Friday, September 29, 2006

WTF? OR AG Feels "Terrorist Presence"

From KOBI-5 TV in Medford, this over the wire:
There is an active terrorist presence in Oregon says top Oregon and federal law enforcement.

And to prove it Oregon State Attorney General Hardy Myers released a new study today to the public.

The document was compiled by the Department of Justice and included data that put together information that links several organized crime operations.

Also referred to in the report are references to street gangs, outlaw motorcycle groups, and white supremacist groups.
That's the lede, and then they don't mention another thing about the terrorists and their "presence?" What kind of random fearmongering story is that? The release was today, and so far this is the only source I've seen for the press conference, and I was unable to find the report itself at DoJ (although I did not look hard).

They're coming to get yoo, Matt Lauer! They want to come into your kitchen and kill you and your family! They've got a, a, a presence Matt, heh-heh...

Patrick Allen is my hero of the day

So the shit is hitting the fan over the Maui trips that went unreported by some Republicans and two Dems (that we know of so far).

Let me be the 137th person to get in line to rap these dumbasses across the skull.

You go to a swanky resort in Maui on the Beer and Wine Lobby tab and (most of you) say you didn't think you had to declare it cuz the lobbyist failed to tell you to do it? Jeezus.

There's obviously a laundry list of problems with that excuse, not the least of which is if you can't figure out that a vacation in Maui is over the $144 limit that requires it to be declared, you're too stupid to be in office.

With this sort of legislator brainlessness comes the inevitable hand wringing over what needs to change so this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

Enter Paul Farago, cowpoke extraordinaire for Term Limits. Paul uses the brouhaha to peddle term limits over at Blue Oregon:

There's already more to this story, and much more to come. For example, today's article left out the post-trip political donations that were detailed about the 2002 trip; it's public record. You can go here to learn about similar trips in '94, '96 and '98 bought and paid for by super-lobbyist Paul Romain of the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association.

The eagle eyed Patrick Allen offers the next comment following Farago's:

Paul, I'm shocked.

How could there possibly have been trips in '94, '96 and '98? We had term limits then, and those politicians would have been above such things. Or something like that. I guess. Whatever.

Yay Patrick! God, you're good.

Hilariously, Farago's own term limits website confirms Patrick's comment right on the front page:



Farago then goes on to dig himself a big ol hole by saying that term limits aren't a panacea.

Uh...ya think?

So in summary, Paul Farago would like everyone go out and vote for term limits because it isn't a fix-all and it doesn't solve the problem at hand.

This has been a public service announcement.

Gordon Smith, Defender of Freedom?

It sure was a motherfucking beatdown of liberty yesterday, and I say that profanely with firm intent to elucidate just how profane an offense was committed upon us and our country's legacy. I found myself alternately swayed and then disgusted by the simpering, bumpkinlike Democratic strategy to protect the Constitution, manifest in their belief that they actually could win any amendments they were allowed to present in exchange for the right to filibuster--then covering their political asses when it became clear their belief was pathetic and repetitively foolish. (Obviously the performance of Republicans was uniformly repulsive throughout and afterwards; no need to catalog their indiscretions here.)

Or was it so uniform? In a dance of desperate posturing that mirrors weak-kneed Democrats, Lincoln Chafee voted to preserve habeas corpus in order to improve his chances of keeping his seat in liberal Rhode Island. Also voting for it was Jim Jeffords, former Republican turned turncoat and a guy who probably has never felt freer in his life. To the GOP he's persona non grata; to the Democrats they're just grateful when he votes with them. Easy, easy vote for Jeffords. I say that recognizing that it was a hard calculus for some, and that's the really sad part--that they genuinely found it a difficult decision.

Arlen Specter also voted for it, but he also sponsored it and had to do something to not cut and run completely from any of his earlier tough talk. John Sununu Jr., son of the Ashcroft prototype AG John Sr., isn't in immediate electoral danger but always has his New Hampshire masters to serve. Live Free or Die, heh. Olympia Snowe couldn't make the vote; not sure why. Anyone know?

So that's 51-47. Who's the other Yea vote? Would you believe Gordon Smith? Yes, at least in Oregon, there was only one federal representative who voted for giving detainees the complete human-rights-stripping business--Greg Walden. Are you listening, Carol Voisin? Greg Walden, too extreme for Gordon Smith.

Actually, truth be told Smith's vote to keep habeas is not altogether surprising. In fact, it's more surprising that Ron Wyden voted yes as well. It was just under a year ago that the Senate voted on a defense spending amendment to do essentially what yesterday's bill was designed to undo--the elimination of habeas corpus for detainees. On that day, the same four Republicans--Chafee, Specter, Smith and Sunnunu--voted to protect habeas. It wasn't enough then either, but there were fewer votes to protect it, mostly because of absences but also due to one unexpected Yea vote: Ron Wyden's.

Wyden made all the right votes today, and I didn't think there would be any question about that. I also didn't think there'd be any question where Smith would side, based on his pattern of giving it up to the GOP leadership for these show bills that are designed almost entirely for political purpose. But he surprised me, and worse yet it shouldn't have been a surprise based on his history in the matter. Thank you for doing your part to protect our deepest traditions Senator Smith, and I mean that. This balances out an awful lot of shit I've busted you for in the past, I have to say.

