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.
July 1, 2010; 10:03 AM ET
Categories: Political media
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