(NaturalNews) Taking a page from national political parties and federal lawmakers, an Oregon group trying to convince Portland residents to approve adding fluoride to the city's drinking water has taken to buying off key constituencies for their support. It seems like all aspects of American government are for sale these days.
According to Willamette Week, Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland, which is leading the pro-fluoridation push, is now trumpeting the support of seven minority groups including the Urban League of Portland and the Latino Network following payments of some $143,000 - about one-third of what the group has spent on its campaign thus far - in advance of a May 21 referendum.
Backers of the campaign say the minority groups are providing their support because fluoridation is important to them as a group, but critics smell a wet, non-fluoridated rat. Per WWeek.com:
The move is highly unorthodox for a political campaign: Typically, groups that endorse a measure contribute money, not receive it.
Oregon's free-wheeling campaign-finance laws place virtually no limits on how campaigns spend their money. But the state's undue-influence law prohibits campaigns from paying individuals or organizations in exchange for their political support.
And yet, that's exactly what appears on the surface to have happened, say concerned parties.
'This is a new approach'
Dan Meek, a public-interest lawyer who is active in the arena of campaign-finance reform, says the tactic used by the pro-fluoridation movement is unorthodox. He says further that it is unusual for groups to first endorse a particular campaign, then receive money from that same campaign.
"This is a new approach," he said.
Officials with Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland say the payments were merely intended to help the minority groups promote the ballot initiative, Measure 26-151, and weren't made in exchange for support.
"Fluoride and dental health are really important to low-income communities and communities of color," Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland campaign manager Evyn Mitchell said. "We are trying to provide capacity to the groups that will do the outreach."
If you say so, Evyn.
What about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)? Officials there say the group has endorsed a "no" vote on the measure and haven't received a dime.
"We were scratching our heads about these so-called minority groups," Cliff Walker of the NAACP's Portland chapter told the online WWeek.com. "It was suggested that people were getting paid."
Sounds like more than just a suggestion.
The measure up for a vote would require Portland to begin adding fluoride to the city's drinking water by March 2014. At the present time, Portland is one of the country's largest cities that does not fluoridate its water.
When truth, logic and sound reasoning aren't on your side, buy your support
Last fall, the Portland City Council, against the wishes of most residents, voted 5-0 to fluoridate the water supply, as well as approved plans to build a $5 million fluoridation plant.
Opponents of the plan have consistently - and correctly - argued that fluoride is inherently unhealthy. They managed to gather enough signatures on a petition to force the council to put the measure up for a vote.
So far, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland group has received more than $587,000 in donations for its pro-fluoride campaign. The biggest source of these donations is an organization called the Northwest Health Foundation, which has donated nearly half of the campaign's funds - $215,000, according to WWeek.com, which also reported:
"Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland turned around and paid $20,000 each to the Urban League of Portland, the Latino Network, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Center for Intercultural Organizing, and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization. The Oregon Latino Health Coalition got $5,000. Another group, the Native American Youth and Family Center, has been paid $37,810."
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