Gard & Gerber’s Tin-Hatted "Sabotage" Theory Rolls On

Charlie Burr

Images_1One thing progressives have learned from the Swift Boat attacks of the last Presidential race is to not let even the most baseless, cynical and ridiculous attack go unanswered.

Which brings us to Senator Ginny Burdick’s public relations firm, Gard & Gerber, and the failed First Things First Committee.

As readers know, PGE, Qwest and other business interests spent a whopping $350,000 to place a repeal of Portland’s new, innovative campaign finance system on the ballot, but failed to collect enough valid signatures.

End of story, right?

Not if you are trying spin your way out of taking responsibility for what was by virtually any standard a mismanaged campaign.

Enter the Gard & Gerber “sabotage” conspiracy theory. That is, a group of League of Women Voters and other good government reformers engaged in a vast criminal conspiracy – through phone trees, email alerts, ect. to keep the VOE repeal off the ballot by getting opponents to sign multiple times.

Here’s how Ellie Booth of Gard & Gerber put it on Friday:

"What I do know is that something is fishy here. Unfortunately, we're going to run out of time before we can get real answers."

And speaking with Oregon Public Broadcasting a day earlier, Booth said:

“I am not saying sabotage.”

Get it? Not saying “sabotage.” Clever – insert the word “sabotage” into the dialogue by saying, “I’m not saying ‘sabotage’.” Yeah, kinda transparent actually…

Anyway, the Gard & Gerber theory – without a single shred of evidence – now gets anonymously echoed around the blogosphere:

Some sample comments:

"There is quite a buzz going on in town that the failure of clean money to make the ballot was not caused by incompetence. The cause, so goes the buzz, was a concerted effort by those who support clean money to intentionally sign more than once on petitions and to use other tactics that would cause the petition to fail.For the record, that effort, if confirmed, is a felony.This may be the first some of you have heard of this. It will not be the last.****" (posted by JimR on bojack.com)
"And Mr. Algoso if you were part of the conspiracy that created the phone tree that got some of those posting here to go out and sign the petitions two or more times don't worry you will be coming back to Oregon.In addition to revealing utter contempt for the voters you also accomplished, my starry eyed little conspirator friends, committing a felony. For those of you who are reading this that signed your names multiple times on the petitions you know who you are. And guess what geniuses? So does everyone else. Being not quite as smart as you think you are, you signed your real names.conspiracy that created the phone tree that got some of those posting here to go out and sign the petitions two or more times…. Look forward to an interview with law enforcement authorities soon." (posted by “YourNotFoolingAnyone” on blueoregon)

In this morning’s Oregonian article, “Petition Duplicates Seem to Be Accidental,” Jason Williams of the FTF committee continues to promote Gard & Gerber's theory of vast criminal conspiracy:

"I'm thinking this is sabotage," said Jason Williams of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon, which collected about 2,000 signatures for the repeal effort.

Disproving a negative’s tricky, but the Oregonian offers this analysis:

But judging from interviews The Oregonian conducted Friday with people who reportedly signed the First Things First committee's petition multiple times, there are plenty of innocent reasons to put pen to petition more than once.

In interviews Friday, more than a dozen people who were reported to have signed at least twice said no one had phoned, e-mailed or approached them asking them to do so.

A few examples from the piece:

"I don't think I did it that many times, but maybe I did," said Antonio Flores, whose signature appeared three times. "I sign a lot of petitions, because I like to help out the people doing it. They're out there in the cold or in the rain, and they're just trying to make some money."

Peter Sniffen, a Portland State University graduate student whose name appeared twice, says he signs a lot of petitions because he believes in the initiative process. "I do get the impression sometimes that the (signature gatherers) don't really know what they're doing," he said.

Connie Lukes, a Northeast Portland law student, says two petition circulators representing the First Things First Committee came to her house on the same day. She thinks she signed only once but may have scratched down her signature for someone else who knocked on her door.

