Today's Oregonian story got it wrong. In "The Truth Behind the Political Ads" this is said about a Yes on 49 television ad:
Finally, the ad highlights words from the ballot title, implying it is a neutral description. However, the same legislative majority that put Measure 49 on the ballot also wrote the ballot title, bypassing the process normally used to develop neutral wording.
I've told the reporter, Jeff Mapes, that he fell into the Oregonians in Action propaganda machine.
The Attorney General's response to the OIA lawsuit challenging the ballot title can be read here.
Turning to pages 9-10 of the PDF file (numbered pages 5-6) you'll read how the legislature historically had adopted ballot information. The Chief Deputy Legislative Counsel, who has over twenty years of experience in the Counsel's office, submitted an affidavit saying that it is commonplace to follow the process that was used in Measure 49.
That is, for the legislature to write the ballot language and exempt it from judicial review. I'd like to suggest that a correction is in order. Otherwise, I think you did a good job analyzing the ads.
Jeff responded to me:
I think the proponents have an argument to make that they wrote an accurate ballot title. But if they wanted a neutral ballot title, they would have allowed the usual process to go forward. I've seen the Legislature write the ballot title on a handful of occasions (the 1993 sales tax measure comes immediately to mind) and the point in doing it is to prevent as positive a case to voters, within the limits of what they can do.
Well, I guess it comes down to what "usual" means. I replied to Jeff:
The AG's response uses terms like "common," "routinely," and "commonplace" to describe Mr. Reutlinger's affidavit. (The affidavit itself wasn't part of the PDF file, so I haven't read it). It seems clear that what happened with Measure 49 has happened numerous times before, notwithstanding your comment that this time the legislature didn't follow "the usual process." In any case, I think the situation is quite a bit more nuanced than how it was presented in your story.
I also took the opportunity to point out another OIA legend that makes the round of right-wing blogs. Namely, that the Attorney General's office described the Measure 49 ballot title as an "advocacy piece." This isn't true.
As described in the AG's response to the OIA lawsuit (page 12 of PDF file, numbered page 8), the Attorney General's office was commenting on a proposed citizen initiative completely separate from Measure 49.
Someone wanted the ballot language for that initiative to support its passage, and the AG explained that the ballot title should not be an "advocacy piece." That comment had nothing to do with Measure 49.
The big money pave-it-over brigade opposing Measure 49 is hoping that some of the many lies they're throwing out will stick in the minds of voters.
Fortunately, the truth is simple. Measure 49's ballot language is accurate and legal. It was written the way legislative referrals to the voters commonly are done. Vote "Yes" and believe that what the Voter's Pamphlet says about Measure 49 is true:
MODIFIES MEASURE 37; CLARIFIES RIGHT TO BUILD HOMES; LIMITS LARGE DEVELOPMENTS; PROTECTS FARMS, FORESTS, GROUNDWATER.
RESULT OF 'YES' VOTE: 'Yes' vote modifies Measure 37; clarifies private landowners' rights to build homes; extends rights to surviving spouses; limits large developments; protects farmlands, forestlands, groundwater supplies.
RESULT OF 'NO' VOTE: 'No' vote leaves Measure 37 unchanged; allows claims to develop large subdivisions, commercial, industrial projects on lands now reserved for residential, farm and forest uses.
[Update: Just got this from Jeff. I really appreciate how this reporter is so responsive to a reader's comments. The Oregonian doesn't deliver to our rural south Salem home, so virtually every day I buy a paper in town. By and large, the Oregonian strives for balance and fairness in its reporting, which is a big part of why I go to the trouble of reading it daily.]
I believe it's been three or four times over the last 10-12 years. Bear in mind that most ballot measures are citizen initiatives that do have their ballot titles vetted and, often rewritten. So I think many voters have an impression that the ballot title is a neutral description (and the ad reinforced that by citing as the source, "Oregon Voters' Pamphlet" when the ballot title flashed up on the screen).