BY BEN STONE 243-2122
The origin of four pieces of mysterious and misleading campaign literature in Portland's District 44 (North Portland) is becoming slightly clearer.
A previously unidentified source has produced three fake voters' guides and most recently, a fake sample ballot, all directing voters to support challenger Sharon Nasset and punish incumbent House Speaker Tina Kotek, who holds the seat.
On May 10, the Committee to Elect Sharon Nasset reported a $4,591 in-kind contribution from a Washington, D.C., group call Americans Take Action. The contribution, by far the largest Nasset has reported, paid for literature, brochures and printing.
Oregon campaign finance law requires campaigns to report transactions within seven days when this close to the election. The penalty for not doing so can be as much as one-half of 1 percent of the transaction, multiplied by the number of business days the transaction is filed late.
The first bogus voters' pamphlet hit District 44 no later than April 22, so the disclosure for that one is certainly late and may be incomplete.
On May 10, Nasset disclosed her in-kind contribution from Americans Take Action, the group whose name appeared on campaign literature recently distributed in District 44. The literature attempts to paint Kotek as a right-leaning stooge for big money interests, and opposed to overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, which allowed unlimited independent expenditures by corporate and union donors.
Based on the similiarity of their concerns and the timing of their activity, it appears that Americans Take Action and Wolf PAC are coordinating their actions.
In the February legislative session, Wolf PAC hammered Kotek for not supporting House Joint Memorial 201, a non-binding resolution that would have called on Congress to hold a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and overturn the Citizens United decision.
Then in March, a Wolf PAC member posted on Daily Kos, seeking to help Nasset raise $750 to pay for a spot in the official Oregon Voters' Pamphlet.
"Wolf PAC cannot contribute directly to a campaign, so it is up to Sharon's supporters to help out with this one," a representative of the group wrote.
On Wolf PAC Oregon's Google message board, questions in late April from volunteers about whether Wolf PAC was involved with the misleading literature distributed in Kotek's district were met with defiance, particularly from a man named Will Yate: "The only problem with the flyers is Tina Kotek's," Yate wrote. "She's afraid because all her constituents are finding out she's a closet Republican, and she's about to lose her cushy job."
The Oregonian first connected Yate to Nasset's campaign in a report about the mysterious voters' pamphlets.
In an endorsement interview, Nasset told WW that Yate had helped her prepare campaign materials, but said she had no involvement in or knowledge of the bogus voters' pamphlets.
On May 10, the same day she disclosed the in-kind contribution from Americans Take Action, she disclosed a $205 payment to Yate. Yate did not respond to a request for comment.
When WW tried to ask the Oregon chapter of Wolf PAC to explain its connection to Americans Take Action, people associated with the group didn't want to answer questions.
Colby Clipston, a current Metro Council candidate whose Voters' Pamphlet profile lists his occupation as "National Coordinator, Wolf PAC," said he is no longer a national coordinator for Wolf PAC and was unaware of any campaign literature by the organization.
Clipston suggested contacting his successor, Phil Guidotti. Guidotti said that he had stepped down a month ago, and declined to reveal the names of Wolf PAC Oregon's current leaders. WW then contacted Ryan Clayton, who has been listed the national executive director of Wolf PAC, but he hung up when he heard the purpose of the call.
Scott Moore, a spokesman for the House Democrats, says the deceptive campaign literature and the late disclosure of expenditures runs counter to what Wolf PAC says it stands for.
"This is the height of hypocrisy," Moore said in an email. "Here's an organization that allegedly cares about campaign finance reform, yet they've run their campaign solely on dishonesty, deception, evasion, and an utter lack of transparency."