The Westlund Rumor

blueoregon admin

There's a story from the Associated Press that knocks down a rumor about Ben Westlund. It appears that the rumor found its way to the media when it was posted anonymously in a comment here at BlueOregon. From the AP:

Rumors of an allegedly inappropriate act in Westlund's past surfaced on on Tuesday, the same day Westlund announced he was dropping out of the Republican Party and entering the gubernatorial race as an independent.

The rumor is that there was an allegation ten years ago from Representative Debbie Boone (D-Cannon Beach) about an inappropriate hug. But Boone makes it pretty clear that she considers it all very silly.

Boone says she and Westlund have become good friends, and now they hug whenever they see each other. She also wishes the blogger [sic: it was a commenter, not a blogger] — identified only as BlueDemocrat — hadn't brought up the matter. "I think it was a cowardly thing to do, to lob this out there anonymously trying to hurt somebody," says the Democratic representative from Cannon Beach.

It seems pretty clear - to me, anyway - that this rumor is much ado about nothing.

Here's what I do know: Blogs are impossible to police. It's hard enough for me to keep y'all on topic, and certainly I don't have the capacity to investigate every factual claim and every allegation posted in every comment.

Of course, the great thing about the blogosphere is that it's somewhat self-policing. I've seen countless examples where a commenter makes an outrageous claim -- and another commenter asks for details, links to sources, more info.

I want to encourage that here at BlueOregon. If you see an unsupported claim made here, challenge it. Demand facts, demand proof, demand sources, and demand details. And if you're one of the drive-by commenters -- posting allegations and running, well, don't expect to get believed.

BlueOregon should be a meaningful place for progressives to talk issues, share opinions, and formulate strategies. Let's not suffer the tragedy of the commons. Instead, let's build a community of respectful debate.

  • (Show?)

    If you see an unsupported claim made here, challenge it.

    You keep calling Wyden a Democrat.

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    You're a funny guy, Jack.

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    Don't hate me; I can't help myself.

    [off-topic comment about presidential politics deleted.]

  • do the math (unverified)

    I think it is highly likely that Westlund's people posted that comment and steered Cain to it. I mean, c'mon...

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    Kari's comment that blogs are impossible to police and that readers should help self-police things that are posted is right on. In that spirit, I would like to point out that the claim from an anonymous poster that "it is highly likely that Westlund's people posted that comment and steered Cain to it" is laughable.

    As political analyst Jim Moore points out in Brad Cain's AP article, this is the last thing Westlund and his supporters wanted to have to talk about at a time when he's trying to introduce his campaign to the voters.

    The truth is that BlueOregon was used as the vehicle in the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting. But in this case, there were two innocent victims: Ben Westlund and BlueOregon.

  • do the math (unverified)

    It wasn't appropriate for Cain to publish anonymous comments on a political blog.

    That being said, the way this story was aired was helpful to Westlund. It wasn't part of his announcement. And it allows him to get something out that would have inevitably surfaced -- while making those that would use it as a campaign issue look bad.

    Also, if you were a partisan Democrat trying to do a political drive-by, why would you label yourself as someone affiliated with partisan politics (BlueDemocrat) when that is exactly what Westlund's campaign is manufactured to run against?

    As longtime Oregon GOP'er, Jack would assuredly know "the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting" as well as anyone.

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    Harry Esteve has an article in today's Oregonian to this effect, and it does cite BlueOregon as the source. Unfortunately, Harry called us a "Democratic" blog. Given the folks who post and comment here (not to mention our mission), "liberal" or "progressive" would have been more accurate. But hey, he sourced it, so what am I whinging about?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    I thought the GOP said "Just say no to hugs"?

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    Sorry Jeff, Blue Oregon is overwhelmingly a mainline Democratic blog. I heard a rumor that staff productivity in the Democratic caucuses in Salem dropped by 37 percent since Blue Oregon was launched.

    Speaking of rumors, reliable sources claim that Dick Cheney travels with Darth Vader's rejuvanation chamber. Why isn't anyone investigating this link between the Empire's Dark Overlord and Darth Vader?

