The fate of “Bond Girl,” a lauded Twitter voice in the world of municipal debt commentary, remains in limbo after the woman behind the account says she felt pressured to reveal her identity.
Kristi Culpepper, the head of Kentucky’s School Facilities Construction Commission, had been tweeting from the @munilass handle as “Bond Girl” since April 2011 and was a frequent informal source for reporters covering muni markets. She also published her own work under the “Bond Girl” handle on Business Insider, FT.com, and Calculated Risk, among other outlets. Among her other duties, she handles bond sales for school-related debt in Kentucky.
“As an anonymous tweeter, Bond Girl is probably a top-five contributor to the severely lacking universe” of municipal credit markets, one Chicago-based muni analyst told BI.
Last week, after years of pseudonymity, Culpepper abruptly revealed her identity, deleted almost all of her past tweets, and accused the Bond Buyer newspaper of attempting to out her. Bloomberg’s Michelle Kaske and Brian Chappatta subsequently filed a story in which they discussed more publicly available details about Culpepper’s life.
Bond Buyer subsequently tweeted they weren’t planning a story to out her.
But according to two people familiar with the matter, a former Bond Buyer employee was able to determine Culpepper’s identity through Culpepper’s occasional references to Kentucky and her announcements about attending Bond Buyer-sponsored conferences. The attendee lists for the conferences are accessible to anyone within the company — there is no Chinese wall separating Bond Buyer’s conference side with its editorial. “The pool of people she could have been kept getting narrower and narrower,” one of the sources said.
Bond Buyer may not have been planning on writing a specific article, but there was a natural journalistic inquisitiveness about who in this small world she could have been. A recent Culpepper tweet about attending Bond Buyer’s conference at Brandeis University in Boston appears to have been the final piece of the puzzle for those who were looking. A Bond Buyer employee subsequently sent her a Facebook friend request, and a fund manager called Culpepper saying Bond Buyer had been asking around. That appeared to be the last straw, as Culpepper outed herself in a preemptive strike.
Twitter was outraged that she’d apparently been forced to do so, fearing a prominent commentator would be lost.
They also rallied to Culpepper’s cause.
The issue raises questions about the role of online anonymity, and whether prominent Twitter personalities rise to the level of a journalistic “public figure,” making them fair game for news. Culpepper declined to comment, though she for now has begun tweeting again, this time as herself. She does not appear to be facing any disciplinary action from the commonwealth of Kentucky.
Bond Buyer could not be reached for comment early Tuesday.
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