June 3rd, 2010 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Legislature

Listen to the Tape: Independent Party's Peralta Seeks Contributions

Oregon State Capitol Building

Over the past couple of weeks, an election-year dispute between the Democratic Party of Oregon and the Independent Party of Oregon has played out in a complaint to the Secretary of State and a response from the Independent Party.

On May 21, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown issued a "cease and desist letter" [PDF] to Sal Peralta of the Independent Party (Oregon's third-largest party and one that some major-party candidates want backing from to heighten their general election appeal to third-party voters):

peralt

On May 24, Linda Williams of the Independent Party responded [PDF] to Brown, agreeing to follow the law but rejecting the fundamental assertion of Brown's letter.
You state as the ultimate conclusion that the IPO is "conditioning eligibility for the Independent Party nomination on a candidate's willingness to make a contribution to the party." That is not true, and the candidate packet does not support such a conclusion.

Since early March 2010, the IPO Caucus has received dozens of requests from persons requesting to be considered for IPO nominations for the November 2010 election. The IPO Caucus then proceeded to determine whether each requester was a "qualified candidate," without regard to contributions or pledges of any kind. The specific steps in that determination of eligibility are set out at p. 4, below. By May 17, 2010, the IPO had decided, affirmatively, the eligibility of every person who then received the candidate packet. Thus, every recipient of a candidate packet had already been determined unconditionally to be eligible to be a candidate for IPO nomination; the salutation in the candidate packet memorandum is addressed to "Dear Candidate." The packet was not sent to any "potential candidate" for nomination but only to previously qualified
candidates eligible to seek IPO nomination under whatever lawful nomination process is used.

We believe the candidate package is clear that there is and never was any such condition requiring a contribution to be "eligible."

A tape recording released to WW today by the Oregon Attorney General's office under a public records request illustrates the dispute:

In that brief taped conversation between Peralta and Ben Unger, the political director for the state Senate Democrats, Peralta does appear to condition a candidate's ability to compete for the IPO's endorsement on the candidate making a contribution.

Unger: Dan Rayfield [a Corvallis lawyer running in Senate District 8] says “Why do I have to pay?"

Peralta: "He doesn't have to."

Unger: "But then does he not get to participate?"

Peralta: "That's right."

There's no indication that Peralta is seeking to line his own pockets. At one point, he notes, "It's not like I'm trying to get rich off this." And he does explicitly tell Unger that the purpose of the money is to survey Independent Party members for their candidate input. "To send mail to 55,000 people is not cheap," Peralta says on the tape.

There are a number of other interesting items in the AG's records release including an interview with State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Clackamas).

Barton told investigators he sought the Independent Party's nomination in his run for state Senate in the November election.

In a taped interview, Barton said Peralta first told him over the phone that the fee would be $350, and that Barton would be running unopposed for the nomination.

Barton said he later met Peralta at the Pearl Bakery in Northwest Portland, where Peralta told him the race would be contested after all. Barton said Peralta told him Hood River County Commissioner Chuck Thomsen, Barton's Republican opponent, was a late entry to seek the Indepdendent Party nomination.

And, Barton said, Peralta suddenly upped the fee to "around $750." Barton said Peralta told him it would help defray the party's costs.

"“I recall being unpleasantly surprised by that,” Barton said. "He told me he had misspoken ... suddenly it was a contested procedure, and that was different."
 
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