    On a more serious note, it's important for the Democratic establishment that checks in here at B.O. to take recognize the influence that these blogs have on media covering political races. One of the main reasons why Thune beat Daschle was his use of staff to coordinate and/or run supposedly non-partisan blogs that hammered the local media in a successful bid to change the terms of the debate in South Dakota.

    It's worth noting that an alternative weekly paper has already tracked down an effort by a Republican candidate in the Senate to staff a supposedly non-partisan blog in a bid to shape the terms of the debate of the Senate race in Vermont.

    These whisper campaigns don't take much to start. One would hope that the paid press will investigate whether there is a tie between the person who posted the rumor about Westlund and one of the other candidates in the race.

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    Since the dawn of Matt Drudge, it has become common for mainstream journalists to run down internet rumors and publish what they learn--based not on the rumor itself (ostensibly), but on the reaction of the parties involved when questioned about the rumor. That's what Brad Cain did here.

    The lesson we should all learn from this is that there is a world of difference between passing on a rumor by word-of-mouth and posting it on a blog for anyone and everyone to read. Both may be bad form, but the magnitude of the evil and the likely consequences resulting from it are much greater in the case of the latter.

    Hence Kari's admonition for people to act responsibly. Good advice.

  • Bill Hooker (unverified)

    You keep calling Wyden a Democrat.

    In the spirit of Kari's request: in the first 320 votes in the 109th Congress, Wyden voted with the consensus Democratic party position 93% of the time. That's a fairly narrow window on his career (and I haven't had time to add more data to the worksheet), but it still looks like a pretty party-line voting record to me.

    Over at Project Vote Smart, you can read through Wyden's answers to the NPAT, check out his campaign finances (from, see how his voting pleases or displeases a variety of conservative and progressive interest groups and go over his voting record.

    A brief sampling: from the NPAT, Wyden is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-affirmative action, pro-single payer HCS, pro-new stem cell lines, pro-UN and anti-travel ban to Cuba. From the interest groups, Wyden is pretty much in line with NARAL and Planned Parenthood, but opposes the preferred stance of the Natl Right to Life Committee; with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Americans for the Arts; against the National Taxpayers Union and Americans for Tax Reform; mixed on business groups but pretty solid with Public Citizen's Congress Watch; with the ACLU and even more strongly with NAACP and HRC; pretty solidly against all of the identified "conservative" groups (John Birch, CWA, Christian Coalition, et al.); with the Education groups; and so on and on.

    Looks like a Democrat to me.

    Your turn, Jack. Show me the data.

  • Eric Berg (unverified)


    I've said it before. I'll say it agian. As much of a pain as it may be to verify and enforce, how about: no anonymous posts.

    Written participation will certainly drop off, but the quality of discussion will increase. Other sites require some sort of registration and verification. Why not BlueOregon? People who "gather 'round the water cooler" usuallly don't have bags over their heads.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I can't remember ever commenting here anonymously, but I see the value of allowing it. There may be valuable information available from someone who does not want to be identified. Of course, anonymous comments will always be less credible until verified.

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    I ain't clear on how much the AP stringers or The Oregonian understand about how blogs work in real life. I do know that the guys doing the Olympic coverage over at NBC don't have a clue, as Tuesday night the anchors were discussiong their "internet reporter" who was "writing a few blogs" about the events in Torino.

    I hope that in time we'll see news stories about BlueOregon and other local blogs, that demonstrate some basic understanding of The Internets and the difference between posts (which are at least vetted by Blue Oregon's owners) and comments (which require both a different level of attention, and a bit lower standard of acceptable discourse) from the owners.

    Kari's right, if we want to keep this thing tight, we the posters and commenters on the Left and Right have to continue to demand intellectual rigor from fellow members of our little community.

    I'd say that we "not owners" have been doing a fair to good job so far, but it's an ongoing commitment to accuracy and logical fact based argument that will keep our reputation above the crap artists at Free Republic and Democratic Underground.