But now, despite any evidence, Gard & Gerber and the FTF committee is calling for a criminal investigation with the Department of Justice, which is ironic if you think about it. A campaign to prevent using public resources on political campaigns is now asking Oregon taxpayers to foot the bill for a final frivolous, unsubstantiated PR stunt for their failed political campaign.

The truth is that reasonable people can disagree on getting big money out of politics though the Voter Owned Elections approach. Nothing wrong with that. But it is deeply irresponsible for Gard & Gerber and FTF coalition members to accuse the League of Women Voters and other reformers of election fraud and criminal misconduct without first offering a single shred of evidence.

Before more smears and taxpayer-funded PR stunts, let’s see some proof of wrongdoing.

First things first.

Comments

  • sarah (unverified)
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    Isn't Gard & Gerber, Multnomah Co / Diane Linn's PR firm too?

  • LT (unverified)
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    "I'm thinking this is sabotage," said Jason Williams of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon, which collected about 2,000 signatures for the repeal effort.

    Perhaps TAO is upset that "the people" think for themselves. Isn't this McIntire's outfit? When was the last time they successfully passed a ballot measure? In this century? A friend who stood up to McIntire's 2000 ballot measure is still regarded as a hero---"we the people" DOES include those who belong to no organization. Some of us just wish there were more proposed solutions to actual problems, not just some company complaining that it is someone else's fault they didn't do quality control before handing in signature sheets.

    The term initiativemeisters shows the low level of regard many of us have for those who think making a living on ballot measures is honorable work. Try living in the real world where most people don't have an ideology or political label or the names of all the movers and shakers on the tips of their tongues because they are more concerned about everyday life of work, family, friends.

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    I can speak personally to this campaign's incompetence since I had the pleasure of rejecting a request to sign this petition to two different signature gatherers at my door on the same evening. I remembered thinking:

    A. Whomever cut their turf really sucks at their job. B. Neither of the gatherers could have been older than 18. C. Neither of the gatherers knew anything about the measure they were gathering signatures for. I nearly talked one of them into quitting her job once I explained the details to her.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    "the League of Women Voters and other reformers"

    The League of Womens Voters is a reform organization?

    That was 40 years ago. Nobody can really tell me what their mission is today but atleast I can be thankful they are left wing and bright blue.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Charlie G, Visit these websites and let us know what you find "lefty and bright blue" about them:

    http://www.lwv.org

    http://www.lwvor.org

    Or are you saying that anyone who disagrees with you is a lefty?

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    I'm pretty shocked that Ginny Burdick would align herself with the Taxpayers Association of Oregon. Bad enough that she's fronting for PGE, Qwest, and the rest of that gang. Now she's allies with Don McIntyre as well?

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Good afternoon LT...I knew I'd hear from you darlin.

    I hope you have the good sense not to insult anyone's intelligence and claim that the League is anything but solidly liberal.

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Don McIntire is YOUR ally too Blue....you just haven't grown up enough yet to realize it.

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    Notice that despite Williams' assertion of sabotage, today's Theo also says (as I pointed out today on FURIOUS nads!):

    [Marvin] Prestwood fears that he received two petitions in the mail from the Taxpayers Association of Oregon or another anti-tax group -- and signed them both. His wife's signature appears twice, too. Williams, of the Taxpayer Association, says his organization sent two mailings to the same list but sent the second copy only to people who had failed to respond to the first.

    So maybe Williams should be looking closer to home for the problems they encountered with duplicate signatures.

    As for G&G, it's the same old thing from them. Not that it's not worth pointing out, of course. But the real news will be if the day over comes that they are not a slime machine.

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    Don McIntire is YOUR ally too Blue....you just haven't grown up enough yet to realize it.

    I pay the same taxes that you do, Charlie. The difference is that unlike you, McIntyre, and that pontificating blowhard that he pimps on his web site, I realized a long time ago that you can't get something for nothing from government and that the taxes that we pay are a price of citizenship.

