editorial on health care, calls for retaliatory ad boycott sp.
A LOBBYIST FOR a small business organization seemingly rallied his members to boycott an Oregon newspaper because he didn't like its editorial on health care.
Joe Gilliam, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), was annoyed by an editorial in the Pendleton East Oregonian that criticized NFIB and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) for opposing employer-mandated health insurance.
Editor Bill Crampton wrote that the NFIB and NRA "pretend to support small businesses in the raging debate over health care reforms" but actually represent "freeloaders" and "moochers."
Crampton acknowledged the burden that health care placed on small businesses but asserted that business owners who don't provide insurance for their employees contribute to rising premiums for those who do. The latter, he said, wind up paying for the uninsured workers.
Gilliam fired off a letter to the East Oregonian as well as one to NFIB members in Umatilla County where the 12,788-circulation daily newspaper is located.
After recapping the editorial, Gilliam wrote, "I hope the next time you consider patronizing the East Oregonian with your advertising dollars, you remember that you are nothing but a freeloader and a moocher."
The letter also charged Crampton with refusing to print his letter to the paper, calling the editor "arrogant."
Crampton, in an interview, denied the accusation, saying, "We published his letter even before his members received it. That untruth upsets me more than anything else."
But the editor also was bothered, he said, by Gilliam's "attempt to create grief for another small business."
East Oregonian general manager Clyde Bentley said the paper suffered the loss of a few contractor ads in a special home-building section as a result of Gilliam's letter.
"There was a little grumbling from a couple of other advertisers, and our ad manager was accosted about the editorial by a grocery store manager during a Rotary meeting," Bentley added. "It's unfortunate that they don't read our front page as well as our editorials. He [Gilliam] was way out of line. I don't believe any organization should try to suppress debate on issues."
Crampton said the terms "freeloaders" and "moochers" were not meant to cast aspersions on any small business.
"It was just a rhetorical flourish," he explained.
Printed directly below Gilliam's letter to the newspaper was Crampton's reply, which said in part, "We think it's odd that one of the state's leading spokesmen for small business would be spending his time attempting to destroy a small business . . . . Even stranger, Gilliam is suggesting that businesses should refuse to exchange goods and services with each other if they disagree on public policy issues.
"Does Gilliam also suggest that all East Oregonian readers who support health care reform should not patronize NFIB members. We hope not."
By: M.L. Stein Lobbyist for small business group, upset by Oregon newspaper's