Search Results For mike allen

Mike Allen Or Rick Sanchez?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 6 2010 @ 2:27pm

A reader writes:

Let's get down to the bottom of it…if a fatuous quasi journalist like Rick Sanchez on CNN can nail Ensign, than Politico should do enough homework to push back on Cheney.  Is it possible that the so-called "journalists" at Politico could learn a thing or two from Rick Sanchez?

I think this misunderstands how Allen views journalism. His role, he seems to believe, is to become very very close to people with power, to become their friends and confidants, in order to get an advantage over delivering the messages those people want to deliver. And if he can become their main outlet, he gets more status in Washington as someone more connected than anyone else, he garners more pageviews for press releases from often anonymous power-brokers, and thereby generates more money for an organization he helped found.

This is what Washington journalists think is their job; and they value one another by the proximity of their ties to the powerful. In a business sense, they can also brag about their close ties to Cheney as a way to get major corporations to buy ads under the impression that the powerful read the Politico. This is the model. And it's a problem.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the notion that journalists are really accountable to their readers, that the powerful should be afraid of them rather than their best buddies, and that the goal is to challenge government, not act as its informational tool. Politico is to the US government what Blackwater was for the US military. It acts as an ancillary privatized forum for the powerful to express themselves outside of the box of, say, releasing statements to the press in general.

This is why the MSM was much more interested in getting an interview with Palin rather than forcing her to hold a real press conference. The MSM works for itself and its advertizers in a bid to become closer and closer to power. Few places prove this more potently than Politico.

Mike Allen Pivots Back

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 2 2010 @ 1:00pm

Aware, perhaps, that his role as Cheney spokesman last week damaged his cred, the Politico scribe (who also, it must be said, has some great reporting behind and ahead of him) pushes back against Hosenball's "scoop" of a terror-threat briefing on December 22:

Did the President have a briefing on December 22 on holiday threats? You bet he did. He demanded it. The holidays are traditionally a time of increased threat reporting and the President wanted to be sure his team was on top of that reporting — doing the fine work it had done, for example, on the Zazi and Headley cases earlier in the year. In fact, the President demands regular counterterrorism and homeland security briefings that bring together the whole team representing the heads of the government agencies charged with intell and homeland security. Did the December 22 briefing include a warning of an attack? No. It did not. And despite the provocative headline on his story, the Newsweek reporter does not report that there was one. Because he couldn't. Because there wasn't.

Erik Wemple has another blockbuster piece on the corporate public relations newsletter known as Mike Allen’s Playbook at Politico. This time, it’s about the constant, fawning press releases Allen writes for his favorite news channel and personal idol, Roger Ailes. The latest piece of puffery from Allen is a summary of the new Gabe Sherman book on the Republican operative running the Republican Party’s propaganda outlet. For some reason, almost none of the critical details about Ailes made it into Allen’s account, merely anything that Ailes himself would be happy with:

He chose far more flattering stuff, like the part about Ailes being “The Most Powerful Man in the World,” about Ailes’s rough childhood, about Ailes winning over Rupert Murdoch, about Ailes winning over employees, about Ailes’s marketing genius, about Politico scoring a presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan library, to Ailes’s dismay. Save for a nod to Fox News’s alleged deception over an infamous anti-Obama video from May 2012, Allen all but “Zevved up” the Sherman book. That is, he made it sound a lot like the very favorable Ailes biography that author Zev Chafets last year published with the network boss’s full cooperation.

To take a fair but highly critical book and make it seem like a hagiography is Allen’s mojo when it comes to Politico’s advertizing clients (including those whose sponsored content appears within Allen’s daily suck-up to power and money in Washington). But the Ailes-worship is close to pathological. Just read it all yourself and make up your own mind. But, to my mind, Wemple proceeds to cite case after case after case of fellatial coverage of Fox and Ailes from the perkiest team-player in the Washington Media-Corporate Village. Now, you might think that this is too easy. Selective pickings from Allen’s daily, lucrative plugs for the rich and powerful could find anything. But what makes Wemple’s pieces persuasive is that he also includes any examples he can also find of faintly-critical coverage. They’re there, but in such minuscule proportion to the relentless positive p.r. for Fox that they almost seem designed to bolster its credibility. And that’s why Allen’s disgracefully tardy response to this is so lame:

Over the past seven years, there have been more than 8 million words of Playbooks, including hundreds of announcements from every group under the sun. You could cherry-pick items to make any case you wanted: that I’m a conservative hack, or a liberal tool, or a bad writer or a good guy.

