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First look at Daily Kos's lawsuit: Charges Research 2000 with "fraudulently manufacturing phony results"

I've obtained a copy of the lawsuit that Daily Kos just filed against Research 2000, and this going to get nastier than you thought.

The suit contains striking new details about Research 2000's alleged reluctance to release its raw data and its alleged money problems, directly alleging that the firm committed deliberate fraud by selling DailyKos years of data that was "phony" and "falsified."

Daily Kos's lawyer also tells me that he has sent a letter to the firm's attorney informing them they have a legal obligation to preserve all info relevant to the case -- such as computer files holding raw polling data and phone records documenting the polling calls. "In due course, we'll file the appropriate discovery requests to obtain the relevant information to which my clients are entitled," Daily Kos's lawyer, Adam Bonin, tells me.

This is a big, big deal. Research 2000 polls have been widely cited by many news organizations, and have helped shape the national political conversation. Crucially, the firm has had outsized influence precisely because DailyKos commissioned and publicized their polls so extensively -- a reminder of the degree to which blogs and new media can now drive the news.

Among the news in the lawsuit, which was filed late yesterday in northern California:

1) The suit alleges that Research 2000 founder Del Ali repeatedly promised to volunteer to Kos the raw polling data behind the surveys, but never came through -- potentially raising further suspicions. The suit quotes multiple emails from Ali to Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, vowing to share the data.

The suit quotes an email from Ali that seemed to ask for more time to furnish the data because of office computer malfunctions, prompting him to go to a Kinkos. "I am at a Kinkos computer because we cannot read any mail from our PCs," Ali emailed to Moulitsas, according to the suit.

2) The suit alleges that Research 2000 had money problems, which could prompt further questions about the firm's business practices. It alleges that Ali asked Moulitsas to make one lump-sum payment in advance, in exchange for some free polling, because it would provide "immense" help for cash flow reasons.

3) The suit alleges that Ali was infuriated when statistics guru Nate Silver recently rated the firm poorly. It says that when Kos reacted to the Silver analysis by terminating their relationship, Ali responded to Kos with a lengthy defense of his polling methods, lashing out at Silver as "nothing more than a fringe blogger."

4) The suit says that there was no formal written contract between the two parties, claiming the deal was made verbally and by email.

5) One outstanding question: It's unclear how much Daily Kos paid for these polls. The lawsuit puts damages at "in excess of $100,000." Given that Kos commissioned scores of polls from Research 2000, this raises questions about whether the polls were priced too low.

Given Daily Kos's determination to pursue discovery in this lawsuit, at a minimum it could give us an unprecedented look at the inside of a professional polling operation. More broadly, it could push traditional news orgs and new media to be more cautious with the polls they commission and promote, which could be particularly critical at a time when online media are beginning to commission more of their own polling and are having more success in driving and shaping the news.

UPDATE, 10:23 a.m.: Point five above, about the cost of the polls, may not have any significance at all. The damages claimed by Daily Kos are likely to be much higher than $100.000, once punitive, reputational and full actual damages are claimed. Daily Kos merely declared that number because the court requires damages to be in excess of that sum for the suit to proceed.

Also: The suit is alleging only that the weekly polls -- not other polls, such as the battleground horse race surveys -- were fraudulent, further rendering the cost question raised above irrelevant.

By Greg Sargent  |  July 1, 2010; 10:03 AM ET
Categories:  Political media  
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Comments

I think this is going to wind up being good for dkos and GREAT for politics. It just goes to show how critically important it is that the public has access to the raw data and how little is known about the polling -- and pollsters -- that we rely on for our daily snapshots of political life. In particular, we need a thorough investigation of Scott Rassmussen and any other pollsters who have a significant impact on polling conventional wisdom or who seek to drive the debate because of their own personal politics.

Here is a ranking of pollsters as rated by Nate Silver:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/06/pollster-ratings-v40-results.html

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

*It says that when Kos reacted to the Silver analysis by terminating their relationship, Ali responded to Kos with a lengthy defense of his polling methods, lashing out at Silver as "nothing more than a fringe blogger."

HAHAHAHAH. Billiant line of attack, Ali. I'm sure Markos, of all people, will be very receptive of you calling someone a fringe blogger...especially when that person got their start on Daily Kos.

*wipes tear*

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 1, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Fringe blogger? Right.

Email commitments are still commitments. You don't need a formal contract for an agreement to be enforceable.

Kinkos? Dead computers? C'mon. Can't he come up with an excuse better than that? 'course, this is a guy not clever enough to incorporate randomness into his fraudulent data.

