According to a statement issued by campaign manager Cullen Sheehan, the campaign's policy is to provide supporters with talking points or outlines for such letters.
"In this case, that policy was not followed, and it is inexcusable," the statement said, adding that the mistake won't happen again.
"Our volunteers were not given a clear enough description of what our policy was, and in no way shape or form should they be held responsible for our failure to execute that policy."
According to Coleman's campaign, the letters appeared in the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Daily, the Winona Daily News and Winona State University's Winonan. The Associated Press located the letters on the Web sites of the first two but not the Winonan, and could not immediately confirm the letter was published in that publication.
The statement did little to mollify the campaign for Franken, one of several Democrats running in a primary in hopes of taking on Coleman, a first-term Minnesota Republican, this fall.
"Sen. Coleman owes Minnesotans some answers: Who wrote the letter, and who approved its distribution?" asked Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr. "How many were submitted, including those that were not printed? And was this the first time the Coleman campaign has used this tactic, or just the first time they got caught?"
Coleman campaign spokesman Tom Erickson declined to answer those questions, but tried to turn the tables.
"Our campaign manager called the editor of the Winona Daily News to apologize," Erickson said. "We've already said we made a mistake and it won't happen again. Al Franken won't apologize or admit he made a mistake for verbally attacking a Minnesota college student who simply showed up and politely listened to him speak."
Responded Barr: "Does that mean they're not planning to reveal how many times they've done this before getting caught?"
The Daily Kos covers this also:
Moreover, it highlights the dangers of running an Astroturf campaign in this day and age. And Astroturf is what this is... a political campaign handing letters to supporters to send to newspapers as if the letters were their own. When all the letters are conveniently online now, it's just too easy to get caught.
This reminds me of when Coleman staffers were caught sanitizing his wikipedia entry.