Paul Rainey and The Leadership Fund apologized to the Mail Tribune this month after sending out an attack mailer against a Republican candidate that looked like it came from the newspaper.
The mailer quoted from our stories about Senate District 3 candidate Curt Ankerberg, who was found by a U.S. Tax Court judge to have committed fraud on his returns. The mailer also reprinted our editorial urging Ankerberg to withdraw from the race and included, in big letters, “We deserve better than Curt Ankerberg.”
Southern Oregon Republicans, including Ankerberg’s opponent, Jessica Gomez, were dismayed someone had chosen to go negative in the campaign. We at the Mail Tribune were astounded anyone would go to the trouble to attack Ankerberg, whose nasty demeanor and foul mouth have lost him now 10 elections.
The mailer contained no indication whatsoever of who had sent it. Just the Mail Tribune logo, front and back.
We received calls and emails asking whether we were behind the mailer. Of course we weren’t. And we didn’t appreciate being so grossly misrepresented in this way.
Sen. Alan DeBoer, who has been mentoring Gomez and prides himself on running clean campaigns, found out who sent it — The Leadership Fund, a political action committee made up of Senate Republicans, including DeBoer, and led by Paul Rainey, Republican Caucus administrator.
Rainey knew full well that sending out a mailer without The Leadership Fund’s name on it would make it appear nonpartisan. He knew using our logo and articles would lend the mailer undeserved credibility.
When Mail Tribune Publisher Steve Saslow confronted Rainey about the mailer, Rainey claimed “fair use,” a provision in copyright law that in some cases allows excerpts to be quoted verbatim without permission.
But this was anything but fair. And it was illegal. Reprinting an entire editorial infringed on our copyright. Hiding behind our logo violated trademark law — and threatened our reputation.
We’ve worked hard over the past year to rebuild our business after years of cutbacks under corporate ownership. We weren’t about to let Rainey get away with subterfuge.
We could’ve sued Rainey and The Leadership Fund for copyright and trademark infringement. Instead, we wanted them to do the right thing: apologize. And this month, Rainey did.
“The Mail Tribune had nothing to do with the mailer in any way, nor did it have knowledge of or consent to it,” Rainey wrote in a letter vetted through attorneys on both sides.
“I apologize for omitting the source of the mailer, and that it may have led some to believe that it originated with the Mail Tribune.
“Moving forward, it is my sincerest intention to avoid any such confusion again.”
Rainey skillfully avoids a promise, but the letter sends an important message to the political gorillas up north: We in Southern Oregon won’t stand for their chicanery.