And who ever thought this wasn't going to get nasty? Lawsuit = nasty.

Posted by: evietoo | July 1, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"The suit says that there was no formal written contract between the two parties, claiming the deal was made verbally and by email."

Could this be because the number polls, when, and where is so dynamic - all of which would change pricing?

Beyond that, it seems a tad stupid for both sides to have never actually created a contract...esp. since DK seems content with having R2k as their exclusive pollster.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 1, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Greg, I don't believe you've linked this ad from the DNC. Sorry to be off topic, but I'm gone for most of the day. Video is in the "dead" link (hint, hint) and commentary below from brooklynbadboy.

As pointed out in this diary, this ad was created in response to voices raised here at DailyKos. This is a hard-hitting message that the DNC, indeed all the campaign committees, should return to again and again. Be nice to have the President out there hammering this message home as well. Still, I thank the DNC for listening. (I really liked putting Romney in there. Work on him early!)

"The election this November is not a referendum. It is a choice that will have consequences. Everyone must take sides because this choice is binary. It's either them or us. We Democrats have to make the choice crystal clear: Elect Republicans and Big Oil, Big Insurance, and Wall Street will end any chance of reform. I'd add that they will also ruin Social Security, discriminate against Hispanics, and get back to destroying the middle class with their economic policies. If you aren't rich, they are not on your side.

Let's make sure everyone in the country knows exactly whose side the GOP is on."

http://brooklynbadboy.dailykos.com/

Posted by: lmsinca | July 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

lmsinca, I could have sworn I linked that the other day. maybe not.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 1, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I just missed it Greg.

Posted by: lmsinca | July 1, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"Elect Republicans and... they will... discriminate against Hispanics."

It's this kind of garbage that just forces fair-minded people to tune this out.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 1, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

tons of activist groups gin up faked studies and polls because people drool like pavlov's dogs when you say you have "data" to prove your argument.

all the propagandists have learned that no one reads far enough to find out if the study or poll is legitimate. they just see the headline. so why pay the great expense of doing accurate research when you can fake on the cheap and get the results you want?

a dumb consumer public that thinks "information is free" gets what it deserves.

Posted by: justkiddingdc | July 1, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

"Elect Republicans and... they will... discriminate against Hispanics."

So true.

Why do they hate "wise latinas"?

Obama's speech on immigration (right now) is pretty inspiring. I hope he pushes hard to get CIR done asap.

Just a few republicans need to step up and prove me wrong, that they do not hate hispanics.

But I doubt any of them will because railing against immigrants is one of the only things the GOP has left in its bag of fear tactics. And, not to mention, that I'm sure Club for Growth doesn't want to see their primary source of slave labor diminished, that would be bad for the bottom line (which as we all know is literally the ONLY thing in the world that matters to a corporation, not justice, not America, JUST the bottom line).

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, this probably will never happen with Rasmussen, since the people who commission polls from them (especially the issues polls, and election polls far out from election day) don't do so in order to obtain accurate information.

Rather, they do it with a wink and a nod, to drive news cycles with some dubious bombshell like Rand Paul being 20 points ahead of the Democrat in the general election ..... and, of course, to drag down Democratic numbers in the combined poll averages on realclearpolitics.

It would be lovely if that little outfit had to stand the clear light of day, and we could learn how extremely different their "methology" is when election day isn't imminent. To purchase credibility, the polls conducted on the eve of voting seem to be conducted those with actual care, and always magically come back into line with everybody else's results.

But nobody concerned with the truth is going to sue Rasmussen, because nobody concerned with the truth ever hires Rasmussen.

Posted by: ducdebrabant | July 1, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

"the bottom line (which as we all know is literally the ONLY thing in the world that matters to a corporation, not justice, not America, JUST the bottom line)."

The Washington Post Company is a corporation, isn't it? Greg Sargent works for a corporation that cares only about the bottom line. Justice and America mean nothing to Greg's employer. I wonder how many other liberal readers here work for a corporation?

Posted by: sbj3 | July 1, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

SBJ, thank you for attempting to deflect away from my main point:

"Club for Growth doesn't want to see their primary source of slave labor diminished"

You have no response to that because you support corporations' ability to abuse immigrant labor.

Why do you support the cruel and inhumane treatment of hard-working immigrants?

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I see your logic, sbj - Since the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are just like real people, if corporations have no allegiance to anything other than the bottom line, all real people that work for those corporations must have the same shortcomings.

