Pesticide Politics

It looks like Matt Blevins, the lobbyist for the Oregon Environmental Council, has managed to upset a few legislators.

Why? Because he's bringing too much heat on a few legislators (including one Democrat) who have refused to fund the state's pesticide-use reporting system - a program that has existed since 1999, but has never been funded.

(Note: Blevins was previously noted on BlueOregon here.)

First, the background, from the AP:

Blevins and other environmentalists have been trying to drum up support for a program that was first approved by the Legislature in 1999. It was supposed to inform people about when, where and in what amounts toxic pesticides are used around Oregon.

But the program has been on hold — mainly because of opposition from farmers and the pesticide industry — and become one of the key budget disputes in the current session of the Legislature.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Democrat-controlled Senate want to provide $750,000 to finally get the program up and running, but the program has encountered stiff resistance in the Republican-controlled House.

So, what's the problem now? Again, the AP:

Several legislators have filed a complaint against the environmental movement's top lobbyist in Oregon, saying he has attempted to "intimidate" and "coerce" them into supporting a pesticide reporting program that's been stalled for years.

The complaint accuses Matt Blevins of the Oregon Environmental Council of trying to use undue influence by waging a "media campaign" of radio and newspaper advertisements against certain lawmakers who fail to support the pesticide use reporting law. ...

The complaint against Blevins was signed by [Mike] Schaufler [D-Happy Valley] and fellow Democratic Rep. Deborah Boone of Seaside, along with Republican Reps. Scott Bruun of West Linn and Wayne Krieger of Gold Beach.

Well, here at BlueOregon, we're happy to share with you samples of the the actual radio ads (1.4mb mp3) and the actual print ads (800k pdf) in question.

From the Capital Press Agriculture Weekly, a bit of transcript:

The radio ads, scheduled to air several times daily for one week, feature two mothers talking about pesticides being sprayed adjacent to a playground used by their children. One of the women says that there has been an increase in childhood cancer and asthma and that it could be linked to pesticides. In the ad targeting Vicki Berger, the second women says:

“Wait a minute. Our kids could be playing in toxic chemicals and Vicki Berger wants to keep the information from us?”

An ad spokesman then says: “Oregon law says you should know what toxic pesticides are being used where your family lives, works and plays. But Vicki Berger is caving in to the pesticide industry to keep you in the dark and your family’s health at risk.”

Questions for BlueOregon:

* Is this kind of outside-the-building pressure too much? Or should organizations be allowed to use their free speech to criticize recalcitrant legislators?

* Should the pesticide-use reporting system be funded?

* What do you think of the legislators' actions? What about the OEC's actions?

* Who is playing smart politics here?


  • (Show?)

    Thank goodness that someone's willing to hold the Legislature's feet to the fire. We all know that Oregonians usually spend very little attention to the Legislature.

    That OEC would turn up the heat (ok, ok, mixing metaphors) to the point that legislators would try to bully Blevins into silence, well, that means OEC is being successful at pushing their buttons (although perhaps not at changing their votes).

    And it means another news story on the issue, which I think is good for OEC. It's hard for me to imagine that the average news consumer will side with the legislators, even if they don't know that OEC doesn't do electoral campaigning. There will be some who see it as another reason to bash environmentalists, but I doubt most Oregonians see legislators as victims in this case.

    Doesn't citing undue influence in reference to getting the public to know what's actually happening, while pro-pesticide folks are writing multi-thousand-dollar checks to campaigns, seems ridiculous?

    Go Matt, go.

  • (Show?)

    Mike Schaufler broke ranks and voted with the GOP on capital gains giveaways for people who invest in companies, even if they are on the other side of the planet, which would blow an even larger hole in the budget with ZERO evidence that it would do a single thing to improve the state economy. Even the best case scenario shows it is a dollar-return loser for every dollar blown out of the budget, on unearned income. He also has a less than stellar record when the rubber meets the road environmental issues.

    He is a Blue-dog Democrat, and rapidly approaching DINO status. We need a real Democratic progressive or in District 48.

  • Sid (unverified)

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kind of pressure when legislators won't act on legislation that has been passed. My mom is a farmer (organic of course), but has had to deal with nearby berry farmers who use the most toxic of chemicals on their fields. The pesticides are so toxic that the people spraying them are wrapped up in white jump suits that cover their entire bodies. They have masks over their mouths and goggles over their eyes, but many of them still get sick.

    Luckily they spray on non-windy days, but believe me, my mom seals up her house on those days and so do the other residents in the area.

    Do we eat those berries. No way. If people had any idea they'd want these pesticides banned. The ones used on berries are the worst and a lot of berries are grown in the NW.

  • whatajoke (unverified)

    The truly amusing part of this story is that it makes it appear there is some actual oversight of unethical behavior by lobbyists. Ha, ha. The complaint was filed with the "Capitol Club", the space in the capitol building where lobbyists leave their coat, use the wireless internet, and generally sit on their butts waiting - for a fee of course.

