Progressive Democrats of America: What a difference a week makes

By Rev. John-Mark Gilhousen of The Dalles, Oregon. Father Gilhousen has been a peace and justice activist since the 1970's, and has spent most of his adult life engaged in inner-city mission work specializing in issues of poverty and homelessness. Most recently, he served on the board of the successful campaign to defeat a recall of Wasco County officeholders over their passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance, and he currently serves on the Wasco County Democratic Central Committee and the group organizing a PDA chapter in Oregon's Columbia Gorge region of the Second District.

It is unlikely anyone reading this is unaware that the Oregon blogosphere erupted last weekend as charges flew and supporters of one or the other of our Senate candidates in the primary race bleated cries of outrage over the words, actions or inaction of the other. I know, because I was one of them, even though I usually avoid what is referred to on uber-blog DailyKos as 'pie fights' like the bubonic plague.

Echoes of the controversy over the Portland chapter of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) formation and endorsement process could still be heard as the four Senate candidates arrived in Pendleton for their first debate. The commercial media seemed poised to cover a donnybrook, and surprised (if not disappointed) that the participants of the one-hour event stuck to the real issues in the campaign: the war, the economy, and issues especially important to voters in Eastern Oregon. Witness Samantha Bates' lede in her East Oregonian coverage:

Now that the presidential debates have turned increasingly acrimonius, the 150 Eastern Oregon residents who trudged through the snow to the Pendleton Convention Tuesday night may have come anticipating fireworks.

What they got instead was a surprisingly civil presentation from the four Democratic candidates seeking to unseat U. S. Senator Gordon Smith.

I'm glad that the candidates and their campaigns are ready to move on, and I certainly wouldn't criticize any Democratic candidate for sticking to the issues. However, I'm one of those who always wants to learn from our mistakes, and oh, boy, there were some doozies made on this one.

I'm one of the PDA's stakeholders, so from my perspective there are issues which have been raised here which have more important and longer lasting implications than the electoral impact of a single endorsement from a fledgling group which is still little known in these parts. So, for what it's worth, here's what I see going on, and why I care.

I'm a PDA member and supporter, although I've never lived near enough to a chapter to be involved at that level.

I became aware of PDA shortly after its inception in 2004. I was on assignment in Wisconsin at the time, where I worked on voter registration as a Russ Feingold volunteer. Several other volunteers were excited about it, and I quickly saw why, and signed on. Shortly thereafter, I returned to Oregon after almost thirty years absence, and could hardly recognize the political landscape, but got involved again, in the local party and a few campaigns. There was no PDA presence in the state, but I never left an email from national unread, and gave careful consideration to organizing a chapter here. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my residing in Wasco County, I decided I should wait. It made more sense for a state coordinator to be appointed who lived in a metropolitan area with a larger base of progressive support.

I continued, however, to see how the presence of a paraparty organization, especially one with an emphasis on coalescing with natural allies in the progressive movement both within and outside of the party, could make a huge difference for positive change. I couldn't help fantasizing about the 'what if's' and 'if only's.' The resources PDA could have brought to Carol Voisin's woefully underfunded challenge of Congressman Greg Walden in Oregon's Second District in 2006 probably wouldn't have changed the outcome of that race. But, stranger things have happened, and at the very least it would have laid important groundwork for future challenges. It also would have gotten the progressive message out to more Oregonians, and that's never a bad thing. Official party priorities at the state and national level were focused elsewhere, so we'll never know for sure.

But with that as a backdrop, it should be easy to understand why I was more than slightly taken aback when the first I heard of PDA organizing in Oregon. It was something I had been hoping for and waiting for a long time to hear. But, it didn't come in the form of an announcement to members in Oregon, or an invitation to participate. Instead, it came through leaks of an endorsement process which did not comport to PDA's own guidelines, was being spearheaded by a paid staffer of a candidate whose campaign was up for that endorsement, and at the very least was a P.R. blunder of phenomenal proportion. It certainly did not live up to the praise PDA has received from Rep. John Conyers, and others. And it gave PDA supporters like me, who had been left out of the loop, reason to feel disenfranchised, if not betrayed.

Now, to understand the depth of that sentiment, one has to look at the culture of PDA and its goals. It is a true grassroots movement. Local chapters are autonomous, and PDA is loath to violate that autonomy by intervening in local decisions. Chapters are free to establish their own bylaws and policies in accordance with consensus of its constituent members. A local chapter is free to endorse candidates by any reasonable process, but for such endorsement to be given consideration by the national organization in its endorsement process there are specific guidelines to follow. These include requirements of notice to members, questionnaires to candidates, publication of the responses to those questionnaires, and specific calendar deadlines.

There are also, of course, criteria for local organizations to meet to even be recognized by PDA as one of its chapters, some philosophical, and others practical (or what might even be seen by some as trivial -- having a website, for instance).

PDA is certainly free to waive any of these requirements. That so many were not met in either the formation of the Portland chapter, or its aborted endorsement process is unfortunate. I am of the strongly held opinion that for us to be effective as a movement, and as a party, we need to model the precepts which we espouse. We cannot convince the establishment Democrats that we can build a more open, inclusive, and transparent party if we fail to build more open, inclusive, and transparent structures for our own movement. And certainly we are not going to gain credibility among the electorate at large if we decry the backroom deals which typify Washington, by setting ourselves up to be perceived as establishing our own policies and endorsements in just such 'politics as usual' a style.

I would have preferred to have had this discussion at meetings of the membership of the first PDA chapter to organize, rather than join in as it erupted on public blogs. Having read most of what has been posted on the PDA website, its emails which have arrived on in my inbox over the past few years, and the organizational documents PDA and many of its chapters, that is precisely what I expected. That no such opportunity arose, and the story was broken instead by a reporter on his Register Guard blog -- well, that's rather the point, isn't it?

There's a fine line between standing on principle and entering into the murky domain of concern or purity trolls. By the fact that I still hold both of our frontrunners, Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick, in high esteem and look forward to enthusiastically supporting whichever of them gains our nomination; and by the fact that I remain committed to not only PDA's stated goals, but its success in advancing the progressive cause here; I hope I have stayed on the correct side of that line. However, as glad as I am to see us get back to the principle issues of this campaign, I have to acknowledge that I wish the path we had taken to get beyond this controversy had followed a different course: one more obviously open and inclusive.

Whether or not the Merkley and Novick campaigns and the national and state PDA leadership have taken to heart any of the lessons of last weekend remains to be seen. The episode, as uncomfortable as it was, has prompted me to take stock, and review the processes and procedures I undertake when called upon to play a role in a campaign, or political organization. It's not going to deter me one whit from continuing to serve on my county Democratic Central Committee, volunteering for candidates and campaigns locally, or working to build PDA in Oregon. In fact, to that end, I'm working with a few local progressives to form a Gorge chapter. I doubt it will endorse any candidate in the Primary.

Comments

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thank you Father Gilhousen!

    As someone who was once told (by a Dem. county chair trying to ramrod through a resolution and didn't want parliamentary niceties to get in the way) that I was somehow subversive because I asked for a quorum call before voting on the resolution--we made sure there was a quorum at state and district levels, so why not at a county meeting?---I do believe protocol and following bylaws and guidelines are very important.

    I was part of the process of rewriting delegate selection rules 20 years ago. Another example: presidential nominees controlling conventions (in other words, uncontested conventions of the past many years) have the right to say "prime time speaking slots go to people who have endorsed me". Under that rule, someone who has not endorsed the nominee does not deserve to speak in prime time.