  • LT (unverified)

    No anonymous post? We'd all have to post our full names so that anyone could Google anything we had ever said on a blog? Way to dry up comments! Not to mention those who may not want everyone in the cyberspace world to know who they are. Notice some of the cracks people have made here and ask why everyone would want their identity known to those people. Those of us who are not public figures don't have to have our names known.

    If the restriction were names or initials or first names, that is another story. Registration ( of the "come up with a user name and a password" variety) is a pain.

    Good for Jack Roberts and his driveby shooting comment. And as someone who has known Brad Cain for a couple of decades, I wonder where the evidence is that he posted the rumor.

    I have seen a lot of sleazy tactics in my time.

    But let's talk about the results of this. As I understand it, someone posting anonymously as Bluedemocrat started the rumor. As I also understand blog software, when we post we type in an email address that identifies us to Kari et. al at Blue Oregon not to mention the unique number of the computer we are using when we post --or something like that.

    I think bluedemocrat is a coward, myself. What's the name of that sleazy consultant on West Wing played by Ron Silver? Since I can't think of the character's name, let me put it this way. If the identifying information known to the administrators as the true identity of bluedemocrat--probably someone a lot like Ron Silver's character-- ever makes a public endorsement of a political candidate, I hope the folks here at Blue Oregon will put the spotlight on that person's true identity or the identity of the campaign they support (as I recall they did something similar when someone posting as " .." turned out to be posting from a Capitol computer on a legislative topic).

    Here is what we know for sure: in the article, Kane of the Mannix campaign has a rare opportunity to look like a better person than the person from the Kulongoski campaign. Let me quote from the article:

    "A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski's re-election campaign, Cameron Johnson, declined to say whether disclosure of the hug raises a legitimate campaign issue. But Jack Kane, a spokesman for Republican contender Kevin Mannix, said it "doesn't sound like there's an issue." "He gave her a hug, then he apologized," Kane said. "There's nothing there."

    Westlund refused to take potshots at Ted K. but the spokesman from the Kulongoski campaign refuses to return the favor?

    This may be the last time I say anything nice about the Mannix campaign (usually not known for doing the classy thing), but I'd say Johnson of the Kulongoski campaign didn't do his boss any favors by his remark in that article.

    I found the article online by going to a newspaper site and clicking on the AP link. And the story about the rumor was well down the page. The top story was about a call center closing and the jobs being outsourced.

    Now is a time for Blue Oregonians to examine their political values. Which story is more important--600 jobs being outsourced, or a juicy rumor which turned out to deflate on close examination. And who are voters more likely to support--people who care about them, or people who pass along a rumor about a person they have never met?

    Let's get serious, guys!

    Let's be real clear. I don't care who you are. If you say the rumor story is more important, then so long, its been good to know you. But I don't want to support anyone who doesn't say the outsourcing of 600 jobs is not more important. It certainly is more important to those who are losing their jobs--and to the unemployed and underemployed Oregonians who wonder who these juveniles are who pass rumors which turn out to be nothing but a flash in the pan or someone enough to try to change the subject from a challenge to the partisan system, a popular candidate who might upset a few status-quo apple carts and maybe even end gridlock and start solving some problems.

    I am as fed up with the status quo as I am with people who would rather attack than present better ideas than an opponent. As my friend Julie said in 1982 (and recently confirmed it is even more true today) "when they act like that, you know they know they are losing".

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    Sorry Jeff, Blue Oregon is overwhelmingly a mainline Democratic blog. I heard a rumor that staff productivity in the Democratic caucuses in Salem dropped by 37 percent since Blue Oregon was launched.

    Agreed: It's overwhelmingly read by Democrats. (Though I dispute that the majority are mainline--I'd call our bell curve a McCain to Kucinch average. Socialists and conservatives are represented, but are a minority.) That doesn't make it a "Democratic blog" any more than the Oregonian--read by predominantly Blazer fans--is a Blazers publication. We emphatically do not act as an organ for the Democratic party or its candidates. Ask Nancy Nathanson if you think that's false.

