Exclusive interview, David Wu (part four): Why did so many senior staff leave?

The very first question raised by the press - back in December - remains the hardest one to figure out: As one BlueOregon reader, Nick Bostic, commented - "I don't get why his staff would all bail on him based purely on the things we've heard so far."

In fact, even before we had a chance to ask our first question, Wu dove in with his answer.

WU: Since you mentioned staffers, I think that one of the unstated questions – or maybe stated questions – is: Gee, did you lose all your staff? And you know that I didn’t lose all my staff. We did lose a number of them after the election. And there’s probably some myth - “why did so many women leave?” Well, we have a lot of women on staff. Was there a concerted, “You do this or we leave”? And there wasn’t. People made individual decisions for individual reasons. You know we regret – I regret the departure of anybody. But, a bunch of them went on to really, really good things. And you know what some of those are, because you know where they’ve gone. You may not know that Ambassador Rice at the UN, her spokesperson, was my first employee. Our people have gone to good places. And they’re good people. ...

It was a topic that he returned to several times. About eight minutes later, he talked specifically about his chief of staff, Julie Tippens:

WU: We work very hard on minimizing staff turnover, which is why I took this as such a strong wakeup call. Because we have way below the congressional average for staff turnover. I think some of these people left for jobs that were kind of like their ideal. I was thinking about this earlier today because someone asked. I can think of only two people who left our office for other congressional offices. One person was our legislative director - who is normally thought of as the #2 in the office. And he left to be the chief of staff somewhere else. Julie Tippens is the only other person I can think of, and she left our office to work for Colleen Hanabusa.

This is two people in twelve years. Two people in twelve years who left our office for another congressional office. Julie Tippens went to Colleen Hanabusa’s office. I think it’s not only Hawaii; I think Julie and Colleen, on some very important issues – you know, I won’t guess for Julie. But one of our staffers taking a vacation in Hawaii and there’s Julie Tippen walking down on the other side of the street. They said hello and so on and so forth. Right now, I wish I could take that job!

And then again, near the end of the interview, he came back to the question again:

WU: And maybe, these four, five, six thousand insiders [BlueOregon readers] – if they knew that there was no en-masse departure, but people left for individual reasons, but that I did contribute to it. Because I could have been a better boss. And that’s what I’m taking responsibility for.


Up next:

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    Not sure why Wu thinks highlighting that they went on to other good gigs is at all helpful to him making his case.

    Such useless hand waving only makes him look worse because it is transparently irrelevant.

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    If I were to talk to the Oregonian it would be with Jeff Mapes. He seems to be motivated only by finding the truth and I think he writes well. However, he writes for the Oregonian and any news article, even by him, follows the standard formula: [Klingon-speech][tiger-suit][staff-intervention][seven-quitters][new-quote]. All this is intended to create a cause and effect link for each item in the story. Whatever one wanted to say would be buried in the Oregonian’s EB agenda. I’m not sure I see any upside for a staffer who knows only their part of the story.

    Kari, do you or Carla know the identity of the informer? Do you have personal relationship with this person and do you know why she is remaining anonymous? And, have you seen the email thread?

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    I’m going to miss Julie Tippens. She was competent, responsive, helpful and friendly. The Congressman and Oregon have lost someone good and we will have to travel to Washington DC to see her again. The others I know have returned to Oregon where we will continue to benefit from their involvement in Oregon politics.

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    The Congressman has clearly stated he is responsible for some of the people leaving. We say we want to know why these people decided to leave but we really seem to be asking what the Congressman could have said to these staffers that made them so angry they would quit. We want the exact words and all the emotion.

    Angry words said to someone close can have barbs targeted at areas of vulnerability. And, like me, I’m sure you can’t recall all the words you said in your last argument. But, that is not enough to satisfy our curiosity. I believe the real question is harassment, an issue that would cause a sea change in opinions. I am absolutely convinced harassment is not the issue.

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      Angry words are one possibility. Harassment is another. But there are many other possibilities.

      Remember: it's been reported that his staff sought to have him hospitalized, and he refused. We don't know why.

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        I think we have only the uncorroborated statement of the anonymous informant for the hospitalization allegation. Do you know if anyone else who agrees with the informant? As the Congressman said, he was dealing with stress and stress-related behavior and the staff would certainly be urging him to get professional advice. I certainly believe that stress should be treated seriously and that home remedies are not recommended.

        I’m having difficulty reconciling the statement of the staffers I know and the Oregonian’s interpretation of the statements of an anonymous informer. We probably both know the informer and we’d benefit from an eye-to-eye interview but I don’t think that will ever happen. The suggestion that there is a conspiracy of silence with the staffers I know is preposterous. Until we have corroborated accounts, the simpler theory of stress-related behavior is likely the correct one.

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          I'd have to go back and re-read the Oregonian's reporting. But my recollection is that they reported the request-for-hospitalization as fact, rather than an allegation. That would imply that they had two independent sources.

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            I'm pretty confident the Oregonian does not have second source. There is very little trust of the Oregonian and any quote will be stuffed into the EB agenda.

            The first step to regain confidence in the Oregonian would be a single report on an issue important to Oregonians without the "Wu is erratic" narrative. Such a report has not happened in seven years but it would certainly be refreshing if it did.

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          I don't find the idea of a mass decision by staffers to generally remain quiet to be preposterous. Politics is a small town. People's careers are at stake. If not everyone is willing to talk on the record, I am unsurprised that none will. Why would one person put themselves out there..all alone..without the rest being willing to stand up and along side them? That's a lot to ask from a group of people who've potentially been harassed/traumatized.

          I don't know that this is the case with Wu's staff, to be clear. But to suggest that somehow the scenario is ridiculous....no.

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