After an uncomfortable email back-and-forth with Arianna Huffington, the author and syndicated columnist who is now best known for running the site that takes her name, Peter Daou and James Boyce filed a lawsuit on November 15 alleging that their long-time friend stole the idea for the Huffington Post from them more than six years earlier.
On December 3, 2004, Huffington assembled a team of about 30 influential Hollywood insiders (Larry David, an investor in the site, and his wife; David Geffen; Norman Lear; Brian Grazer; and many others, all known and well-connected liberals) to lay out the plans for a Democratic response to the Drudge Report, which, Boyce says, was visited by 36 million people in the last 24 hours of the 2004 election that John Kerry lost to George Bush because of "around 100,000 voters in Ohio." If only the Democrats could rebuild the party from the outside in using a powerful Internet community, Boyce thought, they would be unstoppable. He drew up a 15-page plan for www.fourteensixty.com (named for the number of days from one presidential election to the next) with Daou.
Did Huffington steal the ideas in that document and use them to create her site, now valued at $350 million, with co-founder Kenneth Lerer? That's the question William D. Cohan claims to tackle in a high-profile "expose" in the February issue of Vanity Fair. It's an interesting read for anyone curious about one of the world's biggest websites -- 26 million unique visitors every month -- but it's a half-story. Huffington and Lerer have until January 19 to formally respond in court to the Daou and Boyce complaint. This battle isn't over.