Does the Hales campaign's secret OLCV taping fit the character of Portland?

Charlie Burr

Earlier this week, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters concluded that the Charlie Hales campaign secretly taped our confidential endorsement session, leaking it to local media after it failed to win our support. It represents a stunning breach of trust -- and the first time in our 38 year history that a campaign violated our process in such a way.

It's unprecedented and unacceptable. Our organization's process and ability to make good decisions rests entirely on the integrity and good faith of participants.

When confronted, the Hales campaign had this to say to the Portland Business Journal:

Evyn Mitchell, Hales’ campaign manager, said at least 12 people were in the room during the candidate interviews.

That almost makes it sound like it could have been anyone. Or in the words of my Hales-supporting-neighbor, "a non-denial denial."

Later, when talking to the Oregonian, the Hales campaign attempted to muddy the waters about whether it was informed of the ground rules.

Evyn Mitchell, Hales' campaign manager, said it wasn't clear that recordings were prohibited but declined to talk about whether the campaign had taped the interview.

And when talking to Steve Duin later still, the campaign finally admitted to recording the session, characterizing it now as a "misunderstanding."

There was no misunderstanding. Here's an excerpt from the Aug. 2 email (referenced in the article) from OLCV to Mitchell outlining the ground rules:

"As with other aspects of the OLCV endorsement process, this interview is considered confidential."

Here's why it's important: Every campaign is a reflection of the candidate. It's Charlie Hales who ultimately bears responsibility for his operation and its unethical -- and possibly illegal -- actions.

Charlie Hales has made character part of his pitch to be mayor, saying this a few months ago:

“People need to know there’ll never be that terrible day where you open the newspaper and say, ‘Oh no!’ That will not come with me,” Hales says. “People may not always agree with me. Of course that’s the case, if you do anything at all in public. There will never be a day when anyone has a reason to question my integrity.”

As someone who's previously considered voting for Hales -- and who's pretty sympathetic to many of his ideas about urbanism and the built environment -- that day is already here.

People understand that secretly recording and leaking a private interview session falls outside the meaning of the word "confidential." The campaign's ethical lapses -- and blundering response -- create some pretty big questions about Hales' fitness to serve.

In the coming weeks, Portlanders will have to make their own decisions about whether Charlie Hales has the judgment and character to lead the city of Portland.

[Note: I serve as PAC chair for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, an organization dedicated to electing environmental leaders up and down the ballot. In the May primary, we won 15 of our 16 targeted races, including helping Jeff Reardon defeat Mike Schaufler.]

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      You missed "tell the taxing authorities that he's a Washington resident, but tell the voting authorities he's an Oregon resident?" (thereby skipping out on paying all kinds of taxes, including taxes that directly benefited Multnomah County schools?)

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    I could not say it any better than the prior three posters. All well stated.

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    Hales fails, simple as that.

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    Hales moved to Vancouver to live with his wife.

    The bottom line is Hales is qualified to be mayor and he is the only candidate that is.

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      There seem to be a lot of lines at the top and middle that you're skipping over to get to that bottom line.

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    What's in a persons heart and mind is the question. Deceit or integrity is a big character trait

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    Confidentiality, of course, is a two-way agreement. OLCV said that they considered the endorsement session to be confidential, but there is no evidence given here that the Hales campaign agreed to that. If Hales didn't break his word, and if OLCV went ahead with the session without obtaining agreement, then the fault lies with OLCV. That's just Journalism 101, guys -- you can tell me we're off-the-record but until I agree, we're on-the-record and you had best guard your words.

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        I worked for 30 years as a journalist, much of that time in Washington, D.C. I found that competent players didn't rely on implicit assumptions to protect their interests. If OLCV failed to ensure that both sides agreed to the rules, I think they have no one to blame but themselves, and I also think they paint themselves as rank amateurs by complaining so loudly after the fact. That's a long way of saying that OLCV needs to grow up if they're going to play with the adults.

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          Sorry for going piecemeal, but I must add: How does it help OLCV's messaging to focus on a trivial procedural matter like this? How does it advance OLCV's mission? It doesn't, and Mr. Burr's outrage has a negative impact because it focuses on either OLCV's competence or Mr. Hales' campaign ethics rather than on the cause of conservation in Oregon. It's foolish, to a shocking degree!

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              Precisely. If OLCV believes the law was violated, they should pursue it in court, not on BlueOregon. They would look a lot stronger and detract a lot less from their messaging.

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                  I take your point, Evan, and agree that the situations aren't entirely analogous. But the fact remains that competent political operatives ensure that all sides have signed on to the rules. OLCV hasn't shown that the Hales campaign understand and agreed to a taping ban. Failing that showing, OLCV looks weak and unprofessional when they make such a public fuss over the issue. The better response would be to endorse Hales' opponent (done) and make an in-house note for future years that OLCV doesn't trust Hales anymore. Less disruptive of OLCV's reputation and messaging. In light of Mr. Burr's public outrange, OLCV's endorsement of Smith will be seen pretty much as revenge against Hales, wasting its value as a messaging tool in the cause of conservation.

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                    "OLCV hasn't shown that the Hales campaign understand and agreed to a taping ban."

                    Unless OLCV explicitly agreed to have the session taped, then the law bans the taping. I would hope that the Hales campaign understands and agrees to obeying the law.

                    Perhaps the Hales campaign needs to read through ORS 165.540.

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                    I don't think that the exception in section 6 apply, since OLCV wrote that the proceedings were to be considered confidential,

                    165.540 Obtaining contents of communications (1) Except as otherwise provided in ORS 133.724 (Order for interception of communications) or 133.726 (Interception of oral communication without order) or subsections (2) to (7) of this section, a person may not:


                    d) Obtain the whole or any part of a conversation, telecommunication or radio communication from any person, while knowing or having good reason to believe that the conversation, telecommunication or radio communication was initially obtained in a manner prohibited by this section.

                    (6) The prohibitions in subsection (1)(c) of this section do not apply to persons who intercept or attempt to intercept with an unconcealed recording device the oral communications that are part of any of the following proceedings: (a) Public or semipublic meetings such as hearings before governmental or quasi-governmental bodies, trials, press conferences, public speeches, rallies and sporting or other events; (b) Regularly scheduled classes or similar educational activities in public or private institutions; or (c) Private meetings or conferences if all others involved knew or reasonably should have known that the recording was being made.

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      Don't know where you've worked in journalism but I spent 20 years in that business and your contention is decidedly NOT Journalism 101. The minute a source tells you that you're off the record or confidential, you are obligated to honor that and decide whether to proceed or not on that basis. Unfortunately a huge number of new/internet "journalists" have taken neither Journalism 101 nor Basic Ethics.

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    Pretty much echo Kari's comment and add that are stuck between two less than desirable, very flawed candidates to lead this city forward. Wake me up in 2016 please

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      What are Smith's governance-based flaws?

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        did I say "governance-based flaws" talking about either candidate? I think not!

        Both have major characteristic and personality flaws gives me (and many other Portlanders) pause about their ability to manage and lead this city.

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    As a Hales supporter, this doesn't look great but I don't feel like I have all of the facts. I do think that there is a different story here, though, and it is about the OLCV and their endorsement process.

    It could be argued that Smith and Hales have pretty comparable environmental records. The same was true of Burkholder/Stacey. What motivation is causing the OLCV to drive wedges in what should be its own constituency? I really don't get it and don't think it reflects well.

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