OR-4: Pollsters call Sid Leiken's alleged poll "suspicious" and "impossible"

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Last week, Springfield mayor and OR-4 congressional candidate Sid Leiken tearfully admitted making an "error in judgment" in the reporting of a campaign finance transaction. After initially reporting a $2000 payment to SWL Consulting, which would be illegal since he owns the firm; he then claimed it was a reimbursement for a $2000 cash payment (twenties or hundreds? I don't know...) to P&G Marketing - a firm controlled by his mother, but not registered to do business in Oregon.

And what did he buy for $2000? A poll on the local gas tax measure, he claims. As I wrote a month ago, it seems highly improbable that his mother actually conducted a legitimate poll for $2000. And while there's no law against hiring a really incompetent pollster, there are questions about whether this poll actually happened.

Now, at the Register-Guard, David Steves has done some digging of his own - including interviewing some actual pollsters. The crux of the issue? Glenda Leiken's claim that she made 268 phone calls - and got 200 people to actually answer the phone, listen to a 120-word statement about fuel taxes, and then answer three questions. From the R-G:

Five pollsters and experts on public opinion survey methods were interviewed by The Register-Guard this week about the likelihood that a survey could have been conducted as described in the P&G memo.

All five — none of them involved in Springfield electoral politics or the 4th Congressional District race — expressed skepticism about the claimed “response rate.”

“That’s very suspicious. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in it,” said Portland-based pollster Mike Riley. [FYI, that's Republican pollster Mike Riley. -kari.]

“That’s impossible,” said Steve Johnson, a Eugene-based pollster and public opinion consultant. “If I wanted to talk to 200 people in Springfield, I would expect that I would have to make 2,000 phone calls to do that. So that can’t be done.”

“I can’t see calling random people and having that high a success rate,” said Eugene’s Bob Choquette, a polling expert and former head of the University of Oregon’s now-defunct Oregon Survey Research Center.

Polling experts based their skepticism of P&G’s claim on the high number of calls in a typical telephone poll that never reach a live person — let alone someone willing to answer market research questions.

Johnson said nonworking numbers, busy signals, answering machines and calls that go unanswered force polling firms to call at least two times and more likely 10 times the volume of phone numbers they have listed when conducting surveys.

“It’s never less than 50 percent that you don’t get an answer when you call,” he said. “And then you get refusals on top of that.”

Mayor Leiken, of course, is refusing to explain anything about this:

“I cannot explain the response rate,” he said. “As far as I know the survey was done."

Looks to me like he's getting ready to throw his mom under the bus. Hey, I paid for a poll, he seems to be saying, it's not my fault if I got ripped off... Whatever happened to "the buck stops here"?

Meanwhile, no one is yet digging into another key issue that I raised last month:

Sid Leiken claims that he "periodically commissions polls on city issues". But there's not a drop of evidence in any of his campaign finance reports - in ORESTAR and pre-ORESTAR - that he's ever paid for any polling with campaign funds before.

So, did he fail to report those expenditures? Was he doing polling with non-campaign funds (perhaps city funds)? Or was his claim of past polls entirely bogus?

It's got to be one of those three options. And none of 'em will smell very nice.

Finally, an item that's likely of interest only to us political hacks: Local GOP consultant Rick Thomas - former chief of staff to the Senate Republicans - has washed his hands of the Leiken for Congress campaign. From the R-G:

On Monday, Leiken’s informal and unpaid campaign adviser, consultant Rick Thomas, told the mayor his other work demands meant he could not continue to help Leiken with his congressional bid.

How soon before Leiken drops out entirely?

  • (Show?)

    Rick Thomas has integrity and good political sense. It's very telling he let Sid go. Thanks Rick!

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)

    Stacey, you resigned your post at the Treasurer's office? Why? What will Ben do without you?

  • (Show?)

    Scott- I did give notice, it's off topic so I will just refer you to my facebook note

  • JJ (unverified)

    So Sid is toast...I'm not surprised, he never had a snowball's chance in hell (IMO). My question for the left is..are there any GOP candidates in this state that you think have a chance at a congressional seat, outside of Walden's district of course? Just personal curiosity...

  • JHL (unverified)

    Question: Does the C&E listing of $2000 for a 200-response poll mean that the company has to provide that service for the same price for ANYONE who asks for it? Because if it was a discount for Leiken, I imagine that he would either have: 1. Had to report the in-kind contribution as well, or 2. Accepted a gift (in this case a discount) in violation of ethics rules.

    Just a simple musing. I'm not sure what the actual rules are, so I may be wrong.

  • steve (unverified)

    My question for the left is..are there any GOP candidates in this state that you think have a chance at a congressional seat, outside of Walden's district of course?

    Not likely. Any serious challenge to a sitting Dem would probably come from an independent, in the general election. The Republican brand is simply too toxic outside of low-income rural areas.

  • fbear (unverified)

    What I don't understand is, why would Leiken do this for a measly two grand?


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