It happens every election cycle: Your mailbox gets stuffed to the gills with all manner of colorful, oddly sized postcards, all attempting to convince you to vote in a specific way. Add to that campaigns' increasing use of the internet—email, websites, and, oddly, YouTube videos—and the tide of information becomes overwhelming. Face it, you simply don't know who's telling the truth, and who's full of horse poop. Lucky for you, the Mercury's Truth Squad is in effect to help explain a few of the most stink-laden campaign claims to roll through this year. (And while we're on the subject, if you haven't voted yet, don't waste another day. You've only got until Tuesday evening to drop off your ballot—and if you're still stumped, hit portlandmercury.com for an electronic version of our endorsement cheat sheet.)
The Campaign: Yes on 40—Districting of Judges
The Source: ouroregoncourts.com
The Claim: "The majority of Oregon Supreme Court Justices and Appeals Court Judges are from the Portland-Eugene area. These activist judges have been usurping the will of the people and legislating from the bench—nullifying the will of the voters on matters like property rights, crime-victims' rights, term limits, and that's just not right!"
Why It's Bullshit: That the majority of state-level judges come from the Willamette Valley isn't in question—it should come as no surprise that most of the qualified, ambitious attorneys would be located in the state's population centers. But what is utter nonsense is the campaign's insistence that judges should be held accountable to voters in particular geographies. No matter where judges are from, we expect them to uphold the constitution and respect precedent—not cower to the whims of the disgruntled masses. Do we really want questions about civil rights (like discrimination based on sexual orientation) or land use decided by someone whose job is dependent on voters in, say, Pendleton? The whole notion of electing judges is bullshit—but electing them by district stretches the egregiousness beyond the pale.
The Campaign: Yes on 43—Parental Notification for Minors Seeking an Abortion
The Source: protectourteendaughters.org
The Claim: "Currently, Oregon law assures that a parent is responsible for their child's welfare in every other situation—tattoos, ear piercing, school field trips, taking an aspirin—but they can get an abortion without a parent ever knowing. While Oregon parents are used to signing permission slips for their teenagers, abortion is the exception to the rule."
Why It's Bullshit: This has been a major talking point for the campaign for the past year—too bad it's patently false. The truth is that under state law, 15- to 17-year-olds can sign off on most medical procedures without their parents' permission. Abortion isn't the "exception to the rule"—quite the contrary, it fits in with the rules regarding most other medical situations. It would only become the "exception to the rule" if Measure 43 passes.
The Second Claim: "There were 1,957 abortions in Oregon in 2004 among teens."
Why It's Bullshit: The figures cited by the state's Department of Human Services do show 1,957 abortions among teens, with 1,906 of them among 15- to 19-year-olds. The problem, though, is that Measure 43 would only apply to a much smaller group—those between 15 and 17 years of age—who, according to DHS data, are far less likely to have an abortion than older teens.
The Campaign: Yes on 48—State Spending Cap
The Source: YouTube, rainydayamendment.com
The Claim: "The Rainy Day Amendment makes the politicians save for tough times without more taxes."
Why It's Bullshit: First, it's been long established that Measure 48 doesn't, in fact, create a "rainy day fund." (Even campaign honcho Don McIntire has conceded that fact.) The only thing it does is limit state spending; the legislature will decide what to do with the excess revenue—give it back to taxpayers through a refund, lower taxes so there's no extra money in the first place, or maybe, just maybe, create a rainy day fund. You'd think that if you were going to call your measure the "Rainy Day Amendment," you'd make sure the law you're pimping actually has, you know, a rainy day fund.
The Second Claim: "The Rainy Day Amendment gives voters the final say on overspending."
Why It's Bullshit: Let's, for a minute, assume the legislature has created a rainy day fund. Under M48, in order to spend that money, it requires a majority of citizens to vote on the expenditure—plus two-thirds of the legislature. That's hardly giving the voters a say on spending; in reality, it's erecting barriers so high that the money will never be released, even in the case of an emergency (tsunami, earthquake, etc.).
The Campaign: Yes on 45—Term Limits
The Source: YouTube, oregontermlimits.org
The Claim: "Politicians are a lot like diapers. They have to be changed often, and for the same reason."
Why It's Bullshit: Aside from the obviously crude ad hominem attack on the people voters have elected, this ad is bullshit for one important reason. When the opposition campaign compared politicians to brain surgeons and rocket scientists ("You wouldn't term limit them!"), Yes on 45 responded by saying, "For legislators to try and build their reputation with this kind of comparison is sad and shows just how corrupted the system has become and just how desperate legislators are to hold on to their 'life appointments' in office." So, comparing democratically elected leaders to rocket scientists is "sad," but comparing them to shitty diapers isn't?
The Campaign: Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Commission, District Two
The Source: Bulk Mailing
The Claim: "Jeff Cogen helped put the City of Portland on the path to get all its electricity from renewable wind energy. Jeff also helped jumpstart the use and manufacturing of biodiesel right here in Portland."
Why It's Bullshit: The claims are mostly accurate, but when they're bordered by a gigantic, bold message that says "The Progressive Choice Who Actually Gets Things Done," they beg for a closer look. First, Cogen's wind energy plan—conducted through City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office—only relates to municipal energy; that is, electricity used by city government, not citizens. Second, in the "gets things done" category, it should be noted that the wind energy plan is still in limbo. As for biodiesel, Commissioner Randy Leonard scooped Cogen by pushing forward on a biodiesel mandate—the first real move to create a market for renewable fuel.
(Cogen's opponent, Lew Frederick, has made the Truth Squad's job difficult—by not saying many concrete things that can be fact checked.)