Did Gordon Smith violate Senate ethics rules?

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon has filed a complaint with the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee alleging a serious breach of Senate ethics rules by Senator Gordon Smith. They allege that Senator Smith used federal government resources to tape a political message for Oregon Right to Life.

Obviously, this is an explosive story - and BlueOregon's post a week ago featuring the video is part of the story. As a result, we're bringing you their press release in full (with relevant hyperlinks added) - along with the accompanying materials:

Gordon Smith Violates Senate Ethics Rules; NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Files Complaint

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics yesterday, alleging that Gordon Smith violated Senate Ethics Rules when he filmed a promotional video on behalf of Oregon Right to Life in 2004.

“We were not looking for this. We happened upon it,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Executive Director Michele Stranger Hunter. “As a grassroots advocacy organization, we knew we could not remain silent. Oregonians need to know who the real Gordon Smith is.”

NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon came across the 2004 video on Oregon Right to Life’s myspace page in September. The video demonstrates Smith’s commitment to anti-choice organizations and was shown at the NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Annual Choice Celebration Gala in October. Since then, it has been posted on youtube and been featured on BlueOregon.com.

“Once it made the rounds on the internet and we began to get feedback from outraged Oregonians, we started investigating exactly where the video came from,” said Stranger Hunter. “It became apparent relatively quickly that Gordon Smith filmed his testimonial for Oregon Right to Life on U.S. Senate property and there he is, talking about the importance of Oregon Right to Life’s political action committee.”

The U.S Senate Handbook and the Senate Ethics Rules both clearly prohibit the use of Senate space for any political activity. The Ethics Rules also include a prohibition on using the space for any promotional purpose. Complaints regarding violations of the Senate Rules are submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

“We knew there was a problem with this video and we took action,” said Stranger Hunter. “It is imperative that U.S. Senators be held to the highest standards of ethics and responsibility. Smith disregarded these standards by engaging in the misuse of Senate property when he filmed this video for the benefit of Oregon Right to Life.”

Watch the full video - or just the Smith excerpts here. Read the entire ethics complaint.

Here's two accompanying video screenshots. The shot of Senator Gordon Smith is from the political Right to Life video. The shot of Senator Ron Wyden is from a video produced for "We The People", a high school civics program. Both videos appear to have been filmed in the U.S. Senate recording studios.




  • backbeat (unverified)

    If Gordo is willing to pollute veggies with human crap, nothing should come as a surprise.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    You know, the rabid anti Smith campaign here on BO has got to be turning some people off. Really, just WHO is dropping to Roviqan lows at this point? There is simply enough of his political views, votes and stands upon which to support a challenger w/out diving (literally) into the muck.

    I notice that BO has not been so quick to report on Darcy Burner's Faux Pas regarding over stating her college degree. In two separate telivised debates she touted a Harvard degree in Economics. Wrong - she took 5 classes in econ. that no more makes her an economist than my 5 clases in sociology/psychology make me a social scientist.

  • (Show?)

    Kurt is both wrong and right. This sure looks like a clear ethics violation by Smith--but "serious" and "explosive"? Let's get off the hyperbole train for a moment. Having someone totally renovate your house in exchange for political favors? Now THAT's serious, even criminal. This is a dumb mistake, something he should be penalized for should he win...but this has about zero chance of impacting the race. Kurt's right that the breathlessness at BO is fairly transparent.

    But he blows it on Burner's degree. She has a degree in Computer Science, with a combined speciality in Economics. Both the guy who wrote the requirements for a CS degree, and Harvard alum Matt Yglesias have forced the Times to backpedal from their mistake. And then there's the little matter of REICHERT falsifying his degree, to turn an Associates into a BA. Whoops.

  • JJ (unverified)

    Not so fast. I'm willing to give Smith the benefit of the doubt on this if you or Smith can tell us under what theory was the Senator allowed to help Oregon Right to Life PAC raise money using taxpayer resources. From the photos, it sure looks to me like Smith and Wyden are in the same room or in front of the same set. Does Kurt or anyone else have an explanation for this?

