Oregon House candidate lied about endorsements, rival PAC says
Secured ballot boxes await processing by workers at the Marion County Clerk’s Office in Salem on Monday, May 16. (Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
UPDATE: This article was updated at 8 p.m. Tuesday and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday with information about the erroneous endorsements being removed from a printed version of the pamphlet.
A Republican candidate for a coastal state House district lied about endorsements in the state-issued Voters’ Pamphlet, a political action committee for House Democrats alleged Tuesday.
In an online version of the pamphlet, Newport restaurateur Celeste McEntee includes education advocacy group Stand for Children and the Oregon Farm Bureau on a list of endorsers.
The erroneously included endorsements will not appear in the printed version of the Voters’ Pamphlet when it’s mailed to voters, according to emails shared with the Capital Chronicle after this article’s publication.
Stand for Children has endorsed McEntee’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Rep. David Gomberg of Otis, and gave his campaign $5,000 in mid-September, according to state campaign finance records. FuturePAC, the House Democrats’ committee, also said it received confirmation from the farm bureau that it hadn’t endorsed McEntee; the bureau’s lobbyist didn’t immediately return a call or text from the Capital Chronicle on Tuesday.
“It is an egregious violation of the public trust to tell voters you have endorsements from trusted community organizations when that’s simply not true,” FuturePAC Communications Director Andrew Rogers said in a statement. “It is deeply disturbing that McEntee would make these misleading claims.”
He said the PAC requested that McEntee’s false endorsements be removed from the printed version of the pamphlet before it’s mailed to voters next month.
That’s already been done, according to the political director of a PAC for House Republicans. After publication, Dru Draper shared emails from the Secretary of State’s Office confirming that those endorsements, as well as one from Crime Victims United, had been removed.
Ben Morris, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, initially said candidates are responsible for the contents of their statements, and they had until Aug. 30 to request edits.
“The Elections Division does not edit or censor the content of a voters’ pamphlet statement,” Morris said.
He clarified Wednesday morning that the Elections Division does verify whether endorsements are accurately listed.
It requires organizations and individuals endorsing candidates to submit forms confirming those endorsements. If a candidate lists endorsers who haven’t submitted those forms, state election workers confirm whether the endorsements were listed in error. They don’t make corrections before an initial version of the Voters’ Pamphlet is sent to military and overseas voters and posted online.
McEntee did not immediately return a call or email. Last month, she received a “letter of education”, or written warning, in lieu of a $1,500 fine from the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for failing to file required paperwork disclosing her sources of income, debts and investments before an April 15 deadline for legislative candidates.
It’s a class C felony to lie about educational or professional backgrounds in the Voters’ Pamphlet – former Republican U.S. Rep. Wes Cooley was placed on probation, fined and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service after he was convicted in 1997 for claiming he served in Korea during the Korean War when he never left the U.S.
But there aren’t such rules governing most information provided for the pamphlet. Former state Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, introduced a bill in 2017 that would have made providing any untrue information for the pamphlet a crime punishable by five years in prison and a $125,000 fine, but it stalled because of concerns about free speech.
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