Merkley Staffer Lies About Identity at Novick HQ, Gets Caught

HayesingrahamFrom WWeek:

On Friday, March 14, a young man named “Cole Stewart” showed up at Democratic opponent Steve Novick’s campaign headquarters saying he was a Reed College student who wanted to help Novick raise money.

Trouble is, Reed College officials say they have no student by the name of “Cole Stewart,” nor “Cole Stuart” for that matter.

But “Cole” looked familiar, according to Novick staffers Andrew Gorry, Henry Kraemer and Seth Moore. Soon they realized they’d seen “Cole” before – as Hayes Ingraham, a Reed graduate who is a paid Merkley staffer. [Ingraham is pictured in the above photo on the left at a Merkley event in December.]

Rather than be annoyed, the Novick campaign is bemused. “This might be the place where I beat my chest and demand apologies,” says Jake Weigler, Novick’s spokesman. “But it just seems silly."

And Blue Oregon makes an appearance as the inspiration for WW's headline:

Back in January, you may recall, Eugene’s Register-Guard reported on a staffer with the National Republican Senatorial Committee who used a fake name in order to snoop on the campaign of Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley, who’s running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

Blue Oregon, predictably outraged by the Republican invasion, riffed on the scandal with a headline that screamed: “Busted! GOP tracker lies about identity, gets caught.” [Which inspired our own headline above.]

Read the rest here.


  • Harry (unverified)

    The embarrassment! The shame!! The hypocrisy!!!

    I can't believe that the Senate candidate did not demand his resignation. Is that the ethical standards that he wants to bring to the US Senate?

  • (Show?)

    The problem, as I'd noted in NWRepublican when they showed a picture of a Wyden "tracker", was not that a young college-age GOP staffer got caught in a minor impropriety. The problem was the GOP's response to it: excuses, further lies, and setting up the Wyden staffer (who'd properly identified himself) by giving him a press badge and then taking a photo of him and falsely accusing him of pretending to be a member of the press.

    All I'm expecting out of Jeff Merkley's office is something similar to Rep. David Edward's response when his staffer got caught sending an email under false pretenses: 1) acknowledge it, 2) say the staffer has been reprimanded, and 3) say it won't happen again.

  • (Show?)

    Jake was very gracious, especially considering the magnitude of the attempted espionage. Grace has been a commodity in short supply in that campaign.

    As for it not happening again, as Wweek pointed out, that's basically impossible unless he invests in a disguise of some kind.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Could it be that Chuck Schumer is having some direct or indirect input into Merkley's campaign?

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Isn't this the point where Preemptive Kevin chimes in to tell us all how this episode actually proves Merkley is the best candidate, and then tries to link Novick to COMMUNISM?

  • petrichor (unverified)

    jake is right... this is just silly, i'm glad the novick campaign is not making a big deal out of it.

    however, since we're on the subject, quoting words of wisdom from prolific blue oregon writer "in the news":

    "The problem isn't the 'tracking' activity - it's the lying."

    and then there was one of merkley's many spokesmen, russ kelley:

    "But there’s an honest way to do it, and there’s a dishonest way to do it. You find out where they are through public notices and things like that. You don’t call and misrepresent yourself"

    and preemptive kevin said in response to that:

    "I'm not surprised that Russ Kelley would phrase it that way. Jon Isaacs, his boss, told me that everyone on that campaign had to read and sign a very stringent ethics policy and that violaters would be fired. In other words, the Merkley campaign places a very high premium on honesty and ethics."

    and just for good measure, there was bdunn:

    "He later told us that he was president of the Clackamas CC College Democrats what scum. "

    i'm sure they'll weigh in on this sooner or later.

  • I feel bad for Kari (unverified)

    Aren't any of you deluded Novick-worshipper/Kari-haters going to give him any credit for posting this? Since her gets slammed for every "in the news" article that is pro-Merkley, it only seems fair.

  • (Show?)

    credit for finally doing once what they claimed to have been ready to do all along?

    Marc Seigel and the DPO were almost as adamant as isaacs about how Oregon Democrats should comport themselves in this area. Has anyone asked DPO to comment on this news item?

