Alabama Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks with reporters in October. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Media critic

It was a Breitbart “EXCLUSIVE.” In a Nov. 22 piece, reporter Matthew Boyle got a special, early peek at the results of a poll showing Alabama Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore ahead of “radical leftist Democrat” Doug Jones by six points. Boyle: “This survey done by Atlantic Media and Research … was ‘completed at the request of several major SuperPAC donors’ and conducted with calls made by ‘live operators to both landlines and cellphones,’ including 43 percent cell phones, something that increases accuracy.” The polling was the product of Atlantic Media and Research’s senior strategist Rick Shaftan.

Wow — Atlantic Media is tossing Matt Boyle an exclusive!

It’s not like that, however. “Atlantic Media and Research” is not the same as Atlantic Media, home to the Atlantic magazine, National Journal, CityLab, Quartz and so on. And when the publisher of a magazine founded in 1857 sees someone moving in on its nomenclatural turf, it writes a letter.

“We recently learned that you are using ‘Atlantic Media and Research’ (the ‘Infringing Mark’) to conduct voter surveys and to publish survey results. You are purporting to provide the same service as [Atlantic Media Inc.] and it appears you have intentionally selected this confusingly similar name in an attempt to take advantage of, and trade on, AMI’s reputation and goodwill,” reads the letter from Aretae Wyler, chief administrative officer and general counsel at AMI, to Shaftan. “Your use of the Infringing Mark to promote voter surveys has caused and is likely to continue to cause confusion in the marketplace with that of the AMI mark.” The letter notes that AMI has “regularly” done research in the “form of public opinion polls and surveys since 2009.”

Cease and desist, requested Wyler.

Atlantic Media communications boss Emily Lenzner, further, asked Boyle to insert a clarification in his story to differentiate “Atlantic Media and Research” and “Atlantic Media.” Boyle doesn’t appear to have adjusted the story. Again on Nov. 30, Breitbart published another “exclusive” stemming from an Atlantic Media and Research poll concluding that Moore had “rebounded and solidified his lead over radical Democrat Doug Jones with less than two weeks of campaigning to go.” In his writeup, Boyle juxtaposed Moore’s fortunes with the Alabama activism of Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon. “Next week, former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, will campaign with Judge Moore in Fairhope, Alabama. More undecided voters seem to be breaking, Shaftan wrote, in the direction of Moore—against Jones—as a result of all of this and more,” wrote Boyle.

Asked about the controversy, Shaftan tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “I had clients that wanted me to publish the data so I gave my memo to Breitbart.” As for the allegations from AMI, Shaftan scoffs: “I don’t know who these people are. I’ve never heard of them before.” He runs his operation from Rodanthe, N.C., not far from the shore. Hence, “Atlantic.” The firm was formerly named Mountaintop Media, back when Shaftan worked at a higher elevation in northwest New Jersey.

A provider of political consulting and research services, Shaftan says he does “zero advertising” and little in the way of self-promotion. He has no website. His business, he says, chugs along via word of mouth. “I appreciate their effort to give me all this publicity,” he says.

Perhaps he doesn’t appreciate quite as much his disappeared Facebook page. “We removed or disabled access to the following content you posted on Facebook because a third party reported that the content violates their trademark rights: Page: Atlantic Media and Research,” reads, in part, the email that Shaftan received from Facebook. Bagging “Atlantic Media and Research” would be a hassle, he says: “If I had to change the name of the company, I’d have to reprint checks. That means I’m gonna have to dump the 975 checks I got remaining here.”

In response to the legal-eagling, Shaftan has done a bit of research on the Lanham Act. But: “I’m so wrapped up in Alabama right now, I don’t have time to deal with this crap,” he says.