    Bottom line, there is a single standard (examples above of following established rules and procedures) and a double standard)"OK if our side does it, wrong if the other side does it. I'm a single standard supporter, and saying all true Democrats support a particular candidate or any other such nonsense does not change the fact that I am a single standard supporter. To the point that if this primary degenerates like some prior primary contests have, I have not ruled out looking seriously at John Frohnmayer (assuming he meets the single standard test).

    With that preface, I want to make a very important point. For everything that has been said here, Oregon Democrats are not divided into 100% Novick and 100% Merkley partisans. There are many registered Democrats who may well say "WHO?". There are those of us who knew both of them before they announced for US Senate and take our perceptions of them into our decisions about who to support in the primary.

    I am worried that if the civil tone of the Pendleton debate is not maintained by the Senate campaigns we will have a repeat of the brainless 1992 and 1996 "the primary is done, support the nominee and don't ask questions" debacles. I'd rather see the standard of open to the public excellence shown by Wyden in Jan. 1996.

    So, I wish to associate with these words from the post. I have never met Father Gilhousen and don't think I have ever been to The Dalles. I just admire the common sense in this piece.

    These are the words I especially appreciated:

    But, it didn't come in the form of an announcement to members in Oregon, or an invitation to participate. Instead, it came through leaks of an endorsement process which did not comport to PDA's own guidelines.......It certainly did not live up to the praise PDA has received from Rep. John Conyers, and others. And it gave PDA supporters like me, who had been left out of the loop, reason to feel disenfranchised, if not betrayed.

    Now, to understand the depth of that sentiment, one has to look at the culture of PDA and its goals. It is a true grassroots movement. Local chapters are autonomous, and PDA is loath to violate that autonomy by intervening in local decisions. Chapters are free to establish their own bylaws and policies in accordance with consensus of its constituent members. A local chapter is free to endorse candidates by any reasonable process, but for such endorsement to be given consideration by the national organization in its endorsement process there are specific guidelines to follow. These include requirements of notice to members, questionnaires to candidates, publication of the responses to those questionnaires, and specific calendar deadlines.

    There are also, of course, criteria for local organizations to meet to even be recognized by PDA as one of its chapters, some philosophical, and others practical (or what might even be seen by some as trivial -- having a website, for instance).

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    Nice post. Also see that you're a fellow traveller of two of my favorite party activists, Brian Stovall and Teresa Hepker.

    The Wasco County Dems don't get many keystrokes, but your recent win on the anti-gay discrimination fight and the whole county commissioner thing would be a great story for us here on Blue Oregon should you want to post us another good one........

    Again, thanks for this one.

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    John-Mark, thanks for your insights into this baffling sequence of events. We still miss your thoughtful writing at Wikiproject Oregon.

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    I do believe protocol and following bylaws and guidelines are very important.

    I agree, LT. They aren't important just for the sake of being important - in the sense that a bureauracracy takes on a life of it's own until the bureauracracy itself becomes the point of the exercise. Rather, they are important as a matter of principle and ethics.

    Decrying the shoddy ethics of "the other side," which is the stock in trade for lefty blogs, becomes the cry of hypocrits to the very extent to which we adopt those same shoddy ethics.

    It's bad enough when "one of our own" who isn't necessarily trying to claim the mountaintop of virtue and principle discards ethics for personal gain. But when it's done by those who loudly proclaim to be more virtuous than "establishment" politicians it is very damaging indeed.

    Rank and file Democrats would do well to carefully consider this general issue because it goes to the very heart of why I did't (and still haven't... yet) join the Democrats when I left the GOP in disgust so many years ago. I assure you that I am far from the only citizen of this country or even of Oregon to have made the same decision for the same reason.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Am I the only one who is genuinely bothered that Novick's strategy, in response to a question of ethical conduct, was not to address and resolve it, but to delay with silence? Several Novick supporters had said that they wanted to hear Novick's response as well, but none has been forthcoming. I gather that the strategy is to just "move on," as though Novick had gone there in the first place. That's just disappointing and unsatisfying. Perhaps this is unfair of me, but the question I've been thinking to myself is, if he is able to establish his integrity on this issue, why isn't he eager to do so?

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    wow, good thing there were never any violations of protocol or bylaws, eh Kevin? Otherwise your hypothetical ethical breach would have been something we'd have to talk about for real...

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    james, I think it's only necessary to establish one's integrity if it's been lost. It's not Novick's process; it's PDA's--and they found nothing untoward I comment on, much less correct. For novick to respond is to essentially validate a smear generated by his opponent. I dont't think false smears are worth responding to, really.

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    One thing I think we can all agree on is that come June we can expect the Smith campaign to try to spoonfeed us distortions and generally express contempt for the intelligence of Oregonians while couching himself as the model of ethical propriety.

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    it's PDA's--and they found nothing untoward I comment on, much less correct.

    Except it is the Novick staff's "process" since in this case, the PDA in Oregon process is being set by part of the Novick staff.

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    No Mitch, it's not Novick's process at all. The campaign was not involved in any of it. How a chapter is set up and a local endorsement made is 100% determined by Pda membership.

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    Are we gonna rehash this again?

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    Although I do find...

    The campaign was not involved in any of it. How a chapter is set up and a local endorsement made is 100% determined by Pda membership.

    ...to be somewhat insulting to my intelligence.

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 12:44:12 PM No Mitch, it's not Novick's process at all. The campaign was not involved in any of it.

    Are you suggesting that Liz Kimmerly is not part of the Novick campaign, or that Liz Kimmerly is not responsible for creating the PDA chapter and is the Oregon coordinator of setting up local chapter sin the state?

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    James said:

    Perhaps this is unfair of me, but the question I've been thinking to myself is, if he is able to establish his integrity on this issue, why isn't he eager to do so?

    I agree. Also if this is something just blown way out of proportion by Merkley supporters rather than legitimate concerns about a serious ethics breach than Novick could use a response to his advantage. If there is smoke there is fire, and if the owner isn't trying to put out the fire, that is concerning.

    Great post John Mark. It is refreshing to get another angle on the whole fiasco. One thing that you note that I found interesting is the requirement of having a website to start a local chapter. Was this another procedural safe guard tossed away by Kimmerly or am I just not finding it (its not on the PDA's website)?

  • James X. (unverified)
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    My issue isn't PDA bylaws, it's having, and potentially even exploiting, a conflict of interest. Whether one needed to, or intended to, wait 30 days first doesn't seem to make much difference.

    Again:

    • employee of candidate
    • leader of endorsing organization
    • decider of who knows about endorsment meeting

    Whether the candidates were ever going to be given those questionnaires the PDA seems to require is another one of those PDA rules that probably doesn't matter. I'm more interested in what Novick has to say about the three points above.

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    "Are you suggesting that Liz Kimmerly is not part of the Novick campaign, or that Liz Kimmerly is not responsible for creating the PDA chapter and is the Oregon coordinator of setting up local chapter sin the state?"

    Of course not. What that has to do with whether the Novick CAMPAIGN was involved or not, I don't know. Kimmerly wasn't representing Novick; she was representing herself and PDA. That's where your problem starts: your opinion is that those two positions inherently conflict. They who own the process and have the most interest in it, disagree.

    James, the questionnaire is a national endorsement requirement, not a local one.

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    Rev. Gilhousen, thank you for the thoughtful post which explains a number of questions I have had about the relationships between the national level of PDA and the local level.

