Maybe you've seen a certain political ad put out recently by progressive group Our Oregon. Coming off the fight over how much money (not) to spend on Oregon's education system—and whether to open the spigot on the state's reserve funds to give the kids a little more—the group put out a piece that targets Dennis Richardson, the GOP budget co-chair from the 30-30 House, for not agreeing to release that extra money.
Richardson, although he's one of three lawmakers (the other two are Democrats) on the Legislature's budget-writing power team, has some outsize sway because he and his party can block things they don't like. And he and his party have been vociferously pushing to hold the reserve funds back. Seems like fair game, then, to call him on it.
Not according to the Oregonian. The staffers who compile their PolitiFact feature said it was unfair to single out the guy with veto power, since, you know, two Democrats signed off on the budget, too. They called the ad "false," and said everyone's to blame. Also, stop being mean to Republicans!
Then it was Our Oregon's turn to fire back. Spokesman Scott Moore yesterday sent out a blistering response, said he explained all that to the O, and wondered whether the Oregonian's new publisher, N. Christian Anderson III, was pushing the paper's politics rightward.
Brilliantly, they also took this screen grab (of a goof that's since been fixed):
Read more of Moore's answer after the jump.
So, why didn't the ad attack Democrats, as the Oregonian apparently would have wanted? We think of it like a hostage situation. With shared 30-30 seat power in the House, the process forces Democratic leaders to negotiate with Republicans to produce the Co-Chairs' budget. In this case, the Republicans held the process hostage with their demands for hundreds of millions of dollars to be set aside, and not spent on critical services. Democrats negotiated that number down in order to end the ordeal and release the draft budget.
However, the minute the budget was released, Democratic leaders in the House made it clear that they would push for more money for schools and critical services. For those of us who agree with that point (the vast majority of Oregon voters, according to recent polling), it doesn't seem to make sense to criticize Democrats for the fact that the process forced them to negotiate a draft budget. We therefore put our focus on the hostage taker (Dennis Richardson), rather than the negotiator (the Democrats). The Oregonian apparently thinks we should blame the negotiator—and probably the hostages too.
But let's be clear: Every Oregon lawmaker will have to answer to voters for the priorities they choose in the final budget. And if at the end of the session, Democrats were to adopt Dennis Richardson's plan as their own, it would only be fair to criticize them as well.