If you're riveted by dirty politics, you'll dig this tale of e-mail intrigue reported by PoliticsLA.com (an affiliate of regional news network NewsHorn.com).
This past Thursday, an e-mail went out to recipients of New Orleans City Council District A incumbent Jay Batt's newsletter with the subject header, "[Jay Batt Campaign] Do Not Vote For Mitch Landrieu." Landrieu was the main contender running against embattled mayoral incumbent, Ray Nagin, of Katrina fame. (Landrieu lost in the close runoff, by the way. So did Batt.)
Here's the crux of the message:
Mitch Landrieu has retracted an endorsement he made of my candidacy. I am appalled that Mitch would do this and I call on all my supporters to refrain from voting for Mitch on Saturday.
The letter was meant to look as though it came from Batt's campaign. Or was it? It turns out the sender was listed as one Michael Beychok at firstname.lastname@example.org. Evidently, according to the LAPolitics piece, Beychok is a consultant with the firm Ourso, Beychok, Johnson which worked for Batt's opponent, Shelley Midura, the election winner.
Beychok speculates that Batt's campaign actually sent this out to stir up negative press against the Midura camp. Could be, but get this. I did some searches and discovered that this "kujione" person posted to the "Rebuild Lakeview" Yahoo Group (a forum for discussing the New Orleans neighborhood), regarding none other than Batt:
Oh My God! go to www.jaybatt.com and read his blog for today. He went postal - no offense valiant postal workers - on his opponents. Called Midura a "desparate housewife" and sal. That is kinda offensive language and insulting to all the women who are out there trying to do something to help rebuild like the Women of the Storm, Peggy Wilson, Jane Booth etc.
Guess he was having a bad day.
A political consultant I know says that a friend knows Beychok and that it's just like him to do this sort of thing.
Either way, the fact is that the Web not only enables new venues for nasty campaigning; it allows for super-immediate responses. The reporter for the LAPolitics story noted that the Batt campaign responded in minutes with an e-mail (and on his campaign site) calling the content in the "Do Not Vote For Mitch Landrieu" false and stating:
Real messages from the Jay Batt campaign can only come from someone with a jaybatt.com e-mail address and there are only three of those in existence....Several attorneys who have received this message have advised us that his hacking into our listserv and sending an unauthorized message is a federal crime. We are looking into that matter. It is too bad that the Midura campaign is so desperate that they have had to resort to illegal means.
Thanks to Mandate Media's Politics and Technology newsletter for the heads up on this sleazy Big Easy story!