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)


    Kids, you have managed to make Democrats look just as petty and vindictive as Republicans and now there is an AP story to prove it!

    PS Blue Oregon...Congrads just gave Westlund 3% of the Democratic vote with your misplaced bashing.


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    I've said it before. I'll say it agian. As much of a pain as it may be to verify and enforce, how about: no anonymous posts.

    Eric, we eliminated anonymous posts over a year ago. If a post has a header like "in the news" or "open discussion," it's posted by one of our regular writers, and we will take responsibility for correcting misstatements or rumors that appear in it.

    Anonymous commenting is another matter, and it's not a bad idea to keep raising the question. I actually don't think it's a problem because commenters here really hold people to account. So long as there's self-policing happening on the threads--and there is--malice or slander generally backfires. You can't stop people from saying idiotic things, but in a civil society, you expose it and condemn it. I'd actually argue that seeing that stuff is better than hiding it. (And we're accused of being too rigid as it is, even though very few comments ever get deleted.)

    Finally, many folks in key positions need to speak anonymously. It gives them an outlet to put facts forward without getting into trouble. You argue that the quality of discussion will increase, but I think the opposite is more likely true.

    Worth watching, but so far, I think the open forum is working pretty well.

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    As I also understand blog software, when we post we type in an email address that identifies us to Kari et. al at Blue Oregon not to mention the unique number of the computer we are using when we post --or something like that.

    The email address can be spoofed, but the IP address of the computer that you use is easily verifiable, as is the ISP service. A site's ISP, or a web site host can also track down identifying information about the network card on the system that was used to make the connection.

    For all of that, I'm a little surprised that there is no publicly posted privacy policy for BO.

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    Also, in the spirit of Kari's excellent post is a rumor that surfaced over at Jack's place last night by Jim R (and promptly shot down by bojack who demanded facts to back it up).

    There is quite a buzz going on in town that the failure of clean money to make the ballot was not caused by incompetence. The cause, so goes the buzz, was a concerted effort by those who support clean money to intentionally sign more than once on petitions and to use other tactics that would cause the petition to fail.For the record, that effort, if confirmed, is a felony.This may be the first some of you have heard of this. It will not be the last.**** and his henchmen have used these tactics in the past and have gotten away with it. They have woefully underestimated the resolve of the group they fxxked with this time.In addition to being very pissed off these guys are filthy rich.This may well be the undoing of Mr. Sten Posted by Jim R at February 14, 2006 08:08 PM

    So, the rumor gets shot down, but then reappears this morning over here at blueoregon in more innocuous form by a poster named Roman:

    Gee, isn't it interesting that the League of Women Voters, which supports taxpayer funded elections, thinks that the County is counting the signatures correctly.

    Which again begs the question: does Roman have any FACTS to support the implication that the signature verification is not producing an accurate count?


    Here's where the spin is really coming from folks: Ginny Burdick's PR firm, Gard & Gerber, who were using words like "sabatoge" and "unususal" and "abnormal" in their talking points yesterday without coming up with ANY tangible evidence that anything else happened except their own failure to place an unpopular idea on the May ballot. Reasonable people can disagree on Voter Owned Election but repeal advocates should not be promoting tin hat conspiracy theories without proof of anything improper.

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    Regarding anonymous commenting:

    It's not technically possible to stop anonymous commenting.

    Sure, we could set up a registration system that verifies that the email address you use is legit. But the anonymous person simply gets a free email address and uses that to register.

    Sure, we do have the IP address used to submit each comment, BUT that's hardly definitive. The entire staff of the US House of Representatives shares a small bank of IPs. If you're on an AOL dial-up, you're sharing IPs with all your neighbors (example: Jack Peek and Randy Leonard = same IP.) And yes, your ISP could probably provide the exact name and address of the person using that IP at that moment, but only under subpoena. Finally, of course, the truly anonymous commenter would comment from a wi-fi hotspot in a coffee shop.