Why? This was a big, big vote for me. Yes, Smith voted for the rest of the awful program of literal and metaphorical abuse, and there are a whole lot of really distateful things in it that got passed, but habeas is a special case. Torture, while something we have emphatically been disavowing for 60 years or so, is something we've still conducted at one level or another around the world fairly consistently since then. On the QT, and publicly disavowed, but done. That the White House would advocate for the right to avow it is mind-boggling enough--I couldn't have predicted the day when it would succeed in the effort. Nonetheless, in the grand scheme of time the disavowal of torture is a fairly recent enlightenment. So too are international courts and special military tribunals, so while I might still be outraged, they feel like steps back into a past I might recognize.

But let's just say I don't have much recall of the year 1215:
(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
That's what our highest legislative body spit on yesterday--almost 800 years of jurisprudence based on the heretofore obvious principle that you can't just arbitrarily lock people up indefinitely. To Greg Walden, shame on you. You ought to just come on home right now and disappear, my fellow Oregonian. You embarrass and frighten people of conscience. To the rest of the delegation, thank you, especially to Senator Smith. Tomorrow the job of restoring order to the fundamental Western rule of law begins. And we know who our friends are now.

Fine the Influence-Peddled Democrats, Too

Hey, no favorites--give Ryan Deckert the same punishment I expect to see Scott, Kitts and Nelson to get if the published allegations about unreported lobbyist gifts are correct. At least Deckert was apologetic, and didn't make up some dumbass story like Scott did. But he knew the gig. And frankly, as Deckert indicates, I'm not sure the beer and wine distributors were really looking to put the squeeze on Deckert. What could he offer them, necessarily? Wayne Scott is a different matter altogether. Ways and Means Chair on a tax revenue issue? You bet your ass he was a key player.

It would be an extremely smart move for the Democratic caucus, electeds and hopefuls, to stand up right now and follow Mike Caudle's lead, which Sal Peralta immediately signed onto as well: a pledge to radically change the way lobbyists are able to conduct their business with politicians. It's a single issue yet broad-based, politicially timely way to unify the state party around a goal voters can use their votes to demand. Imagine a joint-controlled Democratic legislature that simultaneously introduces meaningful lobby reform on the first day of the 2007 session. Most triumphant, dude!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Write Your Own Caption(s)! ~~Aloha edition

(Left to right: Wayne Scott, Derrick Kitts, David Nelson, Jason Atkinson, Bruce Starr, Ryan Deckert, Tony Corcoran and Paul Romain)

Money in Politics Research Action Project=Carla is right about M46 and M47

I'm just sayin'.

I wonder how many comments we'll get on this thread?


Caudle Calls Out Corruption While Committee Coddles Scott

In the Blue Oregon thread yesterday detailing the Hawaiian jaunt taken by Rep. Wayne Scott, among others, a salient call to action is made by commenter "verasoie":
So how're the Democrats going to make hay out of this? This means you in particular, Mike Caudle. I don't mean to single you out, but as I imagine you're way behind on the financial front, you need to make the most of free publicity while you can. Get all over this anyway you can, particularly local news.
Not to be contentious, but there's an unfortunate passivity of voice in this comment: what are "the Democrats" going to do? Assuming verasoie is either a Democrat or sympathetic to them in this election, isn't the better question what are YOU going to do? Mike's been asking all summer and fall: can you help? Can you knock on some doors? Can you make some phone calls? Do you have any money left in your $50 tax credit fund? (You may ask what I'm doing--I've been pimping Mike's candidacy for months, as if I want to date his sister.)

That said, it is true that Scott's sudden high-profile political problem is one that Caudle must capitalize on, explaining why that kind of influence-peddling is bad for House District 39 (and the rest of the state), and what he would do differently. And the reason why I've been telling anyone who asks--and many who haven't--that Mike has a real shot, is because he gets it:
State Representative candidate Mike Caudle (D-Oregon City) will release ethics and lobbying reform legislation as his opponent, House Majority Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby), hosts a high-dollar plated dinner with Oregon's business lobbies in one of Portland's luxury hotels. The fundraiser benefits Majority 2006, the campaign committee of the Oregon House Republicans.

Rep. Scott's event comes just one day after The Oregonian reported that he and two other Republican legislators failed to disclose a lobbyist-funded trip to a Hawaiian resort hotel in 2004. It also comes on the same day The Oregonian reported that Rep. Scott used campaign funds to attend another convention at an expensive Hawaiian resort this past May where he received a $20,000 campaign contribution from the convention's sponsors. Caudle's reform package would:
  • Ban lobbyist-funded trips or vacations;
  • Cap the value of lobbyist gifts at $100 per individual item or meal, and $300 total per biennium;
  • Restrict retired legislators from lobbying their colleagues within two years of leaving office;
  • Require monthly public disclosure of all meetings with registered lobbyists;
  • Create a searchable online database of all such meetings;
  • Institute harsher penalties for legislators who break these ethics laws; and
  • Mandate expulsion for legislators who are repeat offenders.
Mr. Caudle has also pledged to uphold these high ethical standards even if his fellow legislators fail to enact them into law.
The best part is that Caudle's not only on the ball with a plan, but he's going to unveil it while standing out in front of that same luxury hotel where Scott is being metaphorically fellated. At 5:15 TODAY, September 28, Mike will be in front of the Governor Hotel, 614 SW 11th Ave., Portland, OR, to present his plan. How can "the Democrats" help Mike? They--meaning YOU--can grab a quick happy hour drink at Jake's and then stand with Mike and let people know that there is an alternative. We do not need to suffer bought-and-paid-for chumps like Wayne Scott in silence, and verily our duty is NOT to be silent. Be heard, be active, and be like Mike.