    NARAL's charge goes to a couple of important issues like --

    -- why would Smith so blatantly violate Senate rules? -- can Smith really be a moderate if he's doing fundraising for such a right-wing organization? -- how does this square with Smith's claim back in 1996, when he ran an ad saying that while he was against abortion rights, he really wouldn't act on it?

    Let's see if the AP, Register-Guard, and the Oregonian ignores this one. Of course, if Smith has a good answer for this, they should drop it, but I hope they are doing their job and asking the questions.

  • (Show?)

    "-- can Smith really be a moderate if he's doing fundraising for such a right-wing organization?"

    That's actually the better question. I frankly don't care too much about Smith abusing ethics rules to cut a video (although it's wrong and he should be penalized), but there are still many Dems out there who believe Smith is a moderate on things that include choice. It would be salutory to Merkley's chances if, from this story, people made the connection between Smith and ORTL.

  • Jack Sullivan (unverified)

    "I frankly don't care too much about Smith abusing ethics rules to cut a video (although it's wrong and he should be penalized)"

    ...said the guy who blogs on the city taxpayer's dime.

  • backbeat (unverified)

    Kurt Chapman is clueless, and has been proven f'ing wrong about Darcy Burner


  • Steve S. (unverified)

    JJ, don't leave the Corvallis GT out of your list of Gordo Groupies we'd like to hear from.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    So how much play does this and "poop" story get? And is there any impact at this late stage? Maybe the biggest downside for Gordo is that he is associated with the people who want to criminalize abortion.

  • (Show?)

    "...said the guy who blogs on the city taxpayer's dime."

    Got any evidence of that, chump? No? Then STFU.

  • JJ (unverified)

    I think I get what torridjoe is saying on the likely ethics violation, but for campaign purposes, I do think this charge is explosive. Even anti-abortion voters don't think congressmen should be using taxpayer money for campaign purposes, even if it is for an anti-abortion purpose. If reported -- a pretty big IF -- this could further depress Smith's numbers with dissatisfied right-wingers. Then there's the pro-choice moderates in Washington County who Smith won in his last tough race (1996). He's busy trying to hypnotize them again with his faux Democrats for Smith.

    Want to offer up any predictions on whether the print media picks up this story?

  • Independent Voter (unverified)

    Just dropped my ballot off: I voted a straight Democratic ticket except for Steve Griffith (know him and like him) and Gordo (never met him, never voted for him). I thought about voting for Nader, but recognize he doesn't stand a snowball's chance.

    BlueOregon was part of the reason I voted for Sen. Smith: you guys spent far too much energy tearing him down instead of building Merkeley up. I also think Oregon needs a Republican Senator in case the Democrats lose control of the Senate, which seems possible if we really are headed for a depression.

  • (Show?)

    I think JJ is right, although if the issue doesn't move beyond Blue Oregon then it doesn't really matter much. But this does cut two ways and both potentially hurt Smith. There most certainly are conservatives out there who would take offense at tax dollars being misused, which Gordo arguably did. And the ORTL angle guts Smith's faux "moderate" dog and pony show.

  • Steve S (unverified)

    Independent Voter-way to bone up on the issues. What part of informed electorate do you not understand?

  • Troll Hunter (unverified)

    "Independent Voter" is a Troll.

    Someone who would have voted for Nader if he had a "snowball's chance," but is voting for Smith, in part, because a progressive blog was too tough on Smith? Rrrrrrright. That's consistent.

    Try to learn how we approach politics before you bring your weak shit onto here, Troll.

  • (Show?)
    <h2>BTW, about the misrepresentation of Darcy Burner by the Seattle Times, adding this earlier column by Matt Stoller makes the whole case clearer than just the follow-up alone.</h2>
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