[Editor's note: The following comment comes from Jake Weigler, campaign manager for the Steve Novick campaign.]
This is a difficult post to write … actually it’s not, but as it will be the last time the Novick campaign writes on this blog until the end of the primary, I decided to make it a good one.
The choice to give Mr. Kamberg, the latest online Merkley hatchet man, the keys to Blue Oregon should come as a surprise to no one who has been closely following this primary and its treatment on this site. Not content to let Kevin’s relentless stream of attacks and smears sit on his own site, Kari Chisholm, the Merkley campaign’s online consultant, has chosen to given Kamberg a bigger soapbox from which to launch a string of false attacks on Steve Novick. I will get to the “substance” of his charges below, but first this needs to be called out for what it is.
It is page one of the political establishment’s playbook to first ignore an outsider challenger and then, when he can’t be ignored, tear him or her down with a series of lies, fabrications, smears and innuendos. The Merkley campaign has clearly adopted that strategy in the last week. After dredging up a 1998 letter to the editor to mislead voters about Steve’s 1996 vote for Ralph Nader – a letter that appeared on Mr. Kamberg’s blog hours before the media reported the Merkley campaign was pushing it around. And then Merkley himself claimed on the radio that Steve had "recently" praised Nader.
“When Nader said Democrats and Republicans are the same, you agreed and I disagreed. I disagree with your statements about being profoundly disappointed about the candidates in the democratic primary.”
Steve, of course, never said that he agreed there was no difference between the Republicans and Democrats or that he was “profoundly disappointed” by Senators Obama or Clinton. To claim his vote for Nader in 1996 suggests that he agrees with everything Nader has ever said is analogous to saying that because Jeff Merkley voted for Clinton in 1996, he must support NAFTA and the Defense of Marriage Act.
This is only a new chapter part of a repeated pattern on this site and elsewhere by Merkley’s surrogates to misrepresent Steve’s record and statements and attack his integrity. In the last few weeks, we’ve been falsely accused by the Merkley campaign of [illegally] selling beer. Meanwhile, Merkley’s spokesperson even went so far as to question “whether Steve Novick cares if Gordon Smith is reelected.”
Kari, of course, is a paid media consultant of the Merkley campaign – actively coordinating with message rollout as he has acknowledged on multiple occasions. Chisholm’s claim that he only speaks for himself, while he is receiving remuneration from the campaign is untenable. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, regardless of whether you pledge that your integrity means you can rise above it. And the idea that you can suddenly take off your Merkley campaign cap to offer independent analysis on the race is ridiculous. I have noted previously how that relationship seems to have affected balance in coverage of the race, but today I am specifically talking about the repeated pattern of using this ostensibly neutral community as a vehicle to extend and amplify the attacks by the Merkley campaign on Steve Novick (of which Mr. Kamburg is the latest example).
Kari started off this primary with a bang, calling Steve’s disagreement with Merkley’s vote on HR 2 - “swiftboating,” – a label that earned him Rogue of the Week in the WWeek.
Kari was also, of course, the source of the extended PDA smear that ran in January. I’ve avoided revisiting that subject out of interest of helping the PDA-Oregon chapter get off the ground. After being called on the carpet for “misrepresenting” his conversation with National PDA director Tim Carpenter, I though Kari would learn to be more careful in how he handled this race. As Liz has said, she should have handled this process more carefully. But as the kitchen sink strategy moves into full gear, I feel compelled to give a more complete picture.
First, Kari omitted from his extended hit job that the fact that the Merkley campaign had subsequent conversations with PDA-National where they indicated they were fine with the revised process moving forward – before he posted his breathless account.
Second, Kari wrote “The last time I called to confirm a source on something Steve had said, Jake Weigler said (and I'm paraphrasing here), ‘I'm not going to comment about this to a Merkley campaign consultant. If a real reporter calls me, I'll talk to them.’” That is a blatant misrepresentation of that conversation. I was asked the levels of proof we had whether Steve had opposed the Iraq war before it started. As I knew that the Merkley campaign was already engaged in a false whisper campaign that Jeff was the only one to publicly oppose the war before it began (a line they decided to make quite public at Friday’s debate), I was not enthused about helping a Merkley media consultant fine tune that attack.
Of course, this pattern is nothing new to the readers of Blue Oregon. In August, a then-anonymous blog published by a Mitch Greenlick staffer was immediately noted by Blue Oregon and then later used to promote an attack on Steve’s record on taxes. Greenlick himself, along with Rep. Nolan, also used the site in October to smear Steve by accusing him of being an “opportunist” running for a “selfish personal agenda.” The Merkley campaign later confirmed to the Oregonian that they had reviewed the statement before it ran.
Now Mr. Kamberg, who by my count has posted no less than 15 attacks on Steve Novick since January has been given posting privileges. It is hard not to see this as using this progressive community as window dressing to smear Steve Novick. I am sorry to have to say this, particularly to Jeff Alworth, Charlie Burr and the other contributors that have made this the centerpiece of Oregon’s progressive blogosphere, but I cannot allow this behavior to go unaddressed.
Now to Mr. Kamberg’s post.
LIE - Henry in no way “doctored” Wikipedia. As the history of the edits clearly shows, he changed the text surrounding the discussion of Merkley’s vote of 2003’s HR 2 to include the full resolution text – rather than simply the lines stating support for the troops. As it read at the time, you would think that Jeff Merkley voted to support the troops and Steve Novick was criticizing that decision. But, it was not appropriate for Henry – as someone receiving payment from the campaign – to go into a user-based forum and make changes. Which is why Kari’s dodge about “I only speak for myself” inappropriate, just as it was inappropriate for Henry, while he was receiving money from the campaign, to make those changes.
LIE - SB 124 did not “allow proposed charter schools” to “bypass “the district's rejection” “and appeal directly to the State Board of Education.” As Steve and his ODE associate’s testimony on that bill makes clear, that bypass option was already in the statute. This bill was a housekeeping measure to clarify that process. (Listen for yourself if you think that’s an unfair characterization).
And as for this whole “speak truth to power” dichotomy Kevin wants to create, it seems pretty silly. It is pretty common knowledge in Oregon political circles that Steve turned down a job in the Governor’s office after the 2002 campaign over political differences with the Governor. Part of the reason he went to work at ODE was that he would have the freedom there to continue his push against the dramatic overpayments to video lottery retailers. Now to criticize him for refusing to cut off his nose in spite of his face seems pretty disingenuous – particularly for someone trumpeting the importance of “prudence.” What was he supposed to do, fly off the handle against his boss at a committee meeting and announce his resignation? That would be a sign of authentic leadership in your mind?
More generally, sometimes the only way to win a rigged game is to refuse to play. I hope this post makes that clear and others will see the treatment of this race on Blue Oregon for what it is – an extension of the Merkley campaign’s attacks on Steve Novick’s integrity.