    Could we force people to use a First Last combo for their name? Sure, but that wouldn't mean those names are what's on their birth certificates.

    So, feel free to be anonymous. My only request? Use the same anonymous handle all the time. If you're one of the folks creating one-time-only handles, you're barely credible. By using the same handle all the time, readers will learn your personality and you'll develop a reputation as credible or not. (Don't believe me? Just think about what "Bailie", "LT", "torridjoe", "Tenskwatawa", and "cc" mean to you. Some credible, some not - but that doens't suffer due to the anonymity.)

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    I think Kari is right. And we shouldn't overreact to this one incident. Despite my "drive-by shooting" analogy above, I don't have any reason to believe that BlueDemocrat wasn't sincerely passing along a rumor he or she had heard and assumed would be coming out anyway.

    This should just be a reminder to all of us that people are paying attention and we should consider all comments made here as part of the public domain--which they are.

    If depriving some people of the right to remain anonymous (even assuming that were technically possible) would have a chilling effect on the discussions then I don't think it is worth it.

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    Agreed: It's overwhelmingly read by Democrats. (Though I dispute that the majority are mainline--I'd call our bell curve a McCain to Kucinch average. Socialists and conservatives are represented, but are a minority.) That doesn't make it a "Democratic blog" any more than the Oregonian--read by predominantly Blazer fans--is a Blazers publication. We emphatically do not act as an organ for the Democratic party or its candidates. Ask Nancy Nathanson if you think that's false.

    Point taken. I wasn't suggesting that it's a de jure publication for the Democratic Party but rather that it's essentially the de facto blog of record for the various constituencies that make up the Democratic side in Oregon.

    Also, I'm having an increasingly difficult time swallowing how some folks use the word "progressive" as shorthand when they are really talking about Democratic politics which aren't necessarily all that progressive (either in the Bus' "not left, not rught but forward" sense or in the Nader/PGP/Kucinich sense).

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    While it can be a pain to deal with the anonymous posters sometimes, I think we do a fairly good job of calling them on their crap when they come in posting fake stuff. It never seems to fail that at least one of us will ask for the facts, show it's a lie, etc.

    I do like the anonymous comments, as it allows people to post information that is true, but could cost them their job if it was tied back to them. Personally, I always try to use my first and last name when I post.

    Even if we did require names, the "anonymous" posters would just create a new account every time they wanted to do a "drive by." Then the news reports would say something along the lines of "a member of Blue Oregon said..."

  • grrlszgrrl (unverified)
    (Show?) is at is again: desperation politics. While the gang at BlueOregon have attacked other candidates- Nick Fish and Ginny Burdick come to mind- this time they directed their mudslinging at Ben Westlund. They accused him of sexual harassment but it didn’t stick because the rumored “victim”, State Representative Debbie Boone, came forward immediately to dismiss it. Now BlueOregon is backpedaling and claiming no responsibility...

    Read the full comment on

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    Hey Grrlszgrll... I don't who you're describing as "the gang at BlueOregon". The rumor came from an anonymous commenter, not any of our contributors.

    Remember that BlueOregon takes no official positions and doesn't endorse candidates. Our individual contributors are welcome to take any position they like - and we often disagree.

    We've got commenters of all stripes - heck, right-wingers Jack Roberts and Rob Kremer regularly post comments. So, you can't argue that there's any kind of BlueOregon conspiracy or hive mind...

  • LT (unverified)

    Thank you Kari, I think the blame should go squarely on whoever the bluedemocrat is who started the rumor.

    It is guilt by association to say all of Blue Oregon did that, just as it would be guilt by association to say all of any group are guilty of the misdeeds of one member.

  • Anon (unverified)

    As much as it pains me, don't beat yourselves up. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Do your homework. Talk to the people who were there. Baseless rumor-mongering only discredits you, so take the time to uncover the facts. The most powerful elected republican in Salem at the time of Ben's first year could have made this all go away...Hell, they were practically neighbors.