Why The O's Poll is Great News For Kulo

As you can imagine, The O was likely pleased as punch to reveal the results of their commissioned goobernatorial poll, which showed a 39-34 hard lead for Ted Kulongoski, with an additional four points of leaners on each side yielding the widely reported number 43-38 edge for Ted.

Sidebar for a moment--kudos as usual to the paper and pollster Tim Hibbitts for providing {pdf} full questions in order, partisan breakdowns, and broken-out approvals and candidate choice strengths. That is what makes a poll verifiable and believeable. Contrast that, for example, with an earlier poll commissioned by Saxton's campaign and given by Moore Insights. The results report is one page, with only the horse race question shown, no partisan breakdowns, and no disclosure of any other questions.

Don't ever, ever be fooled by internal polling unless you can see all the questions and know who they talked to. The only internal polls that get published are the ones that make the paying candidate look good in some way. They are best and most often used by challengers to show they are indeed in a race, and deserve more money. It is for this reason that I don't like to use as a cite, despite its comprehensive listing of known polling on the race. There is no excuse for figuring an average of polls and including an internal poll, in my opinion. I also have issues with Zogby's inclusion, since it is by admission not a random sample. There is a lack of finality to the credibility of robopoll places like Rasmussen and Survey USA, but they have performed better than standard phone polls in recent head to head comparisons, and far better than Zogby, so at a minimum if Zogby is acceptable than so are the robots.

Returning to the Oregon race, the closing of the gap between the two candidates is what both The O and Saxton's people are selling. And there's no doubt that Kulongoski's people would be chatting tiredly on the campaign office couches tonight instead of running around like freaks doing pushback, if the lead were in double digits and/or the incumbent was over 50. But as the campaign enters its final month, there is plenty of good news in Hibbitts' numbers that should keep things at the "good frenzy" level for Ted06. Which frankly, as I understand it, is where the campaign wants to be. The thing they fear most is a reputed walkover for Ted which depresses turnout and puts him in actual danger. Keeping their voters motivated and able to help all the way down the ticket is their dream scenario, even if it's the one with the hardest work attached for them.

Let's start with the most important sign, which I was all ready to proudly display here as if I were some kind of polling guru (Not Tim Hibbitts!), until I read in The O story that the Kulo camp had quickly picked up on it too:
"He has put $2 million into attack ads, and still hasn't moved beyond 38," Anna Richter Taylor, Kulongoski's campaign spokeswoman, said of Saxton. "Clearly money matters in elections; message will matter too. We will continue talking about accomplishments, giving a positive message."
Carla and I are still counting how much Saxton has paid to run his ads, so far just in the Portland area it's mighty substantial. And it's true--the first thing I noticed when I saw the numbers was, "Sheeeeit. After all that, Saxton can't get off the 38 schneid!"

Saxton's effort has apparently been partially successful, however; Kulongoski's number is clearly off in the last month, particularly in his favorability ratings. Saxton has softened Ted's number up by hammering endlessly about taxation increases. That's good for Saxton. But the only way to close the deal is to offer himself as a good alternative. So go look at the pollster review, warts and all. After all Saxton's spending and bruising, the race is essentially back to where it was right after the primaries--except Saxton polls a little less now, while if anything Ted is slightly ahead of that pace, even on his downswing.

The favorables inside the poll reflect two more big problems for Saxton. First is that for negative campaigning to work, the incumbent's favorables typically need to go negative--that is, the "disapprove" number becomes higher than the "approve." This allows the challenger to swoop in, with unrealized name recognition in his pocket, tossing out good vibes and earning cheap approval points by the contrast. Problem #1 here for Saxton is that after the barrage of ads, Kulongoski still has a net favorable rating. On balance, they still think he's doing OK. Doing OK tends to get you re-elected, sad as that may sound. I need only refer you to US election 2004, right?

As I said, the other half of that plan is for Saxton to capitalize on his introduction to voters, and gobble up favorable impressions that make him look like the better candidate. The prerequisite for that of course, is not being fully recognizable when you jump into the ring, so you have many new opinions to mold. Saxton's non-recognition number is just 15%, which leaves him very little margin to make up ground and attract new voters. No matter what the gap is, the winner is going to need at least 48% to win, and Saxton has to find 10% from somewhere really quickly. With just a 15% "new blood" pool, that means he needs 2 of every 3 to vote for him. (Also note that Kulongoski-siphoners are only 2%, but Saxton-siphoners Starrett and Morely suck a big 8% off the board.)

