Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reporting on a conflict between Sen. Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. Nelson (D-NE) over earmarks, the Hill shows how being a single letter off in typing out an email address could reveal some behind-the-scenes conflict. The backdrop:

The senators had been at odds over the matter for much of the summer, but it would reach a new level when John Hart, communications director for Coburn, forwarded a news article detailing his boss’s request for an investigation of a defense contractor.

Sen. Nelson had requested an earmark for 21CSI, triggering a heated battle between the senators that has raged for weeks.

“This will shut that f---er up,” Hart stated in an Aug. 1 e-mail sent from his Senate account to several of his colleagues. “I can’t wait to send an In Case You Missed It to Nebraska press that will be forwarded to a--face.”

The mistake (e.a.):

When Hart typed out the three recipients for that first e-mail, he was one letter off on one colleague’s name. That meant that when he hit “Send,” the e-mail went to a staffer in the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.)

It was a mistake that could have happened to anyone, but not every senator spent much of 2006 trying to strike an earmark for a bridge in Alaska, as Coburn did.

When Hart realized his error, he sent another e-mail to Murkowski aide Brian O’Leary apologizing for the exchange and asking him not to pass it on.

Aides in Murkowski’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The Hill makes an interesting assertion about the dynamic of some of the partisan quarrels on the Hill:
But House and Senate staffers say the e-mails are also a natural extension of the kind of aggressive strategy that many believe is necessary to keep their bosses afloat in a partisan atmosphere as cutthroat as ever. That glimpse of intra-office banter puts on display the fact that the loss of comity in the Senate, frequently mourned by congressional observers and lawmakers themselves, more often than not begins among the unelected — staffers who are rewarded for protecting and defending their bosses with everything they’ve got until the moment they go too far.