Sunday, October 17, 2004

OREGON: More tricks from the right-wing

Voters' Pamphlet lookalike provokes outcry from election official

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI The Associated Press

(AP) — PORTLAND, Ore. — A campaign flier which closely resembles Oregon's nonpartisan Voters' Pamphlet has drawn the ire of election officials.
The "Voter's Guide for the State of Oregon," is printed on cheap, gray newsprint — just like the Voters' Pamphlet. In bold letters, it features the phrase "State of Oregon Election" on each page.
But unlike the official document, the copycat is clearly partisan, showcasing arguments in favor of Measure 35, a ballot measure which aims to curb the escalating cost of malpractice awards.
Oregon election officials convened an emergency press conference Sunday in the wake of the mailing.
"It's real clear based on the phone calls we got to our office that voters are scratching their heads," said Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.
He shared the podium with members of the No on 35 campaign, but stressed that even though he is voting "no" on the measure, his actions were prompted by concern, not politics.
"I don't want them hijacking what is essentially a very trusted public document," he said.
Bradbury argued that the only reason to print a pamphlet reminiscent of the design of the official pamphlet is to "trick" voters into thinking the positions detailed in the pamphlet were backed by state officials.
"I have to tell you one thing — only the government does such cheap printing," Bradbury said, prompting laughter.
The mailer was produced by Oregonians for Quality, Affordable and Reliable Health Care, the organization fronting the Yes on 35 campaign. Jim Kronenberg, a spokesman for the group, said Bradbury's accusations are "ridiculous."
The pamphlet contains a disclaimer on every page. It's also only a few pages long, whereas the Voters' Pamphlet is much thicker.
Any resemblance is accidental and is a function of the inferior quality of the paper, chosen to save money — not for some ulterior political motive, he said.
"Does this mean we're not allowed to send out things on inexpensive paper? Our choice of media is really ours and not the secretary of state's," Kronenberg said.
Bradbury stressed that while the resemblance is troubling, it is not illegal. For the law to have been broken, the lookalike guide would have had to simulate the state seal. Instead, it only used the words, "State of Oregon" — not an infringement in the legal sense, he said.
He was joined at the podium by former Gov. Barbara Roberts — a vocal opponent of Measure 35 — who implored voters not to be "fooled."
"Oregon was the first state in the union to have a Voters Pamphlet and this fake voter's guide is a cheap political stunt," she said. "It threatens the trust that Oregonians have in this important and familiar voter resource."
The pamphlet was part of a "widespread mailing," said Kronenberg, who declined to say exactly how many of the fliers were sent out. But Charlie Burr, campaign manager for No on 35, estimates the mailing was in the "hundreds of thousands."
Measure 35 would place a $500,000 limit on so-called pain and suffering awards, though juries would still be allowed to award full compensation for medical expenses and earnings losses stemming from a malpractice case.
The measure mirrors President Bush's efforts to enact a national malpractice damage cap. It raises key issues about availability of medical care in Oregon and people's ability to win adequate compensation in medical malpractice cases.


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