Ingenious new attack ad from Oregon GOP

A radio advertisement in Oregon’s GOP Senate primary between Monica Wehby and Jason Conger set a new standard for insidious genius. It’s no “Boats ‘N Hoes” scandal, but it’s a template for underhanded campaigning in the future.

The winner in the May primary will face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in November.

The spot targets Conger, a state representative with support among hard-core conservatives.

Monica Wehby

Monica Wehby

Establishment-favorite Wehby, a Portland pediatric neurosurgeon, did not purchase or produce the ad. It was an independent expenditure by a political action committee. It even says so at the end. “Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

That’s their story, and their sticking to it.

National media have picked up on the fact that Andrew Miller, one of the super PAC’s organizers and major contributors, is romantically involved with Wehby. MSNBC calls it the “most romantic political contribution ever.” Miller gave $31,000, and another GOP donor chipped in $75,000.

Super PACs may not coordinate with candidates. Miller insists there’s been neither pillow talk nor dinner conversation about how he would spend $106,000 supporting Wehby’s campaign.

Pundits have skewered this ludicrous claim. It’s just one more example of the broken campaign finance system post-Citizens United.

What the pundits have missed, however, is the ad’s audacious genius. Everyone loves a love story, but the legacy of this ad will be something more than one more PAC flaunting coordination rules.

The 60-second ad tries to convince Republicans that Conger is a RINO — Republican In Name Only. A woman narrates some of his controversial votes in the legislature. (It’s worth listening to the whole thing just for the hilarious intonation alone.)

“Republican Jason Conger voted five times with Democrats for Oregon’s Obamacare,” it says.

It fails to mention that Conger cast those votes holding his nose. They weren’t for the Affordable Care Act but to ensure Oregon created its own exchange lest the feds take over. That the state exchange has been a complete disaster is a separate issue.

Jason Conger

Jason Conger

The ad cites a few other votes without context. These sorts of blunt statements that lack nuance are typical attack-ad fare.

Finally there’s the disclosure that we’re all used to hearing: “Paid for by,” here’s the genius bit, “If he votes like that in Salem, imagine how he will vote in Congress.”

Huh? That’s just more attack, not a disclosure. Miller actually named his committee: “If he votes like that in Salem, imagine how he will vote in Congress.” Brilliant.

The “Paid for by” bit is supposed to help listeners know who is dumping money into political ads, but the rules don’t say you have to pick a helpful name. Substance and disclosure waste precious airtime better filled with one more attack.

It’s campaign evolution. Remember when candidates had to start saying, “I’m Joe Smith, and I approved this message,” at the end? Then it became, “I’m Joe Smith, and I approved this message because my opponent hates America.

The anti-Conger ad just took it to the next level. A descriptive name or the identities of donors would help people identify who is buying an election. A creative name provides a shroud of secrecy and more messaging. Most people don’t have the time or expertise to dig through Federal Election Commission filings to figure out who is really behind the money.

The radio-spot ups the obfuscation, too, by getting the PAC’s name wrong. It’s actually “If he votes like that in Salem imagine what he will do in Congress.” It’s harder to search the FEC when you don’t even have the right name. (The ad says “how he will vote,” not “what he will do.”)

The possibilities are endless. Come 2016, we might see the “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi” and “End the war on women” committees form. They’ll spend millions, and few people will ever know who’s really pulling the strings.

Congress or the Federal Election Commission will not fix this any time soon. There’s a genuine free speech concern about the right to name committee’s whatever one wants, but that won’t be the real cause of inaction. Rather, politicians win or lose by the financial support they receive. If they can help those donors and spenders stay on message with a fair degree of anonymity, so much the better.

My name is Chris Trejbal, and I approve of this attack ad.


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Christian Trejbal is a member of the board of directors of the Association of Opinion Journalists, writes for Opinion in a Pinch and is an open government chairman for the Association of Opinion Journalists. Overcoming graduate degrees in philosophy, he worked as an editorial writer at The (Bend) Bulletin and The Roanoke Times for more than a decade. In 2013, he and his wife moved to Portland, Ore., where he writes freelance and provides public policy analysis. Follow him on Twitter @ctrejbal.

Share This Post

  • TellMeImDreaming

    The Republican’s love this crap. It’s the equivalent of taunting and bullies can’t resist…..

  • kabulate

    Thanks, Chris, for writing this article. I didn’t see this one coming even though I’ve been attuned to political issues since I was 14. Please continue to follow this story line. I sense–sadly–that you’re conclusion is correct.

  • emjayay

    Wow.

    And the award for most stunningly incoherent and apropos of nothing comment ever in the entire history of the internet goes to….

  • Tone

    Corporations are people and money is free speech. America astounds me.

  • Marilyn Nelson

    I live in Oregon. This is the third or fourth piece I have seen run on this issue. Although I am glad that someone noticed the illegal behavior of Monica and her boyfriend, Miller, I am a little angered by the frivolity of the tone in which it is spoken about. Oregon has become a laughing-stock over this. It is an embarrassment. If there is enough facts uncovered to laugh at the impropriety, than surely there are enough facts to prosecute.

  • AnthonyLook

    Sounds like if push comes to shove, the romantic couple can coordinate paying the fine for breaking campaign law and share the guilt.