    Grownups understand that you can't get something for nothing. It's the kids, even greyhaired ones like yourself, who think that you can get services from government without paying a cost.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks, blue.

    I would add one other thing. Think of the kids who were in elementary school when Measure 5 (and then 47/ 50) passed. As I recall, Measure 47 was passed 10 years ago, so anyone who was 10 that year would be 20 now. Kids born in the late 1970s-early 1980s are now young adults. Some are college graduates with good jobs. Does McInitire do well in front of such audiences? Not what I have heard. Where are the young volunteers willing to go door to door on behalf of McIntire and his anti-tax, anti-union, anti-government crusade?

    There was a great test of anti-tax strength in 2002 when Tiernan ran against Devlin and Witt ran against Ringo. If anti-taxers are everyone's favorite politicians, why did those races go to the Democrats? Could it have been all the excesses of certain state senators?(The ceramic pig and the message "only raise taxes when pigs fly" may have been the last straw from people expecting serious behavior out of the state senators.)

    McIntire, as I understand him, is not only a rude old guy (some friends saw him swear when his position was challenged in a debate) but also someone who wants the state (except, of course, the Sec. of State elections Division because they are needed to put measures on the ballot) to fall down around our ears because that is better than raising taxes.

    The honest thing for his supporters to do is to run campaigns based on the idea RESOLVED: Taxes in this state are too high and we will defeat anyone who advocates health care, schools or public safety funding or any other government program.

    and see how far they get.

    My suspicion is that McIntire and his cronies have a tough time stating what they are FOR. It is so much easier just to rail on about being anti-tax and anyone who asks detailed questions must be one of them pro-tax liberals.

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    Sarah, I don't know if Gard & Gerber is doing Diane Linn's campaign. I do know that they were the media firm that managed to defeat a loose coalition of underfunded Pacific Green Party activists in the public power campaign while armed with only $3.5 million dollars. Say what you will about that effort's electoral skill and effectiveness - but at least they made it to the ballot.

    I don't have any problem with Gard & Gerber being on the opposite side of this issue. Nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is that they aren't debating the merits, they're accusing opponents of a vast criminal conspiracy and electoral fraud without offering a single shred of proof.

    Further, let's be honest: this isn't going to change the 624 signatures they need, and Gard & Gerber knows it. It's just simply CYA for Gard & Gerber, not for the sake of the FTF's interests, but for their own reputation.

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    Brother Isaacs, good to see you here on blueoregon and as always, I appreciate all of the important - and highly competent - work you guys are doing over there. Keep up the good work; we'll change this state yet!

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    I don't have any problem with Gard & Gerber being on the wrong side (in my view) of this issue. Nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is that they aren't debating the merits, they're accusing opponents of a vast criminal conspiracy and electoral fraud without offering a single shred of proof.

    Well, that's what they do. It's why they exist. They sign up for the wrong side of an issue, most usually that means the side of the city's power-brokers, and then proceed to deceive the public rather than engage in a debate on the merits of the public policy in question.

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    Ginny Burdick is a very liberal democrat who is known for her thoughtful independent positions. Having said that, it seems the petition effort was very mismanaged or there is a deep conspiracy that radical lefties messed with the petition drive. I choose the former.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Terms like liberal and conservative don't cover lots of areas.

    If someone cares about public meetings and politician dialogue with the public---and says Ted Ferrioli and Peter Courtney did that better than Kate Brown---which label applies to them?

    Sounds to me like Burdick's friends/ fellow G & G folks refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. Blaming an unproven "conspiracy" sounds like the old saying "when they act like that, you know they know they are losing".

  • Charlie in Gresham (unverified)
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    Blue....you have no idea what taxes I pay. To say that you say the pay the same taxes as I do is laughable.

    As for Don McIntire....he obviously has been EXTREMELY effective in achieving his goals if he has this much notoriety among liberals, moderates, and conservatives. It appears his legacy is secure. You might want to begin working on yours Blue.

