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Robinson Lawsuit a Publicity Stunt?

Art Robinson
Art Robinson

Congressman Peter DeFazio’s campaign is calling a $1 million lawsuit filed by Tea Party challenger Art Robinson in Josephine County “meritless.” The Robinson campaign also sent out an email to supporters that insinuates that Lane County engaged in voter fraud in the 2010 election, which Robinson lost to DeFazio. 

Robinson’s campaign did not respond to a request to confirm its allegations. It also did not send a copy of the suit to DeFazio’s campaign before issuing its press release.

“Art Robinson has a longstanding pattern of filing or threatening lawsuits — most notably against Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute,” says Liz Cooney, DeFazio’s campaign manager. “While the campaign has yet to be served with the complaint, we stand ready to defend ourselves vigorously against its meritless claims,” she says.

Robinson’s lawsuit alleges that DeFazio’s primary campaign strategy in 2010, and again in 2012, has been to falsely depict Robinson as a “pathological” “nut job,” who lives and works in a “survivalist compound.” The suit says Robinson is falsely depicted “as a candidate who has paid for billboards and other publications seeking to convey to voters of the district messages and beliefs that plaintiff [Robinson] does not espouse in his congressional candidacy.”

DeFazio said to supporters watching the final presidential debate at Cozmic on Oct. 21, “He sued me for putting up billboards with his quotes on them.”

Robinson, whose campaign has gotten a quarter of a million dollars from out-of-state hedge-fund millionaire Robert Mercer, is a climate change denier who has told EW he thinks that a little nuclear radiation can help keep the immune system in shape. The billboards feature photos of Robinson and quotes from emails, interviews and issues of the newsletter he edits, Access to Energy. The Robinson quotes include “OSU is a liberal socialist stronghold” and “Public schools should be abolished.”

On the “voter fraud” issue the Robinson campaign wrote in an email to supporters that “The mail-in ballot system in Oregon has many opportunities for vote counting fraud. We studied this carefully during recounts of the 2010 election, and what we saw was very disturbing.” The email, which originates from Art Robinson’s son Noah, singles out Lane County for criticism and calls for volunteers to video and photograph “to watch for cheating.”

The email says, “I shouldn’t have to say this, but obviously we would not ask you to do anything illegal.”

Lane County spokesperson Jenn Inman says, “The two areas the messages discuss specific to Lane County are vote count observation and ballot duplication. Lane County Elections adheres to all state elections regulations and guidelines, including those for observers and ballot duplication.”

Robinson’s email takes issue with the practice of duplicating ballots that may not be machine-readable to ensure the votes get counted. “Ballot duplication is not nefarious or an oddity,” Inman says, “but part of the ballot inspection process and administered in Lane County in accordance to state elections procedures.” Those procedures include duplicating and proofing done by at least two election personnel each with a different party affiliation. 

Inman says, “Observer rules are intended to protect the integrity of the vote counting process including eliminating distractions, interference with or intimidation of vote counting staff,” and she says observers are asked to leave phones and cameras outside.

From accusing OSU of retaliating against his son Matthew to Matthew filing to run against DeFazio in the Democratic primary, Robinson’s campaign has had a history of publicity stunts.