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*** UPDATED x1 *** An oppo dump gone wrong

Thursday, May 15, 2014

* I don’t recall ever seeing an opposition research dump attempt backfire so badly

[Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief campaign consultant John Kupper] emailed Tribune reporters to suggest several potentially negative stories about [Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The pitch came in response to a Tribune story Wednesday about Blaine Elementary Principal Troy LaRaviere criticizing Emanuel for trying to silence critics of his education policies. […]

In the email, Kupper included what he called “some story ideas that might actually matter to readers.”

He then offered a list of story ideas, many centering on Preckwinkle’s handling of county government that could present her negatively, some based on rumor.


* Kupper eventually fell on his own sword

“This morning, of my own volition and without consulting anyone, I sent what I considered a private email to a couple of Tribune reporters complaining about a story they wrote and what I believe to be generally unfair reporting about Mayor Emanuel,” Kupper said in an emailed statement.

“I regret any discomfort that I have created for Mayor Emanuel, County Board President Preckwinkle or anyone associated with their offices,” Kupper wrote. “From now on, I’ll keep my media criticisms to myself.”

* From David Ormsby’s Facebook page

PR Rule #1 - Nothing is ever off the record.

* Professional opposition researcher Will Caskey responded

Kupper shouldn’t have done that but this is about as newsworthy as if someone tried to blow up my clients based on the times I’ve mouthed off on Rich Miller’s comments sections.


*** UPDATE *** A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 8:51 am:

    Emails hurt.

    Sharing a beverage is nice.

    This type of Dopey idea is only highlighted more that the sender seemed to think that the receiver wouldn’t think an email steering negative stories…isn’t newsworthy itself.

    The pavement pounding ideal of getting out from behind a keyboard and working the Press, especially as a flack trying to push narratives seems to be lost to those who are on their smart phones, using 4 square about a neat coffee house, or Facebook viral videos of cats hissing at yard signs.

    This attempt is almost the Anti Paul Lis ideal of working “it”

    At least he didn’t Tweet about how cool it was…

  2. - Walker - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:07 am:

    Hm. Who made this news? The Trib reporters? I am guessing the “private” attack e-mails to them might cease.

    Preckwinkle is very tough and gaining ground, but not sure she’s ready for a knife fight with Rahm yet.

    If Toni gets elected to a higher office, it will be due to her demonstrated success in a job some thought was impossible. I’d like to see her approaches to fiscal restraint and reform in Springfield.

  3. - Don't Worry, Be Happy - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:07 am:

    Kupper’s been a busy man this week. He attacked the Sun-Times for covering LaRaviere, and also went after the head of the Chicago Principals’ Association.’-concerns-ideas/thu-05152014-537am

  4. - Robert H. - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:12 am:

    I disagree with Ormsby. Political consultants engage in constant off-the-record “you should check into this” talk with reporters. I think the Tribune burned Kupper in this case. Bad form by those reporters.

    It does illustrate just how much the Chicago media is desperate for a Rahm-Preckwinkle.

  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:13 am:

    Kupper really misjudged his relationship with the Tribbies. Very surprising. He’s no amateur; he’s been around for decades.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone who I’m quite certain has been a long-time source for inside dope get burned so badly in print.

    Emanuel should be scared of Preckwinkle. He’s the new Jane Byrne, consistently honking off the voters who got him elected in the first place.

  6. - William j Kelly - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:17 am:

    If you want an example of it done right tune in to the NEXT city council meeting;)

  7. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:28 am:

    Another reason why you should ignore half the crap that passes for political news in Illinois.

  8. - siriusly - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:33 am:

    I agree it was bad form by the Tribune staff. Perhaps include it as a part of a story related to Rahm v Preckwinkel but odd as a story on itself. What’s tomorrow’s lead story ? Tribune tower vending machines out of Pop Tarts!!!

  9. - Steve - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:36 am:

    Since CNN has such a strong “relationship” with Rahm , maybe they can do a whole series on problems with Cook County government? After all , CNN is a press office for Rahm: it’s not like they really care about ratings.

  10. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    –A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge.–

    Right, because Emanuel runs a real loose spin-operation; everyone’s always free-lancing on the politics and the message.

    The only person they need to convince of that is Preckwinkle and I doubt very much she would buy it.

  11. - William j Kelly - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    Richard Nixon …. I mean Rahm Emanuel will have a hard time selling the “I don’t know what goes on around here” line. His whole persona is based on the “NOTHING HAPPENS AROUND HERE WITH OUT ME DIRECTING IT” line. And btw, not a lot of “good” things have happened in Chicago since Rahm stole the election.

  12. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:06 am:

    haven’t trusted the Tribbie since they failed to explain why they did not report the Blagoof extortion attempt and continued negotiations until caught on the G’s wire tap.
    Maybe Rahm’s guy approaches life differently

  13. - Wensicia - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    ==A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge.==

    The Chris Christie defense?

  14. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:13 am:

    A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge.

    Oh good. Then they are realizing just how unbelievably bad they look to anyone who cares about the City.

    Holy crap! Look up! The Hindenburg is a giant fireball over our heads! Drop the tethers and run for your lives! It’s coming down!

    Oh the mayoralty!

  15. - NW Illinois Dem - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:34 am:

    Surprisingly, the Chicago newspapers just slapped a great source. Unwise in the long run for them.

  16. - From the 'Dale to HP - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    There is a 0% chance that City Hall didn’t know what Kupper was doing. There is a 100% chance the okayed Kupper e-mailing the Trib and most likely okayed the actual e-mail.