    TJ, As I read Fr. Gilhousen's thoughtful post, he is pointing out among other things that the national PDA takes a very hands-off approach to local chapters. This point in fact has been adduced by some of those minimizing the meaning of all this to show that departure from national guidelines was not "violation of rules." Possibly that included you, don't have time to check nor inclination to go through your dozens of incredibly repetitive posts.

    But it cuts both ways. I.e. it also diminishes the importance of the national position on what happened here, because they do not, as you imply, hold the final word, at least if they are to be consistent with a "grass-roots democracy culture."

    Having been unfamiliar with it before, I like the sound of PDA in the abstract. But I don't like the way it has been evolving in Oregon recently. I worry what I would be getting involved with if I joined the Portland chapter; I worry that I would feel constrained to engage in really tedious and unproductive internal politics that would damage the chapter just to get the coordinator to take the simple step of identifying a conflict of interest for the sake of transparency.

    Which she just ought to do -- it would raise or confirm her credibility in the chapter and it would create confidence that the chapter operated transparently. She's done part of the job by stepping aside so that Moses Ross can run their endorsement process. If there's really no issue, why did she do that? Because there was an issue. Because if she didn't step back, it was going to cause a problem, either for the local or the national or both. Why not be clear about why she stepped back? Why not help build a chapter culture of transparency from the get-go?

    To be clear, I have no idea if my hesitancy is idiosyncratic to me & it's not like I was champing at the bit to get involved in PDA & now am backing off. But an impression has been created.

    On her conflict of interest, call it a potential conflict if you like, still, the whole point about a conflict of interest is that it is potential. It doesn't require ethical wrongdoing, it identifies reasons why such wrongdoing might arise and might not be clear to the person with the conflict, or clear to outsiders that wrongdoing hasn't occurred. The conflict is in the interests, not the actual wrongdoing.

    Which is why the fact that the endorsement didn't happen is beside the point to the conflict. The fact that it could have happened & perhaps nearly did reflects the conflict. It may only have been bad judgment on Liz K's part to push the fast-track when the on-the-ground PDX chapter barely existed yet -- that poverty of judgment quite likely arose from the conflict, & looks as if it did. And the legitimate questions about what it all meant including less ethical intentions likewise reflect the conflict.

    You do Steve Novick a disservice by your rhetorical tactics.

    As for James X.' point, as I wrote to someone off-list, the non-response strategy, combined with some of what I've learned about the context that makes me less certain that anything deliberate was going on, leaves me intending to vote for Steve still, but with a doubt in the back of my mind now that wasn't there before.

    Just one person. Doesn't matter. But all your bluster isn't going to change the doubt.

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    So, TJ, you're arguing that the Novick campaign had no idea that Liz Kimmerly was involved in setting up a PDA chapter and sending out this email?

    Subject: Progressive Democrats of America Endorsement Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 12:27:58 -0800 From: lizkimmerly[at]gmail.com To: steve[at]novickforsenate.org, jeff[at]jeffmerkley.com, candy[at]candyneville.com Dear All, I'm writing to let you know that the Portland chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America will be meeting on Saturday, January 19th to decide on its endorsement for Oregon's US Senate race. You are all welcome to state your case and will be given a 10 minute window to present yourselves to the chapter. Please remember that this will also be a regular business meeting for the chapter and you will need to stick to your time limit. The address is 131 NW 2nd Ave. Mixing and mingling will begin at 6:30 and the endorsement part of our meeting will begin at 6:45. Your Participation is Appreciated, Liz Kimmerly State Coordinator Progressive Democrats of America
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    And beyond that, if Liz Kimmerly is a senior staff with the Novick campaign - how can you argue that the Novick campaign didn't know something that Liz Kimmerly was doing?

    Does she have multiple personality disorder?

    For the record, I think it's perfectly reasonable to argue that Steve Novick himself may not have known... just not the campaign organization, since she's a senior member of that organization.

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    "So, TJ, you're arguing that the Novick campaign had no idea that Liz Kimmerly was involved in setting up a PDA chapter and sending out this email?"

    Uh, no. You're not arguing that the Merkley campaign had no idea either, are you? What's your point here?

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    Hey Kari,

    Thanks for the reminder. Following this e-mail, did someone from PDA ever approach the Merkley campaign, discuss a possible bias on Kimmerly's part, and resolve the situation with Merkley's campaign?

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    She's done part of the job by stepping aside so that Moses Ross can run their endorsement process. If there's really no issue, why did she do that? Because there was an issue. Because if she didn't step back, it was going to cause a problem, either for the local or the national or both.

    I don't think you have that right. Moses was ALWAYS going to shepherd the endorsement vote--which is why the nat'l OKed that setup in the first place. There was no "stepping aside" that I know of; Moses was going to run that part of the meeting Saturday from the get-go, before invitations went out.

    There was objection raised to even having the interview done at that time (despite representation from the campaigns, according to national), and so--in open, transparent fashion--the interview was put off. Hardly the case where "crisis was averted" because someone pulled the plug.

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    Excellent post, John-Mark.

    You are abso-friggin'-lutely right when you say that there's a fine line between standing on principle and entering into the murky domain of concern or purity trolls." That is particularly true for the observer who doesn't really know where another person is coming from with objections.

    To me it's a very simple matter of trust. I've been saying for years that I'd sooner vote for a candidate who isn't saying what I want to hear but whom I trust to be honest with me than vote for a candidate who is saying what I want to hear but whom I don't trust to be honest with me. With the (perceived) honest candidate I at least know where I stand and can plan accordingly. The candidate who violates my trust simply can't be trusted regardless of what he/she is saying or claiming. More to the point, I can't trust that what she/he is saying, soothing as it may be to hear, is what he/she will actually do or fight for if I vote for her/him.

    Of course as a practical matter it would be the epitome of self-delusion to expect perfection of any human, candidate or no. And I certainly do not expect perfection of the candidates that I choose to vote support and vote for. But there is a huge difference between human frailty and unrepentent dishonesty and I don't believe we cross any "purity/concern" lines in aknowleging that reality. N'est pas?

    Another seemingly self-evident practical matter is the principle that the ends almost never justify the means unless there simply is no other recourse. Amputating a limb to save a life seems a good example of an exception. Trying to game an endorsement and failing to disclose a direct conflict of interest, particularly after having been publically prompted for disclosure, strike as symptomatic of an ethical gangrene in need of serious attention. The amputation surely will be painful but the good of the whole is at stake if we ignore it and hope that it heals itself. That would seem to be all the more urgent in light of what Oregonians have endured for the last seven years with both Gordon Smith and his ideological cousin George W. Bush.

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    "how can you argue that the Novick campaign didn't know something that Liz Kimmerly was doing?"

    I don't know how I can, since I never argued that. I said the campaign was not setting the process. You can't have it both ways, Kari. You claim to have the ability to be for Merkley and yet run a fair ship at BlueO--but Kimmerly can't similarly compartmentalize parts of her life?

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 1:16:31 PM "Are you suggesting that Liz Kimmerly is not part of the Novick campaign, or that Liz Kimmerly is not responsible for creating the PDA chapter and is the Oregon coordinator of setting up local chapter sin the state?" Of course not. What that has to do with whether the Novick CAMPAIGN was involved or not, I don't know.

    Nor does anyone else, including the PDA membership. Which is precisely why conflict-of-intreat issues and ethical problems arise when you have someone who has an inherent conflict-of-interest, which is why it is an ethics 101 no-brainer for anyone outside of the Novick campaign or its boosters to see (and troubling that Novick and the campaign can't, or refuse to see it).

    Kimmerly wasn't representing Novick; she was representing herself and PDA.

    In your opinion. Though as you yourself acknowledge, we don;t really know.

