Thursday, May 04, 2006

Burdick Charges PDX Taxpayers $32K--and Counting

[update, 5/5 1130AM--Burdick has filed another report, with an additional $13,900 in expenditures. This brings the total extra amount available for Sten, to $31,891. Interestingly, the report also shows she's 20 grand in the hole, since contributions are roughly $160K, while outlays are $180K.]

For the third time in less than a week, Portland City Council candidate Ginny Burdick has filed papers with the City notifying them of her campaign expenditures that exceed $150,000. Candidates not participating in the clean candidate financing program (also known as VOE) are bound to declare their expenditures, so that candidates who are participating in the program can receive matching funds.

The idea behind this rule was to prevent participating candidates from being handicapped by the relatively low expenditure amount of $150,000, while nonparticipating opponents rake in the bucks and outspend them. The thought was that privately financed candidates would throttle back their own fundraising--as Dan Saltzman has voluntarily done--since they'd gain no spending advantage from the extra effort.

Unlike Saltzman however, Burdick has gone right past the $150K mark and shows no signs of stopping. On the 27th of April she filed papers showing $1,500 in extra funds, and then Monday a 2nd filing indicated another boost of just $600. But yesterday's filing was by far the biggest yet (pdf): almost $16,000 in additional expenses. Minus an exemption for in-kind contributions, Erik Sten now has access to an additional total of $17,931 for his own campaign. And if it weren't for incompetence/malfeasance by Emilie Boyles and Lucinda Tate, Burdick would have created a de facto invoice to the City for almost 60 grand.

I'm not fundamentally bothered by Burdick's extra fundraising. It's her right, and if she thinks she can beat Sten by spending more money even if he spends that much too, I guess that's for Burdick and her advisors to decide. But here's the thing: Burdick has made repeated hay of the fact that clean candidate financing is paid for by Portland taxpayers, costing the City money when it could be spent elsewhere. Why don't I let her tell you herself?
The City operates with limited resources and must spend our tax dollars prudently by establishing priorities in a public and transparent process. Evidence that such a process is not in place is the vote by City Council to spend tax dollars to fund city campaigns at a time when potholes are going unfilled and our police bureau is understaffed. One thing distinguishing my campaign from that of my incumbent opponent is that I will not be taking taxpayer dollars. [emph mine]
Let's put aside for a minute the fact that even a million dollars is not going to fully fund the Police Bureau or save the schools or even fill all the potholes (it'll take almost $5 million just to repave part of NE Sandy), and so Burdick's complaint here is highly disingenuous. It'd be like saying the federal hybrid credit was preventing us from adequately funding the war in Iraq.

But what's hypocritical about Burdick's "extra" campaign money is that if she feels even relatively minor expenses like VOE harm Portland's mission, what is she doing costing the City more money? She knows very well that Sten can and will take advantage of the opportunity. Morally, he's in the clear because he believes it's a good investment for the City that will pay back in better campaigns and less undue influence from contributors. What's Burdick's excuse? And once again, she must be called to account for declaring that she won't be taking taxpayer dollars. As with her misleading campaign ad, she may be technically correct that she's not using taxpayer dollars to fund her campaign. But she knows damn good and well that her campaigning is causing taxpayer money to be spent or not collected, and as far as I'm concerned there's no substantive difference. Stop the madness, Ginny! Or STFU about campaign finance reform--just stop being a hypocrite on the matter, please.