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    Charlie--

    You're right, since we live in Gresham-- which has one of the lowest tax burdens in the state-- and the lowest amongst cities that offer full services.

  • LT (unverified)
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    As for Don McIntire....he obviously has been EXTREMELY effective in achieving his goals if he has this much notoriety among liberals, moderates, and conservatives. It appears his legacy is secure.

    So, you know that from the days of Measure 5 McIntire's main goal has been to annoy people? McIntire's legacy is secure, all right---as a 20th century initiativemeister. But what has he accomplished in this century?

    Young people I know see him as the guy who cut spending while they were in public school, and were thrilled to see someone of their generation stand up to him at a 2000 debate.

    Charlie G, if you believe in more than insults, you should try to find out some information about Max Rafferty. He died before most people had online access, so I don't know how much you could find about him online. He had McIntire's love of insults and about as much to show for all his actions, except he was a government official in California in the 1960s. He won the nomination for US Senate (defeating an incumbent) in 1968 and a lot of people who were not fans of Alan Cranston decided Cranston was the better of the two and sent him to DC so Max Rafferty would not be inflicted on the whole country.

    As I recall, Rafferty died in a car accident (went off the road into some water or something) and it was barely a blip on the news. No memorials. My guess is that Sizemore & McIntire are headed in that direction--no more "legacy" than being disruptive, and famous for namecalling (Sizemore saying parents in a march for school funding were "dupes of the teachers union" likely did not win friends and influence people).

    But you don't care as long as you can make sarcastic remarks, is that it?

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    Ginny Burdick is a very liberal democrat who is known for her thoughtful independent positions.

    Which is completely irrelevant if she's letting herself be the stalking horse for the city's power-brokers, who previously failed to get Jim Francesconi into office and now have another shot.

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    Ginny Burdick is a very liberal democrat who is known for her thoughtful independent positions.

    Nor is there anything "thoughtful" or "independent" about her public relations firm going after the League of Women Voters and repeal opponents - accusing them of criminal activity and voter fraud - without having a single shred of proof.

    I have nothing against Ginny personally - I like her actually. I worked with her in the Senate and have spent hours upon hours organizing on behalf of her Legislative priorities. But this unsubstantiated and inflamatory attack coming from her pr firm is deeply disappointing.

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    This scenario of "we wuz robbed!" being intentionally spread as rumor without the first shred of evidence, reminds me quite a bit of the failed Washington goobernor's contest by Dino Rossi and the flacks of the WA GOP/BIAW. Except at least in that case the mistakes made were by the putative defendants, rather than the plaintiffs.

    It's not so far fetched--the same national figures who pump money into Oregon's conservative front organizations (like OTA) do the same thing in Washington. And they expect the same fealty of purpose--win by any means necessary.

    It's disappointing to see otherwise rational Ginny Burdick take such a traditionally right-wing tack on this.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Having survived two years of battling Gard&Gerber in the PGE service area PUD campaigns, I know that "slime" is an apropos word for Charlie Burr to use in this post's title. Anyone approaching the vicinity of these public relations professionals should wear well-sharpened golf spikes to assure firm footing.

    Although Senator Burdick deserves copious chiding for going to work for these purveyors of the Big Lie, the list of civic-minded persons of note who were either bought-off, co-opted, or fooled by G&G and PGE into misleading the voters on the merits of public ownership is quite long. It includes Ellen Lowe, Kurt Schrader, Greg MacPherson, Rick Metsger, Judie Hammerstad, Jay Formick, and Martha Schrader. Then there are all those influential folks scared into silence by PGE's political clout. I won't name those who told me that was just the reason they remained silent on the PUD issue.

  • Robert Ted Hinds (unverified)
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    That's a pretty big strategic blunder, as Ginny has the most to gain by aligning herself with the League of Women Voters. My personal experience has been that the LWV is one of the most above board and respectable organizations in local politics.

