The Lefty Magazine Flexing Some Biden-Era Muscle

From a story on by Max Tani and Allie Bice headlined “The lefty magazine flexing some Biden-era muscle”:

When Judge KETANJI BROWN JACKSON appeared before the Senate for her highly-scrutinized Supreme Court confirmation hearings, one Republican senator had a left-field question that had nothing to do with her record of jurisprudence.

“Have you ever had any interactions with a group called American Prospect?” Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) asked Jackson.

She said she hadn’t. But for the 32-year-old liberal magazine, Graham’s name-check was just the latest moment in what has been a certifiable run during the Biden years.

The Prospect has repeatedly broken big stories about the Biden administration at times, becoming a bit of a liberal bulwark as the White House drifts towards the center ahead of the midterms. In addition to several tough pieces the publication ran about the record of one time potential SCOTUS nominee, Judge MICHELLE CHILDS — which was the reason for Graham’s inquiry — the Prospect picked up that GENE SPERLING was being buzzed about for a job in the administration (though they did get the precise job wrong). In that same piece, by longtime liberal scribe ROBERT KUTTNER, it let out the news that had largely been discussed in private circles to that point: that Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) wasn’t the only Senate Democrat uneasy with NEERA TANDEN’s nomination to lead OMB.

The Prospect also recently made waves with an in-depth examination of the business record of former Covid czar JEFF ZIENTS, and dove into why the Biden administration seemed to be sourcing many of its high-profile nominees from the consulting firm, WestExec.

The magazine hasn’t just broken negative stories about the Biden operation. It has also published lengthy complimentary pieces about ideologically-aligned figures working within the administration. Earlier this month, the magazine ran a glowing profile of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director ROHIT CHOPRAlittered with news nuggets. In the same issue, it profiled National Labor Relations Board General Counsel JENNIFER ABRUZZO, lesser known figure who has in recent weeks gained some notoriety due to Amazon’s criticism of the NLRB.

Most publications experienced a major dip in traffic and influence when DONALD TRUMP left office. But for the Prospect, a nonprofit magazine with just 14 staffers that largely relies on several thousand recurring monthly donors and some medium- and high-value single time donors, covering the Biden administration has paid dividends. The magazine has taken advantage of the deep rolodexes of left-leaning journalists like Kuttner and HAROLD MEYERSON, who have covered multiple Democratic administrations. Top editor DAVID DAYEN said the publication saw a traffic bump in late 2020 and early 2021 as it broke stories about potential nominees for Biden’s cabinet positions.

“We didn’t focus a ton on Trump. We were more interested in the structures of power through governing from the Democratic standpoint. We were focused on power in the corporate boardroom. So we didn’t have as far to fall,” Dayen said. “It reflects our interest in governing and seeing how Democrats with this very narrow majority can make progress. That’s where we’ve been since the moment of the election.”

And the Biden administration is reading. The White House granted the publication access to officials for its recent issue focusing on fixing supply chain problems. Clearly the communications team was pleased. Dayen told West Wing Playbook that White House officials requested copies of the issue (the print magazine publishes just six times a year). At one point recently, Dayen says, a senior administration official told him a copy was placed in the Oval Office.

“It’s been an interesting relationship,” he said.

Dayen said that part of the magazine’s recent success is rooted in the decision to focus on the possible incoming White House team long before it took office. When interviewing for the top job in 2019, he mentioned that he was interested in running a feature titled the “Day One Agenda,” a project focused on what a new Democratic administration could do on its first day without congressional action. He said it was a success, and opened doors to help the magazine break news on Biden’s eventual cabinet nominees.

The success of the Prospect is a throwback to the days when left-leaning magazines like the New Republic, the Nation, or Mother Jones were heavy hitters in Democratic D.C. power circles. Those days seemed to be slipping away during the dawn of internet publications, which drained some of the talent and audience away from the magazines. Dayen says he’s “consciously tried to bring that era back,” noting his pride in many of the publication’s high profile alumni such as the New York Times’ EZRA KLEIN and JAMELLE BOUIE.

“I see us as more in a lane with places like Politico, and Bloomberg, and reporting in the Wall Street Journal,” he said. “We’re telling stories from a different perspective, a more progressive perspective.”

Max Tani is a White House reporter with Politico. He previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Beast covering the media business, and wrote about politics for Business Insider. He’s also written for the Huffington Post, and worked on podcasts for Slate.

Allie Bice is a Playbook producer. She joined POLITICO in 2018 as a web producer, editing and producing content across all POLITICO platforms. While on the production team, she fielded breaking news and regularly contributed to Morning Shift, a tri-weekly newsletter on labor policy, and the Day Ahead, a daily POLITICO Pro roundup of Congressional news.

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