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Phony Pamphlets: Anti-One Gro campaign created imitation voter pamphlets

Creswell’s upcoming vote on Measure 20-280 has gotten messy.

The measure, which would legalize marijuana sales in specific districts of the city, is supported by local weed start-up One Gro. The opposition, a coalition of citizens and local business owners under the political action committees Say No to One Gro and Keep it Creswell, last week mailed a biased voters pamphlet to the 97426 area code.

The pamphlet mirrors the appearance of official voters’ pamphlets. The inside cover has a notice in small print, stating, “This unofficial voters’ pamphlet was produced by the political action committees of Keep It Creswell and Say No To One Gro.”

Printed on newsprint, just like official voter pamphlets, the cover declares the publication as a “Voters’ Pamphlet” for the Nov. 7, 2017 special election.

Michael Weber, public relations representative for Say No to One Gro, says, “There was no conspiracy or desire or attempt to make it deceiving. We asked for a pamphlet that looked similar to what a pamphlet would look like, and that's what we got and we liked it and went with it.”

Dan Isaacson, the CEO of One Gro, thinks it’s a lot more duplicitous. “The goal is clearly to deceive people,” Isaacson says. “They created a guide that has the same paper, font, size and look of an official one. The only conclusion that can be taken is that it’s meant to prey on vulnerable voters in the community.”

Creating materials similar to voters’ pamphlets is not currently illegal, though the Oregon Legislature introduced a bill earlier this year in an attempt to change that. House Bill 2349 “proposed limitations regarding political advocacy materials that look like the voters pamphlet,” says Stephen Trout, director of elections in the office of the Oregon Secretary of State. The bill did not become law, meaning the Creswell pamphlet is legal.

“There is, however, a limited remedy under ORS 260.532 where an individual can file a complaint in the appropriate circuit court,” Trout adds. The measure he cites bans the publication of “a false statement of material fact relating to any candidate, political committee or measure.”

Isaacson says the tactics used by the opposition campaign are unfair. “We have held town halls, tours, calls, sit-downs and interviews to allow folks the ability to get to know their new neighbor and to start a conversation,” he explains. “And since the beginning a vocal minority, with clearly no bottom to their moral compass or respect for our democracy, has tried to subvert it through deception, lies and behavior that borders on criminality.”

Isaacson claims that supporters of the two opposition PACs follow his employees to the store. “They take pictures of them,” he says. He adds that the opposition has discussed farm sabotage. “I have pictures and video of them stalking the farm,” he says.

Weber would seem to disagree. “I feel Dan is feeling the pressure of the fact One Gro does not have support they had hoped for in Creswell,” he says, adding that One Gro representatives have made a few baseless accusations on Facebook, including claims that the opposition campaign is funded and supported by black-market growers.

Isaacson, for his part, says he is concerned about the safety of his workers. “This is an industry where it’s not unheard of for someone to try to target a manager at a farm and be violent, and we’ve all accepted that to a degree, but this was appalling,” he says.