Truth and consequences
Campaign misstatements are one thing; fabricating facts is something else again
Amid the hustle and bustle of political campaigns, it's easy for a candidate to commit a verbal "gaffe" or two — to misstate a fact or garble a statistic. Most voters are willing to give office-seekers a pass when this happens, and rightly so. And most candidates who commit one of these verbal blunders are quick to correct themselves. But there is a big difference between a momentary lapse and stubbornly repeating a claim that has no basis in fact.
Doug Breidenthal, the Republican nominee for an open seat on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, has made a number of claims during the campaign, starting in the primary, that have proven to be, at best, only partially true.
- Breidenthal claimed to have developed a policy requiring different government agencies to coordinate on public projects such as removing dams or creating wilderness areas. Republican Commissioners C.W. Smith, Don Skundrick and John Rachor disputed that, and County Administrator Danny Jordan said he didn't recall ever discussing the issue with Breidenthal. Smith and Skundrick endorsed one of Breidenthal's primary opponents, and Skundrick has crossed party lines to endorse Democrat Jeff Scroggin in the general election.
- Breidenthal said he was one of four key people who challenged the county in court over land-use claims, but only three names were listed in the lawsuit, and his wasn't one of them.
- Breidenthal has said he was a major player in pushing for an executive order approved by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber that gives some counties, including Jackson, more leeway in zoning rural properties. Current commissioners — who were involved in the effort — say Breidenthal had little to do with it.
- Breidenthal ran a campaign ad in the Mail Tribune recently that said, in part, that he had run Jackson County Builders Inc. from 1995 to 2008, but documents show the business started in 1999 and ended in 2003. Breidenthal said he failed to review the ad carefully before it was printed.
- In a Thursday story, federal officials said Breidenthal is flat wrong to assert — which he has done repeatedly — that the Endangered Species Act allows the logging of 20 percent of forests affected by the act. Breidenthal has been unable to point to the specific language he says is in the ESA.
- Breidenthal has said Jackson County should follow the lead of Apache County, Ariz., and simply declare "jurisdiction" over federal forestland and pursue thinning projects to reduce forest fire danger and other timber projects. Federal officials say they are working with Apache County on forest thinning projects, but control of the lands has not shifted to the county.
Cooperative thinning projects here in Southern Oregon are affecting tens of thousands of acres, far more than is taking place in Apache County, where a total of 57 acres have been thinned as a result of the actions Breidenthal refers to.
Any candidate is entitled to call for changes in how government operates, and Breidenthal is no exception. If he believes more trees should be harvested, let him make that case. If he believes counties should have control over what is now federal forestland, he can advocate that, too.
What he's not entitled to do is insist that a federal law says something it doesn't, or that local government can take over federal lands simply by declaring jurisdiction. Neither is he entitled to a whole series of resume enhancements.
We seem to recall a prominent Republican candidate — a guy named Mitt Romney — telling his opponent that he was not entitled to his own set of facts. The same holds true for candidates at every level, including would-be county commissioners.
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