Saturday, June 24, 2006

NW Republican, Demonizing the Process

I know Carla took a well deserved swipe at NW Republican earlier today, but I'd already been working on a story that's developed over the last couple days regarding the end-games on Oregon petitions, and--surprise--NWR is part of the noise on this one as well.

'Coyote' has been on a smear campaign against unionism as of late, calling them out for such "thuggish" behavior as reporting potentially illegal signature gathering on several of the anti-tax crowd's initiatives. He's taking special aim at Patty Wenz, Director of Our Oregon, which is indeed taking an active role in monitoring the business of signature gathering, fraught as it has been in the past wtih fraud and money laundering--not coincidentally, perpetrated by the same anti-tax folks. (He then veers off into an incoherent ramble about William Jefferson in Louisiana and Dean Logan in Washington; what they have to do with unions I can't fathom--and don't get us started on the ridiculously disproven claims you make about the WA goobernor's election, Coyote, because we will BURY you on it).

Part two of the Persecution Complex Special Report came on Thursday: now Coyote is accusing the Portland Police of being in on the crackdown against them:
Last night, a twelve person door-to-door canvassing crew working on five initiative petitions was sent home by the Portland police, because the circulators were not wearing name badges. The circulators were about one hour into a six-hour shift when several Portland police officers began rounding them up and forcing them to stop circulating or be arrested.
The officers were entirely without legal authority for shutting down the signature drives for not wearing name badges.
Well, that's mighty serious, I thought. Why would they do such a thing? Coyote goes on to mention a Supreme Court ruling against requiring badges, which is odd considering Oregon doesn't even have a law requiring them. Naturally, I wanted to find out what PPB had to say.

I contacted Detective Paul Dolbey, the bureau's public information officer, and asked him if he had any information on the claim. He noted that I was the second person to ask him that, and that the report supposedly came from Alameda in the Northeast Precinct. Dolbey was unable to find record of a dispatch matching any reasonable description of the described events, but promised to continue looking and get back to me.

The absence of a report doesn't mean it didn't happen, of course. The officer could have declined to file one. It might have been an off-duty cop who flashed a badge and did indeed try to intimidate the canvassers. Or it might not have been a cop at all. Coyote doesn't seem to entertain that idea, referring specifically to Portland Police. So where's the evidence?

The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes (who I assume was the first person to ask Det. Dolbey about Coyote's claim) covers the issue in The O's Political blog, reaching essentially the same conclusion: there's no substantiation for the claim. And I'll ask again--what the heck does this have to do with unions, or Patty Wentz? Even John Slevin, who was apparently leading the "waylaid" canvassing crew, admitted to Mapes that he had no evidence of any organized effort against them.

In a somewhat related story, an Our Oregon press release was reported at Blue Oregon and The Merc yesterday, wondering why a group of people carrying large yellow signs was patrolling downtown Portland yesterday. On my way back from the City Club Friday Forum, I saw them as well (but didn't get a chance to blog on it until it had already been broken), and wondered who was backing them. The signs feature a pair of glasses and the phrase "read BEFORE you sign." I actually figured they WERE the result of Our Oregon, since I believe in the process of signee education for petitions where deception is the basis for getting signatures.

Nope--turns out that, depending who you ask, backing is coming from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and/or the Portland Business Alliance. Why? Apparently out of the broad belief that the net effect of petitions being on the ballot is that it hurts business. Given what's being suggested for placement now I'm not sure how they end up with that perspective, but regardless, once again it has nothing to do with unions.

So, Coyote. Can I ask? What ARE you going on about?