Tired of GOP Signs on State Highways? Where they come from...

Willamette Week takes an interesting look at why there are always Republican signs along the interstates and state highways in the Willamette Valley. Turns out that it's not a groundswell of authentic support from local farmers.

Rather, it's just another 'astroturf' campaign run by a partisan political operative who gets paid to do the work. Are the farmers truly supporting the candidates whose signs are on their property? Maybe. At least some are doing it for the free booze.

[Former state representative Cliff] Zauner, 72, grew up in Woodburn and has come to know many of the farmers who own land along I-5, and highways 99W and 99E. His legislative district also formerly stretched to Newberg, which helped him build contacts along Yamhill County's busiest roads. The signs Zauner erects along I-205, and highways 224 and 212 in Clackamas County, are the result of a long friendship with one of the area's largest property owners, Terry Emmert. ....

Zauner says he puts up the signs as a service to the conservative movement, not for profit. He rents equipment from State Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) and her husband, then bills the various campaigns for his work at the end of the campaign. ...

He does not pay the farmers for allowing him to put up signs on their property, although he always seeks permission. "If I give them a bottle of whiskey, they appreciate it," Zauner says.

Meanwhile, the Kulongoski campaign met its goal of 1000 lawn signs from the netroots (and 5000 statewide) -- but you can still get one here.


  • Phil Jones (unverified)

    How can we contact Zauner to ask if he needs some extra help?


  • Emil (unverified)

    I get tired of those "Charles E. Lee" signs along I-5

  • Righty (unverified)

    I don't think that your analysis is supported by the facts presented in the article.

    It also shows a lack of class to imply that some of the farmers are being bought off with booze. When I go to someone's house for a visit or if someone has done me a favor I give them a bottle of Owen Roe. Does that make me a fraud or them an alcoholic? Or is it the fact that they like whiskey that you find so distasteful? If that is the case then I recommend you put down the cheap stuff and sip on some 18 year Jameson.

  • VR (unverified)


    Relax. No one was claming they are alcoholic or that they find whiskey distasteful...

    Liberal people drink too...

    You are just trying to pick a fight.

  • (Show?)

    The implication came from the story:

    He does not pay the farmers for allowing him to put up signs on their property, although he always seeks permission. "If I give them a bottle of whiskey, they appreciate it," Zauner says.
  • Joan Mathis (unverified)

    Why, this is outrageous! I thought politics were all done through political groundswell.

    You're making me cynical about politics!!!!!!

    This kind of politics should be made illegal! I am offended. I want to see individuals each pick up a sign and no cooperation between anyone on this pursute. It should be all individuals who come to the campaign and pick up a sign.

    We Democrats never have such organizational conspiracies. It is always been my practice, during my 54 years in Oregon, to pick up a sign myself. I even refuse help in putting it up when it is offered, as that also offends me.

  • demdiva (unverified)

    Please. The Kulongoski campaign has shown an utter and total disregard for counties outside of the Portland Metro area. Many counties in this state don't have a SINGLE ONE. 5000 across the state? Only if 4700 are in the Portland area.

  • LT (unverified)

    Is this the Cliff Zauner who left Salem the last couple weeks of his last session to go fishing?

  • TL (unverified)

    After reading the Cherry farm and this trash piece of work I'll be voting for Saxton for sure now.

  • JHL (unverified)

    VR... when BlueOregon takes a line from the story saying that farmers "appreciate" a gift from Zauner and then re-state is by saying flat out that there's a quid-pro-quo (<a href=http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/260.html

    and possibly illegal) transaction going on... Well, that is trying to pick a fight.

    There have been a few good and interesting things unearthed on BlueOregon this cycle... but also a lot of non-issues couched in spooky-sounding adjectives and veiled accusations.

    The fact that Republicans have an apparatus (and a damn effective one, at that) that works this for them... well, the only thing I find offensive about that is that the Dems don't have one that's just as good.

    Let's get to it!

  • VR (unverified)

    Didn't WW write the story? Why are people bagging on Blue Oregon for commenting on someone else's story?

    Look, I don't care about the signs. The farmers own the land and they can do whatever they want with the signs. No biggie...

    And it is completely fair and OK to bring an old friend a bottle of hooch...

    It just looks like people are trying to bag on Blue Oregon for simply commenting on this thing... I mean - they didn't make up the part about the whiskey...

    I think that Blue Oregon's whole point is that it is not really a "movement" or a "swell" - but more like a few rich landowners who are buddy buddy with a few prominant politicians... Which is nothing surprising, and nothing wrong with that...

    I put a Kulongoski sign up along the highway in front of my spread too. OK, my "spread" is a 15x15 lawn along a residential street... So what? :) I the sign had come with a bottle of something.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    What exactly is the point? How many votes are influenced by seeing a sign either in a front yard or along a highway?

  • JHL (unverified)

    It's not just a sign... it's a tacit endorsement from the landowners -- farmers. And without any Kulo signs up, it looks like an endorsement from farmers and the agricultural community in general.

    In truth, the far bulk of Saxton's support is not going to come from quaint family farms and grassroots... it's going to come from big industry and out-of-state money. So yes, giving off the impression that Saxton's got some old-fashioned farmer support in Oregon does mean something.

    Of course, the story is letting people know that it's not so much their support of Saxton that causes these farmers to put up signs -- it's their relationship to Cliff Zauner, and the fact that he's well-known in that corridor. (As well he should be -- I've met him a few times; he's a very nice guy even though our politics don't quite match up.)

    But you can see why it may be a jump to go from the WW quote of "If I give them a bottle of whiskey, they appreciate it," which doesn't imply undue influence (per ORS 260) and re-state that in the form of "At least some are doing it for the free booze," which conforms exactly to the definition of undue influence.

  • Crackpot (unverified)

    Where's my hooch?

    <h2>You mean I pounded that Saxton sign in my lawn for nothin'? Man, I got screwed on this deal.</h2>
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