WEDNESDAY, SEP 24, 2008 03:45 EDT
How ghost-writing letters to the editor for McCain works
Salon asked Margriet Oostveen for proof that she had ghost-written letters to the editor for the McCain campaign. Here are the guidelines, talking points, and sample letters she was given.
BY MARK SCHONE
On Sept. 13, journalist Margriet Oostveen published a column in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad detailing how she had ghost-written letters to the editor on behalf of, and at the behest of, John McCain's presidential campaign. (The Dutch version of her column is here; Salon's English translation is here.) Among the letters Oostveen says she wrote is one in which she pretended to be the mother of a soldier serving in Iraq.
Salon requested documentary proof from Oostveen. Below, on Page 1, is a redacted e-mail from a McCain staffer to Oostveen about letter writing, as well as the sample letter that was attached to it. The sample was meant to be an example of a "good letter to the editor that concentrates on our support for Gov. Palin." On Page 2 are three more letters that Oostveen says a different McCain campaign worker gave her as examples of the style of letters she should write. On Page 3 is a set of guidelines for writing letters that Oostveen says was given to her by Phil Tuchman, who is mentioned in her column. On Page 4 and 5 are two pages of talking points that Oostveen says she was given by the campaign. On Page 6 are three examples of letters Oostveen says she wrote and gave to the campaign so they could be sent to McCain supporters in battleground states, including the Iraq letter. According to Oostveen, a McCain staffer told her that supporters would be invited to pick and sign letters. After that the letters would be mailed to local newspapers.
Salon has no evidence that any of the letters Oostveen wrote were ever published, in their original or adapted form, as letters to the editor in newspapers.
Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for the McCain campaign, said that Oostveen did not properly identify herself to campaign workers in Arlington. "She did not represent herself as a journalist to the people who work in the mid-Atlantic office." Oostveen, who also wrote a column about an earlier stint phone-banking for the McCain campaign, says she twice explained to different workers in the Arlington campaign office that she might be using her experiences as a volunteer in her columns for the NRC Handelsblad.
The text of the attached sample letter:
Sarah Palin's selection by John McCain completes the dream ticket the American people have prayed for to clean up national politics. She brings to the Republican ticket the character, integrity, and depth of experience to produce real change in Washington. Her executive experience challenging corruption and special interests in resource-rich Alaska -- even within her own party -- produced landmark ethics reform legislation while promoting development of energy resources. Her veto cut budgetary spending, and she refused $400 million federal taxpayer dollars to fund the infamous "bridge to nowhere." Palin's courageous presence with Alaska National Guard serving in harm's way serves her well as a potential Commander-in-Chief of the United States military forces, and saying goodbye to her own son deploying to Iraq lets every mother know she understands their concerns. While Barack Obama spent his time crafting his personal story with votes of "present" in the Illinois House and campaigning for President during his first U.S. Senate term, Palin had boots-on-the-ground proving her executive ability to lead. McCain-Palin get my vote for their willingness to force the REAL CHANGE to return Washington to representing the Americans who elected them.
More sample letters:
Guidelines for writing letters to the editor: