HD-49: Matt Wand's campaign in violation of Oregon election law?

Carla Axtman

Following up on TA's piece from Wednesday about the Matt Wand campaign's press release containing blatantly false information, the situation is heating up. Way up.

Background, the abridged version: The Wand campaign sent out a press release stating that Marni Zollinger is a "key campaign worker" for Democratic Rep. Nick Kahl, Wand's opponent for the Oregon House. Wand further accuses Zollinger of engaging in a "campaign of retaliation against Councilor Wand in her capacity on the Kahl Campaign, spreading lies and republishing her baseless ethics allegations to independent groups".

I can't decide if this press release is reckless incompetence, gross negligence, monumental stupidity...or all of the above.

The campaign contribution and expenditure database at the Oregon Secretary of State's office (Orestar) lists all of the campaign finance activity for every Oregon campaign. Here is Kahl's. Campaign employee salaries are listed. Nowhere is there a campaign expenditure to Marni Zollinger, much less a salary.

This ain't Wand's first rodeo. The guy is a Troutdale City Councilor, for crissake. It might be one thing if the guy had never run for office before. It wouldn't be excusable, but it would be understandable, to make such an error. But for a candidate who has quite obviously had to do this reporting himself, its just plain negligent.

The Democratic Party of Oregon has filed an election law complaint against Wand with the Oregon Secretary of States office. The complaint lays out the case that Wand is in violation of ORS 260.532 by making a false statement of material fact against Rep. Kahl's campaign with "knowledge or reckless disregard" that the statement is false. We'll see what comes of it.

For Zollinger's part, I spoke with her yesterday. TA did a good job of trying to boil down a very complex and layered story--which really, we can't do proper justice at Blue Oregon. Suffice it to say that Wand's story has holes big enough to drive a giant John Deere tractor through, based on some of what I've seen, especially the "FBI investigation" part.

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    The headline says "key campaign worker," which does undefined--but the text of the PR says "working with the Kahl campaign," which appears definitely true. I would suggest the text trumps the headline, considering it says nothing abut her being on staff, or working FOR Kahl's campaign, but rather WITH it.

    The term "being investigated" is also one lacking definition here. If they'd said she was a SUBJECT of an FBI investigation, that'd be one thing. And the FBI apparently wants to distinguish between responding to an inquiry/allegation, and gathering evidence for a potential indictment--but in plain English I think it's valid to say what the FBI is doing right now is "investigating." They are reviewing information in order to determine whether a crime has been committed.

    Using this information as some kind of indictment of Kahl is extraordinarily thin gruel, there's no doubt about that. Someone who worked on Kahl's behalf as a Democrat is being looked at for MAYBE doing something sketchy in her own business. That merits a giant SO? from me, at least as it pertains to Kahl.

    But the idea that this lame attemtpt at gotcha (Wand's) hasn't yielded an even lamer attempt at gotcha (TA's, Carla's) is suspect. Stupid and weak? Yes. Libelous? Doubtful, since neither point of contention (campaign staff, being investigated) is directly alleged in the press release under the definitions being posited here.

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      The very obvious intent of this press release is to make the claim that Marni Zollinger works for Nick Kahl's staff on his campaign, Mark. Enough so that the DPO believed it to be worthy of a campaign election law complaint to the Secretary of State.

      Using your basis of reasoning, Wand could say that I am a "key campaign worker" for the Kahl Campaign because I wrote a blog post which highlights the DPO complaint. Or that Jeff Mapes is a "key worker" for a campaign when he writes up a story that's favorable to them. Your assertion is silly, at best.

      Wand's press release is knowingly false, or if it isn't, then they were negligent in the extreme by not looking up the information.

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    Mark, i spoke to the FBI on Tuesday. there is no investigation. allegations were made against Zollinger, and the FBI has yet to determine if an investigation is required. the Wand campaign seeks to parse the term, but the FBI spokesperson was unequivocal: there is no investigation. just allegations from a 3rd party.

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    I was extremely disappointed in Matt Wand's campaign for doing this. Not only because the statements made are false (in what universe does canvassing as a volunteer 3-4 times turn one into a "key campaign worker"?) or because I believe it flat-out lies about Marni, but mostly because after the years of watching campaigns in D-49 descend into vicious personal attacks and having to slog through the campaigns out here in mud up to our necks, I'd really hoped that we finally could have an honest, issues-focused campaign that talked about what D49 citizens need and want from their Representative. Instead, we've got Wand's campaign pulling the same old bs that we are all too familiar with out here---if you're behind or worried about your campaign, attack the person rather than their stance on the issues. And if you can do so while also maligning someone with whom you have an unrelated disagreement, all the better. What a disappointment. I'm not naive, but I really had hoped that we'd moved beyond that. Apparently not.

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    Here is my response. Inasmuch as it is difficult to address sentences with multiple layers of untrue items, I have created a powerpoint.

    Please kindly be sure to DOWNLOAD this, or the animation doesn't work. Without the animation the features overlap.

    My thanks to Blueoregon for helping to bring clarity to the ZESC history.


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