In a stinging email, state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) early this morning blasted her longtime ally Sen. Shemia Fagan (D-East Portland) for a campaign website established to boost Fagan's candidacy for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.
"I have agonized about where to take my profound disappointment in your campaign," Keny-Guyer wrote.
Keny-Guyer served alongside Fagan in the Oregon House for two terms and worked closely with her on housing issues when Fagan moved up to the Senate last year.
She sent the email to Fagan and several others at 12:59 am Thursday. WW later obtained a copy.
"I have been a strong supporter of yours for as long as I've known you, starting with canvassing for you for [the David Douglas School District] board in 2011," Keny-Guyer wrote. "But I've been dismayed at the tactics used in your campaign, ESPECIALLY for someone running for a position overseeing election integrity and campaign finance."
The object of her ire: a website, funded by a political action committee with the disingenuous name of Oregonians for Ballot Access.
In fact, the PAC—established April 17 and receiving all of its $30,000 in funding from Service Employees International Union Local 503 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 75—exists to promote Fagan's candidacy.
Keny-Guyer spelled out her unhappiness with Fagan, who is competing with state Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer and natural resources consultant, for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. (Keny-Guyer supports McLeod-Skinner in the race.)
Since Fagan entered the race in late February, after former state Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) dropped out, state filings show she has raised nearly $450,000.
That's more than her two opponents have raised this year combined. More than 80 percent of her money has come from public employee unions.
"In addition to the obscene amounts of money from so few sources going into your campaign, now there is an Independent Expenditure cleverly called OREGONIANS FOR BALLOT ACCESS, made to 'appear' neutral since it offers one example of an endorsement for Mark and two for Jamie. No surprise, it is the first website that appears when you google any of the three candidate names," wrote Keny-Guyer, who is leaving after four terms in the House.
She is apparently referring to a search engine optimization technique that directs people looking online for information about the race to the pro-Fagan website.
Hass said today he too was dismayed with Fagan, his colleague in the Oregon Senate.
"She's misleading voters," Hass said. "That's an irony too huge to fathom. She's running for secretary of state, whose job it is oversee elections and make sure voters have the truth, and she's doing the exact opposite."
"There's a term for this," Hass added in reference to the tactic of directing voters to the pro-Fagan website. "It's called 'click fraud.' That's what the Russians did in 2016."
McLeod-Skinner said she was unaware Keny-Guyer was going to send the email. "I do care about the issue she raised," McLeod-Skinner says. "We need campaign finance reform in Oregon. Voters should be able to see who is giving money to candidates and follow the flow of money."
Keny-Guyer said her email was not meant for public consumption but she stands by what she wrote.
"The email was intended as a private conversation with longtime allies," Keny-Guyer said in a statement. "I sent it as a reality check, as I would want my colleagues to do with me. As Democrats, we need to challenge each other to address systemic problems. While I support Jamie because she intentionally reaches out to people who lack access to policy makers, we must each do more to ensure that our political system serves the broader public. Voters are increasingly frustrated with how money influences access; they expect a higher standard from us – and they expect that high standard out of our next Secretary of State."
Fagan pushed back against the criticism.
"While my campaign did not develop oregoniansforballotaccess.com, we've looked at it and don't see any inaccuracies—if anything was untrue, we certainly would not recommend voters use it and we would ask them to take it down," Fagan said in a statement. "It's important to note that the website is not an independent expenditure. While we did not create it, it is listed as an in-kind contribution. If there are any questions about it, they should be directed to the organizations that built it."
Fagan also responded to Keny-Guyer's objection to her raising an "obscene amount of money from so few sources," a reference to Fagan's concentrated support from public employee unions.
"I am proud of the support I have received from member-funded labor organizations," Fagan said. "They represent the voices of Oregonians across the state who choose to pitch in a few bucks a month so they can have a say in the political process. It's how they can support candidates who fight to protect the right to choose, our climate, a stronger education system, and workers' rights. I invite anyone to take a look at where my campaign contributions are coming from: educators, firefighters, custodians, plumbers, carpenters—the essential workers we are all celebrating as heroes."