Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cameron (R-HD19) Hit With Ethics, Election Complaints

Things are starting to get a little more complicated for Kevin Cameron's re-election in the 19th. Over the last week, we brought you the story of Cameron's denial, denial of the denial, and backtracking on the denial that his campaign had this "Hoffman Group" mailer sent out [click once, then again to fully enlarge], posed as a survey but designed to allow microtargeting of voters based on the link between their "survey" response and their coded name and address on the returned form.

Now Cameron's challenger, Brian Grisham, is getting involved and doing more than speculating about Cameron's controversial dealings. Yesterday Grisham filed elections complaints regarding both that mailer and another piece [also at right, same enlargement process], this one by the Oregon Health Care Association. Talk about warm and furry, er fuzzy! Grisham's complaint with both is, "who paid for these, and where is it reported?" On the Hoffman piece, if one accepts Cameron's denial that his campaign is responsible, then Grisham's argument is that it must be reported as an in-kind contribution. That charge is a little unclear to me, since it seems more likely Cameron did pay for it and simply tried to dodge responsibility--but it's worth investigating. The OHCA piece more clearly represents something produced on Cameron's behalf, and if neither the PAC nor Cameron has claimed it, then that's a problem.

Grisham also alleges irregularities in Cameron's House record, specifically on votes to cease the SportsAction lottery game {pdf} in order to woo the NCAA for March Madness; and to cut capital gains taxes--both at the request and support of the Oregon Restaurant Association, which stood to benefit financially with passage. Grisham's point is that Cameron, as a prominent member of the ORA and apparent Membership Services Chair {pdf} at the time of the bills, should have declared a conflict of interest. Not only as an ORA board member, but as the owner of two food outlets within a mile of the Rose Garden--ground zero of the area ORA hopes to enrich with NCAA tourney games--Cameron would stand to materially benefit.*

The Salem Statesman-Journal ran with the story this morning, but didn't do a bang-up job with it. The entire point of Cameron's denial that he had anything to do with the flier is missed, and the supposition by the reporter that "complaints filed with the Elections Division during a campaign usually are not settled until after an election" may raise some hackles at the Secretary of State's office, since it appears they are taking the complaint seriously now, before the election, and conducting inquiry into the matter.

Grisham is unashamed about allegations of a political ploy in filing the complaints; he essentially admits they are part of an attempt to hurt his opponent and raise his own profile, but stands vigorously behind the claims being made, and the legitimate need for investigation: "You follow the rules--you don't just not follow them because you don't understand them."

Grisham is hopeful that the inquiry will lead to a broader look at not only Cameron's campaign, but any of the races where candidates would seem to be mere proxies for other interests, rather than representatives for their district. If Nike could put forth a candidate for Council in Beaverton, is it unimaginable that an outfit like the ORA would suggest one of its own to help carry its water during the session? Both bills Grisham cites were brought to the floor "at the request of" the ORA; the SportsAction bill was introduced by Cameron himself. Who is Cameron truly representing in Salem, and why are consultants driving the campaign to keep him there?

*as a sidebar, the mechanism for replacing the funds lost by killing Sports Action was to take $4mil per year from the General Fund and disburse it as before, to state athletic departments. Grisham noted to me that $4mil would pay for 40 state troopers, enough to replace those that Cameron voted to cut in the 2005 session. As Grisham put it, "And he has the nerve to campaign on being an advocate for public safety??"