  • (Show?)

    We have no idea who posted this, or what ties to which campaign they may have. Let me take this opportunity, now that the shoe is on the other foot, to once again suggest that "in the news" items not be anonymous.

  • (Show?)

    Actually, petrichor, I really hope Hayes Ingraham isn't fired. That seems a bit much. Again, I think David Edwards leads the way in terms of response. He phoned his opponent, Edwards Currey, and asked him what he wanted done to the aide. Mr. Currey said it was no big deal.

    (Later Mr. Currey changed his mind and made a big stink to the press over it, even getting the Oregonian to change their endorsement, but I would never accuse Steve of having Republican ethics like that.)

  • (Show?)

    We have no idea who posted this, or what ties to which campaign they may have. Let me take this opportunity, now that the shoe is on the other foot, to once again suggest that "in the news" items not be anonymous.

    Once again, the reason we keep "in the news" anonymous is so that the discussion is about the story -- not speculations as to the motives of who posted it.

    That said, we're in the midst of the final work on BlueOregon 2.0 - and we're substantially rethinking how we handle news coverage.

  • petrichor (unverified)


    i don't want anyone to get fired either.

    I feel bad for Kari,

    "Kari-haters"? i can't speak for anyone but myself, but not only do i categorically not hate kari chisholm, i don't even know him. what i do find distasteful is how on the topic of the novick/merkley race this blog has:

    1) largely adopted a style of attack politics that seeks to manufacture controversy where none exists which, imho, reflects

    2) the larger strategy of the merkley campaign to distract from and blur the issues rather than inform, debate and persuade.

    i think that is a bad sign for the health of the online progressive community in oregon*. is our goal just to win, or is our goal to win while advancing a positive progressive agenda? if the goal is the latter, the way to do that is not to engage in trite attack politics.

    now, before people jump on me here, of course it is obvious that i think steve novick has the best chance to help us bring about progressive change, but that is not my point. many people believe merkley has the best chance, and though i strongly disagree, that is fine. however, we are not having that debate, and because we aren't having that debate we aren't using that debate to advance our progressive agenda. that is the sad part.

    • i have become seriously doubtful that BO can be the home to oregon's online progressive community. oregon's online democratic party community? sure. progressive community? no, i just don't see it.
  • (Show?)

    Opposition research isn't new, yet there is a continuum of acceptability.

    Somewhere between Nixon's plumbers and any of us signing up for an extra email list is Hayes Ingram.

    I don't know if he was asked to do this, or if he free-lanced. I do know, either way, it's not smart for staff to do in-person stunts like this. There are a lot of eyes and ears in this town. And we all love to chat about what we know and who we know.

    As they say, this ain't beanbag.

    As they say, welcome to the fishbowl.

    This young man may well grow-up to be a great campaigner, but only if he takes this lesson in risk-assessment, self-preservation and humility to heart.

    Take care, Hayes.

  • (Show?)

    Is the guy in the photo Hayes Ingraham? The photo has been cropped - I thought the other guy in the original photo (the one standing at the table) was the miscreant.

  • (Show?)

    No, Stephanie. That's why I cropped it. The other guy was getting a lot of flak.

    Per WW: [Ingraham is pictured in the above photo on the left at a Merkley event in December.]

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)

    I thought the Novick campaign's response was just right. Predictably, some commenters have gone off the deep end, finding perfidy and evil in the "other" camp over what may be just a case of "silly" over-exuberance. Whether BO or any other site can be "home" to a particular slant is always gonna be a fluid concept. I visit because the topics are often interesting, at least till the comments start getting pissy.

    The more we keep this civil, refrain from name-calling and motive-impugning, the more "progressive" BO will be. If someone is attacked, I'll respect them more if they defend persuasively without retaliating in kind.

  • (Show?)

    well, it has to be considered that whatever the actual weight of the offense, the Merkley campaign declared it a firing offense when the GOP incident occurred...and now they appear to be reneging on that standard.

  • nic (unverified)

    After being outed Jack Bauer ran from the Novick campaign office amid Serbian sniper fire. His bullet proof vest his only protection, when out of the corner of his eye he sees a little girl holding flowers. He must stop, risk his life to speak to little flower girl.