  • Alice (unverified)

    No rumor here: just a personal acknoledgment. Would all you pious BlueOregonians like him to step down, or continue to seek public office?

    Feb. 17, 2006, 3:44AM House candidate admits former work as prostitute

    Associated Press

    DALLAS — A Dallas Democrat seeking election to the Texas House of Representatives has acknowledged that he once worked as a prostitute.

    Tom Malin, a salesman and actor, said he no longer works as a prostitute but conceded that his previous life could cost him the nomination in the March 7 Democratic primary.

    "I've made mistakes in my life, and I've stood before my creator and I've accepted responsibility for my behavior," Malin told The Dallas Morning News for its editions today.

    "I've also accepted his grace and his redemption and his love and his forgiveness," and that's what is important, he said.

    Archived versions of Web sites that are now defunct advertise the services of a male escort identified as Todd Sharpe. The phone number listed with Sharpe belongs to Malin, The Morning News reported.

    Malin, who once was a member of the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board, has also worked as a Mary Kay salesman and performed in Dallas-area theater productions. His candidate Web page describes him as a managing director for the marketing arm of a Dallas electricity provider.

    Malin faces retired salesman Jack Borden in the Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Republican Dan Branch in November in a race to represent a district covering much of central Dallas.

    On his candidate Web page, Malin said he is "committed to giving our families a voice in Austin, with a focus on education, the economy, and restoring a 'spirit of ethics' to our State House."

    He said Thursday that he would stay in the race.

    "I don't regret my past, nor do I wish to shut the door on my past," he said. "I think anyone who has made mistakes in their lives can be a viable member of community and society."

    Former Dallas County Democratic chairwoman Susan Hays, a Malin supporter, said the candidate had informed her about his past.

    "He's been a mess, but righted himself," she said. "He's got more honesty and energy than his Democratic opponent and Dan Branch."

    The Dallas Tejano Democrats endorsed Malin on Thursday, before the group learned of Malin's prostitution. Chairman Domingo Garcia said Malin did not mention his past during candidate screening.

    "Obviously we will have to reconsider our decision based on the new information," Garcia said.

    Malin said he's been sober for 13 years after being addicted to alcohol. He said he grew up in an abusive household and that he was abused physically, emotionally and sexually as a child.

    Malin said people care about where you're going, not where you've been.

    "I know that there are people that can benefit from my experience," he said. "This is not about winning an election; this is about empowerment. There is a higher calling and a higher message involved in this."

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    Good one, Alice. Was he given top security clearance and White House press credentials??

  • LT (unverified)

    Alice, Are you saying that because personal friends of an Oregon candidate stand up for their friend that they have even thought about some character running for office in Texas?

    Sounds like guilt by association.

    Anon: Who do you mean by "The most powerful elected republican in Salem at the time of Ben's first year "? Do you mean someone from the House leadership, or Brady Adams or G. Derfler from the Senate? None of those people who could fit that description are currently in elective office, are they? Or was this about spreading another rumor?

  • Alice (unverified)

    Not at all, LT:

    I'm suggesting that a mere rumor shouldn't be given air time by the MSM or blog time by Kari. If the Dallas County Democratic Chairwoman is willing to let a male escort run for the Texas State Lege, then it seems like the "Westlund Rumor" is kind of tame, by comparison. Kind of like damning him with faint defense, don't ya think.

    To put it another way, if the good people of the Dallas County Democratic Party are willing to elect a Mary Kay Selling Male Escort as their elected representative, well the Voters of Oregon ought to be able to overlook a friendly little hug between adult legislators. I mean, it's not like Ben Westlund was selling Avon or anything crazy like that.

  • (Show?)

    I'm suggesting that a mere rumor shouldn't be given air time by the MSM or blog time by Kari.

    I agree. I didn't write anything about it until the Oregonian and the AP wrote about it -- and noted that the rumor spread here at BlueOregon.

    (Which is a classic case of the MSM pointing fingers at the blogosphere -- 'neener neener, they're not credible'.)

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