House GOP Implicated in Collusion on Freedomworks Mailers

[Updated with scan of letter from Merkley to Scott and Courtney. Copies were sent to the named recipients plus courtesy copies to the Representatives named in it. Staff for David Edwards went the extra mile to get it to me late Friday. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been published elsewhere yet, so I put the update here at the top. I’ve also included the mp3 of the radio ad, and the text of the robocall. Documents R LO!]

I was pleased this morning to see that The O was on the ball with their story regarding the ridiculous “tax hike” mailers, radio ads and phone calls stemming from the rainy day fund legislation on the table this session. As you probably know, a day after blocking passage of RDF legislation, the House GOP worked with the House Speaker and Senate President’s offices to craft a compromise deal that went beyond RDF and into the corporate minimum and estate tax schedules. All well and triumphant, right?

Well, maybe not so much. To set the stage:
Democrats have charged that Republicans leaked legislators’ official photos for FreedomWorks to use, which they say violates state laws prohibiting the use of public money for campaign activities.

“I have never heard of this kind of campaign attack in the middle of session,” said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone. “They are attacking us based on something they have now endorsed.”

House Minority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, said he hadn’t heard of FreedomWorks’ mailers until a reporter told him. Scott did confirm, however, that the radio commercial against Rep. David Edwards, D-Hillsboro, {mp3 file} had been paid for by the House Republicans campaign arm. He denied a link between the radio ads and the postcards.
So let’s get this straight: Scott confirmed that the House Republicans–while pushing a minority report that itself proposed $240 million in what they call “tax hikes”, and then agreeing to a deal that moved even closer to the Democratic version–were simultaneously crafting a radio hit piece against Democrats for it? And the the local head of one of Grover Norquist’s** astroturf groups just happened to put out mailers with exactly the same charge, that local honcho also being the vice-chair of the state GOP…and the Minority Leader’s Office had no idea? To say it strains credulity is similar to wondering whether Kate Moss’s thong bikini might appear strained on Roseanne Barr’s ass.

And that’s not the only hit FW has put out on Edwards; staffers there indicate that they are convinced Walker’s group is also behind a “robocall” being done in the district. In one transcribed call to a constituent, a recorded woman’s voice says:
Hi, I’m calling because I thought you’d want to know that your state representative David Edwards just voted to raise state taxes by over two hundred and seventy million dollars. Over the next few months the legislature will be voting on other tax increases. Call David Edwards at 503-986-1430 and tell him to vote NO on new taxes. Thank you.
So far we have no indication that Wayne Scott’s constituents received a similar call once Scott agreed to “raise taxes” by $250 million; despite Walker’s protestations that “there will be consequences for all legislators,” color me unconvinced there will be one forthcoming..

The one thing that’s a little odd about the way The O framed the story is that Russ Walker’s trashing of Democrats on spending is nothing new, nor is the phenomenon of Wayne Scott’s crew talking out of both sides of their mouths. What IS new is that someone in the Capitol released photos to Freedomworks that belong to the taxpayers, in potential violation of the law–but that bit of intrigue is relegated to a bit of he-said she-said at the bottom of the article.

It’s not just regular old dirty pool–the Speaker’s Office is preparing to turn what they know over to others, for investigation of possible violations of both state law and House rules against use of public documents for campaign purposes.

But if the exact application of the laws and rules is not yet known, the question of where Walker could have gotten the photos is much simpler, thanks to the revelation by Speaker Merkley in a letter to the House GOP that only four known copies* of the photos exist, all in CD format. Of those four discs, the Democrats have vouched for the security of three of them: neither of Merkley’s copies have either been copied or had the contents transmitted to anyone since they were received from the photographer; Tanya Gross in the Senate President’s Office has stipulated the same thing.

That leaves one copy, given as a courtesy to Wayne Scott’s House GOP Office. I’ve gamely attempted to contact Nick Smith, Scott’s spokesman, twice for comment and an explanation on how they have handled the custody of their copy–no luck so far. But if we are to trust that a) the Democrats have not passed around their copies and b) they certainly wouldn’t give the photos to Freedomworks, there are precious few options left as to where Russ Walker acquired them. Again, that’s Russ Walker: Oregon Director of Freedomworks, and Vice-chair of the Oregon Republican Party–the same ORGOP whose House campaign arm is running SIMULTANEOUS radio ads in the SAME DEMOCRATIC DISTRICTS on the SAME PRECISE SUBJECT AND LINE OF ATTACK. But Scott denies any coordination, and his spokesman declines to comment on where the photos might have come from. Hmmmmm….

So indulge me for a minute and let’s assume that one way or the other, Scott’s office did give the photos to Freedomworks. Further, Scott has admitted he knew of the campaign attack airtime being bought in conjunction with the RDF bill. Meanwhile he is breaking bread in a back room with Merkely and Courtney, hammering out a deal that will spare his caucus electoral grief for obstructing a popular bill, by largely agreeing to the very same things his associates and allies are blasting targeted Democrats for.

So is there any reason to trust this guy’s word or intentions for the rest of the session and into next year’s? Is there no dirty trick, two-faced double deal or misleading smear attack that Wayne Scott and his minion won’t stoop to? Is it really so hard for state Republicans to accept minority reality and embrace bipartisan cooperation and compromise for the good of the state, without pissing all over it moments later for craven political gain?

*The letter says three copies; the original disc also rests with Russ Kelley in the Speaker’s Office.

**Patty makes a good point in comments, that FW is not really run by Norquist per se–although his sweaty little fists are in every one of the national anti-tax groups coming from outside into Oregon. I could say I consider Norquist the Lear of all his minion and that’s why I wrote it that way…but the proper truth is I wrote too quickly. Barely time to stir my grits these days. So to speak.