Steve Duin hammers Karen Minnis for "malicious" politics

In today's Oregonian, Steve Duin argues that the ads attacking Karen Minnis's handling of the allegations of sexual assault against her brother-in-law were "unfair" -- but that they reflect the nasty politics created by Minnis herself.

House Speaker Karen Minnis deserves the latest cheap shot in Oregon politics. It's painfully unfair, totally irrelevant in the race for House District 49 . . . and absolutely in keeping with the malicious tone Minnis has set in her fall campaign. ...

Minnis supporters have outdone themselves in their assault on challenger Rob Brading, with no objections from Karen Minnis. ... On Friday, Brading's supporters returned fire. ...

"I hate this stuff," Brading said. "But the distortions of my record that she has put out there have had an impact. You have to fight back, unfortunately, on the same terms."

Jon Isaacs, executive director of the House Democrats' Future PAC, admits the caucus first learned of the Minnis lawsuit last summer. "It was never in our plan to use this," Isaacs said. "But we're not working in a political environment where we can take the high road all the time."

No, we're mired in one where even the House speaker, with $1 million available to lead by example and set the tone in the race, goes overboard to make the campaign as ugly as possible.

See the ad here, and the documentation at


  • DAN GRADY (unverified)


    The Democratic calculus should be to have your powder dry, and not fire unless fired upon, but once the battle begins take no prisoners!!

    Happy Thoughts;

    Dan Grady

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    I'm trying to figure out what is "unfair" or "irrelevant" to the Speaker's campaign in an issue regarding work place harrassment, sexual assault, and a settlement designed to make the issue go away directly involving the current Speaker's and former legislator/cop husband's owned and operated business. Is it nasty? Well, the issue certainly is, and if these people don't like it coming back to haunt them, maybe they should have taken a responsible action at the time. Oooh responsible, the "R" word, you know Speaker Minnis(R). I would think that the attitude displayed is directly relevant to a legislator's concern with the well-being of the constituents vs certain narrow (or personal) interests.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    I'm trying to figure out what is objectionable in FuturePac's piece. Karen Minnis knew about the alledged abuse that wasn't reported, correct? If she did nothing illegal, she sure did something that suggests her statements on such abuse have been hypocritical. Hypocracy is always fair political game.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    Karen made the protection of minors an issue through the phony libary issue. Is it not right to say that she and her husband did not protect a 17 year old girl who was subjected to attempted rape and sexual harassment from their own familyl member? In this case a police officer, John Minnis, is a mandatory reporter under the law and chose otherwise.

  • (Show?)

    I think the complaining comes down to this: Democrats believe in the power of government to do good things, so we'd like to think that campaigns can be purely about policy and values that inform policy. We believe that campaigns should exalt the power of good governance. As a result, we get cranky when campaigns focus on other things - like bad behavior, personal choices, or values that don't inform policy.

    Contrast that with Republicans, who believe government is a bad thing. Consequently, they have no qualms about campaigns that focus on the negative, get personal, misuse or misstate facts, and generally drag politics and government into the muck.

    Do I wish that campaigns were more like C-SPAN? Sure. But that's not the world we live in. Given that our political opposition is degrading democracy, defunding education and basic human services, and undermining the American value system - well, I don't have any qualms about fighting fire with fire.

    And here's the best part: We're still running more ethical, more honest, more factual campaigns than they are. With respect to Brading/Minnis, she's the one who is making up falsehoods about Rob Brading. Everything in The Minnis File is accurate, documented, and vetted.

    Activists complain endlessly that the campaign operatives don't do what it takes to beat the bad guys. Well, in 2006, in Oregon, we are.

    And it's all going to feel pretty good when we get a Democratic House, Senate, and Governor -- and we start moving aggressively on a progressive agenda to put Oregon back on track.

  • Anon (unverified)

    If Karen Minnis had any decency whatsoever, she would have demanded Adams, Manning, Nashif, Tuuni, etc. cease their false attacks on Brading.

    Minnis did nothing.

    My personal view is that she knew about it of course and in fact directed the group above to launch the attacks. Regardless, she was called upon to denounce the attacks and stop them and she did not. Instead, she smugly sat by and gloated.

    Further, it is critical that we do not overlook the fact that Karen and John Minnis made sure Tuck never faced a criminal proceeding. The made sure nobody knew how violent and dangerous he was (because they wanted to save their own sorry behinds policitally), and therefore they endangered others. I'll say it again - they endangerd other children and young women because they put their desire for political power above the safety of others.

  • JHL (unverified)

    I think Tom C summarized it best -- it may not be that Karen Minnis did anything illegal, but it's certainly the pinnacle of hypocracy and deserved (especially based on her loathsome attacks on Brading).

    But Anon, I don't think that the issue here is that the Minnises knowingly put minors at risk for a "desire for political power."

    Even an unbased accusation of sexual abuse can ruin a person's career. (In this case, I feel it was a true accusation.) But when faced with a lack of any formal charges and a victim who made the same claim at her former job and was willing to settle for $20K... I would say that Minnis' decision was probably based more on her desire to protect a family member (who claimed that the accusation was a lie) and less about her political future.

