OBA’s Ryan Deckert and others Speak Out on Negative Campaign Rhetoric

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Published by The Oregonian on Oct. 31, 2014

By Ryan Deckert, Jeff Stone and Bill Perry

We, as leaders of business and agricultural groups in Oregon that represent leading employers in both small and large businesses, know that elections are rough-and-tumble and rhetoric and anecdote can sometimes substitute for facts and data.  We get it – and largely accept that this is the nature of modern political campaigns.  That is why we have never previously joined together to write an opinion piece expressing our dismay over the language being used in too many political races here in Oregon.

Exhibit A – linking undocumented workers here in Oregon to drug cartels and terrorists.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it is.  Unfortunately, if you turn on your radio or open your mailbox you are likely to hear or see an ad opposing numerous Democratic legislators because they supported legislation allowing individuals who are already here in Oregon – working, driving, attending their children’s school functions – the ability to go to the DMV and obtain a driver card.  It is critical to note that these are individuals we see at the grocery store, school PTA meetings, in our churches and working beside many of us.  They drove to all of those places. This legislation ensures that they pass a driving test and obtain insurance so we all abide by the same rules of the road. This really is politics at its worst.

Exhibit B – if “big” business is for it or them, vote no.

The Oregon Department of Employment recently reported that large companies represent just 2 percent of businesses in Oregon, yet they employ half of all workers and pay 59 percent of all wages in the state. These jobs are the backbone of our traded sector economy and are how we fund our public schools, community colleges and health care for those in need. Income taxes pay for just about everything in Oregon.

Why should you vote against the open primary in Oregon?  Well, of course, if big corporations support Measure 90 – it must be bad.

Why  are groups attacking Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro? Is it the fact that he has been at the center of most of the bipartisan accomplishments in Oregon this past decade,  from a  major transportation package to legislation adding over a billion dollars to our school budgets and ensuring those resources reached Oregon’s classrooms?  No way. All you need to know is a number of those large employers in Washington County support Bruce in his re-election. Case closed.

Unfortunately, there is an Exhibit C and D, but we are running out of space.

Reject politics and politicians that use their limited time to engage with you in campaign season to single out one group of individuals and equate them to criminals and terrorists.  And cast a wary eye towards those campaigns that don’t respect you enough to argue the issues and instead fall back on the tired old song that big and business must mean the other guy or gal is better.

Ryan Deckert is president of the Oregon Business Association; Jeff Stone is executive director and CEO of the Oregon Association of Nurseries; and Bill Perry is VP of government affairs for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.