No you can’t. The mountain of evidence and counter-evidence that Wemple has assembled is proof that Allen will flatter anyone with power for access and suck up to anyone with money for cash. Now that does not mean that Allen does this in a conscious way. My own sense is that he is so eager to please the powerful, so desperate to be included in their circles, so obsessed with remaining a player in DC, that he may simply not see that his constant cooing into the power vortex of Washington is at best an exercise in public relations, rather than journalism, and at worst, an obvious inversion of the journalist’s core role, which is to challenge power rather than to celebrate it. In other words, subjective naivete and a desire to be accepted is not incompatible with objective corruption.

But Wemple has a coup de grace. He notes how odd it is that, given Allen’s constant suck-ups, Politico’s stars very rarely show up on Fox News. And yet it isn’t that odd at all, as Fox’s response to the charge reveals:

Former Fox News PR ace Brian Lewis told Jim Romenesko in 2012, “We do not have a do-not-deal-with-Politico policy. We deal with Mike Allen.” As they should.

And, when they need a mouthpiece to rebut telling criticism, they still do.

Here it is:

The idea — and it really wasn’t an argument what I read; it was more of a suggestion, insinuation, innuendo in a really unfair way — that the product is somehow compromised by advertisers was (a) not supported and (b) horribly, horribly unfair to what really is one of the most transparent journalistic products in the city. Anyone can read it any given day and sort of take their best guess as to why this is in there, why it’s not, who Mike had lunch with, who was giving him this, who he had dinner with, who was feeding him that. Totally transparent.

I can’t beat Chait’s elegant dissection of this claptrap, so read it.

Mike Allen, Busted, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 4 2013 @ 12:31pm

Politico is still acting like a politician riding out a scandal by refusing to engage it, rather than a newspaper dedicated to transparency. Allen’s fusion of advertizing clients and personal relationships and puff pieces – a veritable nest of conflicts of interest – is apparently beyond reproach because, well, er … just because. Jim Vandehei’s latest reluctant defense of Allen is elegantly summed up by Chait: “a comical stream of evasive tripe.” It is indeed.

Mike Allen, Busted, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 22 2013 @ 11:23am

Pareene tackles the purveyor of Playbook:

Allen considers press releases from organizations he covers to be plainly newsworthy in their own right and therefore worthy of passing on to his readers because he’s engaged in trade journalism — reporting on a sector for that sector, not for a general audience. You wouldn’t expect Ad Age to suddenly become adversarial toward the advertising industry, would you?

I imagine most other Politico journalists don’t consider what they do “trade journalism” for the business lobbying industry. But that’s what Allen and his bosses consider good political journalism — it informs members of the Washington power elite what other members are up to. Politico didn’t cooperate with Wemple’s piece, and it definitely won’t respond to it, because there’s absolutely no ethical issue involved here, in Politico’s eyes. You’re not Allen’s audience! If you want actual reporting, read one of the rags aimed at people who don’t wield power on Capitol Hill or K Street.

It’s not strictly trade journalism, of course, because a trade journalist might quietly think that the industry she’s covering is immoral or full of hypocrites and villains. That’s decidedly not the case with Allen, who is notoriously chummy with his sources. Allen believes, very deeply, in the business elite consensus. He just doesn’t consider that to be a “political position” as we would define it. This is what annoys and confounds people about Allen and his place in political journalism. He doesn’t act remotely like a real journalist, because he’s not. He’s an advocate journalist masquerading, poorly, as an old-fashioned political reporter. And, yes, during election season he does (very bad) conventional political analysis, but his primary gig is sincere advocate for the interests of a certain class of major corporate lobbyists and their allies. He never tries to hide his sympathies, he just for some reason feels compelled to retain the “objectivity” mask of a traditional big media reporter.