    Nevertheless, it was a poor decision -- one that put more people at risk and one that proves to me that she shouldn't be holding a position of public trust.

  • (Show?)

    I can't lie and say I'm not disappointed by the comments made by Brading and Isaacs. They seem to agree with Minnis and Duin--that the allegations are dirty politics and irrelevant to the campaign. Either it's relevant or it's not, and hanging onto it all summer so it can "hit" with maximum impact is a little too unsavore for me.

    And I wouldn't have ever expected Brading and Isaacs to say that you have to get down on a sleazy opponent's level sometimes. You don't. You don't need to go dirty to fight back--you just need to respond quickly to smears, point out that they're smears, and perhaps indicate hypocrisy on the issue (or at least how stupid and illogical it is, like the original Swift Boat).

    I think this is a legitimate issue from the public domain (rather than private allegations), speaking to character. Whatever else she did, Minnis did not exhibit good character. And pointing that out isn't dirty character; it's worth knowing.

    How ironic that the more I read and think about this, the more serious I think it is--and the less I wish now that FuturePAC and Brading had pushed it, if they feel this way about it.

  • (Show?)

    allow me to correct a couple of errors:


    "pointing that out isn't dirty POLITICS"

  • LT (unverified)

    "I hate this stuff," Brading said. "But the distortions of my record that she has put out there have had an impact. You have to fight back, unfortunately, on the same terms."

    Many years ago, and ex-boxer ran statewide somewhere like New Jersey and unexpectedly won a statewide race for something, maybe Gov.

    There had been a lot worse mud thrown than Oregon has ever seen, and someone asked this Democrat who won replacing a Republican (I think --details fade over time) what advice he would give other candidates when attacked.

    What he answered was "Run a positive, people-oriented campaign, but don't take STUFF from bullies!".

    It is important HOW something is handled. The same set of circumstances with a different incumbent might be handled differently. But this is the candidate who is supposedly the model of behavior to "values voters", a strong "law and order" family. This is the incumbent who never spoke out against the attacks on Brading ("Speaker Minnis, do you think all the members of the library board are equally guilty or only Brading?" is a question which should have been asked on the record). And in this case I think what has happened is justified.

    There is an old proverb about acting as if every facet of your life could end up on the front page of a newspaper. Whatever else is true, it doesn't seem like the Minnises acted that way.

    And, given past behavior, it could be a case of "hubris is followed by nemesis".

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)

    "I hate this stuff," Brading said. "But the distortions of my record that she has put out there have had an impact. You have to fight back, unfortunately, on the same terms."

    Jon Isaacs, executive director of the House Democrats' Future PAC, admits the caucus first learned of the Minnis lawsuit last summer. "It was never in our plan to use this," Isaacs said. "But we're not working in a political environment where we can take the high road all the time."

    OK. That's clear enough. Isaacs and FuturePac have been sitting on this since last summer. Fair enough. Good enough for "Judge" Leslie Roberts, right?

    Brading finally recognizes that negative attack ads, no matter how outrageous, are often effective. Now, he will fight Minnis on "the same terms," which in this race means a Chuck Adams-type sleaze-fest that should make House 49 voters wish independent nutcase Ron McCarty was running in their district instead of Senate 24.

    In the end, now that Brading, Isaacs and FuturePac will finally climb from the high road into the mud pit with Minnis and Adams, they can no longer claim the roll of Minnis Victim.

    • Wes
  • (Show?)

    I can't speak for FuturePAC..but it says they LEARNED about the lawsuit last Summer, not that they were sitting on the information.

    Having spent the better part of the last two years doing research type stuff for blogs, I can speak to the fact that it can sometimes take weeks and even months to develop and understand the research to support something like this.

    Especially on something with legal angles and interpretation, it can take a long time to get someone with the correct expertise to digest and interpret something like this.

    When TJ and I worked together on the Washington Gubernatorial Election contest in January of 2005, it took weeks for us to sift through the information on some of the various allegations, especially those having to do with the legal requirements.

  • (Show?)

    Either it's relevant or it's not, and hanging onto it all summer so it can "hit" with maximum impact is a little too unsavore for me.

    Look, folks, the maximum impact point would have been on the Friday that ballots hit -- not a week late. They went with it as soon as they could get everything vetted and verified.

    Having played a very minor role in this (put up the one-page website), I know that they were burning the midnight oil until the final moments getting reviewed by attorneys. This isn't the kind of thing you sit on. It is, however, the kind of thing you double- and triple-check.

  • (Show?)

    I can't speak for FuturePAC..but it says they LEARNED about the lawsuit last Summer, not that they were sitting on the information.

    And, by the way, this is a ten-year-old case, that went all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court. The casefiles are sitting right there on Google for anyone to find (including, btw, the media - who never once covered it.)

    It's not like it took much sleuthing to get the initial tip. It's putting it all together that takes time.