    That's where your problem starts: your opinion is that those two positions inherently conflict.

    Not "my problem" but one that anyone but trying to spin for Novick can spot.

    They who own the process and have the most interest in it, disagree.

    Who is "they" in your statement?

    Tim Carpenter?

    Diane Shamis?

    The local PDA membership?

    The portion of Portland PDA membership that part of the Novick campaign decides to communicate to separately?

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    I've looked for this so-called Oregon PDA endorsement, and so far have not been able to find it. Looks like a PDA endorsement is not very important, otherwise why is it not on their webpage.

    Or does a "fake endorsement" mean one cannot find it, anywhere?

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 1:30:52 PM Moses was ALWAYS going to shepherd the endorsement vote--which is why the nat'l OKed that setup in the first place. Moses was going to run that part of the meeting Saturday from the get-go, before invitations went out.

    And your source for this statement?

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    Can't really compare someone who runs a blog with an actual campaign employee of a candidate with a direct impact on an actual process. Kari can speak in support of Merkley all he wants. He doesn't have direct decision-making authority within the campaign, or the PDA. Kimmerly does.

    And besides all of that, no matter how many times you prevaricate and try to use language to trip up people who are smart enough not to fall for it, it won't change the fact that there was the appearance of something questionable that Novick has never even responded to, if only to reassure those who support him.

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    You claim to have the ability to be for Merkley and yet run a fair ship at BlueO--but Kimmerly can't similarly compartmentalize parts of her life?

    Torrid, you have been Chief among those insisting at every turn that Kari practice proper ethics with full disclosure - which he has done. Kimmerly declined to do the same. Not just covertly but also overtly when she was bluntly asked to disclose at the PDA meeting.

    I fail to see how you can possible think that routinely insulting our intelligence by carefully paring away facts which are clearly inconvenient for you can possibly help Steve Novick.

    I suggest you read John-Mark's post again (for the first time?) and this time STOP looking for loopholes.

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 1:33:13 PM "how can you argue that the Novick campaign didn't know something that Liz Kimmerly was doing?" I don't know how I can, since I never argued that. I said the campaign was not setting the process.

    Liz Kimmerly is part of the Novick campaign, and she was organizing the process of the chapter formation, setting up the process, etc.

    It was Moses Ross who raised issues about proper notification of the campaigns, the problems with the timing of endorsement, etc.

    Your earlier subterfuge that there is some comparable issue with Kari and BlueOregon doesn't even pass the laugh test. The inherent conflict of interest by part of the Novick campaign would still be present and so far unaddressed by the Noivck campaign or the PDA even if Kari was never born.

  • John-Mark Gilhousen (unverified)
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    Apologies for being late getting online today to respond to questions and comments. And thanks to all who have responded to my piece.

    Here are some quick replies:

    Posted by: Pat Ryan | Jan 25, 2008 11:01:50 AM Nice post. Also see that you're a fellow traveller of two of my favorite party activists, Brian Stovall and Teresa Hepker.

    Yes, Brian, Teresa and I go way back, and it's been great to be back in town to renew such friendships. Loved her spot on the DPO "Why I'm a Democrat" video released this week. The Support Our Court campaign's success was indeed gratifying, and could not have prevailed without a lot of hard work by a lot of folks, made much easier by the earlier work of the Wasco County Human Dignity group and others. It proved exactly why progressive para-party organizations like PDA are so crucial, and reinvigorated my resolve to get one established in the gorge that can be sustained over time, so we don't spend so much time and money reinventing the wheel each time such issues arise. I'll give some thought to writing a "case study" type of piece on it, but at this point I'm focused on the future, so it is more likely I'll drop in references to it as examples in more timely articles.

    Posted by: Pat Ryan | January 25, 2008 at 11:01 AM John-Mark, thanks for your insights into this baffling sequence of events. We still miss your thoughtful writing at Wikiproject Oregon.

    All the more baffling for those whose experience has been in more conventionally top-down structured organizations and/or haven't pondered the mysteries of "consensus process." As for Wiki work, I am still a gungho supporter of Wikipedia and believe Wikiproject Oregon in particular is an important resource. Unfortunately, I have my own conflict of interest issues there. The articles on which I'm qualified to contribute, I am pretty much barred from doing so. I also found it taking me away from efforts that are a higher priority for me right now. I may still get back to it at some point.

    Posted by: lestatdelc | January 25, 2008 at 12:56 PM [...] Great post John Mark. It is refreshing to get another angle on the whole fiasco. One thing that you note that I found interesting is the requirement of having a website to start a local chapter. Was this another procedural safe guard tossed away by Kimmerly or am I just not finding it (its not on the PDA's website)?

    Thanks, and to answer your question: I don't know that I would characterize it as "tossed away," and the term "requirement" is not completely accurate, but yes, having an active website is one of the criteria for recognition of a local chapter in the guidelines promulgated by PDA. But, please note that they are just that -- guidelines. Waiving one or another of their provisions should not, in and of itself, be construed as underhanded. In this particular case, I think it was unwise to circumvent so many. Also, a distinction should be made regarding the rules governing national endorsements, which are also flexible to a certain degree, but are official policy, not merely guidelines. They apply if the chapter's endorsement is to be considered by PDA for a national endorsement. As a matter of the bottom-up governance of PDA, a chapter is free to endorse whomever it wishes, and craft its own process for that. If its local process does not meet the standards of the national endorsement policy, however, it will remain just that -- a strictly local chapter endorsement. However, the national policy provisions were crafted for specific reasons, including safeguarding the process from being gamed, insuring some reasonable level of viability of endorsed candidates, and preventing just the kind of P.R. negatives we've just seen. So, while local autonomy permits ignoring the national guidelines, I think it unwise.

    I'll take a break, and respond to more later. I'm glad that it appears this article has been received in the spirit in which I wrote it... not to reopen the controversies or provide more fodder for partisans of either candidate to use for electoral advantage, but to open a discussion of the underlying issues of open, fair and inclusive processes within the progressive movement, as we advocate for just such processes in the conduct of our democracy.

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    Kristin asked... Following this e-mail, did someone from PDA ever approach the Merkley campaign, discuss a possible bias on Kimmerly's part, and resolve the situation with Merkley's campaign?

    I don't believe so, except to the extent that I was representing the Merkley campaign when I initially called (though I can't say for certain.)

    After I talked to Tim, he delegated to Diane, and she sent me this email:

    We are immediately acting to alleviate concern and to insure clarity regarding a fair and full hearing from all candidates at the PDA Portland chapter meeting. Liz had assured me that in fact she had invited all the candidates to make presentations to the PDA Portland chapter. She is in the process of writing an email, explaining that the endorsement meeting to vote on which candidate to support will occur next month. It will also clarify that the meeting this Saturday, which I hope you can attend, will lay the full roster of our PDA work in terms of legislative advocacy, citizens lobbying in the District and our work with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as laying out the endorsement process which begins at the local level and follows with a vetting at the National level through a Candidate Questionnaire. This process will be completed next month in full compliance with our National Candidate Endorsement policy available on our website.

    Robert Gourley asked: I've looked for this so-called Oregon PDA endorsement, and so far have not been able to find it. Looks like a PDA endorsement is not very important, otherwise why is it not on their webpage. Or does a "fake endorsement" mean one cannot find it, anywhere?

    There was no endorsement - because I called the national executive director and blew the whistle. If I had not done that, the Saturday endorsement vote would likely have gone ahead as planned -- since the executive director had no idea that there was a meeting scheduled when I called him.

