Earlier this week, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters concluded that the Charlie Hales campaign secretly taped our confidential endorsement session, leaking it to local media after it failed to win our support. It represents a stunning breach of trust -- and the first time in our 38 year history that a campaign violated our process in such a way.
It's unprecedented and unacceptable. Our organization's process and ability to make good decisions rests entirely on the integrity and good faith of participants.
When confronted, the Hales campaign had this to say to the Portland Business Journal:
Evyn Mitchell, Hales’ campaign manager, said at least 12 people were in the room during the candidate interviews.
That almost makes it sound like it could have been anyone. Or in the words of my Hales-supporting-neighbor, "a non-denial denial."
Later, when talking to the Oregonian, the Hales campaign attempted to muddy the waters about whether it was informed of the ground rules.
Evyn Mitchell, Hales' campaign manager, said it wasn't clear that recordings were prohibited but declined to talk about whether the campaign had taped the interview.
And when talking to Steve Duin later still, the campaign finally admitted to recording the session, characterizing it now as a "misunderstanding."
There was no misunderstanding. Here's an excerpt from the Aug. 2 email (referenced in the article) from OLCV to Mitchell outlining the ground rules:
"As with other aspects of the OLCV endorsement process, this interview is considered confidential."
Here's why it's important: Every campaign is a reflection of the candidate. It's Charlie Hales who ultimately bears responsibility for his operation and its unethical -- and possibly illegal -- actions.
Charlie Hales has made character part of his pitch to be mayor, saying this a few months ago:
“People need to know there’ll never be that terrible day where you open the newspaper and say, ‘Oh no!’ That will not come with me,” Hales says. “People may not always agree with me. Of course that’s the case, if you do anything at all in public. There will never be a day when anyone has a reason to question my integrity.”
As someone who's previously considered voting for Hales -- and who's pretty sympathetic to many of his ideas about urbanism and the built environment -- that day is already here.
People understand that secretly recording and leaking a private interview session falls outside the meaning of the word "confidential." The campaign's ethical lapses -- and blundering response -- create some pretty big questions about Hales' fitness to serve.
In the coming weeks, Portlanders will have to make their own decisions about whether Charlie Hales has the judgment and character to lead the city of Portland.
[Note: I serve as PAC chair for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, an organization dedicated to electing environmental leaders up and down the ballot. In the May primary, we won 15 of our 16 targeted races, including helping Jeff Reardon defeat Mike Schaufler.]