Monday evening Willamette Week's website (aka WWire) published a piece written by Beth Slovic claiming that Jeff Merkley Submitted a Charter School Application in 2004. Wednesday she rehashed it as an editorial piece citing her own WWire piece for the street edition of Willamette Week. Let's examine the original WWire piece since the editorial doesn't offer anything new. Her first paragraph quickly reveals her angle,
As the Oregon Education Association prepares to make its crucial endorsement next week in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, WWire has learned candidate Jeff Merkley privately submitted an application in 2004 for his own child to enroll in a charter school.
As Slovic notes, the upcoming OEA endorsement is a crucial one for both Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick. And, being the award winning journalist that she is, she will obviously have solidly sourced such a stunning claim before making it, right?
News that Merkley, then the House Minority Leader, wanted to get his elementary-school-age son Jonathan into a charter school comes from Rob Kremer, a leading charter school supporter who saw Merkley’s application to the Arthur Academy, a Portland-based charter school that was to have opened in fall 2004 but was delayed until 2005. (Because of that delay, none of the original applications, including Merkley's, were processed, according to Kremer.)
Rob Kremer is an interesting guy! He is serial charter school founder, including the Arthur Academy (one of four such), on and off opponent of the OEA and all-around "Who's Who" in Oregon right-wing circles. A quick check with OpenSecrets.org reveals that he has only ever given money to Republicans. Among Kremer's creds are his conservative blog, where he confirms that he is Slovic's apparently sole source, being the founder of the Conservative Majority Project and Host of the right-wing talk radio show called Kremer & Abrams. All in all it seems pretty clear that Rob Kremer probably has a whole sack full of axes to grind when it comes to Jeff Merkley and just about every other progressive Democrat in Oregon. But that reality alone doesn't negate hard evidence or multi-sourced information.
I don't see anything in either of Beth Slovic's pieces about a second source supporting Rob Kremer's assertion. The closest thing to it is an assertion in the piece that Merkley's spokesman Matt Cantor "did not deny" the allegation. But of course the failure to deny doesn't constitute a "confirmation" by any stretch of the imagination. But down in the comments of the WWire piece she states, "Kremer told me something. I asked the Merkley campaign. His spokesman confirmed it. Funny how that works."
Yes, funny how that works. Except that nowhere in the piece does it say that Merkley's spokesman "confirmed" Kremer's allegation. Which leaves a series of unanswered questions. Such as: Why didn't Beth Slovic include a copy of the application in either of her stories? Why didn't she reference or even quote what it said on the alleged application? Does the alleged application even exist? If so, where is it? Has Slovic personally seen it? And where is her second source? Surely she didn't just take Rob Kremer's word for it!
What does Rob Kremer get out of this? Is he connected to the Gordon Smith campaign? I don't see anything overtly connecting Kremer directly to Smith.
It's particularly noteworthy in light of what Kremer said on his blog when Novick announced for the Senate race.