In an interview at his campaign headquarters this week, mayoral candidate Charlie Hales responded to the Mercury's report of an anti-Jefferson Smith phone poll by clearly saying, for the first time, that he will "actively discourage" the groups who support him from launching independent expenditure campaigns on his behalf.

"I'm not interested in anyone doing an independent expenditure," said Hales, who offered up the sentiment mainly to "reassure" skeptical voters and political insiders. "I will actively discourage any of our supporters from being involved in independent expenditures."

Hales, who has pledged to run a positive campaign and announced a $600 cap on group and individual donations this summer, had been quiet about the role outside spending campaigns might play in his bid for mayor. Independent expenditures, which exist separately from a candidate's official campaign, could very well be a good way for some of the well-funded groups backing Hales—developers and pro-Columbia River Crossing trade unions—to spend big money, and negatively, without making it seem like Hales was going back on his word.

That is, if those groups even care that Hales is "discouraging them." Hales offered something of an out by still noting that outside groups are, after all, independent. Smith's campaign has been a bit more vocal about independent expenditures, warning groups that only will he discourage them, but that he'll punish groups who launch them by refusing to meet with them if he's elected mayor. Smith even complained about the tone of the reported poll during a forum last week; Hales did not respond at the time.

On the attack poll itself, without hearing or seeing it, Hales wouldn't say whether it was the same poll his campaign (under the direction of consultant Mark Wiener) has out in the field. Or whether it's somebody else's.

"I don't know," he said, before going on to say that whatever polling his campaign is behind is asking "good and bad things—"allegations," he later clarified—about both candidates. (Though, for the record, much of what's out there on the candidates—Smith's lousy driving record and nut-punching incidentand Hales' fib/mistake about helping bail out Portland Public Schools after he left office, and Hales' plagiarized/badly edited letter to the St. Johns Review—don't feel much like mere "allegations.")

"We need to know were we stand," he said. Done right, "polls are neither nice nor nasty. They're informational."