And here's what has to make Saxtonites wonder if he isn't reaping what he's sowing in his negative attack: based on current splits, Saxton wouldn't even get half of those potential votes. His favorability rating is a net -2. This is not at all typical of a surging candidate. So-called outsider candidates who challenge a weak incumbent typically have lower overall recognition, but much better favorables than negatives. Let's put it another way: 85% of Oregonians know who he is, and of those folks, only 33% approve of him.

Worse yet, his 'very' unfavorable rating is 17%, essentially no different from Kulongoski's 18%. (Contrast both of those to Bush's whopping 36%. Hee!) Saxton's whole point is "Ted sucks, I'm a change for the better." Neither of these premises is being borne out by the poll results, did you notice.

There's one other thing that's fairly weird about this poll; the party ID percentages are way off. Both the Democrats at 44 and Republicans at 40 are way too high; the July registrations are 39 and 36, respectively. So on raw two-party figures, the poll is weighted ever so slightly toward the Democrats. But the 17% share for independents is low by four percent just on the non-affiliateds. Other parties add another 2% for a total of 23% independent voters.

Are more Oregonians self-identifying as Democratic recently despite filed registrations from potentially years ago? It's not farfetched; Republicans saw a notable swing nationwide from 2000 to 2004, and in places like Florida, old Democratic registrations belie current Republican voters. Either as new Democrats or old independents, Saxton will have trouble drawing those voters to his side. Since we know the real percentage of Democrats is 39%, the showing of 43% for Kulongoski represents a net +4 improvement drawn from other categories of voters. Saxton works from a 36% actual Republican base in Oregon, but gets only a 2% boost in this poll from non-Republicans. To the extent of the role that non major party registrants will play--and admittedly they will play a reduced role in a midterm election--Saxton falls behind when more independent votes are added.

Win-win-win. The O gets its top of the fold headline tomorrow, the Saxton campaign gets new life and a useful new line to use on the phone banks, and the Kulongoski campaign gets their collective ass sparked into gear for the final month, with a damning poll that shows their man having survived a big attack, and a weak challenger who can't get people all that excited about him.

Come to think of it, Tim Hibbitts gets his commission, and we get a story to talk about, and you get to read it. Win-win-win-win-win-win! Ha! Beat that on a Thursday morning, willya!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Saxton: No letter love from the vast right wing constituency

If you're one of those dorky news freebasers (like me) who take the time to actually read the Letters to the Editor in the O, you may have noticed that there are a dearth of submissions in support of GOP goobernatorial candidate Ron Saxton.

If you are and you have, we're not alone. Its not going unnoticed among some in Saxton's camp, either.

A reader sent me a series of emails that they came across complaining about the lack of love on the Editorial page for poor Ron. I realize that this might sound like the set up for a joke--admittedly it does come across that way. But as far as I can tell, these emails are legit.

The first, to the Oregonian:

"Ross A. Smith" [][>] 09/25/06

06:11AM >>> My goodness, all eight letter regarding the governor's race published
in the Oregonian on Sunday were directed against Ron Saxton, the
Republican candidate. How do you suppose that happened -- in the Oregonian of all
places? Don't Republicans bother reading your newspaper anymore?
Ross Smith
Lincoln City OR 97367

(Mr Smith's phone number and address were at the bottom of the email. I removed them out of respect for his privacy)

The reply from Giselle Price Williams at the O:

The letters we printed Sunday do not reflect bias on The Oregonian's
part; they reflect what letter writers wrote. We simply did not receive
ANY pro-Saxton letters, among the 708 letters that came in during the
previous week
(emphasis-Carla). I am hoping that Saxton supporters will be motivated by
the Sunday section to write their own letters. Feel free to copy my
response to all the people you sent your e-mail to. Thanks.

Giselle Price Williams
Letters editor
The Oregonian
1-800-452-1420 x8150
1-800-826-0376 x8150

The Oregonian received 708 letters to the editor last week and not one of them was in support of Ron Saxton.

Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

It appears that the Ross/Williams exchange was circulated and made it to the desk of Paulette Pyle, who according to this Blue Oregon entry is a significant pesticide lobbyist, cozied up with the Wayne Scott-Karen Minnis-Ted Ferrioli set.

Ms Pyle sent a mass email out to folks begging for pro-Saxton letters to be sent to the O:

*From:* Sandi Schukar [] *On Behalf Of
*Sent:* Tuesday, September 26, 2006 12:09 PM
*To:* List Suppressed
*Subject:* Letters to the editor -HELP!!!

Hi All again: Please drop a letter to the Oregonian and your local newspaper in
support of Ron Saxton. Kulongoski campaign has a well orchestrated letters to the
editor campaign in place spearheaded by the Environmentalist and Unions. I would
rather you are all spontaneous and get you letters written and sent. As you mail to
the papers, please send copies to me here at OFS. Thank you...Paulette


According the Oregonian, there were no letters to the editor received in support of
Ron last week. By contrast, they received 708 in support of the Governor. See
below. This is hard to believe, but regardless, we need to fix the problem! Could
you all send this to your lists and recruit some letter writers. There is plenty of
good material this week. The endorsement of the Sheriff’s Association is a great
topic, that has been seriously under reported. Not a single Sheriff voted to endorse
the Governor.

