How to write a hit piece about a good person


Step 1 – Get encouragement from a campaign that’s losing in a political race

Down in campaign money and goodwill, current Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen is quite likely down to my friend and awesome human Amanda McGill. Nobody likes Janssen. He barely won a primary for Auditor against a guy who didn’t take donations for his campaign. What he is, however, is Republican. So that means cronies go into motion and begin whipping up bullshit and lies.

Step 2 – Find a site willing to publish said hit piece without any context

I cite here often. They’re pretty much the only investigative political source in town that don’t dream of bathing in the tears and blood of liberals. I know firsthand that they are frequently contacted or backchanneled by campaign staff desperate to get people talking about their issue. I’ve seen it happen. This part isn’t conjecture, it’s fact.

Step 3 – Find a writer willing to believe what you say and present a skewed case

Like I said, I think is alright. But there are stooges at every writing outlet. Meet Deena Winter. See if you can find a pattern of bias in the topics Deena has written about most recently.

I don’t know if Deena is a liberal or a conservative. But I do know that all of those stories fall into a pattern of making implications and assertions that favor the conservative standpoint, most at the expense of actual journalism.

Step 4 – Lie by omission

You don’t have to lie in an article to be untruthful. You just have to omit stuff. See if you can see what’s missing here:

The Democratic candidate for Nebraska state auditor, Amanda McGill, spent more than $21,000 in campaign funds and nearly $13,000 in taxpayer money on travel expenses for she and her staff over the past eight years. Before she was elected in 2006, she had never been outside the U.S. But since taking office she’s been to Germany, Italy, Turkey, China and New Zealand. She’s also flown around the country to Florida, Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C., on her campaign account. According to the Legislature’s budget office, the amount she spent on taxpayers’ dime was above average for lawmakers during the past four years.

It’s hard to notice something that’s not there, but it’s pretty easy if you’re looking for it. Say, what’s the “average for lawmakers during the past four years?” For economy of words, wouldn’t it be easier even to just say “the amount she spent was XXX dollars more than average.” If they contacted the budget office to get those gaudy numbers up top, they have to know what the average is, don’t they? I tried to find it on the website and couldn’t. So they HAD to have contacted the office to get these numbers. Unless, you know, they came from someplace else.

Step 5 – Frame a good person

God, I’m getting mad. Amanda is a good person who does good things and wants good things for all Nebraskans. This is how they captioned her photo:


What do you notice? Do you notice the tiny words that are specifying that she’s learning about trade missions (Nebraska agriculture has a huge relationship with China)? Or do you notice the jab “Frequent Flyer?” But that’s not it. Deena adds: “And while it’s perfectly legal to use campaign funds to travel as long as it’s not just personal travel, McGill has a reputation among some lawmakers for being an unusually frequent flyer.” So clearly, she’s going to quote someone anonymous right? Like at least ONE SINGULAR LAWMAKER will be saying something in this article, even in anonymity right?

Wrong. Crickets.

This doesn’t stop Deena from saying “Some are questioning how good of a steward of taxpayer dollars she would be.” Yes, “SOME” lawmakers (none of whom are mentioned) and “SOME” other people are questioning that. I wonder WHO (see step 1 above).

Just wait, it gets better. And by better I mean GOOD GOD YOU HAVE TO BE SHITTING ME. I’m going to tell you who she quotes now. And you will not believe me.

“I question how good a steward they’re going to be if they’re going to be traveling with campaign money so excessively,” right-leaning political commentator Chris Scott said.

Right-leaning political commentator. She’s writing a story about a government office, cites “legislators” who doubt McGill, and quotes…a right-leaning political commentator. And what blistering slam dunk does this commentator offer?

Scott called three trips in three months for White House briefings “a little excessive.”

This is her expert. Deena cites him throughout, offering his amazing perspective on things like “I don’t think a state senator needs to be in D.C. on three separate occasions in three months.” Ah, well, seeing as how you are NOT a state senator, and are instead a “right-leaning political commentator,” I don’t know that you have the information to judge whether or not this was excessive, and lord knows Deena isn’t giving you context.

Step 6 – Go for the kill

You know the one person that has any actual credentials Deena talked to besides Amanda? You had to see this coming:

Rod Edwards, Janssen’s campaign manager, said the state auditor’s job is to look out for taxpayers’ money. “Using her campaign funds to travel the world shows a serious lack of judgment on her part,” he said. “How can Nebraskans trust her to look out for their money when the only two examples of her having any monetary oversight — the other as executive director of the Lincoln YWCA — have been failures?”

She uses a campaign manager to introduce a slam that’s out of context and disparaging. And then Deena goes all in.

McGill was program director when her former boss embezzled from the YWCA by stamping McGill’s name on checks without her permission.

And there you have it. Amanda has NEVER been accused of or even considered to be involved in what happened with the embezzling. In fact, that last little bit “without her permission” tells you she was a victim too. And now she’s a victim of an amateurish hatchet job.

The truth

State senators make $12,000 a year. 12K. And yet they are expected to treat this job as pretty much full time. That’s why mostly wealthy and retired people do it. Amanda is young. We need young. Young people get shit done. And young people also get educated. Amanda acted both as an ambassador for our state and as an information gatherer.

And here’s the single most important thing: Even with her bullshit, skewed approach, Deena couldn’t find any actual dirt. Amanda reported all of those trips. She was completely within her rights to use that money. She publicized that she was using it by talking in press and elsewhere about her trips. She used the information she gathered to propose several different pieces of legislation. Oh, and did I mention, NOT ONE SINGLE THING SHE DID WAS EVEN THE SLIGHTEST BIT SHADY. No dirt. None.

So what happens to young, kind people who are trying to make a difference in this state but have a liberal view?


New McGill


If you can find me a post on something about Charlie Janssen where someone talks about how hot he is, let me know. has a LOT to apologize for and to be ashamed about today. Amanda does not. Please share this to set the story straight. And look into Amanda on your own. I’m 100% confident if you look past lies like this, you’ll agree she’s a person we want fighting for us. It’s the reason they have to lie like this to keep her out.


Yesterday afternoon, I contacted the state’s budget office looking for numbers to either confirm or disprove this story. What I found is remarkable. Here’s the verbatim, unedited email I received.


I asked for clarity. I wanted to make SURE that I was reading these numbers correctly. I was told explicitly “The annual expenditure amounts I provided were for a subprogram within the Legislature’s budget that is labeled Senator Travel.”

There are 49 State Senators. Last year alone the total was $363,918. $363,918 divided by 49 is $7426. According to Deena’s numbers, Amanda spent $13K…IN EIGHT YEARS. As I figured, the math isn’t adding up.

I have a request to the budget office for senator-by-senator breakdowns. I’ll let you know when I get them.


One thought on “How to write a hit piece about a good person

  1. Pingback: Rage against the dying of the light | Feeling Blue in a Red State

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