I agree with this statement completely. Look if you are going to take a step away from the search engines and find targeted visitors elsewhere this is something that really has to be done. You will have to either pay to advertise or barter for quality links. Distributing articles is one very important way to do this.
If Google treats this as spam...let's just say it would cause a world of hurt. If they discount the links from such distributed articles then there wouldn't be as much problem (unless you RELY on those links for PR). Distributing articles should be LESS about PR and more about EXPOSURE. Who cares if Google discounts the links...the point of those articles is to SHARE INFORMATION with another site in which you tap into THEIR visitor base (no matter where they obtain those visitors).
Again who cares if they are discredited this isn't the intent of distributed article. If it is then Google is right that you are merely GAMING the system. It is about marketing not SEO. IF Google were to discount this type of link and that type of link eventually they would discredit ALL links since they all can be manipulated in some fashion.
If you are worried about duplicate content then don't distribute duplicate content. The way to break this is to write several versions of the article but not duplicating it on your site. Distribute one version to each site that would be the BEST to obtain a link from. They would be much more likely to publish it if it is UNIQUE to them. Put a byline not necessarily a link in the byline. If in the future search engines will discount such byline links...it may be more important to link within an article and mix around the linking on each article. This will help keep articles appear to be written by the site owner mentioning links to your site rather than a "distributed" article to search engines.
Do another article for General distribution to "other" sites/article distribution sites. Don't forget to link within the articles also.
Contributing to email newsletters within your industry is probably the BEST advertising to your site. You don't have to worry about SE if the newsletters (back versions) are not published online. They are VERY targeted to ALREADY interested readers. The publisher of the newsletter is inadvertently promoting your site as an authority on the subject as well as distribute your content to very target already interested readers. You can either pay for this distribution or barter or may get lucky and have it published for free.
Above all GET TO KNOW YOUR DISTRIBUTION PARTNERS personally. It is harder for them to say NO to a "friend". From time to time contact them as a friend. Don't always ask things of them. Offer some advice if you have it but don't ask for anything back. Ask if they would like you to write something for them. Be kind and generous while looking for opportunity. You will be amazed on what you will find out. I have many distribution partners who are authorities on their subjects. They fill me in on what is going on in their industries with new products, information, and techniques as well as information from seminars and gatherings they attend.