Politics of deception weaves tangled web
It’s hard to top 19th century Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott when it comes to describing the plight of 21st century politics: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
Sadly, deception is a core strategy for some candidates and many issue campaigns. Local politics usually is more principled, but even here we see the occasional ethical lapse.
For example, Tim Casey’s campaign for Yamhill County Sheriff is misrepresenting a regional Teamsters union endorsement as a show of support by the local sheriff’s office union. It’s an embarrassment to have that kind of distortion in a race for the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Most political deception is more crafty. One favorite ploy in politics is using misleading organization names to hide actual political missions.
Consider the Oregon Family Farm Association PAC, created to fight restrictive Oregon land use laws and then expanded to support conservative candidates and measures.
Two-thirds of the group’s reported cash contributions since 2007 have come from conservative benefactor Loren Parks and the land use group, Oregonians in Action. As a George family business of sorts, almost 30 percent of its spending has gone to George Advertising, Inc.
There’s no law against misleading names to bolster a political image. But if you want to see what the Oregon Family Farm Association would be if its mission matched its name, look up the website for Friends of Family Farmers.
Conservatives, of course, don’t have a monopoly on misrepresentation.
Oregon public employee unions are adept at suggesting a benefit to all Oregonians to conceal more partisan motivations. Their campaign to raise taxes with measures 66 and 67 vilified the Oregon business community to persuade Oregonians to enact a new tax on companies already suffering financial losses.
National conservative PACs use patriotic words such as “liberty” and “freedom,” while liberal PACS lean to more ambiguous names such as USA Action and Priorities USA. Both sides practice obfuscation — a perfect word, since we’re not exactly sure what it means.
True political magicians are masters of misdirection. Look here, they say, when it’s already too late to see what happened behind the scenes. The best advice is to follow the money.
All that said, we’re fortunate that most candidates and issues in our local communities are promoted through honest campaigns. It’s good that nearly two centuries later, we still remember Sir Walter Scott’s reminder about the consequences of deception.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.