  • sidney (unverified)

    Anyone notice the sloppy text in the ad? It targets Kitts, but has Cameron's email. Oops!

  • (Show?)

    It's hilarious to me that the legislators are so upset about this. Welcome to the fishbowl, people.

    Beyond that, to suggest it's unethical is absurd. Have they never seen the ads on TV that tell people to "Call Congressman Whoever Now." Those are from interest groups going over the heads of elected officials to encourage citizens to pressure them. Of course it's ethical for folks to tell citizens to pressure legislators - that's the whole damn point!

  • Dan Estes (unverified)

    I could not agree more. This is the name of the game. If legislators do not want to be bothered by citizens or citizen groups, they probably should not seek office. This is the core of democracy, and the Right and Left both use these tactics to motivate their base and to sway opinions. Yes, it can be a pain...but that's the point. I find the complaints a bit insincere, regardless of whether or not I agree with Blevins. It just looks like someone is trying to grab some late-session ink. Bah!!

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    The environmental orgs should not need to do this. The news media should be doing it. They go after recipients of publicly funded disability payments and public retirees, why not legislators who thwart the will of the voters?

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Yawns! More infighting..that is all that we need to start doing at the end of the session. Show weakness in front of the Minnis and Company; that is why she controls the agenda as the Minority stakeholder in the capitol buiding.

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    Glad you guys picked up on this. I was going to comment on this at my blog, but you beat me to it (and it's better off over here). I echo the sentiments of all of you...the legislators' whining is truly absurd. If they don't want the pressure, why don't they support some meaningful CFR to get off the "gravy train"?

  • Becky (unverified)

    This is precisely why the First Amendment is crucial to our system of government. If we don't have the ability to get obnoxious with our speech to our elected officials (I use "obnoxious" with tongue in cheek), we have no real way to influence our own government. I feel excited about this just like I feel excited when I see someone have the nerve to put up a sign in their yard blaring out for the whole world to see that they don't like the war or , as was seen in Dundee a couple years ago, "Hell no! No winos in Dundee" or something to that effect. I don't even have to agree with the message to get excited that someone had the nerve to speak out. So I say, Speak out, people! You keep us free!

    And I do want to know about pesticides, so in this case I'm especially pleased to see the First Amendment being put to good use. I'd like a bumper sticker that says, "Your right to make a profit does not trump my kids' right to be cancer-free."

  • Bertha (unverified)

    Of course, I agree with everyone who has posted on this. It seems rediculous that an environmental lobbying group should be barred from informing the public about how a legislator votes.

    HOWEVER... isn't this exactly the argument for why most kinds of campaign finance reform is unconstitutional?! The argument here is that the Oregon League of Conservation Voters has a Free Speech right to print and air ads informing the public about Mike Schaufler's votes. Well, by that same token, I should have the Free Speech right to pool my money with a bunch of friends to form a PAC and air issue ads. And, similarly, I should have the Free Speech right to contribute freely to an existing PAC (OCLV, ACLU, NRA, Christian Coalition, etc.) And that PAC -- as my agent -- should have the Free Speech right to air all of the issue ads it wants.

    This is the case for unregulated soft money.

  • Varner (unverified)

    Since no one else is going to raise the obvious, let me do so here:

    This is clearly a reprisal from Schauffler for not getting to be a Dave Matthews Band finalist.

    There, I said it. The truth is painful.

  • (Show?)

    FYI - Just checked with OEC and the ad linked above is a sample - and the final versions that went out had the right email addresses with the right ads.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    We stand behind Matt 100%! But I just wanted to correct the entry submitted earlier that stated the ad was put out by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV). The Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) is its own, awesome group. We work together down in Salem on these important issues. Thanks for all your comments in support! Jessica, OLCV

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    I agree with all of the previous posts that this tactic is perfectly acceptable for OEC (at least, assuming they assumed they had little expectation of ever getting a fair hearing from those legislators on any other issue in the future).

    On the other hand, I don't think it's smart politics to target Schaufler with an add like that, disagree with is position or not.

    Mitch Gore writes:

    "We need a real Democratic progressive or in District 48."

    Have you looked at Dist. 48 lately? This district will NEVER yield a progressive or liberal Democrat. Your real choices are a blue-dog dem (and, in Schaufler's case a solidly pro-labor one at that) or . . . someone like Lynn Snodgrass, who held largely the same seat before Schafler did.

    Look, to take control of the House, D's need four more seats. Look at a map and tell me those last four are easy enough to find that needing to get a fifth doesn't matter.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Snodgrass's district was all in Clackamas County, closer to the district now represented by Linda Flores. Schaufler represents Happy Valley and outer SE Portland. The registration of HD48 is decidedly Democratic.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    "...someone like Lynn Snodgrass, who held largely the same seat before Schafler did."