    Just a pet peeve and I know most other progressives will disagree with me, but Ginny's stance on gun control has rankled me as well as gunowner conservatives. The right to keep and bear arms is right there in the US Constitution's Second Amendment. Leave it alone. Same goes for George Bush and the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendments. The common denominator here is that Ginny has shown a Federalist tilt to her governance which is underscored by her Gard & Gerber alliance.

  • Lelo (unverified)
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    I'm glad to not have been the only person who experienced the idiotic petition gatherers for this initiative: mine actually told me she was there representing the City of Portland when I asked her who was behind the petition she was gathering signatures for. Nice.

  • Jesse O (unverified)
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    There's a very interesting ongoing link of Ginny Burdick with everything G&G has ever done.

    Nor is there anything "thoughtful" or "independent" about her public relations firm

    Perhaps she could speak for herself on what G&G does, and whether she believes the conspiracy theories ... perhaps G&G should take a lesson from Dick Cheney and take responsibility for once.

    Last I heard, it was Gard and Gerber, not Gard and Burdick. Does Randy Leonard have to be held responsible for everything the City does? After all, he works for that entity. Does every City maintenance person get held responsible for the reservoir capping?

    Ginny needs to distance herself from G&G publicly, or at least from some of their campaigns. Until she does that, they'll continue to be an anchor to her campaign.

    Just because she's against local public financing doesn't mean she believes everything anyone from G&G says about this campaign.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    I'm not happy with Burdick, but her ballot initiative did nothing but mandate background checks at gun shows. I think that is a common sense step that does not infringe on the second ammendment, unless one supports an absolutist reading of the Constitution, an approach that the Supreme Court has not taken with any part of the document.

  • bluelurker (unverified)
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    G&G:"What I do know is that something is fishy here. Unfortunately, we're going to run out of time before we can get real answers."

    Here's a real answer: you ran an incompetent campaign.

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    Ginny needs to distance herself from G&G publicly, or at least from some of their campaigns. Until she does that, they'll continue to be an anchor to her campaign.

    Just because she's against local public financing doesn't mean she believes everything anyone from G&G says about this campaign.

    Well, you know, she is "a vice president with Gard & Gerber, a Portland advertising and public relations firm."

    So, I guess she could, you know, resign if she disagrees with the slimeball tactics of her own company.

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    Jesse O wrote: There's a very interesting ongoing link of Ginny Burdick with everything G&G has ever done. ...Perhaps she could speak for herself on what G&G does...

    For what it's worth, Ginny Burdick has been invited to submit a guest column here at BlueOregon on any topic she would like -- either to respond to the many attacks here, or to discuss something else altogether.

  • fournier (unverified)
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    could it be that the drive failed because the signature gathering companies hire folks with little to no understanding of the issues they're circulating petitions for? could it be that most of them do it not out of any desire to see some initiative pass but because they have a financial incentive?

    i would submit that Occam's Razor would suggest that we look at the possibility of incompetence first before we go fishing for some conspiracy.

  • LT (unverified)
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    From today's Oregonian story: But in the First Things First count, the state system did not report some signers as registered voters, even though they were.

    Also that whether signature gatherers properly signed sheets of signatures they collected is being investigated.

    Hardly evidence of a plot to have people sign twice!

    Which means if it does get on the ballot now, advocates will have to explain why they insulted potential supporters. "Oh, you mean the people who screamed CONSPIRACY claiming their political opponents had an organized effort to have people sign twice? And those characters want my vote for their measure?".

  • Robert Huffman (unverified)
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    Is it any wonder the initiative process is so screwed up? Here's a person who signed this petition three times:

    "I sign a lot of petitions, because I like to help out the people doing it. They're out there in the cold or in the rain, and they're just trying to make some money."

    So, this guy signs any petition, whether or not he things it's a good idea, because the petitioner looks cold. Maybe that's how measure 37 got on the ballot: they collected signatures in cold weather.

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