More than 30,000 Oregon Voters Misled By DeFazio Illegal Billboards
Robinson Sues DeFazio (pdf)In recent weeks, Oregon voters have seen an innovative Art Robinson sign campaign along the highways, roads, and city streets. Instead of advertising just the name of the candidate, Robinson volunteers have been putting up thousands of signs that advertise Art’s policies – the things that he will work to accomplish if elected to Congress. Since these signs are also made by volunteers, they are very inexpensive to post. (There are 35 different versions of the signs with different issues, which can also be viewed by <A href = "http://www.artforcongress.com/updates/issue-signs-light-robinson-campaign">clicking here</a>.) The costs of materials for the signs have been paid by individual campaign donors. Art has no corporate campaign support.
Now, just before voting began (Oregon mail-in ballots have now been mailed to voters), a new, very expensive campaign has been launched on commercial billboards along Oregon highways and roads by Art’s opponent Peter DeFazio. These billboards say nothing about DeFazio or his policies. Actually, the very fact that DeFazio put them up is being concealed.
The DeFazio billboards feature Art Robinson’s picture, name, and text falsely suggesting that Art will work to close the public schools, stop social security payments, and stop federal student aid to college students. Art is pictured advertising these things. Many motorists who read these signs know that these are not Art’s policies, but polls show that 33% of motorists who read the signs believe that they were put up by Art, the candidate pictured on the sign, to promote his actual policies. Predictably, the signs make them less likely to vote for Art.
A poll taken by the Robinson campaign shows that, already, there are more than 30,000 Oregon voters who have been deceived into believing that Art put up these DeFazio billboards (33% of the more than 100,000 who have seen the signs, with a margin of error giving a 99% probability that the number is greater than 25,000), far more than necessary to decide the election. At least an additional 20,000 voters are unsure who put these billboards up. And, these numbers are growing daily.
Those who think the billboards were put up by Art Robinson are more than twice as likely to vote for DeFazio as those who say they think DeFazio put up the billboards.
All campaign materials, especially advertisements, are required by federal law to have an easily readable “disclaimer” that informs the viewer as to the person or organization responsible for the ad. The law is meant to prevent just the sort of campaign that DeFazio is now waging. Four of the DeFazio billboards do have a “disclaimer” deliberately printed with small thin print in light gray so that it is difficult or impossible for the passing motorist to read. This violates the law. Even more remarkably, three of the DeFazio billboards have no disclaimer at all. There is nothing whatever on the billboards to indicate their source other than Art Robinson’s name in giant print and a large picture of him.
There is no doubt that DeFazio would eventually be punished by the Federal Election Commission for these billboards if a complaint were filed, but DeFazio knows that would occur long after the election. By putting these unlawful billboards up just before the voting, he hopes to affect the election before any authority can act.
One of the billboards is especially unique, because it does not address any campaign issue at all. With a large picture of Art, Art’s name, and no indication (no disclaimer whatever and therefore in violation of federal law) that Art did not put up the billboard, this large, very expensive electronic billboard is perched right on the central road to Oregon State University. This billboard is visible to students, administrators, faculty members, and visiting potential contributors to OSU as they drive into OSU from Interstate 5. The billboard says that OSU is a liberal socialist stronghold.
There is a vigorous nationwide debate about apparent liberal socialist bias in American universities, not just OSU. There are a great many Americans on both sides of this issue.
There is no doubt, however, that there are very few people, regardless of their views in this debate, who would think it appropriate to post a large electronic billboard in front of any university with this slogan. This harms the university and does nothing to further this debate. The posting of this billboard reflects very negatively on the character of the person responsible.
By putting up this billboard with Art Robinson’s picture and no indication whatever of the actual billboard source, Peter DeFazio wants the people at OSU and the general public to think that Art put it up. DeFazio (the actual source of the billboard) intends to offend voters at OSU regardless of their liberal or conservative views, with the blame falling on his opponent – in order to move votes to DeFazio in the election.
These are not the first times that DeFazio has unlawfully taken Art Robinson’s identity for political purposes. In 2010, DeFazio posted thousands of internet ads with Art’s picture that looked like ads from Art’s campaign. Clicking on the ads led to content distorting Art’s positions. In 2010, DeFazio posted a billboard on Highway 5 with Art’s picture and designed to look like Art’s advertisement that read “Energy company CEOs shouldn’t pay taxes” – a position Art has certainly not taken. In 2010, DeFazio also posted two other similar billboards to the one described above. DeFazio was thoroughly warned about this, but this has not deterred him.
In 2012, DeFazio is running two movies on his internet site. Among the many misrepresentations and out of context quotes in the movies, is a quotation of Art Robinson with only the first part of Art’s statement quoted. Without the next sentence that Art spoke, the quote gives an entirely false impression – and this false content is featured in the movie. The other movie (a cartoon) has a depiction of Art running down and injuring senior citizens in the street while driving a street car. Meanwhile, Art is quoted as making a remark demeaning to senior citizens. Astonishingly, the quoted remark was made by DeFazio himself in a 2010 newspaper interview. DeFazio quotes himself out of context and attributes the quote to Art.
In fact, DeFazio’s campaign for office in 2010 and 2012 has depended mostly on misrepresentation of his opponent’s views. DeFazio and his co-workers combed through voluminous records of things Art Robinson has written, said, or published during the past few decades to find sentences, half-sentences, and other tidbits that, when advertised out of context, changed Art Robinson’s meaning and misrepresented his views. When none could be found, DeFazio just made something up.
In his own personal statements, DeFazio has falsely described Art Robinson as a “pathological” “nut job” who lives and works in a “survivalist compound.” DeFazio has conducted a two-year campaign to enhance this false image, largely by taking Art’s identity and plastering it all over a false straw-man image created by DeFazio.
Meanwhile, DeFazio has absolutely refused to face Art Robinson in free and open debate where the two men can question each other and bring the truth about themselves and each other into the open. In 2012, DeFazio has refused for several months an offer by Lars Larson for Robinson and DeFazio to debate for three hours on radio. DeFazio instead hides behind his false and unlawful advertising campaign.
A man who smears and damages the reputation of another man by public statements should, as a matter of personal honor, stand in a public place, face (one on one without intermediaries) the man he has smeared, and debate his claims with the man he has smeared.
Peter DeFazio has steadfastly refused to face Art Robinson one-on-one in public debate. DeFazio has taken Art’s identity and used large amounts of special interest money to destroy the personal and professional reputations of Art and his family by means of lies. DeFazio has broken the law while doing so.
Art Robinson is actually a widely known and highly respected scientist and educator. The Robinson family is outstanding in every respect and a credit to Oregon and to the community in which they live. Art and his family have made substantial contributions to medical research, biochemical research, and especially to education. They also worked effectively for their country during the Cold War and afterward in several other patriotic ways.
Art may or may not be the choice of the majority of District 4 Oregonians to represent them in Congress. His offer, however, to do this public service does not give Peter DeFazio justification to use unlawful means to take Art’s identity and to spend millions of dollars falsely smearing Art and his family personally and professionally in unlawful ways.
Art has filed in the Josephine County Court a one million dollar lawsuit against Peter DeFazio. DeFazio’s misrepresentations of Art on highway and roadside billboards (with Art’s picture and name and without the lawfully-required disclaimers clearly attributing the billboards to DeFazio and carried out so close to the voting that no correction could be implemented in time) was the last straw.