    Also, get a freakin life. This thread is reporting on a story WWeek did, who cares who started the thread it is a WWeek story!!!

  • "Cole" (unverified)

    That is quite the fake name. He has a twin brother whose name is Cole. Stewart probably comes from Jon Stewart. Thus we have Cole Stewart. I decided on Merkley after I saw Novick's comments on Obama, but this kind of stupid stuff has plagued Merkley's campaign. They better get their act together.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    LOL @ Pat Malach's comment

  • James X. (unverified)

    OK, Stephanie V. is talking about the "magnitude of the espionage," and TJ and Portlandia have thrown around the "espionage" charge, too. What exactly happened? Politicker says he asked for a bumper sticker and remit form, while the WW article says it was a more vague "wanted to help Novick raise money."

  • (Show?)

    (fyi, James X, Portlandia is me. So that's just TJ and me, not three people.)

    My reaction was based upon the WW story's content. To attempt to obtain access to the levers of fundraising seems to me to fall squarely into espionage territory. Whether the mission was information gathering or sabotage -- or both -- hardly matters.

    If all he wanted was a bumpersticker and a remit, he didn't have to make up a fake identity and cover story. The Politicker version of the story doesn't add up.

  • Daniel Spiro (unverified)

    Let me take this opportunity to say that (a) Steve Novick is one of the two most talented politicians I know of (the other is Barack Obama), but (b) just because I think that doesn't mean I dislike or disrespect Merkley. Some have done sleazy things on Merkley's behalf, but that doesn't make Merkley sleazy any more than Novick is made sleazy when his supporters err.

    Please vote FOR Novick, not Merkley. But please, please, PLEASE do not vote against Merkley. The Democratic Party must be unified in Oregon, and nationally.

  • LT (unverified)

    OK, some people may not like me for this comment, however....So someone got caught doing a juvenile stunt. Big Deal.

    I will vote for the person I think has run the best campaign, but I will tell you this:

    Just got an email from the Novick campaign--a fundraisng appeal with this "Do you believe that we can win these battles with the same old politics as usual? Or do you know that we need a principled, progressive fighter in the U.S. Senate?" AND a quote from Gandhi, signed by Jake and saying he has been asked why he would leave a good job to manage the Novick campaign.

    He says it is a campaign of a candidate with "intellect, passion, and determination".

    So, if I don't see it that way, is there something wrong with me or could the campaign possibly have made misjudgements?

    I would have been really impressed with the email about Steve endorsing the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq---if that had been the only subject of the email.

    Choosing to put the beer and the "pants on fire" items in the same email struck me as a sign of poor judgement on someone's part. Call me a nitpicker, call me a Merkleyite, but how do I know the Novick campaign wouldn't make a stupid mistake like that in the general election? (As I believe Bruggere did in 1996, which is how we ended up with Gordon Smith to begin with.)

    Just as I started out feeling equally about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I have never signed on to either US Senate campaign. But in Hillary's case, as with Steve's case, I see campaigns run poorly. Calling me names won't get my vote. Impressive performance (something that impresses me, not those like TJ and Stephanie) might get my vote.

    Question is, does the Novick campaign want the votes of anyone who think he is less than the perfect candidate?

  • James X. (unverified)

    Thanks for the correction, Stephanie.

  • (Show?)

    LT, I think Steve is a less than perfect candidate.

    You can ask him!

    I have disagreed with him vigorously on any number of occasions during this primary campaign. When I do, I feel a duty as his friend to communicate that to him. I try to be respectful, but I think you know I can be blunt. %^>

    I disagree with him on issues. I am annoyed with him for some of the ammunition he has provided to his detractors. He's far from perfect.

    I still think he's way better than Merkley. He's brilliant, clever, hardworking, fiercely progressive, dedicated to the mission of using public policy in every possible way to improve the wellbeing of ordinary working people, and would be a great Senator.

    I know he would be honored to have your vote, should you choose to bestow it, for your own reasons.