  • anon (unverified)

    I wonder how many people, including those, ahem, "reporters", at the Oregonian, knew about this and did nothing - either out of fear, or out of bias.

    There had to be quite a few people who have known about this all along and done nothing.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Or because they thought it was irrelevant.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    From the sidelines it is really interesting to watch Minnis have to suck on some of her own medicine.

  • Anon (unverified)

    Minnis made it relevant when she starting dredging up all sorts of false garbage and throwing it at Brading. She wanted to maket this race about anything other than the issues, and she wanted to destroy Rob and his family. I hope you like getting what you wanted, Karen - let's make it personal - on BOTH sides. I have NO sympathy for you, Karen. None. at. all. Karen Minnis is a disgrace to the State of Oregon.

  • LT (unverified)

    Awhile back there was a campaign where the R candidate had been around for awhile and had said things to cameras which didn't look all that great years later.

    So this candidate runs for a legislative office (open seat as I recall) and the Dem. nominee is a real progressive.

    At first, the 2 nominees campaigned as the adults everyone would hope candidates are. But when the R attacked the D, the D responded (TV ads, I think) with that old footage of the R candidate saying things from awhile back which made him sound foolish.

    People I knew thought the R had it coming to him--when he was running a positive issue oriented campaign he sounded intelligent, but the minute he chose to attack instead, the opponent dug up old press conferences or whatever .

    As old fables used to end, "...and the moral of the story is...".

    Minnis could have spoken out about the whole library board controversy. She could have said to the people behind it that any fool could see one member of a library board didn't have more power than the others. But Noooooooooo---she liked seeing her opponent get beat up. There is an old saying "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

    There is a poster I have seen "Don't try to talk yourself out of a situation you behaved yourself into".

    If it is valid to say one member of a library board is responsible for all the decisions of that board and no one else is, then it is valid to look into the background of the Speaker and her husband the policeman.

    If a teacher didn't have documentation of reporting such an incident that teacher could get into a lot of trouble. If Kari found it on Google, that means it wasn't a secret.

  • Behind the Scenes (unverified)

    Lets be clear. Negative campaigning has nothing to do with "who started it." It has everything to do with the polls and whether the campaign thinks it will be effective. Its easy to take the high road to victory, its a lot tougher when it leads to defeat.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    Minnis's behavior and response to an alleged rape attempt by her relative at a business she was connected to is clearly relevant to her fitness to represent us. Karen's character IS relevant. Brading's team, and the DPO, should have led with this information months or even years ago.

    The most ridiculous part of this whole episode is the total lack of investigative reporting displayed by the Oregonian. I may have to start lining my birdcage with something else if they don't start showing some initiative.

  • MH (unverified)

    Brading gains nothing by this and loses a lot--one of the major things Brading had going for him was that he WAS taking the high road. That he was exemplifying the type of debate/campaign that we WANT our elected officials to engage in...thoughtful, intelligent debates about the issues. Even when he attacked Minnis on the issues, it was about the wasn't personal. And people respected Brading and his campaign for that. People told me they were voting for him BECAUSE he was taking the high road and not stooping to the usual dirty games. Now, he's lost that and the respect of a lot of voters. And for what? An attack on Minnis' personal character at the 11th hour that appears as nothing more than retaliation for what she did to him...great. He could have kept attacking her record, talking about what she did/didn't do to represent the voters of Oregon, keeping to the high road for just 12 more days and kept HIS integrity by not stooping to Minnis' level of personal attacks. If he wins, it won't be due to this ad and if the vote is close, it could cost him the election.

    As a voter and a previous Brading volunteer, I don't want Minnis back in the House, but I expected better from Brading. I don't agree with the attack at all, but even if I did, the timing of the attack is politically stupid since no Minnis voter is going to switch to Brading over a 10-year old lack of integrity...hell, Brading's pieces on Minnis voting record prove she's got no integrity. And if they weren't going to vote for Brading before, they certainly won't now. And I know of several votes he's lost cause of this. Brading traded a lot of political/public capital for this ad...more than I think even he realizes...and even if he wins the election, he will have lost a lot of people's respect for him....hope it's worth it.

  • (Show?)

    Over on another thread (where the comment was off-topic), Gary Adamsek wrote:

    If you can prove one illegal act committed by John or Karen Minnis than by all means litter your blog with it. If you can't, will you shut up?

    Since this is the most recent thread on the Minnis topic, I'll address it here.

    Karen and John Minnis may or may not have violated the law. I don't have any idea - and that's up to prosecutors to determine.

    Here's what I do know: The minimum standard for service in the Legislature is NOT "this person hasn't done anything illegal." Rather, the question for voters to whether or not the candidate has the judgment to lead the state, serve the constituents, and make wise decisions.

    Having covered up an alleged sexual assault, Karen Minnis clearly doesn't have the judgment or the wisdom to lead this state.

    <h2>This is a ten year old case. Frankly, the Oregonian (and the rest of our state's media) should be embarassed that once again they failed to report the facts. Let the voters decide.</h2>
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