Case Against Salinas for Attack Ad Moves Forward

From Oregon Campaign Watch:

In the waning weeks of the 2022 General Election, then-congressional hopeful Andrea Salinas (D) launched a negative TV ad against her opponent, businessman Mike Erickson (R). The ad said that Erickson was “charged with felony drug possession,” and visually displayed four lines of cocaine. It cited Erickson’s 2016 DUI charge in Hood River when a 5mg oxycodone pill, belonging to his wife, was found in his wallet.

Salinas continued to run the ad despite a cease and desist notice from the Erickson campaign, and went on to eek out a win by a 2.5% margin. Rep. Salinas now serves in Congress.

Erickson sued the Salinas campaign. Outright lies fall under the Oregon Corrupt Practices Act.

In a positive sign for Erickson, a Clackamas County Court made available the 127-page transcript on May 25 detailing the Judge’s review and decision on whether to “strike” the Mike Erickson defamation lawsuit filed against Andrea Salinas in December of 2022. The transcript reveals the Court’s concerns about the truthfulness of the Salinas advertisement. “[T]he Court concludes that the Erickson Committee has made a sufficient showing that the statements” made by the Salinas Campaign about Mike Erickson “were not true.” (Transcript page 94).

Judge Todd L. Van Rysselberghe commented that the Erickson campaign’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist order to the Salinas campaign explaining that the Hood River District Attorney never filed charges against Mr. Erickson for Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (one oxycodone pill). However, after the Hood River District Attorney viewed the Salinas campaign’s advertisements, charging Mr. Erickson with Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance, they were informed the ads were false. Although the Salinas campaign was advised that its advertisement was false, the Court found that it “declined to change course and continued running the advertisement” in reckless disregard that statements in the advertisement were false (Transcript pages 95-96).

The Court concluded that there were legitimate reasons to believe that “the Salinas Committee published a false statement of material fact with knowledge or reckless disregard that it was false.” (Transcript page 96).

In a statement after reviewing the Court’s transcript, Mike Erickson said: “We are very encouraged by the findings and contents of the recently released court document and the recognition by the Judge that false statements were made by Andrea Salinas in the recent Congressional race. It is our opinion that those false statements and advertising absolutely affected the outcome of the election, causing me to lose the election by a few thousand votes out of over 300,000 votes cast, not to mention the damage the advertisements did to me, my family, and my businesses reputation.”

Erickson added, “The court documents reveal that Andrea Salinas and her campaign committee knowingly made false statements against me, which we and Salinas knew were not true.”

Salinas has appealed the Judge’s decision, which rests in the Oregon Appellate Courts’ hands.