Another good subject is the recent Bob Moore poll showing that the race is a dead
heat. People are looking for change. Also, the Sunday Oregonian did a comprehensive
piece on the dismal state of affairs in Oregon (….as a result of 20+ years of
Democratic leadership).

Let me know if you need any other materials or sources for letters. Thanks so much!

The fact that Pyle has to send an email beseeching the pro-Saxton contingent to send something, ANYTHING to the Oregonian speaks to the lack of passion behind his campaign. Plus, the talking points are just sad.

But the fact that Pyle thinks that all 708 letters to the Oregonian were for Kulongoski must feel like a pile of bricks.


OR Republicans and Democrats, in Stark Contrast

Today's Oregonian story by Janie Har and Dave Hogan is a nice bit of election season sleuthing that snares three Republican legislators in the net of negligent reporting. Now remember, when this happens we are supposed to completely forget the argument that finance restrictions aren't what's necessary; disclosure is. I suppose if you don't intend on being dilligent in disclosure, that system works out pretty well for you. Try not to imagine the three monkeys as you read this sequence:
Members of the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association paid for three legislators -- House Majority Leader Wayne Scott of Canby, Rep. Derrick Kitts of Hillsboro and Sen. David Nelson of Pendleton -- to join the group at its meeting at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui.

The distributors meet every other year and invite legislators to golf, dine and discuss their issues such as taxes and liquor control.

Oregon law requires legislators to report any official trip or event where they receive more than a certain amount in food, lodging and travel -- $144 in 2004. Lobbyists and their clients also are required to report when they spend more than a certain amount on a lawmaker for a lobbying-related activity -- $71 in 2004. The dollar amount increases every year.

The gap in reporting raises questions whether legislators and lobbyists are fully disclosing the special events paid for by interest groups that could influence legislation, such as bills to raise the state's low beer and wine taxes.

The Republican legislators said they didn't report the trip because they relied on beer and wine lobbyist Paul Romain, who is one of Salem's most powerful lobbyists, to notify them about the spending.

"If (Romain) didn't provide me something saying I exceeded that (amount), I assumed it was under the limit," said Scott. Last year he co-chaired the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, which oversees taxation and spending.

After questions from The Oregonian, Scott and the other two legislators said they may have to submit corrected forms that include the Maui trip. [emph mine]
For some reason this reminds me of Condi Rice's shallow testimony before the 9/11 Commission. At one point she was asked why she didn't go apey when the bin Laden memo hit her desk. She said something to the effect that no one told her to go apey. I watched dumbstruck as this woman pretended it was perfectly normal to do nothing because your underlings don't tell you to do anything.

Here we have Wayne Scott, I assume with a straight face, saying he was comfortable in assuming that a golf weekend in MAUI was probably going to come out to less than $144. Ol' Wayne might be a Canby country boy, but he's been off the farm long enough to know that $150 bucks to Hawaii from Oregon gets you about to the line of international waters before the meter runs out. Even so, the final responsibility is with the candidate, not the lobbyist. Blaming the lobbyist for you not reporting the trip, is like saying you stayed on crack because your dealer didn't tell you it was bad for you.

And the lobbyist's excuse is just as precious: it was several distributors, not the distributor's PAC, that paid for the weekend, so it's OK. Which again, even if that were a loophole in the law, at $144 a pop that's a lot of fucking distributors sharing the tab. It doesn't appear to be a loophole anyway--Hogan and Har note wryly, "It is unclear how that arrangement would avoid the state's reporting requirements for legislators or lobbyists. When asked to provide details, Romain said last Thursday: 'Let me get back to you on that.'" Good times!

Why did I bring this up by saying there was a stark contrast? It seems a fourth legislator was involved in the conference, and this was a Democrat. Hah--see, everybody does it! There's no culture of corruption, just corrupt people. What'd they nail the Dem on?
A fourth Oregon legislator, Sen. Rick Metsger, also attended the 2004 conference in Maui. The Welches Democrat said he attended as a paid consultant, not as a legislator.

Metsger sought and received written advice from the ethics commission saying that he wasn't required to list the Hawaii event on his annual disclosure form.
Oh. Well, that's...good, then. Uh...nice job. See, the Democrat was there too, but he was doing a job he was directly accountable for, and which was privately funded. The Republicans involved tried to puff up the harried golf outing as real business too:
Nelson said they spoke to the beer and wine distributors group about policies and legislative campaigns.

"As long as I can justify it and say we are accomplishing a political purpose here, learning about issues, learning somebody's side, I think that's legitimate," Nelson said.
As long as he can justify it, he thinks that's legitimate. What an interesting perspective on how the law works! LOVE it.

