of the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. He is a legendary figure in those newsrooms, not just for his many journalistic achievements but for his warmth, collaborative instincts, sense of humor and unending enthusiasm for the story. Tom has been a mentor to countless young journalists, many of whom have also worked as his reporting partners. He was always quick to share his sources and regularly worked late into the night to track down one more detail to make sure a story was rock-solid – even if his name wasn’t in the byline or the credit line.

Tom’s superpowers are his unflagging curiosity, his openness to all points of view and his ability to ward off the cynicism that infects so many Washington journalists. He never lost his love for chasing a lead or extracting a new tip. His eclectic source list, built and carefully maintained over the decades, reflects his ecumenical approach and the respect he shows to everyone, no matter their status: low-level Capitol Hill staffers, K Street super-lobbyists, evangelical pastors and county party chairs, among many others.

Tom made one of his biggest marks on Washington journalism as the bureau chief for the Star Tribune, where, in 1995, he and a colleague broke a series of stories about conflicts of interest in the federal judiciary, for which they were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize public service gold medal and winners of a White House Correspondents’ Association prize for distinguished reporting. At the Journal, Tom covered the money and politics beat, diving into the influence wielded by big business and organized labor to show readers how Washington really worked. He documented how George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign cultivated the coal industry to propel what at the time was an unusual GOP win in West Virginia. Tom later unearthed revelations about Bush administration favors for donors and White House efforts to intervene for political reasons in regulatory decisions affecting federal lands. He continued this groundbreaking work at the Los Angeles Times, where he landed eye-opening stories about the political power of the energy industry, including how utility lobbyists had written portions of the Bush administration’s power plant emissions policy. Tom also helped break a story showing how relatives of Joe Biden, then a newly minted vice presidential nominee, had secured business investments from a company that had lobbied Biden when he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And Tom focused on the evolving Republican Party, co-authoring with his then-L.A. Times colleague Peter Wallsten a book about the GOP’s plan for dominance.

At The Post, which he joined in 2012, Tom has been at the center of some of our most important work excavating the backgrounds and activities of the country’s most powerful players. His reporting revealed the unseen ways corporate America wields soft power in the nation’s capital by funding research at major think tanks. He showed the power of the gun lobby, explored the previously unseen influence of foreign governments and interests on U.S. policy and politics, and investigated the financial interests and fundraising of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Tom helped document how Bill and Hillary Clinton methodically cultivated donors around the world over four decades in politics. Tom and Roz Helderman were the first to document Donald Trump’s years-long fascination with business deals in Russia. Their work exposing Russia’s influence on the 2016 election was part of The Post’s coverage that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Tom also contributed critical reporting to “The Attack,” The Post’s Pulitzer-winning account of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and its aftermath.

It’s hard to imagine the newsroom without him. Please join us in congratulating him on his remarkable career and thanking him for his friendship along the way.

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