Less than two weeks ago, proponents of Ballot Measure 26-210 held a highly unusual press briefing. In it, they told reporters their polling showed opponents of the measure couldn't win a fair fight; they'd have to lie to make a dent (and even then, proponents could still win).
At stake: a high-income earners and business profits tax to fund homeless services. Before the pandemic cratered the Oregon economy, the measure was expected to raise $250 million a year.
Now supporters of the measure say their predictions have come true.
In an April 27 press release, the chief backers of the measure, the HereTogether coalition, say they've found evidence their opposition, the Alliance for an Affordable Metro, is lying about how the measure works. A video ad opposing the measure argues it's the wrong tax for a new time: a tax on groceries and medicine.
"The 'Alliance for an Affordable Metro' demonstrated that we were exactly right about the nature of their alliance: It's a false front of anti-tax right wingers and two professional lobbyists with no compunction about lying in public," says HereTogether campaign director Angela Martin.
Joe Gilliam, who heads the Northwest Grocers, released a statement standing by the ad that originally sparked the furor:
"It's disappointing that the special interest groups putting this measure forward have resorted to Trump-style name calling and bullying tactics," Gilliam says. "Any reasonable person understands that a tax worth more than a billion dollars is likely going to result in price increases across the board. That's just basic economics."
Measure 26-210 would impose a 1 percent marginal tax on couples making more than $200,000 a year and a 1 percent tax on the profits of bigger businesses in the metro area. Its backers include many Portland businesses, who joined the attack on opponents today.
"It is simply untrue for opponents to claim that Measure 26-210 is a tax on groceries, medicine, or a sales tax of any kind," said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, greater Portland's chamber of commerce. "This measure offers a reasoned solution to our region's homeless crisis, and it is supported strongly by the mainstream business community."
The proponents say they are formally asking local TV stations to stop running false advertising, They're also sending cease-and-desist letters to the opposition campaign, in an effort to learn the identities of all the donors behind the organizations that are financially supporting the opposition.
"Some lobbyists may see their job as lying for money, but they are used to backroom dealings," says Martin. "We are taking this fully public and won't stop until they and their sources of money are exposed and held accountable. Our opponents will either see the will of the people prevail at the ballot or face our coalition advocates in court. They are literally trying to take money away from people with nothing to lose as they line their own pockets."
Wheelhouse Northwest, the political consultants for the HereTogether coalition, also put up a remarkably aggressive website, HeretoGetRich.com, which highlights two lobbyists working to oppose the measure.
"Corporate lobbyists Joe Gilliam and Shaun Jillions are no strangers to running lie-ridden ads to push their own agenda," the website reads.
Jillions, who represents manufacturers and real estate interests in Salem, says he's going to pursue legal action in response.
"Unfortunately, going to have to engage legal counsel on this one," says Jillions. "I'll likely bring my own suit for defamation for their website."
The statement also criticized Hoan by name for not backing their approach.
HereTogether has raised $770,000 in cash, according to campaign finance filings. The Alliance for an Affordable Metro has raised less than 1 percent of that: $7,100 in cash, according to the latest filings.
The political consultants for the yes campaign admit they are taking a particularly aggressive stance.
They took issue with the opponents calling people in tents "special interests" and mocked the idea a lobbyist had any reputation to lose by being accused of lying.
"I do find it highly ironic that someone willing to lie to deny critical services to people who have nothing think it's a threat to sue for defamation of his character," Martin tells WW. "It's too bad we can't sue for being immoral."
Jillions now says an attorney has sent a cease-and-desist letter accusing the proponents of defaming him by accusing him of lying.