The Republican candidate for Oregon’s 4th district in the United States House of Representatives has a long shot of winning his defamation lawsuit against incumbent Peter A. DeFazio days before the Nov. 6 election.
Arthur B. “Art” Robinson’s campaign conducted a poll and found that over 30,000 voters believed Robinson himself had put up the advertisements (an example of which can be seen above) in question, according to a recent statement. As a result, his campaign has reason to believe DeFazio’s omission of disclaimers on his ads will have a direct effect on the race for the congressional seat.
Robinson told Human Events, “30 percent of people seeing those billboards actually believe I put them up. They believe that because he made the disclaimers on some of them too small to read, he didn’t put the disclaimer at all. That’s our complaint.”
“He puts my name and my picture up there and makes it look like I’m making these statements,” he said.
Some of the quotations on DeFazio’s billboards are things Robinson has said or written, but DeFazio has taken them out of context, Robinson said.
All the billboards direct viewers to a DeFazio-sponsored website, WhoIsArtRobinson.com. The site, which expands on claims that Robinson variously opposes Oregon State University, taxes, and Social Security, is 4th on the list of Google search results on Art Robinson.
Liz Cooney, campaign manager for DeFazio’s re-election, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
David Mark, editor-in-chief at Politix and author of “Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning,” said, “Robinson has virtually no shot of winning because it’s not clear at all that the advertisements are illegal.”
“DeFazio is under little to no legal obligation to give sources on those claims,” he said. “Candidates usually do because it gives them credibility. But there’s virtually no statute he could be sued under. Political advertising is fundamentally different from commercial advertising.”
The DeFazio campaign has put Robinson’s likeness beside text such as “Art Robinson Says: Energy company CEO’s shouldn’t pay taxes” on billboards along highways in the state. Robinson said DeFazio has made these billboards using made-up and out-of-context quotes as well as calling Robinson a “pathological nutjob.”
“Obviously I’m not after him for calling me names,” he said. “That’s permitted.”
“But we have one protection. It is required that these statements carry a clear indication of who made the statement. That avoids impersonating the other candidate and making those statements on his behalf, which the public thinks he’s making,” he said.
Mark said, “That still sounds like a long shot. That’s been tried by other candidates in other congressional races. My guess is DeFazio’s got a pretty savvy campaign office, they know where the line is.”
Even he found the DeFazio website, WhoIsArtRobinson.com, to look very much like an official Robinson site, Mark said.
“It’s not really nice, it’s probably not quote, unquote fair, but I just think DeFazio has been in this game for a long time and his campaign operation is pretty careful about this sort of thing,” he said.