Politics makes very odd bedfellows, so the saying goes, and the dated cliche is vivdly apparent in the overblown kerfuffle with Progressive Party nominee Bob Wolfe and conservative activist Ross Day linking up to blow smoke rings at SOS Kate Brown. Wolfe, chief petitioner of the derailed initiative to Constitutionally legalize pot, has as his legal champion Ross Day, conservative activist and local attorney.
Day is the owner/operator of Vote Oregon, LLC, and served as Executive Director of Common Sense Oregon, an organization that made its first media mark by calling out Oregon prisons for providing soda to prisoners. Really. The Vote Oregon website describes itself as the "Voice Of The Electorate, LLC is the premier petition circulation and canvassing company in the state of Oregon." Right now, Vote Oregon identifies no current measures under its sponsorship on its website. Common Sense was an early supporter of Kevin Mannix's Measure 84, not surprisingly, a measure designed to reduce the taxes on the top 1%.
Day is intimate with the Oregon initiative process. In Sept. of 2006, Day filed 11 identical initiative petitions with different ballot titles. This practice, called "ballot title shopping," was done so petitioners could "shop" different titles and discover which title seemed most favorable to potential signers. The practice has since been prohibited. in 2009, Day was a chief petitioner on no less than 10 initiative petitions, teaming up with several others including old pro Mannix. Day was also one of the authors of Measure 37, the ill-fated land use initiative that passed in 2004 and had to be modified via Measure 49 just 3 years later in the Nov. 2007 Special Election. In 2006, Day ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship in Marion County.
Day has recently left Common Sense to open his own law practice in SW Portland, Day Law Group. The firm's website states: "Although Day Law Group, P.C. represents clients in virtually every form of litigation, Day Law Group specializes in situations where an individual or business is under attack by a government agency." One of Day's clients is SmartRaiser, a firm that has been cited around the nation in scam alerts, including here in Oregon by former AG John Kroger. The for-profit firm's MO utilizes door-to-door canvassers to obtain donations to send "care" packages to troops. Another client is Wolfe, who seems to be keeping Day pretty busy.
In early September, Wolfe/Day lost round 1 when Marion County Circuit Judge Mary Mertens James ruled "(SOS) Brown operated within the broad scope of the authority given her by the Legislature when she invalidated signatures that were duplicates, illegible or from people not registered to vote".
(Oregonian 9/5/12). This particular ruling rejected Wolfe's attempt to be granted a temporary restraining order that would have forced the SOS to put his measure on the ballot.
Day is whip-smart, and clearly well aware of ORS. A read of the Judge's ruling makes it abundantly apparent that there was not the slightest chance that Brown had stretched her authority. One of the complaints trumpeted by Wolfe supporters is their contention that "inactive" voters were unfairly rejected as signers. Not only did the Oregon Supreme Court itself determine that a petition signer must be an eligible voter at the moment a petition is signed (Sajo.V. Paulus, 1984), but Day recognizes that himself. The Vote Oregon website states:
"Only registered, active voters can sign the petition. If you don't know if you are a registered, active voter, we suggest you contact your county elections official, which is usually the county clerk."
So what is up with this strange odd couple? There is political upside for both; in raising enough ruckus to potentially take down an incumbent in high level elected office, they gain merit badges among their compatriots in their separate circles. Being a spoiler garners a certain amount of appreciation. Wolfe connecting with Day makes a world of sense because of Day's familiarity with the Oregon initiative system. Day is one of the smartest guys he could have put on the job, and the battles are not over, yet.
But the upside may be even better for Day. He is a rising GOP star. He's energetic, innovative and has built a stellar conservative resume in a relatively short amount of time. There is virtually no baggage associated with marijuana initiatives anymore, and increasingly, individual Republican candidates are supporting Measure 80. Teaming up with a progressive to take down an incumbent is a means worth the end to a conservative.
But they are trying to accomplish that take down with smoke and mirrors, bitterly complaining about a non-existent unfairness, and both the conservative and the progressive hope they fool enough progressives into believing their yarn.
How many Progressives/progressives are being fooled? Stay tuned.