US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has called on the directors of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Administration to investigate allegations of illegal use of public taxpayer funds to influence Oregon’s upcoming vote on marijuana legalization, known as Measure 91.
As I have been reporting, officials opposed to Measure 91 have been involved with the creation and promotion of a so-called “educational” summit and tour slated to begin in the first week of October, just a week before Oregonians (who vote entirely by mail) will be receiving their ballots to vote on marijuana legalization. The events feature Kevin Sabet, the co-counder of the anti-legalization group Project SAM, who just last January testified before the Oregon legislature against this same measure when it was a bill.
“The bias of the speakers selected, the overall one-sided focus of the events, and the proximity between these events and the upcoming election are cause for concern,” writes Congressman Blumenauer. “Newspaper advertisements for the tour have been paid for by federal taxpayer dollars in at least one Oregon newspaper and there has been an effort to try and promote the ads and get them placed in other venues.”
Congressman Blumenauer also notes that the person listed as the contact for the “educational” tour is both “a staff member for a nonprofit that contracts with Jefferson County and receives federal dollars” and “the Director of the No on 91 Political Action Committee.” Even after the state director of the Addictions and Mental Health division informed counties that participation in the tour would constitute a political act, “county employees are still listed as site coordinators for the tour.” Rep. Blumenauer notes that “some of the prevention coordinators are employed by non-profits which are contracted to provide services to the counties. These non-profits receive federal grants, either directly or indirectly, and as a result are subject to the same rules and regulations regarding political activity and federal funds.”
While federal law expressly forbids these kinds of election shenanigans, Oregon law is even stricter. “The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that public employees may be found personally liable for returning any taxpayer funds (including federal dollars) that were misused for political purposes,” concludes Rep. Blumenauer. “It would be extremely unfortunate for well-meaning public servants to be put in such an onerous position.”
Rep. Blumenauer’s letter and attachments are available