State Sens. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) and Larry George (R-Newberg) are a couple of savvy lawmakers. George is an astute political strategist who led Oregon's property rights movement before winning election in 2006. Starr has been a leading transportation advocate in the Legislature since first winning election in 1998.
But these two veteran politicos roguishly ignored the background of the man they hired to do printing for their 2010 re-election campaigns: Andrew Burnett, the owner of Portland's Good Impressions Printing.
We don't expect politicians to vet their campaign vendors to ensure their views coincide with ours. But we don't expect them to hire people who think it's OK to kill people.
Here's a little background on Burnett, who got $4,454 from Starr's campaign and $1,150 from George's.
Burnett was a defendant in a long-running federal civil lawsuit finally resolved in Portland in 2006 with a mid-six-figure judgment against him. That proceeding, the so-called "Nuremberg Files" case, pitted abortion doctors and Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette against Burnett and his colleagues in a group called the American Coalition of Life Activists.
The defendants argued that killing abortion providers was "justifiable homicide." And a federal jury found that the defendants' website, which provided abortion docs' photos, home addresses, children's names and other identifying information, constituted "a true threat by one or more of the defendants to bodily harm, assault or kill one or more of the plaintiffs."
Portland lawyer Carol Bernick, who represented the plaintiffs, says Burnett's testimony played a significant role in the trial.
"What we alleged was that the defendants' writings constituted true threats as opposed to protected speech," Bernick says. "The pivotal testimony came from Mr. Burnett when he said, 'If I were the plaintiffs, I would be afraid.'"
Most of the court's damages award against Burnett remains unpaid. His wife is currently listed as Good Impressions' president, but it is Burnett who is pictured on the company's website and listed as general manager.
Starr says he was unaware of Burnett's views, doesn't share them and has done most of his printing elsewhere.
"I just don't think it's fair to have a litmus test for every vendor," Starr says."