Politico brass, which has a reputation for aggressively protecting its brand, fired off a legal threat to NJ officials this week after former lobbying reporter Chris Frates sent a note to a list of contacts that looked suspiciously like a subscriber list. In fact, many of those contacts were part of Politico‘s subscriber list. Frates (pictured at left) now works for NJ. He was among the original reporters at Politico and worked there for more than four years.
We caught on to the scent of something deeper when we noticed that Wednesday’s Politico Influence blog had this relatively hidden disclaimer at the bottom.
“EDITOR’S NOTE: Some POLITICO Influence readers recently received emails sent to an improperly obtained subscriber list. We apologize for this. Please rest assured that POLITICO has not sold or intentionally shared our confidential subscriber list. We have taken action to prevent further improper use of this list. Thank you for your patience and please let us know if you have reason to believe you are continuing to receive unwanted emails.”
A source who heard about the exchange between Politico and NJ tells us that it is abundantly clear that Frates improperly took the subscriber list when he left for NJ. One tweet that alerted readers and FishbowlDC to alleged questionable behavior by Frates was this one: Yussipick Yussi: “Not sure if it’s ok that @frates takes the @politico influencer email list to promote his new gig.” What apparently got Politico’s attention was that note that Frates sent to his email “list” (for lack of any better word). When Politico sent NJ the legal threat, Frates agreed in an apparent good faith effort to pare down his list and send to a more distinct core contact group.
There was never a discussion about which contacts were considered to be part of Politico’s subscriber list and which Frates assumed were his ordinary contacts.
NJ did not reprimand Frates, nor do they believe that he stole any subscriber list. They did, however, negotiate with Politico in an effort to solve the matter peacefully and without legal complications.
Several lobbyists complained about being spammed by Frates, and made it clear that Frates had walked away with a subscriber list. The apparent concern was that readers would think they shared their confidential list instead of being what they considered to be the victim of a heist.
We sought comment from Politico management and did not receive a response.
NJ Publicist Taylor West told FishbowlDC, “As far as policy goes, we aren’t interested in anyone else’s lists. People read Chris Frates’s work because it’s need-to-know reporting. We’re not going to have any problem building our own community around his work at National Journal, and that’s what we plan to do.”