  • LT (unverified)

    Stephanie, as a friend of Steve, maybe you can have a talk with him.

    All past feelings aside, I was all prepared to give Steve the benefit of the doubt when I saw the email about the endorsement of the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq---until I saw the rest of the email. If the campaign is run by such juveniles it never dawned on them such a mixture might offend people, the candidate who employs those campaign workers doesn't want my vote. They may have been sloppy, they might not have realized the reaction it would get, whatever. Just as someone who doesn't drink beer doesn't have to think Left Hook Lager is anything other than a fundraising gimmick, no voter in a free country is required to be impressed by any campaign action including an email.

    Tell Steve there is a lot on the line in the Portland City Club debate. It does not matter what the DSCC did--at least not to the general population. It matters if there is a candidate who can win over ordinary folks----not the folks who are charmed by Steve's often acerbic remarks. Can Steve be serious, or will he just feature more acerbic remarks in that debate?

    Ask Steve to his face what he learned from the Bruggere defeat in 1996. Ask him if that email with the serious and juvenile parts in one email was OKed by him before it was sent.

    You gave a good reason to vote for Steve, but it is a little late now given what has gone on in this campaign. You and TJ and the rest of the Novick bloggers need to say you support Steve for a variety of reasons, not verbally attack anyone who doesn't say Steve is the greatest candidate ever!

    I am not that impressed with the quality of the US Senate campaign this time around (it had potential to be a great campaign until the infighting started). I am hoping our Congressional campaign will be more intelligent (2 impressive men I have known for quite awhile.)

    The concept which has been floated here by Novick supporters that there are no undecided voters on this blog (going back in some cases to the days of Stand Strong with Steve vs. Have a Tap with Tester) has not helped Steve's campaign any.

    I am not inclined to vote for a candidate endorsed by Les AuCoin unless there are a number of other reasons to do so--because of the 1992 US Senate primary. Kitzhaber's endorsement alone is not enough.

    Steve might be the greatest candidate ever, but you couldn't prove it by me. Too often he had the chance to be the serious candidate his experience and intelligence prepared him to be. But instead, we were supposed to think the beer commercial was great because it got national attention, and so no one was supposed to question it.

    Vote for Steve because he will tell you how to think? That is the message some people here have been sending.

    I AM an undecided voter, but there are a number of reasons (not the least of which include the frivilous, like the beer, to the serious ---NO, I DO NOT think the 2003 resolution should be the most important issue this year) which make me think the Speaker would be a better candidate, having already won more than one election, and having given a speech to a bipartisan crowd before he was Speaker which was a lot more impressive than the one speech I have heard Steve give.

    You may not like that attitude, but that's tough. Steve should make a a serious ad (maybe out of the poverty video). If he has another clever but not serious ad (like opening the beer), he will have lost my vote because that would tell me he has no clue about what actually wins elections. When I said here that a friend called me up and was impressed with what I had written---and did not like those attacking me---someone here said they did not believe it happened, and why didn't that person blog themselves?

    Catch a clue---there will be people voting in the Democratic primary who have never blogged. Does Steve's campaign want those votes?

    But don't try the peer pressure number on me. That was one of the big mistakes of the 1996 Bruggere general election campaign---that all good Democrats owed the nominee their vote even if he never answered their questions.

    I registered NAV after that primary, just so if someone told me my duty as a good Democrat, I could say "sorry, I'm NAV now".

    I don't think some people here realize there are lots of voters who will make up their own minds, using their own criteria, thank you very much!

  • Shane (unverified)

    That photo actually looks a lot like Cole...

  • (Show?)

    Thanks Blue Oregon for posting an item on this - big kudos.

    I hope that after this incident we can stop talking about campaign staffers and the stuff they've done. Both sides have had someone screw up. They were reprimanded.

    Can we now stay on the topic of the candidates' differences on the issues, differences on how they'd handle certain votes, etc., and not this "but his staffer did..." stuff?

    Yes, Merkley and Novick are running against each other, so obviously we need to discuss their differences. But both candidates are good Dems, and both would be 100 times better of a U.S. Senator than Gordon Smith. I'd vote for either in November without hesitation, but right now my choice is Novick.