Earlier Dish on Allen here and here.

Mike Allen, Busted, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 21 2013 @ 1:40pm

Chait reflects on the new Mike Allen take-down:

Playbook goes beyond the routine and wildly promiscuous use of native advertising. Indeed, the behavior Wemple documents would ordinarily amount to a scandal and a likely firing offense, except that it seems to be Allen’s essential job description. As Wemple points out, some of the advertisers are also Allen’s friends. And, of course, his sources also consist significantly of his friends.

The intermingling of media, business, and elected officials that is on gross display once a year during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and which Politico both covers and participates in with peerless enthusiasm, is Allen’s vision of how journalism is supposed to function normally. Sources, friends, and sponsors all blur into one mutually protective circle. Last year, Allen gave breathless, PR-esque coverage to Fix the Debt, the pillar of respectable establishmentarian lobbying, and then, within days, announced that the group was sponsoring Playbook. …

The Mike Allen scandal is not that advertisers purchased favorable coverage in Playbook. The scandal is that, at this point, such corruption is unnecessary.

Drum sees the story as the “latest example of the press going into full stonewall mode whenever they’re the ones a story is about”:

Of course [Editor-in-Chief John] Harris refused to say anything. It’s standard journalistic practice. It’s only other people who have to answer questions. It’s outrageous to expect news organizations themselves to do the same.

If the corruption is no longer a scandal, then surely a paper’s refusal to answer serious questions about its ethics is. By what right does Politico demand accountability from those in power, while refusing to engage in even a modicum of accountability itself? The lack of response must lead any objective person to believe the worst: that Playbook is neither ethical nor journalism. More from the Columbia Journalism Review:

Allen is DC’s access journalist par excellence, which is saying something in that town. Most beat journalists toss off the occasional beat sweetener/source greaser to gain access to a newsmaker and soft-pedal negative news to maintain that access. Access is a kind of currency: Get it and you can break news and rub elbows with important people. Allen makes this ugly sausage-making process more corrupt by mixing access currency with actual currency. Buy native ads in Playbook, get embarrassingly favorable news coverage in Playbook.

It stinks to high heaven.

Mike Allen, Busted

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 20 2013 @ 6:40pm


Dish readers know what I think of “native advertizing” and “sponsored content.” If it’s an advertorial, just call it and clearly label it an advertorial! Full disclosure and transparency are essential. The rest is whoredom, not journalism. When a journalist becomes a copy-writer for big advertisers giving him or his publication money, and does not clearly disclose the conflict of interest, he or she has ceased to be an independent journalist and joined the lucrative profession of public relations.

Read Erik Wemple’s evisceration of Mike Allen’s Playbook and make up your own mind. But to my eyes, it reads like a meticulously researched tale of at least the appearance of blatant corruption. Wemple starts with the kind of test I used for Buzzfeed’s corporate whoredom. Guess which one of these two items Mike Allen wrote and which one was written by the US Chamber of Commerce?

3) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an ambitious new agenda to generate stronger, more robust economic growth, create jobs, and expand opportunity for all Americans. Learn more about the Chamber’s American Jobs and Growth Agenda at **

4) “U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch ‘On the Road With Free Enterprise,’ a two-month cross-country road trip to promote ‘the principles of free enterprise and the best of America. Your Free Enterprise Tour Guides will see the sights, check out local events, talk to businesses, and share it [online]. More than 900 teams applied to be the Free Enterprise Tour Guides, and after months of poring over applications, two teams remain: Jen and John, and Nate and Joe. You can vote [here] once per day.’”

Allen wrote the first second press release; the US Chamber of Commerce the second first. [Correction here] But the Wemple examination impresses because of its thoroughness. After a while, the examples are so egregious and numerous they beggar belief. Wemple and the Post unleashed an army of bots onto the Playbook archive and came to the following inescapable conclusion:

It’s about time that Politico’s Allen got his due as a native-advertising pioneer. A review of “Playbook” archives shows that the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of “Playbook.” The pattern is a bit difficult to suss out if you glance at “Playbook” each day for a shot of news and gossip. When searching for references to advertisers in “Playbook,” however, it is unmistakable.