Posted by: cmccauley60 | July 1, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Btw, SBJ, if you're still lurking, THIS:

"Why do you support the cruel and inhumane treatment of hard-working immigrants?"

Was NOT a rhetorical question.

I'm not surprised you don't have the guts to answer.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"Why do you support the cruel and inhumane treatment of hard-working immigrants?"

I don't.

Posted by: sbj3 | July 1, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

If anything comes out of this, it might prompt media outlets (*ahem* Greg) to push for more disclosure and more information about polling data so it can be subjected to this kind of analysis.

Markos insisted on receiving and publishing crosstabs for every single poll and that's what ultimately raised red flags.

Rasmussen has crosstabs but they're behind a paywall I think. Has anyone with a subscription thought to do analysis on his data? Or any other pollster?

Posted by: lol-lol | July 1, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"I don't."

If you oppose comprehensive immigration reform, then you DO support the cruel and inhumane treatment of hard-working immigrants.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | July 1, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

"If you oppose comprehensive immigration reform, then you DO support the cruel and inhumane treatment of hard-working immigrants."

How so?

Posted by: sbj3 | July 1, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

What a crock. No contract -no suit. If KoS is dumb enough to buy services without a contract that's his mistake. Also, unless the contract called for it, raw data is not required and would be considered company proprietary.

What a bunch of amateurs - KoS especially.

Posted by: ajstrata | July 1, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

ajstrata, fraud and misrepresentation torts, and are not contractual causes of action. No contract needed for those.

Practically any fool could set up a fake polling company to do political polling -- just pool other people's results, introduce random errors and lo, it is accomplished. Easy. Also easy to generate fake results for questions other pollsters do not ask (like the inane ones that Markos Mucilage had Research 2000 pose), since independent verification of results is costly or impossible. Just make things up. Who can argue with you? The surprising thing here is that Research 2000 did such a bad job of faking things. The errors they made could be spotted by anyone who sat through the first few days of a probability theory class.

Posted by: ChuckCardiff | July 1, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Kos deserves some praise for taking this matter public, rather than quietly selecting another pollster (assuming he can afford another pollster), but I wonder:

Has Kos ever addressed in print his now infamous "Republicans are idiot wing-nuts," poll, which offered the result than many Republicans think that women should not work outside the home, think that President Obama is not citizen, etc.? If you're going to use your pet pollster to malign political opponents, then you should address the matter specifically if the poll looks to be fraudulent.

I'd even go as far as to say that some appy polly loggies are in order.

Posted by: kryon77 | July 1, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

The bit about it being an oral agreement could matter, considering Cal. Civ. Code 1624(a). Even if that ends up mattering, there are likely other claims that would have merit, but that stood out.

Posted by: Grumblesny | July 2, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

ajstrata,

There's no written contract, but there's an enforceable contract, created orally and/or implied by the conduct of the parties.

Posted by: kryon77 | July 2, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

I'd recommend people watch c-span videos, in leu of news. You will find nothing credible from any news source (though AP is occasionally good).

The truth is there is something of a backlash against immigration bigotry within the GOP top players (the president of the chamber of commerce has spoken out about it, Christine Whitman has spoken out about it, etc). But it's something you'll only hear about on c-span, especially with how loud our recent batch of social conservatives are right now (bleh).

The GOP is a broad, diverse coalition, and I'd thank the readers very much for not prejudging people (there are plenty of us who are not happy with the recent surge of social conservatism, thank you very much). And frankly, if us market liberals felt welcome in the Democratic Party we'd be there. We don't, so we're stuck in the GOP.

Posted by: joetri | July 6, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

For those who don't know, "market liberal" means:

* Many "Fiscal Conservatives"
* Many centrists (moderate republicans and Third Way democrats).
* Obviously us log cabin republicans.
* And, unfortunately, corporatists and statists in both parties (Franny Mae and Freddy Mac both being an example of bipartisan corporate corruption in politics).
* A large number of politicians in the EU, incidentally.

Unfortunately extremists keep co-opting us (and you on the left as well, in many cases); Bush and his wars, the Jeffery Sachs free market fundamentalist movement ("free" does not equal "anarchy"), big business, etc.

It's our responsibility in each of our respective parties to fight off such forces, and I don't like this judgmental "join us or your bad people" attitude.

Mercifully the more politicians feed market liberalism to social conservatives to attract votes, the less socially conservative they become (as people wake up to their own hypocrisy and change). I prefer to help this process along.

Posted by: joetri | July 6, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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