Nelson is not up for re-election this year, confound it. But Kitts is; he's going to have his hat handed to him by David Wu. Even in a good year for Republicans, Kitts is barely mature enough for Salem, much less DC. And if you've read us once, you've read this a thousand times: Wayne Scott is up for re-election, and he can be beaten. He is vulnerable in Oregon City, and his opponent Mike Caudle is up to the task. If you live down that way, please help out. He'll be out at the Black Pointe Inn at the OC on Saturday noonish, along with some solid support: Sen. Schrader of Canby, Reps. Hunt (Gladstone) and MacPherson (Lake Oswego), County Commission candidate Lynn Peterson and the man still waiting for his first 900 series, Goobernor Ted. It's free and open to the public, which is pretty freakin' rare, so take the opportunity to meet some Clackheads*!

*I live in the county too, before you get all bent out of shape...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TABOR's spokesmodel can't believe his own schtick

Poor Matt Evans. If I had to be the one trying to convince the Salem City Club that my f-d up TABOR Spending Trap ballot measure was good law--I'd probably look like a stand up comedian too.

Measure 48/TABOR would cap state spending based on inflation and population growth. Unfortunately, if there's a tsunami, earthquake or other major event that devastates an Oregon locality, TABOR wouldn't allow for the state to generate revenue to spend money to fix anything.

Enter Matt--who is the spokesguy for Oregon Tax Research. Matt's one of those "drown gubmint in the bathtub" types. And when poor Matt had to speak up for his ballot measure, things didn't go so well:

Evans: So the state's ability to respond to emergencies like tsunamis which I find a hilarious example to use, primarily because everybody knows that a large disaster like a tsumani or like a large earthquake would be a federal disaster. You'd get an immediate declaration of a federal disaster area.

(Crowd mumbles and groans--starting to laugh)

Evans: It would be totally unnecessary--but-I understand--I understand they're not the greatest at responding. But the fact of the matter is that the state wouldn't have to put money into it. The money would come from the federal government. We hope they'll get better at that in the future.

And as Evans exits the stage..the crowd is laughing him off the platform.

Evans can't actually believe what he's saying here. The Bush team proved with Katrina that states are virtually on their own. Bush has allowed FEMA to become hopelessly corrupt. And unless you're willing to personally grease the Team Bush skids, you'll get nowhere.

This is what the anti-tax crowd has been reduced to. They've completely corrupted the federal government and now they're aiming for our state. Even the guy who speaks for their insane ballot measure can barely do it with a straight face.

There's some kind of bizarre mentality at work behind individuals that would allow an area of their state to be reduced to rubble and give no organized state mechanism to clean it up and repair it. And why? Because it would require these individuals to pay their taxes--our dues for living in a civilized society.

Welcome to unfettered conservatism, folks.

A Hunnert Grand

Sometime in the last 24 hrs or so, about a week shy of eight months after hoisting the flag on this rickety platform known as Blogger, Loaded Orygun registered its 100,000th page view. I don't exactly recall when we hit 50,000, although it got a housecleaning post just like this one, because--speaking of rickety--Blogger seems to have lost the capability to search the first 5-6 months of our archives. There are site redesigns in the offing, and we have some funds to move to a paying vendor or perhaps our own domain, so hopefully hit 200,000 will be both soon and under more elegant surroundings.

I'm pretty sure we did the second 50K a good deal faster than the first; election season seems like peak time for blogs, because since Labor Day we've been seeing high traffic and fairly active commenting. The M46/47 debate threatens to bust the 100 comment mark, which is high for any blog. That's a story in itself--who would have imagined it would be those initiatives to spark so much discussion?

We are grateful for the visits and especially the repeat visits. We try to have something useful or interesting every day (although lives do tend to interfere around major holidays), so make a habit of coming by in the morning and afternoon. Lurkers, take the plunge and speak your mind. Anonymous commenters--sack up, join the community, and register a handle.

The next 50 days or so ought to be fairly interesting, and I doubt we're done breaking exclusive stories, so keep an eye peeled as November approacheth. And thanks very much for stopping by to listen or do a little talking yourself. We hope to continue to be worth your time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Voisin "Gets Honest"--Now We're Talking!

I had to assume Carol Voisin had this in her, given that she defeated three other competent campaigners for the OR-2 Democratic primary, but since May it's seemed awfully dormant, like lava under Mount Hood.

Not anymore. Ten days ago we somewhat sarcastically noted that Voisin had finally awoken her somnolent candidacy with some attacks on incumbent Greg Walden's absenteeism. We noted our frustration at the late start, but were hopeful that things had gotten organized at Voisin HQ, and a real run at the seat was in the offing.

Checking her website this morning, it now appears Voisin is awake, showered, fed, clothed and ready to kick some rural ass:
Let's Be Honest. Our nation is no longer heading in the wrong direction; we have arrived. We've arrived at a place where the land of the free now comes with a $9-trillion I.O.U. Where the home of the brave's bravest fight and die in a war waged on lies. Where purple mountain majesties are obscured by a hazy orange smog. And where we the people has become we the corporations.

The issues before us are not simply isolated errors in judgment, to be addressed one at a time by those who've led our country astray. The solution is deeper than that and we know it. New leaders, new thinking and a new direction are needed now - not in 2008.

My opponent, Greg Walden, calls himself a moderate, but he has voted along Republican party lines an astonishing 94% of the time. If that's moderate, what on earth is conservative?

Knowledge is power. I implore you to get to know me, and just as importantly, get to know Greg Walden. Look beyond the rhetoric and see how he's voted. Learn where we stand on the issues, and which of us shares a greater vision for our district and nation.

