We haven’t even reached the primary yet and already negative campaign materials have surfaced in Southern Oregon. Those who engage in such tactics risk a backlash from angry voters and tarnish the process of choosing elected officials.
What makes it worse is that the latest offender has deliberately chosen to remain anonymous, so voters don’t even know whom to blame.
A mailer sent to Republican voters contained excerpts from a March Mail Tribune news story reporting that a U.S. Tax Court judge found Medford certified public accountant Curt Ankerberg filed fraudulent income tax returns. The other side of the mailer reproduced an editorial in which we called on Ankerberg to withdraw from the Republican primary race for Oregon Senate District 3.
The mailer prominently displayed the Mail Tribune’s logo, but did not include the identity of the sender, prompting some recipients to contact the paper to ask if we had sent it out. We didn’t, needless to say. We print and deliver thousands of newspapers every day; we hardly need to use the postal service to distribute our work.
Ankerberg’s opponent, Medford business owner Jessica Gomez, says her campaign had nothing to do with the mailer, and local Republican Party officials also deny any involvement.
We have seen negative mailings before, produced by political groups outside the Rogue Valley without consulting the local campaigns they presumably intend to help. More often than not, those actions wind up hurting the intended beneficiary by turning off voters.
We are no fans of Ankerberg, and if a candidate wanted to make an issue of his difficulties with the IRS, that would be their choice. But doing so in the open would allow voters to evaluate the charges and the tactics. Anonymous attacks serve only to reinforce negative public perceptions about government and politics.
According to the Oregon secretary of state’s office, lawmakers in 2001 removed a rule requiring political action committees to identify themselves in campaign mailers. The Legislature should revisit that decision. Voters deserve to know who is sponsoring political advertising intended to influence their votes.