by Dave Lister
The Democratic Party doesn’t care how much it spends, or who it destroys, to retain the status quo
You have to wonder why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to spend well over a million dollars to wage a nasty, negative campaign against Rob Cornilles, an honest and well-intentioned Republican, in what has been a solidly Democratic district since 1975.
Was it because they had little or no confidence in their own nominee, Suzanne Bonamici? Was it because they knew that Republican national money would stay on the sidelines for the decidedly long-shot race and that simply outspending Cornilles would give them an easy win? Was it because this race was the first for national office in 2012 and the loss of a Democrat in a Democratic district was simply unacceptable? Was it because they feared the parallel to New York’s 9th District, where a Democratic congressman who also resigned in disgrace was replaced by a Republican?
Whatever the reason, it was a shameful display of the worst in American politics.
Ads for Bonamici and Cornilles began to hit the airwaves about the same time, but there was a decided difference. Cornilles’ ads, paid for by his own campaign, talked about job creation and the need for bipartisan solutions. The ads for Bonamici, paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, made no mention of their candidate, but rather took an out-of-context sound bite of Cornilles calling himself “the original Tea Party candidate” and aired it over and over again.
When Bonamici was questioned about the negative ads, she claimed, in an unconvincing fashion, that her campaign had no control over third-party spending. That’s true, of course. But she could have disavowed both the content and the tone of those ads, which she did not. After enduring the assault and trying to keep it positive for several weeks, the Cornilles campaign reacted as would any child in a schoolyard who had been bullied long enough: It responded in kind. I think that’s unfortunate, but it’s totally understandable.
The Democratic assault on Cornilles has mischaracterized everything from his positions on Social Security and Medicare to his record as a businessperson. His statement that former employees and trainees have gone on to successful careers in the sports industry and in turn created more than 500 jobs has been twisted into him falsely claiming he had 500 employees.
Much has been made over his company being assessed a federal tax lien for delinquent payroll taxes, but no mention that he overcame whatever difficulties put him in that position and paid back the taxes. His job creation credentials have also been criticized because his company, Game Face, now has only four full-time and two part-time employees. What’s not been acknowledged is that the downsizing was deliberate and a result of his being effectively occupied with running for Congress for the past three years.
As if the Democratic smear campaign wasn’t enough, Cornilles has been assaulted by members of his own party, particularly some on the red-meat-radio talk circuit, because he supported the Columbia River Crossing project and, in their view, wasn’t conservative enough. In their twisted logic it was somehow better to send a Democrat to Congress than a moderate Republican, despite the fact that a Republican hard-liner could hardly begin to mount a campaign in the 1st District, let alone win one.
The saddest fact is that neither Bonamici nor Cornilles, as a freshman representative from Oregon, would be able to do much of anything to influence the national debate. But Oregon has been a solidly blue state and the Democratic Party doesn’t care how much it spends, or who it destroys, to retain the status quo.
Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.