    Up top, TJ said this: How a chapter is set up and a local endorsement made is 100% determined by Pda membership.

    If this is true, why hasn't Liz Kimmerly identified which members of the local chapter approved the holding of an endorsement meeting on January 19?

    From the public record, it seems obvious that she alone made the decision to hold an endorsement meeting. If that's not true, why hasn't she said so?

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    I'm willing to be that the reasonSteve Novick doesn't have this Oregon PDA endorsement on his web page is because it doesn't exist. So whoever called this endorsement "fake" was just someone not very skilled in the English language. What s/he meant to write was, "nonexistent."

    That's most likely what's behind all this fuss.

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    mitch-- it's not an opinion that kimmerly wasn't representing Novick for Senate; it's a fact, one that I never acknowledged otherwise, contras to your assertion. Who is "they," you also ask? Yes, PDA--the controlling organization for all of this, and whose exec director believes this represents a swiftboating of Novick. Them.

    And kari's involvement IS comparative; he WAS representing the Merkley campaign, directly. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep his roles separate; it was he who misrepresented the facts and fed the string of false ethical attacks on Novick. And who says so? The objective party in the scenario.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 2:08:30 PM

    Multiple people have patiently explained here and in previous threads why you are proffering a strawman with that argument, yet you persist. That is exactly the kind of "the ends justify the means" ethical wasteland that is the hallmark of the Right-Wing.

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    Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep his roles separate;

    Yes, I was. Everything I've written about this incident has been over my own name. There is no rule, requirement, law, or ethical guideline that says I have to be the only blogger in America who is neutral in all things when I blog over my own name. I am biased. Get over it.

    When BlueOregon does news coverage, that's when we try (and usually succeed, but not always) to be neutral/progressive. But there hasn't been one iota of that sort of coverage on this story. This story has been coming directly from the mouth of very-biased-Kari.

    And because I haven't done it yet on this post... Full disclosure: My company built Jeff Merkley's website. I speak here only for myself.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    There was no endorsement - because I called the national executive director and blew the whistle.

    Aha! My suspicions proved true! There was no endorsement! So the "endorsement" couldn't have been "fake" - it was nonexistent. See what can come from good learning.

    It's just as Horass Mann predicted, It may be an easy thing to make a Republic; but it is a very laborious thing to make Republicans; and woe to the republic that rests upon no better foundations than ignorance, selfishness, and passion.

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 2:10:35 PM mitch-- it's not an opinion that kimmerly wasn't representing Novick for Senate; it's a fact

    ... says the guy who has hounded Kari about full disclosure over and over and over and over.

    You're the worst kind of hypocrit, TJ. You claim to be a progressive but unashamedly practice conservative tactics.

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    Robert... Can we agree to call it an "attempted dirty trick" then, rather than merely a "dirty trick"?

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Multiple people have patiently explained here and in previous threads why you are proffering a strawman with that argument, yet you persist.

    I've offered no argument.

    That is exactly the kind of "the ends justify the means" ethical wasteland that is the hallmark of the Right-Wing.

    It seems to me what the "Right-Wing" are very good at is getting their panties in a wad over nothing. That's my impression of them - except their angst can kill, as the current state of security in Iraq shows.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Can we agree to call it an "attempted dirty trick" then, rather than merely a "dirty trick"?

    Based upon the quality of deliberations that have occurred on here on Blue Oregon? Yeah right, and we'd rank real high in the Jim Crow Southeast. Such folks would seek us out for our autographs. No thank you.

    Find someone else for that kind of agreement.

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    Geez Louise, I recall that some months ago, I got castigated by Mr. Chisholm for being too argumentative with Jim Karlock regarding Karlock's willful distortions of climate science, and taking up too much air time. So I canned it. But I notice that now Mr. Chisholm and a handful of others have latched onto this endorsement "scandal" (aka tempest in a teapot) and keep rehashing the same stuff over and over and over...Guess the difference compared to my argument with Karlock is that Mr. Chisholm owns the website, eh?

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    so Kari, it was just your poor listening skills that led you to misrepresent the phone conversation and allege things that weren't true--and not your zeal to indict the Novick campaign on behalf of the Merkley campaign? Yeah, OK. :)

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    Posted by: torridjoe | Jan 25, 2008 2:10:35 PM mitch-- it's not an opinion that kimmerly wasn't representing Novick for Senate, it's a fact, one that I never acknowledged otherwise, contras to your assertion.

    Mark, because you claim it is a fact does not make it one, and that this does indeed go to the very heart of what makes this a clear conflict-of-interest. Nobody can have confidence that what Liz does in her role with the PDA as being not part of her role as being a top level part of the Novick campaign. This is why it is a conflict-of-interest. The fact that as of this moment, part of the Novick campaign has the contact information of very PDA member in Oregon is reason enough by itself to raise red-flags about potential shenanigans, which, again is why it is inherently a conflict-of-interest.

    Liz may be the most sincere and have the most above-board intentions imaginable, but her actions are no-brainer conflict-of-interest problems. That you and the Novick campaign (as well as Tim Carptenter who is ineptly trying to put the best face on this) by ignoring it in hopes that it will go away, or by lamely make out this is a swift-boat attempt as a line of defense against his own failures to see a clear conflict of interest in this reflects very poorly on all of them.

    This is a minor endorsement (let's be honest) but if team Novick thinks this is the way to respond on the minor things, you think they will be able to make the right calls to stay out of the tall grass on the big ones (be it the general election or in the United States Senate)...?

    You can dismiss it as "concern trolling" all you want, but I think it is 100% valid to express concern that a potential nominee of my party won't make these types of rookie mistakes which should be no-brainers, and that Novick should correct it.

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    Posted by: John-Mark Gilhousen | Jan 25, 2008 2:01:05 PM

    Thanks for your follow-up comment JM to some of the comments here, though you might want to correct the name in the blockquote portion of the third snippet you are addressing in your reply post above. That was bdunn, not me, whose post you are quoting.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    I think it is 100% valid to express concern that a potential nominee of my party won't make these types of rookie mistakes which should be no-brainers, and that Novick should correct it.

    I see no evidence Steve made any mistake, and why should he correct your mistakes?

    The beauty of a candidacy is a democratic process is it's self-correcting. Democracy is the most just form of government, the governed always get what they deserve. Nothing proves that better than the most recent outcomes. Folks who are compentent at campaigns don't receive such stupid outcomes - it's long past time to end idiot rule.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 3:19:13 PM I see no evidence Steve made any mistake, and why should he correct your mistakes?

    You see no conflict-of-interest in your own staff organizing a local chapter of an organization in order to give an endorsement in the race you are running in?

    You see no conflict-of-interest or potential for abuse that your own staff has the contact information and controls the communications to the entire state-wide membership of an organization you are seeking the endorsement (with or without endorsement) and is organizing the formation of a local chapter to gain said endorsement?

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    The beauty of a candidacy is a democratic process is it's self-correcting.

    That's: The beauty of a candidacy in a democratic process is it's self-correcting.

    Typing in a dark room is not self-correcting.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 3:19:13 PM I see no evidence Steve made any mistake, and why should he correct your mistakes?

    BTW, what "mistakes" did I make which you are bizarrely referring to in your post?

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    TJ... I stand by my recollection regarding the "48 hours" thing. Since then, a friend who was in the room when I made the call has told me that I hung up and mentioned the "48 hours" item immediately.

    Tim remembers otherwise. That's fine. He had chemotherapy between the time I talked to him and the time he was asked about it later. He didn't even remember the correct date of our conversation. That's OK. I don't begrudge him his recollections. He had vastly more important things going on in his life.

