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Anti-Pot DA Slams HuffPo Blogger Over Records Request

Saturday, September 27, 2014

 

DA Josh Marquis Photo Credit: Cynthia Price, Wikimedia Commons

District Attorney Josh Marquis, an anti-marijuana crusader, has filed an elections complaint against a pro-marijuana blogger. 

If the Election Division of the Oregon Secretary of State's Office finds that the complaint is valid it could result in fines, election officials said. 

Russ Belville, a marijuana legalization advocate, radio host and occasional blogger for the Huffington Post filed a large records request in late August for Marquis’s phone, emails and internet usage to determine if public resources had been used for a controversial drug education tour that Marquis was involved in. 

In emails obtained by GoLocalPDX, Marquis calls the public records request “annoying” and harassing.” 

“At the end of the day, there’s only one purpose for this. The purpose it to shut me up,” Marquis told GoLocalPDX. “What I see is flat out bullying and intimidation.” 

Marquis filed the complaint Wednesday with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division. Elections complaints are allegations that someone has violated the state's elections law. Complaints could result in a civil or criminal penalty depending on the outcome. 

Marquis is complying with Belville's request. But Marquis argued to the secretary of state that Belville should have to register with the elections office because he raised thousands of dollars through a GoFundMe web campaign to pay for costs associated with the records request. 

“The sole purpose of this fundraising is to finance his self-described 'investigation' of myself and other elected officials who have dared to voice opposition to Measure 91. Measure 91 would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older," Marquis said in the complaint. 

"I presume he will respond that he is simply a 'community funded journalist seeking the truth,' but even the most cursory review of Mr. Belville's various websites and articles he proudly announces are 'published' on Internet venues including HIGH TIMES and the Huffington Post make it clear he is a strident activist who bitterly opposes anyone speaking out in opposition to marijuana legalization," the complaint states. 

Marquis has been a vocal opponent of the legal marijuana campaign and is one of a group of legalization opponents who have come under scrutiny over a drug education tour around the state. Critics claim the educational tour worked closely with legalization opponents, used public funds and was intended to influence Oregon's public vote on legalizing recreational marijuana this November. 

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a strong proponent of legalization, and the Oregon Health Authority, have questioned whether the tour violated campaign finance laws by using federal money.

Belville scoffed at the complaint. 

“Basically this is as frivolous as a complaint could get,” Belville said. “While I’m very pro measure 91 (the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana), I am also very pro open records and free and fair elections." 

“Most of the donors have made their names public already,” he added

Complaint filed against Marquis

Photo Credit: Dey via Compfight cc

Marquis is facing two elections complaints of his own, one from pot advocate Jennifer Alexander and another from state lawmakers accusing the DA and others of misusing public resources for the educational tour. 

Marquis said he hasn't violated election laws. 

“Frankly, this is a tactic used in many political campaigns,” he said of the controversy over the tour.

Oregon Secretary of State spokesman Tony Green said the allegations around Measure 91 could result in fines if they are valid. 

"It would be premature at this point to try and figure out what fines might occur since we have only just begun our investigations," he added. 

Marquis states in the email: “Both Steve Leriche (Jefferson County District Attorney) and I have received very invasive and harassing demands for ALL our emails, phone calls, even websites visited.

“We'll have to give up most, but other than the inconvenience it's no big deal. NOW Steve has a 'private' email address...”

Alexander, who said she doesn’t know why the email was sent to her, claimed it’s clear Marquis wants to keep the records secret. 

“The thing that stood out to me was the ‘we’ll have to give up most,’ implying there are certain emails he won’t give up. The quotes around the word “private” email are using these to hide their activity. It’s definitely implied in this email that that’s what he’s doing.” 

Marquis denies that claim, saying as a public official he’s complied with many public records requests and as the DA is the arbitrator of pubic records requests. 

“There’s nothing wrong with making a public records request,” he said. "I’m a public official.” 

Steve Leirche's email has been redacted from the original version of this story. 

 

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