Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oppo

In our chapter on the mass media, we discuss the relationship between campaign operatives and reporters:
Leaks also come from opposition researchers, campaign operatives who specialize in finding information about the other side’s candidate. Through press aides, they routinely provide clippings and documents to journalists, who use them in their own reporting. (Journalists seldom acknowledge the help from “oppo.”) “Usually you can find stories that match up with the dynamics of different media outlets,” said Democratic researcher Chris Lehane. “If you have videotape, you take it to a television outlet. If it’s a complicated financial story, you take it to The Wall Street Journal. Something on special interests you take to The New York Times. It’s all part of the process.
One vivid example has come to light in the past 24 hours. Last night, the New York Times website ran a story about how Connecticut Democratic senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal had falsely claimed military service in Vietnam. Soon the campaign of Linda McMahon, seeking the GOP nomination, claimed credit for giving the information to the Times. The McMahon campaign quickly backtracked, however.

It is not unusual for reporters to use "oppo" -- indeed, they do it much more often than they like to admit. It is unusual for a campaign to claim credit for such a leak after the fact. The Huffington Post quotes Nixon aide Pat Buchanan: "the rule in politics, don't leave your fingerprints if you are going to stick the knife in this guy's back."