    The bottom line remains that the "48 hours" thing, to which you cling like a liferaft, is irrelevant.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    BTW, what "mistakes" did I make which you are bizarrely referring to in your post?

    Your mistakes are the only ones you can be accurately aware of, and you're the one who originally wrote of mistakes. Since you provided no conclusive evidence of another's mistakes, the only mistakes you can be sure of are your own.

    It's a simple matter of deductive reasoning.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    You see no conflict-of-interest in your own staff organizing a local chapter of an organization in order to give an endorsement in the race you are running in?

    Not without evidence - no.

    You see no conflict-of-interest or potential for abuse that your own staff has the contact information and controls the communications to the entire state-wide membership of an organization you are seeking the endorsement (with or without endorsement) and is organizing the formation of a local chapter to gain said endorsement?

    The bottomline here is if that organization's endorsement is worth anything to anyone who has more than two brain cells to rub together, it is because of that organizatin's reputation for a "clean" and "valuable" endorsement process. It's not up to any campaign to create the reputation of an organization, it's up to that organization to do so.

    I belong to a labor union, and when my union endorses a candidate it means we've gone through a process that secures the backing of the majority of our members. No amount of fast shuffles or mirror tricks can make our endorsement worth more than it really is. So if all this outfit can do is produce a worthless endorsement, I say it's time to quit all the bellyaching about it. It's starting to get boring.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 3:41:42 PM It's a simple matter of deductive reasoning.

    I see, you were using the rhetorical third person "you" not me in that.

    That said, I posit what I am pointing to is why I find this issue somewhat troubling. Not that the local PDA endorsement is a vital issue, but that if we accept your reading that Novick doesn't see any mistake here, given what I have repeatedly pointed out, is all the more troubling. The conflict-of-interest is a no-brainer here.

  • Marnie (unverified)
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    Since you provided no conclusive evidence of another's mistakes, the only mistakes you can be sure of are your own.

    It's a mistake for a campaign to allow their paid staff person to run an organization that's potentially going to endorse the candidate. It's a conflict of interest, for the reasons already explained to death.

    Mr. Novick has had more than enough time to address this concern. He quite obviously is hoping that Oregon Democratic Primary voters won't remember or pay attention.

    This is just so dissapointing for me. I might have considered voting for Mr. Novick before this. But now I can't.

    It makes me very sad that some here that support Mr. Novick will put up with this from him. As I said before, I don't think they'd put up with it from Gordon Smith.

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    Folks who are compentent at campaigns don't receive such stupid outcomes

    Folks who are competent at campaigns also don't leave their candidate so exposed to the appearance of impropriety or lack of awareness of what's done in his name.

  • John-Mark Gilhousen (unverified)
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    OK, I'm going to have to abandon my attempt at directly responding to specific commenters. As pointed out upthread I blew it when trying to cut and paste to identify to which commenters and comments I was trying to reply. I'm only a guest contributor here, and have no way to edit the article or comments after publication, so I'll confine myself to more general responses if I remain engaged in this discussion.

    I'm not interested in getting involved in the questions which have been raised regarding the personal motives of the players. I think that is counter-productive and distracts from important underlying issues of transparency and consistency.

    I think both Liz and Kari have been characterized unfairly here in that regard. Nor do I subscribe to the notion that Steve Novick lacks a moral compass, as has been implied by some. I continue to hold the opinion that both campaigns and PDA would do well to redouble their efforts at avoiding even the appearance of anything that smacks of backroom deals and politics as usual. Mistakes are made even when the motives are pure.

    They are compounded if we choose to employ spin to try to gain transitory advantage for a single campaign at the expense of learning from those mistakes and working toward building sustainable progressive resources for the long haul.

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    Great post John. It was saddening to me to see the PDA be brought into the midst of a local controversy. However, no matter how much an organization is beloved by progressives, there still has to be ethical standards met no matter what. I would hope that the PDA would have learned from the ethical lapses of the newly formed Oregon chapter and the endorsement process. Unfortunately, I don't think it did. If they had, Kimmerly would not have had any part..organizational or otherwise at that meeting last week with the candidates or their surrogates.

    We have to be better than this. We have to demand more of ourselves and the organizations we support.

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    kari, don't play dumb, as if "48 hours" was the only misrepresentation or mistake you made in creating a purported scandal out of whole cloth. The misstatements you made continue to poison the discussion, leading people like mitch to believe it was a "sham organization to set up a fake endorsement," when of course we know now the organization is entirely legitimate, the endorsement not faked at all. Then there are the bylaws you claimed were broken, or that PDA did not know of Kimmerly and who she was.

    You're simply not credible on this story. Your source has basically called you a smearing liar.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 3:54:21 PM You see no conflict-of-interest in your own staff organizing a local chapter of an organization in order to give an endorsement in the race you are running in? Not without evidence - no.

    INteresting. So if the campaign staff of a candidate came and set up a union for the purposes of giving an endorsement in a race that candidate is running you don't see that as a conflict-of-interest which degrades the legitimacy of the union endorsement process?

    So if all this outfit can do is produce a worthless endorsement, I say it's time to quit all the bellyaching about it.

    Doesn't that underscore the basic point Kari was making in the initial post here at BlueOregon about this degrading of the process because of the conflict-of-interest subversion of the process renders it tantamount to a fake endorsement (or rather and attempted endorsement that is worthless because it was compromised/possibly gamed)...?

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    Well, TJ, I guess we'll just have to disagree about that. I don't see any factual disagreement that's been posited other than the "48 hours" thing. Plenty of disagreement as to the conclusions drawn, or motives impugned, or opinions made.

    To me, the only relevant facts are these:

    • Liz Kimmerly is the state coordinator of the PDA.

    • Liz Kimmerly is a senior staffer for Steve Novick.

    • Liz Kimmerly set up an endorsement meeting in which her candidate was going to participate.

    The rest is all just flavoring for the rich stew in which she sits.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    if we accept your reading that Novick doesn't see any mistake here, given what I have repeatedly pointed out, is all the more troubling. The conflict-of-interest is a no-brainer here.

    I've seen no evidence that Steve sees a mistake here, or that the Oregon part of Progressive Democrats of America have found a conflict-of-interest in the conduct of their affairs.

    It's a mistake for a campaign to allow their paid staff person to run an organization that's potentially going to endorse the candidate.

    You can allege that an organization has a conflict of interest involved in the running of its affairs. Proving it is another matter. You may be able to diminish that organizations endorsement with such allegations, just as others can diminish your reputation by making allegations about you.

    I continue to hold the opinion that both campaigns and PDA would do well to redouble their efforts at avoiding even the appearance of anything that smacks of backroom deals and politics as usual. Mistakes are made even when the motives are pure.

    But if there are no impure motives here on the part of the PDA or the Novick campaign, then the mistakes made would be on the part of those who judge them otherwise. While that may not be "fair," it is democratic. Which is why democracy is the most just form of government. We deserve George Bush because we were politically too incompetent to earn any better.

  • LT (unverified)
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    OK TJ, let's grant your premise that Kari is not to be believed. What does that prove? Do you want the votes of those who think that even if this endorsement had been handled so perfectly that it would never have been a controversy, that or any endorsement is not an answer to why people who lack full time jobs and health care should vote for Steve?

    Even without this controversy, if people see the ad and say "Cute ad. Clever. But exactly what would Steve do to stand up for the little guy and how would he do it?", what is the Novick response---wait, eventually such things will be discussed in detail, just not in January? How does lambasting those who you think have misstated what happened with the PDA endorsement solve problems for ordinary Oregonians?

