Did the John Kitzhaber campaign slip cash to an official of the Independent Party to get him to post negative comments about Kitzhaber’s rivals? That’s what the state Republican Party is hinting.
The GOP wants state Attorney General John Kroger and Secretary of State Kate Brown to investigate “the potential improprieties concerning the financial activity and coordination between the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber and Independent Party of Oregon officials.”
The Republicans say Orestar, the Secretary of State’s on-line database of campaign contributions and expenditures, shows that Kitzhaber campaign finance chairman Brett Wilcox gave $5,000 to the Independent Party on Jan. 28.
“Following this contribution, Sal Peralta, secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon, made a personal withdrawal in the amount of $2,500 from the Independent Party on February 2, 2010 for purposes unknown, according to Orestar,” state GOP Chairman Bob Tiernan’s letter to Kroger says. “Following this transaction, Sal Peralta began to publicly attack Bill Bradbury, Kitzhaber’s opponent during [the] primary election, via the Internet. The process was repeated against Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley.”
The letter cites three negative comments about Bradbury that Peralta made in March and April and three anti-Dudley comments that he made in April and May. All the comments were made on the liberal/Democratic Blue Oregon site.
“Was the $2,500 check written to Peralta from the Independent Party directly related to Wilcox’s contribution, and if so, was it to encourage him to publicly attack the Bradbury and Dudley campaigns?” Tiernan wants to know. “Was Wilcox’s $5,000 contribution given to help secure the nomination of the Independent Party for John Kitzhaber?”
According to Oregonian political blogger Jeff Mapes, the Kitzhaber campaign and Independent Party officials “scoffed at the allegations and said that they didn't hold any water.” Wilcox told Mapes he gave money to the Independent Party because “I think it's important to have a centrist party in this state.”
Clearly the Republicans are hoping to blow this up into a big deal; the conservative/Republican Oregon Catalyst blog headlined its post about the GOP charges: “Kitzhaber Scandal: $5,000 Independent Party Pay-Out.”
Was something shady going on here? It’s hard to say, but so far the GOP doesn’t seem to have produced any evidence that there was a quid pro quo – just that one guy associated with Kitzhaber gave money to the Independent Party, and an official of that party took out some money from the party treasury.
I’m not a master of campaign dirty trickery, but if I wanted to bribe somebody I’d probably do it in a way that wouldn’t show up on Orestar – handing him envelopes stuffed with $100 bills under the table at some restaurant, for example.
Also, if John Kitzhaber is passing out thousands of dollars for writing uncomplimentary things about Chris Dudley, I want my cut. I’ve written several unflattering posts about Dudley already and he hasn’t paid me a dime.