Oregon politicians would have to tell the truth on the statements they file in the voter pamphlet under a measure being considered at the state Legislature.
It’s already illegal to lie about things like educational and professional background. That’s tripped up a number of Oregon candidates, including Congressman Wes Cooley.
Cooley dropped out of a re-election campaign in the mid-90s when he was accused of lying about serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces in Korea.
But apart from the short biographical section, office-seekers are free to write just about anything without fear of legal consequence.
The sponsor of the bill to make lying a crime is Republican Rep. Julie Parrish.
“I could write in my voters pamphlet statement that I cured cancer and when I’m not in the Legislature I am vacationing in my condo on the moon,” Parrish testified to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday. “And it would not matter. Nobody could hold me accountable for what’s in my voters pamphlet statement.”
Members of the committee said scrutiny by the public and the press can sometimes be more of a punishment than the threat of a fine or a prison sentence.
House Republican leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte said candidates who are caught telling lies in the voter pamphlet often face “such a swift rebuke in the public, that the criminal sanction, albeit legitimate, is certainly not the most pronounced in consequence.”
The ACLU of Oregon calls the bill “likely unconstitutional.”
In written testimony, ACLU lobbyist Kimberly McCullough said the issue is “likely to turn on whether a court would find that governmental regulation of knowingly false statements by a candidate was necessary to achieve” the goal of “protecting the integrity of its election process.”