Michael Allen (born June 21, 1964) is the chief political reporter for Politico, and writes the daily Playbook; in April 2010, in reference to his frequent correspondence with White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, the New York Times called him "The Man The White House Wakes Up To." Prior to joining Politico for its 2007 launch, he worked at numerous other publications, including The New York Times and Time.
Allen grew up in Orange County, California. His father was conservative writer Gary Allen, a spokesman for the John Birch Society. He described his household as normal and 'apolitical', in considerable contrast to his father's flamboyant public persona as a conservative icon, who once denounced rock music as a "Pavlovian Communist mind-control plot" and wrote speeches for George Wallace. Allen was an Eagle Scout.
Allen moved east to attend Washington and Lee University, from where he graduated in 1986 with a double major in politics and journalism. His father died the same year, and Allen was quoted in the New York Times obituary giving details on his father's career.
His first reporting job was with the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. He has also worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Time.
At Politico, a Washington-based print and on-line publication launched by Allbritton Communications, Allen writes the daily “Playbook.” In April 2010, the New York Times estimated that Playbook brings in $780,000 for Politico.
Allen was featured in a piece for the April 25, 2010 edition of the New York Times Magazine entitled, "The Man the White House Wakes Up To". He is considered by many to be one of the most powerful and influential journalists in Washington.
Allen has attracted criticism for focusing coverage on superficial aspects of politics and of the culture of Washington D.C.. In November 2013, the Washington Post wrote a length article detailing a payola scandal in which Mike Allen would give favorable coverage in return for advertising dollars. Mr. Allen has refused to publicly comment. Jonathan Chait described Politico's response as 'evasive tripe'. Writing in Salon, Alex Pareene described his work as "indistinguishable from a paid advocate for business interests."
In November 2015, Allen made an apology after the website Gawker reported that he offered to let Chelsea Clinton screen interview questions in advance of a proposed interview. The offer was made in a January 2013 email exchange between Allen and Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines. He also promised in the email that the interview would be "no surprises" and "no risk."
In 2004, Allen won the White House Correspondents' Association’s Merriman Smith Memorial Award for outstanding presidential coverage on deadline. The award was given to Allen for his reporting of President George W. Bush’s secret trip to Baghdad, Iraq.
A somewhat reclusive figure, a profile by Mark Leibovich reported that many of his friends did not know where he lived, and that none of them had ever come inside his apartment. A colleague who knew him in earlier life described him as living among 'mounds of newspapers and a couple pieces of junky furniture'.