  • LT (unverified)

    " But both candidates are good Dems, and both would be 100 times better of a U.S. Senator than Gordon Smith. I'd vote for either in November without hesitation, but right now my choice is Novick."

    Thanks, Jenni. That's the approach which will help Steve.

    But please be aware that if someone agrees with Jeff on some issues and Steve on other issues, it may come down to something like debate performance, how individuals view ads, etc.

  • inthestreets (unverified)

    Nobody cares. Seriously.

  • (Show?)


    Definitely. It can also include hearing the candidates in person, comments from friends that they respect in regards to the candidates, etc.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks, Jenni.

    And for all of those who bash Kari, I just found this while looking for something else:

    That's right: A competitive primary election, while expensive, will make it more likely that we'll beat Gordon Smith.

    Either one of two things will happen: Either somebody will have out-communicated and out-debated Steve Novick (a tall order)... or Steve Novick will have beat that somebody else. Either way, we'll get a better candidate, a better campaign organization, and buckets of earned media. Oregonians will spend months exploring the question "Who should replace Gordon Smith?"

  • Ross (unverified)

    Interesting article. I'm not sure it was as innocent as all that. In any case, it doesn't effect my vote any.

    I really liked all three candidates I've heard so far including both Novick and Merkley, the other was Frohnmeyer who is running as an independent. I came out of hearing them all back to back thinking that in the primary I will vote for Novick, but not because Merkley was bad, just because I thought Steve came off as a more real. Merkley has the air of a professional politician. His achievements are many and they are great, but he came off a bit stuffy and didn't seem to know his audience very well. Novick also has a great background but I found his presentation as more genuine. I came away thinking that he'll actually stand up and resist the pressures that prevent people from voting for what's right. Merkley came off as more of someone who is willing to go along to get along. I feel that we just need someone who will buck the traditional way of doing things.

    That being said, I think both of these candidates are exceptional and would make great Senators. I'm also not so tuned in to local politics yet as I've just moved here a year ago. I haven't seen many political ads for either of the candidates, or visited either of their websites. I've read a little here and there, but that's been my engagement so far. Really, I'm still very open to hearing more, but for now, if I were to vote today, I'd mark Novick's name.

  • (Show?)


    your instincts are good. Thanks for your expression of confidence in Steve. I believe you are correct about him.

  • Miles (unverified)

    I AM an undecided voter

    No, LT, you are not an undecided voter, as the rest of your sentence illustrates:

    , but there are a number of reasons (not the least of which include the frivilous, like the beer, to the serious ---NO, I DO NOT think the 2003 resolution should be the most important issue this year) which make me think the Speaker would be a better candidate

    I wish you would stop with the facade and just say "I support Merkley." Every day you attack Novick's campaign strategy, his tactics, his demeanor, and his supporters. I have never seen you turn that spotlight on Merkley.

    As for substance, the irony of your attacks on Novick is that you are opposing him based on beer ads and flip emails. There is a lot of substance behind Novick's campaign, and many of us have commented on it repeatedly. You are choosing to ignore the substance and focus your ire instead on the "fun" part of his campaign -- the part that may actually bring some new, young voters into the party (which will help ALL progressives). You have said in the past you support the Bus Project. One of the Bus Project's goals is to make politics fun, and that's what Novick is trying to do.

    Please, LT, make your case for Merkley and stop attacking Novick.

  • LT (unverified)

    Miles, thank you for making my mind up. You are the last straw. I WAS undecided until I read your comment. If there was a place in Salem to get a Merkley bumper sticker, your column would inspire me to put one on my car.

  • the real LT (unverified)


  • (Show?)

    "I don't think some people here realize there are lots of voters who will make up their own minds, using their own criteria, thank you very much!"

    I think most realize there's at least one voter who will use criteria no one else does, or even would contemplate--because they are generally beyond rational contemplation.


    Would you like me to mail you a Merkley sticker, LT? Seriously? At least then we can halt the charade.

  • Ludger (unverified)

    Nobody cares. Seriously.

    <h2>Best comment ever.</h2>
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