Of all the freedoms granted us, none is more important than the freedom to choose our country's leaders. Greg Walden, George Bush and company have had their shot. Now it's our turn. Let's get our country out of the pockets of corporations and back into our hands where it belongs.
Note the spot-on understanding of the proper themes in Carol's statement:
  • We're going in the wrong direction...
  • it's time for a change.
  • Our fiscal policy sucks.
  • We were lied to about Iraq.
  • We are blithely destroying our planet.
  • We are being sacrificed as individuals to a corporate God.
  • Greg Walden is no moderate, despite his protestations--which means he is willfully culpable for all of the above.
  • Greg Walden = George Bush.
  • So let's make the change we all want, and get rid of him.

Clearly, understanding the key issues is a prerequisite for winning office. But Voisin shows exceptional written ability to get these points across while being brief, candid and unsparing, without attendant shrillness. We hope her next move is to drill down another level with her constituents, identifying key legislation that has helped cause these problems, which Walden has supported.

We're not going to play Pollyanna and pretend that one very well worded statement of purpose will suddenly catapault Voisin into a competitive race. But we're done calling it a lost cause and a disappointing effort from Oregon Democrats to take back the one House seat they don't currently occupy. Voisin gets it; now she just needs to spread that message like a virus for the next 5 weeks.

And that's where we (and you) come in: visit Loaded O's ActBlue donations page and drop some love on Carol. She's actually pulled in $3900 from ActBlue donors, which is a nice little sum--but she definitely needs more. It's a big district, and gas is expensive. September 30 ends the 3rd fundraising quarter of the year, and a good showing in those reports will encourage others to give even more, so if you think you might give, try to do so before Sunday.

See Your House Dem Candidates Run

The Oregon House Dems blog has the latest ads by some of the Dems running for Oregon House.

Check it out.

My fav? Brian Clem's. And he even gets a decent shot in against his opponent, sleazoid Billy Dalto.

Halelujah! Medford Gets it on Measure 39

I'm not one of those people who voiced outrage or even clucked their tongues at the Kelo v New London Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain, mostly because I read it. What one discovers is that the precedent for private-to-private transfer in certain situations goes back to about 1954, and that the much more pressing concern of the founders was compensation rather than protection from acquisition--that government seizure of land wasn't viewed as the affront; usurpation was. It's this theory that helped Measure 37 get over the hump; the process of setting zoning and land use rules came to be described as a form of taking, when of course under Measure 37's rules nothing ever had to be actually taken from you for you to demand compensation for it.

Because of the strong legal precedent for eminent domain, and the willingness of individual states to monitor their own processes--processes over which Kelo declared the states had ultimate authority--Oregon's Measure 39 offers nothing if not feel-good redundancy. Medford's Mail Tribune editorial over the weekend echoes that sentiment:
Americans understand that governments sometimes must condemn private property for the greater public good, such as roads, parks or other public projects. But using the power of eminent domain to benefit a private party strikes most of us as unfair.

If only it were that simple.

In fact, no one has yet to point to a single condemnation in Oregon history that resembles the Kelo case. Eminent domain is used sparingly, usually as a last resort, for obvious reasons. There is no reason to expect that to change.

Also, many exciting and beneficial urban renewal projects involve public-private partnerships, such as Medford's Middleford Commons proposal, Portland's Pearl District and others. Such projects could become virtually impossible to achieve if Measure 39 passes.
The Trib also does an excellent job of pointing out all the little details of ramifications that would quietly change the way things get done, often to the detriment of good public development:
Even strictly public projects are complex, often involving many parcels of property that may pass through other private hands before ending up in public use.

The measure exempts road projects, but in some cases government buys more land than is required for right of way, and needs to sell some of it back to the original owner. The measure would not allow that.

The measure also amends existing law by adding a provision that would cost government, and therefore taxpayers, more money. It says that, in cases of condemnation for public use, if the sale price determined by the court is greater than the government's initial offer, the government must pay the seller's attorney's fees and other costs. Current law provides for such payments, but only if the price set by the court is greater than the government's highest offer, or if the court determines that the initial offer was not a good-faith offer.

This means that, even in the case of a public project, a government would feel pressure to make a high initial offer to avoid paying fees and costs later, or might decide not to pursue the project at all.

Here's another small detail: If your property is condemned through eminent domain, you can take up to two years to reinvest your profits without owing capital-gains tax. If the government has to buy you out without condemnation proceedings, you don't have that grace period.
I think it's actually rather rare for an editorial to be so specific and detail-oriented in terms of assessing the likely impact, and the paper's board should be complimented.

And they're absolutely correct to put a skeptical eye on the measure, because it comes from Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action, who sponsored the last land-use bill with unintended consequences and unanswered questions that naturally led to lengthy litigation. The Trib does not mention the sponsors, but directly compares the kind of property rights zealotry masked in M37 to the current proposal. The whole nuts and bolts of how cities and communities get built can be altered by one badly worded proposal, but as the Eastern Oregonian reports today, Hunnicutt wholeheartedly admits this is M37 Phase II, and is motivated by his Pleasantville isolationism:
"It's a natural outgrowth of Measure 37 and another example of the threat to private property rights," [Hunnicutt] said. "For most people property means their home and their business, and it's more than just dollars. It's where their families are raised. It's where they sweated and toiled. It's where they have memories."
Like the Tribune editorial, The EastO makes it clear that the things M39 proposes to attack rarely go on anyway, and also are often fairly straightforward transactions that ultimately serve the public good--so why mess with that?

