Democrats file complaint against Independent Party of Oregon, question group's 'legitimacy'

Jeff Mapes, Oregonian:

The Democratic Party of Oregon, worried about the potential power of the state's fledgling Independent Party, filed an election-law complaint on Friday charging that the party's nominating process is controlled by a small group of insiders.

The complaint filed with Secretary of State Kate Brown claimed that just three leaders "have almost complete control" of the party, which "calls into question the legitimacy of the entire organization."

Independent Party Chairwoman Linda Williams said the complaint is "pretty baseless" and appears to be a "harassing tool" used by Democrats to crimp the minor party's growth.

Barry Pack, the deputy secretary of state, said a complaint of this kind is unusual and that it will take officials a few days before they decide whether it merits an investigation.

The Independent Party has new cachet this year because of a 2009 law allowing candidates to list more than one party nomination next to their names on the ballot.

As many as 60 candidates, including Democratic gubernatorial nominee John Kitzhaber, have expressed interest in the Independent Party nomination, thinking that adding the "Independent" label to their names on the ballot would appeal to voters alienated from the major political parties. Many voters who are unaffiliated call themselves independent, but have no connection to the Independent Party.

Independent Party leaders had hoped to boost their party's profile this year by raising money to hold an Internet-based primary open to the party's 54,600 registered voters.

But last week, Brown sent a "cease-and-desist" letter to the Independent Party warning that it was in danger of breaking the law because of the way it was soliciting donations from candidates seeking the Independent nomination. State law forbids offering such things as a party nomination in exchange for money.

Williams said she and other Independent leaders have not yet decided on a backup plan for nominating candidates. The state's other minor parties, such as the Libertarians and the Pacific Greens, typically hold nominating conventions open to any voter registered in their party.

Read the full article here. Discuss below.

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    Ironically, if the Democratic legislature had simply signed off on true fusion (instead of the fusion lite we now have); Democrats wouldn't be worried about candidates on GOP lines being able to have "Independent" attached to their ballot line; the IPO would have its own line further down the ballot. But nooo, they had to go just half a loaf on that one.

    Dems sure sound paranoid here. They didn't apparently learn anything from the debacle over protecting against indy campaigns like Ben Westlund's...

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    The DPO is getting bludgeoned from a variety of corners, but the concern in the complaint is legit. Take a look at the Independent Party website - they've blatantly told the public that if they can't put on a Convention, a 5 member board will make nomination decisions.

    The DPO is rightly questioning if the proposed IPO process is proper, and the only way this question can be answered and the situation addressed is by formally asking the SOS to take a look... and this has to come in the form of a "complaint".

    Ironically, that 5 member board would more likely make nominating decisions that favor the Dems than would the membership of the 54k member IPO. So the Dem complaint, while rightly calling out a process that may be questionable, is not a strategic tool that works in the favor of Dem candidates.

    IPO leaders have painted themselves as victims of Dem bullying, but this diverts focus from the real question at hand: IS IPO leadership truly representing the will of the rank and file IPO Party members?

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    Carla - Respectfully, you should refrain from commenting on matters about which you clearly have no knowledge.

    The Independent Party is committed to holding an election of all of its members -- not a convention -- an election involving all members. This is the most open, inclusive, and transparent process available to any party. If we cannot raise sufficient funds, the party will either nominate by convention or by a nominating caucus.

    But we will raise the funds. I will personally borrow the money to pay for the election rather than let anyone destroy our process.

    I am not at all surprised that the DPO is pushing against our efforts.

    The DPO was largely responsible for the reforms that led to the creation of the IPO when they successfuly lobbied the legislature in 2005 to make it more difficult for non-affiliated candidates to run for public office and to remove the word "Independent" from the ballot.

    The DPO, whose main operations and budget are controlled by a paid staffer and a handful of people elected by less than a few hundred Democrats, have consistently opposed the Independent Party's efforts to increase citizen participation and reduce special interest influence in government.

    And the only public contributions I've seen by the DPO (as opposed to the county organizations) in recent months has been to play the role of hatchet man and designated vehicle for negative attacks in campaigns.

    I do not believe that these actions are endorsed or supported by the party's general membership. Most of them are totally ignorant of the party's anti-democratic activities, and if recent polling is accurate most Democrats are as fed up with partisan attack politics as I am.

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    I was waiting for you to chime in, Sal. The information is directly from your website, to wit:

    "The IPO may hold a primary election in July, if it can raise sufficient funds to mail to its 54,000+ members and cover the other costs of an election. If the IPO does not conduct the primary election, its nominees will be chosen either by the 5-person IPO Caucus previously elected by the IPO membership."(sic)

    It's this reading that causes concern, and what you describe here is significantly different from what has been published.

    While I realize that there are pre-existing issues between you and the DPO, and a clearly deepening chasm, the issue I am focusing on is the process of nomination. The muddying of the waters w/ various complaints regarding DPO operations doesn't address the specific concern.

    Admittedly, Democrats and the GOP have it relatively easy - as the 2 major Parties, the nomination process is a completely open and transparent process conducted by SOS/County Elections; simply put: in the primaries, the Party voters decide their candidates. Clearly, the smaller Parties have to do significant legwork to assure a transparent, open process. By no means do I assume its an easy task.

    By the same token, I don't begrudge the DPO acting as a whistle blower in this instance. The posting on your own website does give cause for concern.

    Finally, the DPO only asked the question if the IPO nomination process would be sufficient. With the new, quasi-fusion voting law, nomination processes of all parties become a concern for all Parties. This is new territory for Oregon politics, and questions should be asked and concerns addressed. It is not the DPO that will be making any decisions; it's the Oregon Secretary of State.

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    KC, here's what the front page of our web site says (and said prior to you making this comment):

    The IPO may hold a primary election in July, if it can raise sufficient funds to mail to its 54,000+ members and cover the other costs of an election. If the IPO does not conduct the primary election, its nominees will be chosen either by the 5-person IPO Caucus or by a membership convention this summer.

    As I have previously described, the tiny cabal that manages dy-to-day operations at the DPO has a well-documented track record of hostility toward non-affiliated voters and candidates, minor political parties, and reforms that would increase citizen participation in our elections.

    There is nothing unreasonable about placing this latest bogus complaint and false concerns into that broader historical context.

    I'll be happy to continue having this debate with anyone who cares to have it, but I don't think it benefits the legion of Democratic candidates who do not share the anti-democratic views of people like Trent.

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    Sal, I’ve known Trent for many years and I have come to know him to be a person of good judgment, good character and worthy of trust.

    This issue can be discussed without the animosity and we will all be better for a thorough airing of the issue based on merits and not old grievances.

    Fusion voting makes the issue of party nominations a problem for all of us. It is especially true of the use of the word “independent” which is laden with historical meaning. And, those of us going door-to-door know firsthand the confusion of this word in the voter’s minds. Allowing 5 people to influence the wording on a ballot is a huge worry for me and it should be for you, even if you are one of the 5. You could make this issue go away by striking this option from your public strategy and by stopping talk about it in your private strategy meetings.

    I’m going to predict that an Internet vote will be virtually impossible to implement and certify. However, I will watch with at least as much interest as the hackers.

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