    The latest Novick email (yes, I am on their email list although I am an undecided voter) contains this:

    "The East Oregonian, hosts of the event, in the end declared Steve the victor:

    With so little difference in substance, style may influence some voters. And the edge from the first debate seemed - let's repeat that, seemed - to favor Novick.

    That's because while Merkley seemed confident, he also came off as, well, a bit smug. He kept his focus just above the audience of potential voters".

    OK, the E. Oregonian liked Steve. Does that mean we should all heed what the E. Oregonian said and support Steve without asking any more questions? Yeah right!

    It seems to me that John Edwards and Ben Westlund have demonstrated more concern for "the little guy" than the short man with the strong left hook has demonstrated. Attacking Kari will not change my impression of who really cares about ordinary people. If Steve's supporters don't understand that, it is not my problem but Steve's problem.

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    Posted by: John-Mark Gilhousen | Jan 25, 2008 4:01:05 PM Nor do I subscribe to the notion that Steve Novick lacks a moral compass

    Nor do I actually. I question the competency of those around him and his failure in judgment, in something that should be a no-brainer.

    I think Steve is a good guy fighting the good fight for the right reasons, but the team he has assembled is making problematic choices and not keeping Steve out of the weeds on avoiding even the appearance of conflicts-of-interest on his own team. That he hasn't addressed it begins to call into question his skill-set as a candidate or a leader of a staff and team, which is 100% a must if someone wants to be an office holder at this level.

    Why this is somewhat surprising to me (though some earlier issues about the team around him raised some red-flags earlier which caused me to reassess my support for his candidacy) is that he is a whip-smart guy who should see the problems this sort of thing raises. I continue to hope this is just a mistake of someone who is a neophyte as a candidate and assembling a staff and team, and is something he can correct.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 4:19:26 PM

    Sorry, but your take seems to be willful myopia considering there are a myriad ways the entire thing can be gamed and rigged by one of the campaigns because of the conflict-of-interest in having part of the campaign also being the one controlling the very formation and setting up of the entire process.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    So if the campaign staff of a candidate came and set up a union for the purposes of giving an endorsement in a race that candidate is running you don't see that as a conflict-of-interest which degrades the legitimacy of the union endorsement process?

    My particular organization is a labor union, a workers' corporation - not something easily set up for a temporary purpose. But that aside, given that the garbage scow drivers were set up along the lines you propose, it certainly did demonstrate a lack of legitimacy. Unfortunate the majority of the American electorate bought that stinking pile, sent their sons and daughters off to be killed and maimed as a product of their citizenship. The governed always get what they deserve in a democracy - and that's not always pretty.

    If you lack what it takes between the ears, the results can be very unpleasant.

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    And to reiterate, Liz may be the most honest, well intentioned person on the planet who would never try to game anything. But he actions put her in a hopelessly compromising position because of the inherent conflict-of--interest that her being a part of the campaign seeking endorsement of an organization she is setting up presents.

    That's why you avoid such situations by following policies of severing ties (or not creating ones) that put you squarely in a position where a conflict-of-interest can call your intentions and actions into question.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Sorry, but your take seems to be willful myopia considering there are a myriad ways the entire thing can be gamed and rigged by one of the campaigns because of the conflict-of-interest in having part of the campaign also being the one controlling the very formation and setting up of the entire process.

    I'm guessing you mean "myopic" - and perhaps focusing like a laser on who is responsible for what can be one interpretation. The PDA is responsible for the quality of its endorsement, and the Novick campaign is responsible for his election. The results will come out in the wash.

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    Posted by: Robert G. Gourley | Jan 25, 2008 4:32:34 PM I'm guessing you mean "myopic"

    Actually I was suggesting your take is one of being in a myopic state. But your follow up is one I will leave at saying we will have to agree to disagree.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    Those of you still trying to flog this low-stakes drama might want to take a look at this for inspiration.

  • Senate 2008 Guru (unverified)
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    torridjoe said: "Kimmerly wasn't representing Novick; she was representing herself and PDA."

    torridjoe, I don't know if you have ever worked as a paid staffer on a political campaign. But when you are a paid staffer, then, for the duration of the campaign, you are always representing the candidate. You never "clock out" of your role. Your actions always still reflect on the campaign.

    Now, whether or not there was malicious intent in Kimmerly's actions is unknown (though the perception is not helped by either Kimmerly hasty nature speeding through the process, the fact that people on the PDA mailing list didn't know about the endorsement, or Kimmerly and the Novick campaign's subsequent silence in acknowledge the conflict of interest).

    But separate from the perceived intent is the indisputable facts: 1) Kimmerly is a paid staffer on the Novick campaign. 2) Kimmerly is the coordinator of an organization endorsing in the primary. 3) Statements 1 and 2 represent a clear conflict of interest, a conflict that Kimmerly (and the Novick campaign) seemed very content with keeping clandestine.

    Regardless of how widespread the coverage was or how meaningful the individual endorsement is or who highlighted (or tried to sweep under the rug) the facts, these facts remain undisputed.

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    Whoo-boy, what a series of threads. I wish this thing had happened two weeks later so I could have participated real-time. Ah well, I still prefered body surfing at Hapuna Beach.

    I think the back and forth is pretty well beat to death. I appreciate Rev. John-Mark Gilhousen's careful commentary--it elevates the discussion to something more useful than a he-said/she-said. Because, while I think the initial issue was worth bringing up, I think the consequences have been less valuable.

    The only thing I'd like to bring up with regard to the he-said/she said stuff is this: since everyone is demanding that Kari be uber-transparent, can we ask that you all do the same? TJ, you are an ardent Kari-attacker in these threads. It's worth mentioning from time to time that you're also a huge Novick backer and have used your own blog to its fullest extent on that score. Ditto Pat Malach.

    Let me model the behavior: I'm for Merkley.

  • Purple (unverified)
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    You can dismiss it as "concern trolling" all you want, but I think it is 100% valid to express concern that a potential nominee of my party won't make these types of rookie mistakes which should be no-brainers, and that Novick should correct it.

    Oh how quickly we forget. COLOMBIA

    Kari acknowledges his bias...and how he doesnt neccesarily need to be objective...but maybe, just maybe if you made it clear that you were gonna blog....maybe Tim would have been more careful with what he was saying and been more clear....but again, you admit yourself that you dont NEED to follow any bias....which results in shitty reporting.....and the accusation of swiftboating, which your source himself introduced into the conversation.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks,Jeff!

    If everyone who has a chosen candidate could spend as much time saying "My candidate proposes to...." or other solution oriented statements, there would be a lot more intelligent discussion for us to focus on during these cold winter days.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    Jeff, when you say I've used my blog "to its fullest extent" to support Novick, I couldn't agree more. And to that end my mom thinks Steve is a great candidate.

    Moreover, I'm not a professional political consultant who's company has been hired by one of the campaigns.

    It's really a pretty misleading comparison, and you're smart enough to know that. Too much surf knocked the ol' noggin' around maybe?

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    Posted by: Purple | Jan 25, 2008 4:54:55 PM

    Ahhhh... you are quoting what I posted but addressing Kari.

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    The only thing I'd like to bring up with regard to the he-said/she said stuff is this: since everyone is demanding that Kari be uber-transparent, can we ask that you all do the same? TJ, you are an ardent Kari-attacker in these threads. It's worth mentioning from time to time that you're also a huge Novick backer and have used your own blog to its fullest extent on that score. Ditto Pat Malach.

