Merkley's Artful Ad Dodge | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Opinion » Editorial

Merkley's Artful Ad Dodge

tough, but casual. They call him wrangler. They look like campaign ads, they smell like campaign ads, and they sure as hell sound like campaign



tough, but casual. They call him wrangler. They look like campaign ads, they smell like campaign ads, and they sure as hell sound like campaign ads. But Jeff Merkley insists they're not campaign ads.

The TV spots started airing early this month. In the first of them, Merkley talks about how America has mistreated veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the next, he touts the record of the Oregon Legislature, and himself as House speaker, in toughening laws against meth and child sexual abusers. In the third, he attacks wasteful spending in Washington and brags about how, as a legislator, he worked to "put the middle class first."

The ads aren't being funded by the Merkley campaign; the Democratic Party of Oregon is paying for them, using money from the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And that's where the problem is.

Federal law limits the amount of campaign money a US Senate candidate can receive from his state and national party to $485,200. Merkley had already gotten more than $386,000 from the party before the first of the ads was released. That's why the Merkley ads prompted Republican Gordon Smith's campaign to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

But the ads are perfectly kosher, Merkley and the DPO maintain, because of a loophole in the law that allows additional spending on "issue ads" - ads that discuss specific issues rather than pushing an individual candidate. Since the ads don't say that Merkley is a candidate for the Senate they're legally permitted, the argument goes.

That argument is so transparently phony that any reasonably intelligent six-year-old could see through it. Although the ads don't mention Merkley's candidacy or knock his opponent, they put Merkley's face on the TV screens of millions of Oregonians and describe what a swell guy he is and what great things he's done in Oregon - and, by clear implication, what great things he'd do in Washington.

"There's no legal question here," Merkley has said. "These ads are completely about the issues - issues that are very important to this country." Apparently we're supposed to think it's pure coincidence that these very important issues are being discussed in TV ads just a few months before a senatorial election.

The use of issue ads to get around the spending limit and push a candidate isn't new. But the Democrats have gone a big step further by having the candidate himself appear in the ads and talk up his own achievements. The experts are divided on whether the Democrats have technically crossed the line; the FEC, regrettably, is not expected to rule on Smith's complaint until after the election.

Maybe the dust-up over the Smith-Merkley race will get the FEC to close the loophole for issue ads, or at least clarify how broad it is. Meanwhile, although Merkley and the DPO are calling the Smith campaign "desperate" for complaining to the FEC, they're the ones who are looking desperate - and sleazy. Here's a BOOT for both of them.

About The Author

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

Add a comment

More by Intern

  • The Other Half of the Yoga Equation

    The Source Issue 45 (Nov. 10) contained wonderful information about the forms of yoga offered in our vicinity. Most of the information covered pertained to the socially enjoyable forms of yoga enjoyed by the folks who use yoga mats and bendy posturing as they concentrate on improving their blissful breathing techniques. These physical forms of yoga are the beautiful compliments to the mental, mindful and meditative forms of yoga that balance the larger yoga (yogic) equation. Yoga is basically a non-denominational practice aimed at balancing the physical (body) existence with the meta-physical (mind) reality. The ensuing mind-body balance creates the union required for an increased "understanding" (consciousness) of the "living experience."
    • Jan 25, 2012
  • Walden's Corporate Servitude

    In the time-honored American tradition of peaceful civil disobedience, I am proud to be one of eight Central Oregon citizens arrested on December 5 in Congressman Greg Walden's Bend office. At our January 26 trial we plan to present a compelling defense. This act of dissent follows years of futile attempts to encourage the Congressman to hold open, unscripted town meetings accessible to a majority of his constituents. The Congressman has grown so suspicious of impromptu encounters with ordinary citizens that on Saturday he required a Bend Police Department intervention that enabled him to enter the Water Project meeting at the Chamber of Commerce through the back door. (Greg, we are nonviolent people who believe that democracy thrives on open dialogue and transparency; there is no reason to avoid us.)
    • Jan 25, 2012
  • Doors of Equality Swing Both Ways

    I had to respond to "What's Wrong with Siri," (News, 1-4) since Apple's Siri isn't the problem. Three hours before I read, "What's wrong with Siri," I went to a store in town and complimented the cashier that this was the nicest "dollar" store I had ever been in.
    • Jan 11, 2012
  • More »