    That said… the flood gates are open on Rahm. This is only going to get worse for him.

  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    “I regret any discomfort that I have created for Mayor Emanuel, County Board President Preckwinkle or anyone associated with their offices,” Kupper wrote. “From now on, I’ll keep my media criticisms to myself.”

    This is what constitutes “falling on your sword” these days?


  18. - William j Kelly - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    The rahmbo corruption prediction is coming true;)

  19. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    Disagree with Ormsby, but also disagree that it was bad form by Trib reporters.

    Dude emailed to several reporters something that should be handled over drinks/coffee (ideal) or over the phone (less so) with the VERY strong caveat at the outset that everything said is off the record, AND agreed to by the reporter.

    You can’t just say “this is off the record” and assume it is so - that fact has to be affirmed by the reporter or the conversation ends. By sending an email with the allegations - whether it said off the record at the top of not - he didn’t give the reporters the opportunity to agree or not, therefore the entire thing was on the record. That’s the way journalism rolls.

    Second, I agree with whomever said there is 0% chance Rahm didn’t know. That man is the ultimate control freak, there is no way he allows any contact with major media without his consent.

    Third, seriously, did that campaign really not realize how toxic their relationship is with the Trib? I’ve heard more than enough first hand stories about the administration’s interactions to know that when in question, they will never get the benefit of the doubt from the Trib. The fact that they didn’t know that - political malpractrice.

    This was major amateur hour.

  20. - David Ormsby - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    –I disagree with Ormsby.–

    The Trib story proves my point.

  21. - Soccermom - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    I agree with David Ormsby, in this as in all other things.

  22. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    ==A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge. ==

    At a certain point, denials become an indicator of involvement. Not sure what the number is…

  23. - 47th Ward - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    The Tribune happily accepted calls and e-mails from Kupper and his partners, for years, on behalf of the Mayor of Chicago, since 1989. Now they decide to burn him? When did they hire journalists to replace the stenographers they’ve had over there for so long?

  24. - Lundstrom - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 1:47 pm:

    Actually it is not just the Tribune as some have mistakenly commented above. I guess that all bets are off at the Sun-Times too. Kupper has been outed in one of its reports for sending an “angry email” to paper staff. The Sun-Times decided not to run the major story about CNN working in tandem with the Emanuel administration for the Chicagoland series. And Kupper gets upset that the Sun-Times dared to give LaRiaviere space to voice his displeasure with the Mayor? It is very hard to believe that Kupper’s emails were not acting at the behest of the Mayor or others in his administration or without Emanuels and others’ knowledge.

  25. - LCP45 - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    Word: if I was Jane Byrne, I would be so insulted. The animosity towards Tiny Dancer is way more vehement IMO
    than was that of the electorate towards Byrne. No comparison.

  26. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    == it was bad form by Trib reporters==

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that things are only off the record when it is explicitly said “this is off the record.”

  27. - fed up - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    wow all this animosity towards Rahm. Well deserved, but Im guessing he will win re election by only 15-20 pts instead of 25-30pts.

  28. - HoosierDaddy - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 3:49 pm:

    ==A source close to Emanuel just called to emphasize Kupper’s point that the consultant acted alone and without anybody else’s prior knowledge. ==

    THUMP!THUMP! That was the sound of the bus wheels.

  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    Well, Ormsby sure was right in this case.

    More to the point, i am not a big fan of complaining about coverage. If there are factual errors, correct them. But otherwise, let it roll…and if you decide an outlet is just completely biased, tell that reporter not to bother calling any more.

  30. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 4:47 pm:

    Bad form on the part of reporters? I don’t see it. Maybe they’re just tired of being insulted and harangued whenever they’re factual-but-off-message and want to share a little about what that looks like.

    I think that’s fair news reporting.

  31. - A guy... - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 4:53 pm:

    ===Precinct Captain - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    == it was bad form by Trib reporters==

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that things are only off the record when it is explicitly said “this is off the record.”====

    Answer is; it depends. Often with emails of new information, a confirmation call will follow. Good reporters don’t burn good sources. They’ll spend a lot more time begging them to go on the record or finding someone who will. Good reporters confirm. If it becomes known a reporter burns a source, it’s a lesson for more than one person. The first rule, as your question asks, is that you should always make clear when you’re on or off the record. With reporters you’ve worked with before, there’s an understanding, but it’s still good to make it clear. For reporters, one good story ain’t worth it. They’ll never talk to you again and they’ll tell everyone they know you can’t keep your mouth shut. There’s a reason people talk to Miller. Even people who don’t like him. Years later, his business is better than ever. This story above is about 2 mistakes.

  32. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 5:18 pm:

    There’s something more to this story — it’s not just a question of the “rules” of on- or off-the-record.

    Kupper has been to many a rodeo and obviously thought he was on safe ground. Who made the decision to burn him and why are the intriguing questions.

  33. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 8:07 pm:

    Oh cmon. Kupper has been sloppy for a long time. I don’t know if he was reckless in this case, but his arrogance is pretty legendary. This was totally fair game by the Trib. To any operative complaining that it wasn’t, grow up.

  34. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, May 15, 14 @ 8:16 pm:

    Publicly The Mayor has said he is not worried about Preckwinkle running.

    Clearly, his chief strategist is worried.

    That is why he is in the news cycle: reporters don’t like it when you say one thing on the record and the exact opposite off the record the next day.

    Basically, you have treated them like tools, which most folks balk at.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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