December 20, 2013

Politico’s Mike Allen, left, interviews Timothy Geithner. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

A little Mike Allen fact-check here.

Last month, a passage in Politico’s “Playbook,” the daily newsletter that goes out under Allen’s byline, alerted viewers to some good news:

WE’RE GRATEFUL TO PLAYBOOKERS for being such a loyal, encouraging audience. Seven years ago, there were three of you. Now, there are 100,000 of you. Thank you for the grace for our errors, of omission or commission; for teaching us something fascinating, every single day; and for your passion for the very topics that we’ve devoted our life to illuminating. We’re always anxious to serve you better, and are grateful for your suggestions about content, tone, format – anything. We answer every personal email: mallen@politico.com.

Bold text added to denote a pledge at odds with the experience of the Erik Wemple Blog. On various occasions over the past month, we’ve sent Allen personal e-mails that have gone unanswered. The attempts to connect have stemmed from a post titled, “Politico’s Mike Allen, native advertising pioneer.” Relying on the archives of “Playbook,” the post cited numerous instances in which Allen inserted very favorable references into the newsletter regarding companies that advertise in it. Also, it noted that a few prominent public-interest lobbies were sidelined from “Playbook.” Nov. 20 was the date of publication.

Allen never responded to the Erik Wemple Blog’s pre-publication requests for comment, though Politico’s CEO, Jim VandeHei called the report “nonsense” in a radio interview. So we caught up with Allen following Thursday’s “Playbook” breakfast at the Newseum. When asked how he felt about the piece, Allen said, “I’m hustling out of here” to catch a flight. As he made his way toward the building’s elevators, we pressed for just a short comment. Allen repeated his need to get to that flight, and then he was gone.

The event featured a chat with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who bemoaned the scourge of money in Washington and said, “Populism works.” He voiced his concerns that Americans are struggling “to just get by.” Toward the end, he expressed his love for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That’s some good working-class mojo for Allen, whose “Playbook” frequently headlines the concerns and agenda of the country’s vested interests. Which got us thinking — just how did this Trumka thing come about, anyhow? Was Allen trying to make populism work for him as well?

Jeff Hauser, a media outreach specialist for the AFL-CIO, told the Erik Wemple Blog that Allen had invited the group to participate in the breakfast, and discussions started in November. He didn’t specify exactly when.

By Thursday night, Allen hadn’t responded to a (personal) e-mail on the matter.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.