It seems like just yesterday that longtime Pat Buchanan webmaster Linda Muller was excitedly updating her candidate's Web site, anticipating his jump next Monday to the Reform Party.
But not today. According to Muller, she has been fired.
In a poison-pen e-mail circulated on Wednesday, Muller accused campaign manager Bay Buchanan of summarily dismissing her from both the campaign and the American Cause, a conservative nonprofit group chaired by Pat Buchanan.
"For the last five years my whole life has been dedicated to Pat and our Cause," Muller wrote. "I still love Pat and I'll always love him. I'm just so sorry that Bay feels I'm no longer needed."
Contacted by Salon News, the Buchanan campaign refused to comment on what it termed a "personnel matter."
According to Muller, Bay Buchanan has hired "a team of Web professionals" to take over Muller's responsibilities at the Web sites for both the campaign and the American Cause.
The campaign's quarterly Federal Election Commission report indicates that a firm called the Hathaway Group received more than $20,000 in the last quarter for computer consulting services, more than double Muller's salary during the same period.
Tim Hathaway, of the Hathaway Group, told Salon that while he remains under contract to the American Cause, his work for the campaign ended last month. Hathaway also disclosed that the new Buchanan webmaster is a former Hathaway Group employee, though he declined to name him.
Muller is considered one of the pioneers in the development of the political Web. Years before she became a Buchanan employee, Muller had designed unofficial Web sites devoted to Buchanan.
She also marshaled tens of thousands of supporters online for the "Buchanan Brigade," a grass-roots volunteer army assembled for the 1996 Buchanan presidential effort and reactivated for his campaign this year.
Muller's management of the Buchanan site has been controversial. In a recent review, Plugged-In Politics columnist David Haase said that, though he found it lacking technically, the site "screams energy and enthusiasm."
But that enthusiasm sometimes resulted in questionable judgment calls. In February 1995, the site's "Buchanan News Room" linked to a Media Bypass article that accused Hillary Rodham Clinton and the late Vince Foster of spying for the Mossad. The link was soon pulled, but not before the incident was covered on ABC's Nightline.
In another misstep just last month, Muller was ordered to pull down an article in which Bay Buchanan advised her brother to "bolt the GOP." This occurred at a time when sensitive negotiations were being conducted between Buchanan and the Republican Party.
Muller's departure is bound to shake the close-knit Buchanan Brigade family. At Free Republic, a conservative Web site and informal gathering place for the Brigadiers, several avowed Buchanan supporters have been debating the implications of Muller's dismissal. Muller said she plans to participate in that discussion herself, and has posted on the site both her original e-mail and a follow-up message she sent out Thursday morning.
"Now that I'm unemployed," Muller said in her second e-mail, "I'll have time to hang out!"