Movers and shakers in Washington swear by Mike Allen's daily Playbook email, which features news stories, tips, and, most importantly, birthday notices. It also features "messages" from major companies and pro-business trade associations. There's just one problem. As Erik Wemple of The Washington Post reports, those messages aren't always differentiated from the "journalism" that also features flattering coverage of businesses and groups that buy space in the letter. The going rate for a weekly placement in the newsletter is $35,000. But, for places like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, BP, and Goldman Sachs, there are also "news" items featured in the letter that give these places positive earned media, and flattering pieces by Allen himself. Allen did not respond to Wemple's request for comment, and Politico Editor in Chief John Harris says the reporting "is without merit in any shape or form." The charges have set some tongues wagging, including longtime native-advertising critic Andrew Sullivan, whose headline was "Mike Allen, Busted," and Jonathan Chait, who asked, "Can K Street Buy Mike Allen?"
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