    Personally I see a big difference between someone who is paid by the campaign writing on the race and volunteer supporters writing about the campaign. One is just a supporter who is writing about the race, the candidate, etc. and has no personal stake in the outcome. The other is not only typically a supporter, but also has a personal financial stake in the outcome.

    Back when I was working on the Novick web site, I specifically avoided posting any blogs on the race. I commented occasionally and tried to always remember my disclaimer. But I tried to completely stay out of the back and forth sniping that was going on between the two candidates' supporters.

    For instance, during the Oregon Summit I had live blogged the event. I'd originally planned to write up the joint appearance by Merkley and Novick but decided against it. Not only was I biased, I had a financial interest in the race as well.

    I've worked for enough campaigns at this point to know that even though you're "just" an outside contractor, you end up participating in a lot of conversations and decisions that are the same as if you were an employee - sometimes the same as a senior level employee. As such, I try to conduct myself as if I were an employee.

    But I don't hold the same expectations of a volunteer supporter.

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    FWIW I agree with Jenni. I too see a difference between paid and volunteer. Which is why the overt failure to disclose by Liz Kimmerly disappointed me so much. That was beyond the pale and should no more be ignored on "our" side than on the reich-wing's side. Fair is fair. Ethical is ethical. Paid is paid. Volunteer is volunteer.

    I totally empathize with what you were driving at, Jeff. But Jenni is right, IMO. There is a difference and we ought to keep it in mind.

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    Okay, cards on the table time. There is a distinction, and a big one. I admit that. But there are two or three wrinkles beyond that fact, and I'm getting tired of folks trying to have it both ways. So, let's stipulate that Kari is a paid consultant and a founder/editor of this blog. That puts his words into a particular context. Fair enough. But let us further stipulate that:

    *BlueOregon is not an organ for Kari's clients. Some of the folks writing continue to harp about "BlueOregon's objectivity," as if Kari and the other writers here (including, amusingly and ironically, Steve Novick) were part of a grand conspiracy. I am also a cofounder and editor and I can confirm that 99.9% of our posts are never known to the other before they appear. We rarely talk, even more rarely meet, and only occasionally email. If you want to assert bias, please leave BlueOregon out of it and lay it at the feet of the writer.

    *Everyone's objectivity is open to scrutiny. Kari has an axe to grind: he wants to elect Jeff Merkley for the US Senate. But that's exactly why we started this site, so that people with a stake in politics had a forum for discussion. Let us recall that there's a reason blogs exist, and it's not to promote the neutral exchange of bland information. It's for debate, discussion, and engagement.

    Kari can do no more than try to be as transparent about his biases and involvment as possible. Everyone here's a big girl/boy and can make a judgment beyond that. Light is a good thing.

    I have just read the 500+ comments that this debate has provoked, and my own comment was a reaction to what looked to me like an effort by some to punish Kari for his own disclosure while keeping quiet about their biases/involvement. If those folks are interested bystanders who see honest biases, that's different than people who, like me, are actively campaigning for one side. Casual readers of the comments (there are a lot more than you imagine) deserve to know whether you have a horse in the race.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I'm just looking at all this tired debate and thinking it would be so unnecessary if Novick were to just step in, address it, and correct it. And if he had done that as soon as he had gotten an email from his own staffer saying she was setting up some outside organization's endorsement meeting, he could have avoided appearing involved in the whole mess, too. Now, even if he does respond, he still looks hesitant to do the right thing. Decisions like these shouldn't be difficult ones. It's just such a head-scratcher to me.

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    Robert Gourley, you are right in criticizing Kari's exaggerated headline, but you are ignoring the quoted memos, which no one has denied are real, stating that endorsements would be made on Saturday. There is real evidence that it might have happened and that there was some intention for it to happen. When you wish that away you lose all credibility.

    Mitch (and possibly Kari?), I no longer believe that the whole chapter was just concocted by Liz Kimmerly in the week before the meeting. The national newsletter posted via TJ (whose contribution of real evidence should be acknowledged despite the many gallons of squid ink he's issued to obfuscate things) refers to members attending the Scott Ritter event on Jan 14. That was a real event. It was at Lincoln High. I know because colleagues from the PDX Peace coalition went, & rearranged meetings to be able to go. The newsletter reports on a young Latina woman who has joined PDA & is running for Portland City Council. Her name is Martha Perez (since she is running I see no problem in saying this) & she is in PDX Peace and was at the Ritter event and probably made contact with PDA there.

    To have an organized recruiting presence at that event would have required planning the week before if not sooner.

    My point in all of this is that although it had not yet met, some nucleus of Portland PDA people who were trying to get the chapter going, beyond Liz Kimmerly, existed before the endorsement notices went out. The national newsletter refers to months.

    How extensive that effort was early on I can't say. But it seems pretty clear that Moses Ross at least has also been involved for a while as well as Liz K. This whole picture also fits with what John-Mark has described about the grass-roots autonomy culture of PDA. Going to try to recruit members at the Ritter event fits exactly with what one might expect.

    And recruiting members at the Ritter event could not be predicted to elicit Novick supporters. I believe it is evidence that Liz Kimmerly had an independent interest in PDA and was not trying to organize the Portland chapter solely as a tool of the Novick campaign. I can't prove that beyond doubt, but there is evidence to support the interpretation, but neither can anyone prove the inverse claim, which is merely speculation about the worst that may have been happening. Concluding that it was is a gross and unjustified elision of reasoning.

    But Liz still had a conflict of interest & does. If I am right in thinking she has a genuine interest in PDA, I hope that at the next PDA meeting she will make it explicit so that people can see she's being transparent about it, that Moses Ross is taking up the piece where it could be an issue, & can evaluate whatever kind of advocacy she might make about endorsement in light of it.

    TJ, Liz' position in Oregon PDA is Chapter Coordinator. That appears to entail a degree of direction/coordination of internal activities that is not comparable to what Kari exercises at BlueOregon. He shares responsibilities with Charlie Burr and Jeff Alworth, and the three of them collectively have radically distributed and decentralized the universe of persons with free top-level posting rights, not to mention the freedoms of commenting.

    The image of Kari rubbing his hands with glee and laughing maniacally (bwwaaahaaahhhaaahhaaa) at his success in controlling BlueOregon and manipulating its hapless posters for the benefit of the Merkley campaign is just silly, if slightly amusing. And although you're on opposite sides, so the metaphor doesn't quite work, if you want to try to paint him as the villain in the old Tom Swift cartoons (forget his name, but always trying to fix the race), your own role brings relentlessly to mind memories of the inimitable villain canine sidekick Muttley (sp?).

    Really, no one here is either Snidely Whiplash OR Dudley Doright, although possibly all of us except John-Mark & maybe James X. are being as thick as Dudley.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    When you wish that away you lose all credibility.

    I wished nothing away. The situation would have taken care of itself without all the chest thumping comment. It's the nature of poltical campaigns.

    I didn't fall for all the hype, some did, and the consequences will be obvious.

  • Tom Canavan (unverified)
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    "However, I'm one of those who always wants to learn from our mistakes, and oh, boy, there were some doozies made on this one."

    <h2>I lost the gist of the article after this sentence. Were you intentionally offending African Americans males by putting the comma between 'oh' and 'boy'? So to differentiate between who your remarks were directed to you had to make it clear it wasn't directed to the smart white guy, because as an old fashioned and completely acceptable statement of exclamation you would have written "and oh boy" instead oh!, BOY, in the audience but the black guy who you think is too stupid to pay attention? Is that a back handed insult?</h2>
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