  • thisMike

    If that’s the name of your PAC, you are going to go broke buying air time…

  • ORDeb

    The “coordination” here is illegal. It’s not romantic in the least. Sickening.

  • Bruce McCain

    “Most people don’t have the time or expertise to dig through Federal Election Commission filings to figure out who is really behind the money.” But I do and I did, breaking this story first in the Oregon media market before it went nationwide.

    http://oregonoracle.com/loren-parks-andrew-miller-fund-anti-conger-pac/

  • Elijah Shalis

    Did you see the I think it was Princeton Study that said America is now an Oligarchy. Yeah sorry America only has a few last vestiges left of a Democratic Republic

  • [email protected]

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    the castro strategy is simple, like Krimea, seed acron new men citizens like on France muslim immigration, like the leftist view of immigration, legal… and the civilian pre-invasion remains protected by the muslims and gays at the Warg House, a machine, made of Cubans, they have Castrists to marry’m… they are the judges, authority, gangsters, what they need, for the Holder “elevated crazy world mains, Ana Montes, Snowden, leftists, the “invisible” pre-SharryAlaw cartel and local “ordinary” crime, for sodomic “queens” I denounce responsible for all criminals I faced on their lists they laugh “because if I said there are lists then Steve Henson will film me homeless begging for food because Miami has a castrocoyote owner of my PO box, family, name… the lasts decades, and with “actos de repudio con paralegalismo felonico, agravado, planeado, y en records de los propios policias como Gimenez) LIKE Debby Wargsherman, the crazy friend of Obama’s criminals have years political party experienced activists trying to eliminate me (and leaving a path of destruction to their own nets, expl: mayoral and warg auuuthority nuked imbeci… oops, “invisibility”, Obama’s faked acuaman brain powers”, and the real muslim side of Obubble, like last night’s big, police or lawyer appearance, boss look, I think I’ve seem him before arround, cash store… not sure” white with dark hair Mexican, Nicaraguan, seems like had a 2005 glod or cream Altima, 4 doors, he took out a LONG, pointy, WITH A COVER KNIFE, collection looks,TRYED TO OPEN my doors, windows, ANOTHER AGRAVANT TO MIAMI CARTEL AND OBAMA’s NETS, against me TO HARM, happened before, and after lynchers left, gun pointing me, the “always late” POLICE, ah!, since chilli’s times I worked there, knowing a lot of these I denounce but laughing on my face, life-threatened me lately by the way… OCIFFER HERNANDEZ STILL CALL ME FROM HIS PHOU # 305 764 4781, OVER THE BLOCKS I TRY, HE USES GOV RESOURCESS, over my ph’s blocking system, HE all the way KNEW ON “my” step mother and para family related to MA Noriega and Castro’s lawyers, on Panama, remains with my postal box key, “by law” to CASTROCOYOTE LOURDES MARTINEZ, for YEARS AN ACORN,

    I think last night killer sent by police was Nica (I blog also against Sandinists, Maroño now knows more about me and my work, AFTER I WARNNED HIM TO STOP SENDING THE CRIMINALS, ON CITY CAMMS, LAST NIGHT’S CAN BE SEEM USING camms of 8st 119-30, PET LOVERS ANIMAL CLINIC, OR THE NEW JEWELRY OR DIVORCE (I also suspect on the “remodeling city workers” at the whole shoping) specially the “legaly ok look” of the new lawyers business, divorce, AND SURELY TRAVELS TO CUBA NEW STORE WHERE I HOMELESS-SLEEP BY.

    coming up: more on my VOLUNTARY FOR SURVIVING humble e-WORK, like… : The battle for the ideas of TEA Creation… over the ashes of acorn… the 3rd power Oblabla misses since 2010… over trillions, cartels, local ins urgency, spies, infiltration and “nobody can even mention it without the doctrolls accusing you of paranoid”… )

    I denounce terror related corruption , when I kinda begun to blog, but on my professional field’s only kind of postings: e-comments at anewspaper or magazine (orgs didn’t existed, 1st, move on… from the Lewinsky times) page on the 2004 pre-blog internet I was already a payed ordinary Journalist (you and Townhall.com know I was an internet focus group back on Sweden’s 1st global knowledge fair where internet was offered publicly. It was my e-mail then on 1997-98 on Stockholms universities, Nordics learned 1st hand a pre-Columbus birthday, 40 years earlier, an Scoth, seeming older like Celts… citadel on Darien, Panama, where I worked as a Journalist for an international agriculture org, this time on genetics, it was again on my e-mail, a Media’s persona, the clonation of the new potato using an old “leyend” of an old Belgium’s explorer who following ancient local stories came up with a pre-historic potato, wich genetics made safe actual fast food industry, no more “cancer from fast food restaurant food”)…

    Then… “the work I left to the last because of SoFla sanctuary, specially 21st Century anti-TEAparty communistic gay sodomical pre-SharryAlaw fast&furiously occupied thewall st toilet acorns, “etc”… and not coincidentaly actual anti-American and pro-Iran, Rusia, “etc”… continental GOV cartel gov money laundries… I publicly accused all I mention again…

    Comment by water board | April 22, 2014 | Reply

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