The most egregious examples are the US Chamber of Commerce, BP, and – yes – Goldman Sachs:

Like BP and the Chamber, Goldman Sachs is a pivotal advertiser for Politico, routinely placing back-page ads in the print product and occasionally “presenting” “Playbook.” Differentiating between those ads and Allen’s blurbs can strain the eyes. Examples: Goldman Sachs fights child sex trafficking (Jan. 23, 2013). Goldman Sachs to assist small businesses in Philadelphia. Jan. 9, 2013. Goldman Sachs helps veterans. (Dec. 14, 2012). Goldman Sachs helps small businesses. (June 12, 2012). Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award! (Aug. 13, 2012). Puff piece on Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein. (June 14, 2012).

Allen is also a close friend apparently with BP executive Geoff Morell, something he didn’t disclose when writing a puff item about Morel’s promotion.

Wemple is clear that the rest of the Politico seems very different, covering the powerful with persistence and skepticism, quite unlike Playbook’s relentless cheering of Washington’s corporate business machers. He’s also fair in noting Allen’s incredible persistence and energy as a reporter. But I’ve noticed before how Allen eagerly just gives the powerful a platform rather than holding them to account – and doesn’t even seem to understand that being a courtier to Washington Inc. and Washington’s most powerful is not the same as being a journalist. For my previous posts on Allen’s acting as a p.r. flak for Cheney and Ailes, among others, see here.

And all of this may not subjectively feel to Allen anything other than his reflexive energy and eagerness to please. He has long been a conduit for the wealthy and powerful, rather than a critic of any kind, and he doesn’t seem to understand why this makes some of us uncomfortable. But I didn’t think there was such an obvious connection between the corporations he promotes and their advertising dollars in Politico, which opens up a whole new issue – one noted not so long ago by Michael Calderone. And the mountain of evidence is very hard to refute.

So you wait in the article for Allen to defend or explain himself or for Politico’s editors to push back. But they refused to cooperate with the piece at all! “In rejecting a sit-down discussion, Editor-in-Chief John Harris said the premise ‘is without merit in any shape or form.'” So if corruption is not behind all this, what is? Or is all of this just an accident that requires no explanation at all?

And – not to get all pious about this – but aren’t journalists required to be transparent, when such obvious conflicts of interest are exposed? How can they demand transparency from public officials when they refuse to provide it themselves? Glenn Greenwald, call your office. It looks like we need you even more than we thought we did.

(Photo: Jim Watson/Getty.)

Calling Mike Allen

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 19 2012 @ 8:52pm

Did Dick Cheney do his first ever lobbying for marriage equality, as some reports are saying? Allen has, in the past, simply reprinted Cheney's press releases as journalism. Why not this one? Or is Dick on the pro-gay downlow?

Philip Rucker takes the temperature of Republican strategists:

[They] are already praising the video. For a political figure used to an off-the-cuff style, Palin's video has a professional and polished feel that could strengthen and broaden her emotional appeal among female voters. One prominent GOP media consultant described the video as "brilliant," adding: "I wish I'd done it."

Glynnis MacNicol further analyzes the ad:

Truth be told it almost manages to make Palin look presidential, or at least a serious candidate.

It plays to Palin’s strengths without being overly kitschy (apparently pink elephants are the new pitbulls wearing lipstick) and as Mika Brzezinski noted this morning there’s not even a hint of Palin portraying herself as a victim of the media. So perhaps she’s figured out that that’s always a losing card.

Equally interesting is the fact this video makes no mention of any of the women Palin initially dubbed the ‘mama grizzlies.’ This video is all about Palin. The closest it comes to acknowledging another candidate is at the very end when she notes “there’s a WHOLE stampede of pink elephants crossin’ the line and the ETA — stampeding through — is November 2nd, 2010.”

Mike Allen notes: “The emphasis on women could help expand Palin’s appeal toward the center, helping the Republican Party with its demographic peril.” And it certainly seems as though Palin has decided marshaling the power of those 18 million cracks is her best bet. If there was any doubt that Palin wants to be a player in 2012 (and I’ve certainly had plenty) this video pretty much clears it up.