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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Are we there yet?

One good reason to vote early is to enable oneself to forget about election politics for a couple of weeks. Campaigns always get tiresome by the end, but this time around in Portland and Oregon, the late-inning proceedings are taking some especially ugly turns.

Take mayoral candidate Tom Potter. He's livid (or at least saying that he's livid) that there's a political action committee with his name on it (Go Potter Go Committee) running around endorsing a candidate in the Fish-Adams City Council contest. Potter has steadfastly avoided picking a horse in that race, and he says it's wrong for the PAC to appropriate his name and then take a stand that he doesn't support.

I agree with him, but I'm not sure what the solution is. Surely he had no objection to the PAC using his name when his own race was the only one the PAC was speaking out on. So it's not the use of his name per se that's the problem. What should the rule be, then? That a PAC with a candidate's name on it can't take stands in other races? Or that it can't take those stands without the named candidate's permission? Potter may be right, but fashioning a remedy implicates some sensitive free-speech issues.

Then there's the guy who's been inserting parody position statements about statewide ballot measures into the Oregon Voter's Pamphlet. For example, under the discussion of Measure 36, which would ban gay marriage, this author, N. Dennis Moore (his or her real name?), has filed -- as the first several statements "in favor" -- some wicked send-ups of the arguments of the measure's backers.

"Marriage is not sacred," he says. "Marriage is for wimps and sissies!"

Oregon public policy should define marriage in accordance with divinely inspired Scripture. Therefore, marriage licenses should be granted only to those persons who have been certified by professional psychiatric examination to be too weak-willed to abstain from sex.

Oh, by the way, although Jesus never said a single word condemning homosexuality, if heterosexuals can't get married, homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry either—well, unless they're too weak-willed to abstain. Sissies!

The sissy institution of marriage must not be perverted by sinners who are capable of abstaining! The sacred union of church and state must prohibit the immoral union of men and women capable of the discipline of sexual abstinence. We are not saved by either faith or good works. We are saved by religious-right legislation!

Freedom of religion and equal treatment under law is simply the special right to sin, because our tradition is the one and only truth! And our tradition (that is, our personal moral opinions) should become law.


Another Moore statement "in favor" proclaims: "Traditional morality must become Oregon public policy. All of it. And the older the tradition, the better. The separation of church and state be damned. " Elsewhere, he shouts, "VOTE TO TURN THE CLOCK BACK!" and "LEAVE IT TO BEAVER!"

Funny stuff, to some of us. And no doubt someone paid the requisite fee to have these messages printed in the pamphlet. But is rapier wit what we want of that document? Moreover, is it right that someone who clearly wants a measure to fail can publish an argument against that measure in the "pro" section of the pamphlet, by couching it as a parody of the proponents' position?

I don't think so. Sooner or later, this sort of thing will get completely out of control, and something will have to be done. But again, fashioning a remedy will be a tricky business.

Which is why the Mrs. and I are going to get out the No. 2 pencils and get our ballots out of here soon. Whereupon we'll be free, if we wish, to ignore the sad and homely political process until the long-awaited night of reckoning, Nov. 2, 2004.

Comments (18)


REGISTER TO VOTE and/or get an ABSENTEE BALLOT today. It’s easy; it’s online.

Voter Registration deadlines, register to vote, and Absentee Ballots online:

Absentee Ballot Deadlines by state:

Please e-mail this information to all of your friends! AND VOTE FOR KERRY!!!!

Your future depends on it!

You just proved my point. It's too late to register here. All voting is by mail. Please go away.

Actually, Potter has criticized the PAC repeatedly since it launched. Don't buy the Francesconi, uh, "distortions" that assert otherwise.

"Moreover, is it right that someone who clearly wants a measure to fail can publish an argument against that measure in the "pro" section of the pamphlet, by couching it as a parody of the proponents' position?
I don't think so."
So the women who don't like Bush can have Free Speech, but someone making a point against gay marriage (albeit through parody) can NOT have Free Speech. Thanks for the clarification.

Wouldn't defamation laws apply to Potter & the PAC? Aren't they are using his name/likeness against his will?

I couldn't give a darn whether the parodist is for or against any particular measure. The First Amendment doesn't give anyone the right to make false or misleading statements. To run an "anti" statement in the "pro" section of the voter's pamphlet (or vice versa) is misleading and potentially confusing, and therefore arguably not entitled to First Amendment protection.

Besides, re-read the post, Scott. It acknowledged that there are free speech concerns.

The T-shirt story really hit a nerve with you Bushies. But the more you call attention to it, the worse it gets.

Speaking of censorship, old buddy, your "edge" has grown quite tiresome. Why not take a week off from immediately sassing everything you read here? Or at least take a half hour and cool off before you hit the "Post" button?

Try to be like the President. Be a uniter, not a divider.

but someone making a point against gay marriage (albeit through parody) can NOT have Free Speech

Um. Re-read what's going on here. The parodies are by someone who supports gay marriage, mocking the arguments of those who are against it.

Proves my point that the parodies are going to confuse some people. It's harmful.

"The First Amendment doesn't give anyone the right to make false or misleading statements."

Actually, in some cases it does. Your example is probably one of them.

The problem not just that the Secretary of State's office doesn't have either the authority to police the pamphlet; it would very likely lack the resources to do so if it had the authority (the lege has even failed to fund the pamphlet at times--good luck getting them to cough up for paying someone to go through and verify the accuracy of claims in the pamphlet). In the end, what it means is that you have to take the claims in the pamphlet with a very large grain of salt. Kind of stinks because you end up with folks like me who don't use it at all, so it's kind of a waste. But it's sadder still that some people don't know to be skeptical; I suspect there are plenty of folks out there who think the claims *are* screened.

