Dark Money Group Launches Attack Ads on Democrats Running for Governor

“Voters for Truth LLC” has begun running online push polls that appear to be testing different lines of attack against the Democratic front-runners.

A new dark money group has begun running political ads targeting the three leading Democratic candidates for Oregon governor.

“Voters for Truth LLC” has begun running online push polls that appear to be testing different lines of attack against the Democratic front-runners. A limited liability company with that precise name was established in New Mexico on Oct. 29, but it gave no details about who’s in charge.

An ad from the group, bashing Oregon treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful Tobias Read, was spotted in a Politico article over the weekend.

The online ads link back to the group’s web site, votersfortruth.net, which was first registered Dec. 10 last year. The site features negatively worded “poll” questions against Read, journalist Nicholas Kristof and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland).

One question asks whether voters support “Tina Kotek cutting pension benefits for teachers, firefighters and other public employees in 2019.” (That’s a reference to a bill she shepherded that resulted in modest cuts to Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System.)

Plenty of people have motivation to weaken Democratic front-runners in the most hotly contested Oregon governor’s race in decades. National Republicans see the state potentially turning purple amid voter discontent, and former state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) is running outside of party affiliation.

Under federal election laws, private companies can spend unlimited sums of money attacking candidates as long as the group’s “primary purpose” is not politics. Oregon law requires political ads to disclose their top donors in the last 60 days before a primary election, though it’s not clear if the wording of this ad would trigger that requirement.

Voters for Truth also put up a Facebook page Dec. 10 although there’s nothing much to see. The page does, however, claim that Voters for Truth is a “Media / News company.”

Jacob Fenton is editor of The Portland Record, a civic data site that launched a campaign finance tracker this week. This story also ran there.