    Not to blow my own progressive horn, but I held that seat (in total) before Mike Schafler did. Even with redistricting, the seat is still almost 90% in the Portland city limits.

  • CAM (unverified)

    " suggest [issue ads] it's unethical is absurd. Have they never seen the ads on TV that tell people to "Call Congressman Whoever Now."

    Hey I got one for you. Aren't we the party that supposedly deplores this kind of political coersion? I mean communicating to your membership is one thing, but thinly veiled threats disguised as "public service" free speech commercials is something entirely different, and it makes me sick.

    I have zero tolerance for those who resort to this kind of political blackmail, no matter how worthy the cause. Those who do should be ashamed for defending this deplorable practice.

    I have rarely, if ever, seen this kind of uglyness directed towards state legislators and never from a supposedly Democratic ally. Usually, it is the Republicans who dine on their own with such wanton abandon. Furthermore, they are much better at the political blackmail game than we Democrats ever hope to be (i.e. Swift Boat Veterans and the subsequent free-fall in Kerry polls).

    Nice can of worms there, guys.

    By the way, why is it that neo-progressives always assume that every registered Democrat thinks exactly like they do, and if they don't they must not be a "real Democrat."

    I've heard that enough to know it makes me sick.

    Rep Schaufler was a target of the GOP in the last election. despite having a better than 3,000 vote Democratic edge, he won by less than 700 votes. Better than 1,500 Democrats crossed over and voted GOP.

    It's all about support, which he should have received last election and which you guys couldn't deliver if your lives depended on it.

    Perhaps if you neo-progressives would put your money where your mouth is and reach out and actually listen to your fellow non-neo-progressive Democrats (who happen to make up the vast majority of rank-and-file Democrats), instead of complaining and pontificating (and bad-mouthing rural/business/working class labor Democrats), then maybe Rep Schaufler wouldn't have been targeted by the GOP in a district where the Democrat is supposed to be invulnerable.

    Get it?

    Somehow I suspect you don't and you won't. Probably explains the fifteen year lock under three Democratic redistricting plans that the GOP has on the Oregon House (and most of the time the Oregon Senate).

    Oh well, those who refuse to learn...

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    I don't know your political experience, but the OEC issue ads are fairly moderate in the continuum of political advertising. Democrats have used much, much, stronger stuff against other D candidates, not long ago or far away .

    In my experience, D's have been quite willing to accommadate difference on issues, up to a point, especially in relatively conservative districts. That is no reason to not pressure officials on specific issues when that issue is at stake. To do otherwise leads to differences between parties becoming inconsequential.

  • CAM (unverified)


    In almost 25 years of working and running successful political campaigns here in Oregon, I have never, I repeat never seen any attack ads run by Democratic allies towards Democratic candidates while the legislature is in session. The same goes for threatening to run such ads. If there are examples, I would like to see them.

    I have, however, seen threats made towards Democrats this session that make my blood boil. And I have seen what the environmental community will do during political campaigns in distorting the message against Democrats who do not adhere to their strict and unyielding doctrine (remember Rep. Al King?).

    I seem to remember the entire Oregon environmental community was on the wrong side of Electricity Deregulation two sessions ago. I don't remember the Democratic Party, the only moderate to liberal group in Oregon opposed to deregulation, ripping on the environmental community for getting in bed with anti-environmental Republicans on that one. Do you?

    There are plenty of other ways to get your message out without resorting to extortion through issue ads. All you end up doing is putting off potential allies and alienating the working-class Democrats that, quite frankly, you need if you ever hope to accomplish anything in this GOP-controlled legislature. You've already lost two or three.

    You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. Stop the blackmail.

    Oh and to be a Democrat is to fight for the working class. It's what separates us from the Republicans...always.

  • LT (unverified)

    I don't know your political experience, but the OEC issue ads are fairly moderate in the continuum of political advertising. Democrats have used much, much, stronger stuff against other D candidates, not long ago or far away .

    Why is that a good thing? Tom, my political experience goes back to the 1970s, and I don't recall any of the "much much stronger stuff" having actually won elections. However, if you think about the failed AuCoin nomination earlier this year, you might recall that was a coalition across the political spectrum. Many different reasons, but one segment of that was AuCoin's attacks on an "almost giant killer" of the sort Rob Brading was in 2004. And of course AuCoin sealed his own fate with a nasty email which misspelled a Senator's name.

    I agree with the above stated proverb, stated there in the form some call the "everyone's grandmother's proverb". Even better, I like Barry Goldwater's version, "You get more flies with honey than by hitting them over the head".

    Maybe it is time to realize that in the 21st century lots of people think for themselves, and any group (party, lobbying group, whatever)may think they are doing something effective but wind up alienating that very important non-aligned segment that registers outside of major parties, votes split ticket, etc. When was the last time anyone won an election with only the votes of those registered in their party?

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