Amanda - "The problem not just that the Secretary of State's office doesn't have either the authority to police the pamphlet"
I thought that office had the entire power to police the pamphlet, technically, even if they are lax in enforcing editorial denials. When I read the fine print for submissions many years ago, there was a section that said (more or less) goofy/extreme submissions will be omitted.

I think b!X might be on to something...maybe the editors let the parody slide in because the article would mock the writer's true view-point.

Jack - "your "edge" has grown quite tiresome"
No edge, just looking for some logical consistency.

"The T-shirt story really hit a nerve with you Bushies."
Only the one-sided/lack-of-context reporting of the issue is causing a problem. Explaining what's really going on to folks outside of the USA is pretty lengthy when the only line papers print is anti-Bush.

My first blog comment – be gentle:

Sometimes parody is the most valuable (or only) weapon against idiocy. Sure, Mr. Moore’s statements are a joke, but so is the voter’s pamphlet – and so is the initiative process in Oregon. It has become merely an opportunity (1) for certain ideologues to try to press their own narrow interests onto an entire state, or (2) for our legislature to pass the buck on certain tough decisions.

It’s time we became a little more exacting in our requirements to get a measure on the ballot. At the least, amending our state Constitution should carry more import than voting for your favorite left fielder in the All-Star game. Truth: I love the initiative process. I love talking and reading and learning about the different ballot measures, and I take them seriously. But it eats me up that for every one of me there’s three Joe Turnip-Trucks who don’t bother, who get all their information from misleading radio and television spots, misleading voter’s pamphlet statements, and their rosy-named benefactors (“paid for by the Committee to Purify Oregon”). I’d gladly give up my right to vote on most of these measures if Joe Turnip-Truck didn’t get a vote either, and if the legislature would exercise their responsibility.

Scott-the power to police, though it does exist, is not as broad as I think you're saying. Here's the relevant part of the statute (ORS 251.055):

(1) The Secretary of State shall reject any statement, argument or other matter offered for filing and printing in a voters' pamphlet which:

(a) Contains any obscene, profane or defamatory language;

(b) Incites or advocates hatred, abuse or violence toward any person or group; or

(c) Contains any language which may not legally be circulated through the mails.

Anyone who can cough up the $500 (or 1k signatures) can put almost anything in there that they want to, and the lege has not empowered the SOS to do much about it. There are some other provisions in ORS 251.049, but nothing that indicates that the SOS has authority to screen the pamphlet statements for veracity of claims about a measure's likely effect, etc. Here's the link for the form that one uses to submit arguments for/against a measure:


I agree that it's far too easy to amend our constitution. I cannot believe there isn't a supermajority provision for constitutional amendments in Oregon.

Jack Bog says: Surely he had no objection to the PAC using his name when his own race was the only one the PAC was speaking out on. So it's not the use of his name per se that's the problem.

I'm not sure I agree with this reasoning. Assuming that Potter was ambivalent towards , or even supported GoPotterGo! when all they did is support him, that doesn't mean it is right to have a PAC name itself in such a way as to cause confusion amongst the voters.

The only way PACs can exist under the current system is for them to be independent from any candidate - sure they can endorse a candidate, but the appearance that they are affiliated with or agents of a candidate is not a good thing.

I think the little disclaimers we've heard on TV ads ("I'm Candidate X and I approved this message") are a good step at getting some transparency into the campaigns - but perhaps more is maybe publically funded campaigns, as endorsed by Sam Adams?

Jack - I don't mean to be gruff, although my posts seem that way. Your brochure complaint just seems misplaced - the decision is entirely up to the editor. If the writer should have had his work in with the other side's's the editor's fault.

If the writer used exaggeration, humor or sarcasm....well, he did pay to do so. It's nice of you to look out for the serfs who are unable to comprehend these writing devices, but folks who change their vote based on a single ranting shouldn't vote at all.

Quinton Huckeby - The problem is actually the state gov't over-turning laws which have passed a vote of the people. When the gov't negated a popular vote, it raised the ante from 'laws' to 'constitutional amendments'.

AmandaD - Thanks for the clarification, it's literally been years since I read the fine print. Which raises the question: *who* exactly decides what is acceptable, especially for part 'b'? Is it a clerk in the office? An intern? The elected official in the office?


The problem you cite with uninformed knee-jerk voters falling for poorly drafted initiatives is no worse than when those same voters use the same judgment on soundbite politicians.

I blame the people who try to get every moron on the street to register and vote.

Who came up with that idea?

If someone can't come up with a reason to vote on his/her own, the rest of us are better off without guilting him/her into participating.

Maybe I'll start an anti-voting drive.

Speaking as a friend of Mr. Moore's, who helped him brainstorm certain aspects of his arguments in this pamphlet:

N. Dennis Moore (his or her real name?)

His real name is M. (not N.) Dennis Moore, as listed in the pamphlet. The Portland Mercury ran an article on him complete with his picture.

I don't think so. Sooner or later, this sort of thing will get completely out of control....

"Sooner or later" will probably take quite a long time, given that Mr. Moore has been submitting such satirical arguments "for" measures since the days of the first Measure 9 in the early 1990's.

Not addressing your other objections, others have already.

David - Are you serious? His name is Dennis Moore? Like the Monty Python skit?


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