I Got a Letter From the Government the Other Day

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 21 2013 12:12 PM

I Got a Letter From the Government the Other Day



A new, quick piece from me—aided greatly by Emma Roller—explains why senators insist on sending "formal letters" to each other, then releasing these letters to the media. As former Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley explains, it's an old tradition that's been repurposed as a media-grabbing ploy.

“When you’re sending an official letter you’re killing two birds with one stone,” says Manley. “You’re not ambushing your colleague, but you’re not giving the recipient the chance to shape the message in his own direction, either. It’s far too easy to dream up a press strategy that involves writing a letter and quickly releasing it to reporters, making the recipient look pressured. There are strategists who spend whole days thinking of stuff like this.”

It's a short article, and it doesn't include the rest of the reason that congresscritters often prefer sending letters to other methods of communication. You don't just get extra media attention. You get extra attention from the recipients, who are worried about the media attention, and will work harder to put out a response. Tweet them, and you might not get anything. But members of Congress and administration officials and nominees feel compelled to respond to letters.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
The Eye
Oct. 22 2014 1:01 PM The Surprisingly Xenophobic Origins of Wonder Bread
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.