I'm particularly curious to see what the Portland City Club's analysis of this measure turns out to be, because for a time I was on the study committee. I joined the Club to be on one of the committees evaluating the year's initiatives, but because the committee started a bit late and ran smack dab in the middle of my vacation back East, the committee decided I could offer little on the subject once I returned, having missed live witness testimony (and transcripts or summaries apparently not having been invented yet.) Despite the snub, I really appreciate the Club's effort to give serious study and reportage to the initiative process. So it's great to see local papers get more than cursorily involved in things as important but arcane as property rights law.

Lest Carla believe I don't read her excellent weekly Spanning the State digest, I did see the props given to Lebanon's paper on M39. Not to belittle their work or public reach, but for this piece I was concerned with the major state outlets, of which the Trib and EastOregonian are both members. Kudos to the Lebanese for adding to the chorus, however.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thanks, Oregonian! Wait, Nevermind

I have a friend who I talk to now and again, who isn't really any kind of "insider." But he gave me 3rd hand information that suggested 27th HD candidate Domonic Biggi, who I'd mentioned earlier for overhyping his bio, had recently been found in contempt of court. That was the only detail.

Thanks to OJIN, which is $300 to start unless you're lucky enough to be near a county courthouse (in which case access is free) the job of verifying an idle rumor is a much simplified task: type in BIGGI, hit enter, and scroll through the listings. Friday at lunch I did that very thing. I was able to indeed find what I recall were five listings in WashCo and two in Multno. Most were all either speeding tickets or other things I don't think qualify as pertinent campaign issues.

The one I was looking for was at the bottom of the list, and indicated domestic court and the charge. The OJIN system, while effective, appears to have gotten its last technology update in 1978, but after several page-throughs I was able to verify a conviction for contempt, and judgement on punishment. I copied the case number with the help of the lovely staff at Room 210 (they lent me a pen and I stole some of their flyers as paper), and passed the baton to Carla, who got out to Hillsboro for the actual documents.

And that's what we reported: Dom Biggi was cited for contempt based on willful nonpayment of support. Here's the charge, here's the paperwork on the judgement, here's the restitution, boom. The entire point of the post was to introduce--from fully public documents--that after being nominated to represent the Republican Party (and the residents of District 27) in the Oregon Legislature, the nominee was found guilty of contempt. We think that's relevant in a campaign. Not the divorce, not whether he's now current (more on that in a minute). But it was clearly not known to the general voting public that this had happened, and it should be. We make no apology for that.

What Carla didn't mention in her piece was that Holly Danks, the Washington County Courts reporter for the Oregonian, arrived at the courthouse shortly after Carla had tipped the paper to the story. It was our intent to have the story become known, and as we were confident that all the facts needed to publish the story would be available to us first, we wanted to get them started on the story as well, ASAP. So Carla was glad to see her.

Ms. Danks flexed the new power of the paper in its online politics blog section. She reported the story after having attempted contact with both Mr. and Mrs. Biggi, something we did not do because it appeared the documents spoke for themselves. I wish I could link you to the story as we did earlier, but it's no longer there. After I saw what was written on the story, I immediately drafted an email to Ms. Danks and cited what we thought were inaccuracies--first of all, I believe the headline was "Candidate's Ex-Wife Disputes Child Support Story."

Forgive us for taking that a little personally! We're named as the source of the story, and here it's being said that Mrs. Biggi disputes it. What Danks had done was to ask Ms. Biggi whether her ex husband owed any money. From the time of the initial judgement in May, it turns out that he had caught up to his obligations. Now, would that have been interesting or useful information to have and report? Yes it would have. But being current after getting held in contempt for not being current, strikes us as about the least he could do (under penalty of imprisonment one surmises).

So it's great news that Biggi's children now have what they need and deserve to be cared for, financially speaking. Reporting that point would have been a good way for Danks to advance the story while magnanimously giving LO the credit for breaking it (which we are grateful that she did, nonetheless). But we never said he wasn't caught up; we never asked.

So how can Ms. Biggi be 'disputing' us? We said her husband had been found in contempt in May for not paying support. Not only did she not dispute us, she said in almost as many words, "Well, yes--but he's paid me back now." I mean, she can hardly deny that it's true--she's almost certainly seen the same documents we posted on the case. She's just defending her husband's quick turnaround, which is pretty magnanimous on her part if you ask me. Carla later did actually speak with Ms. Biggi, and explained that we never came close to claiming that Biggi was still in arrears. Carla tells me she thinks Biggi accepted that explanation.

Having made all this clear to Danks, we also sent our concerns to members of The O's editorial staff, who contacted us--and afterwards pulled the entire piece Saturday afternoon, apparently for review but without a withdrawal notice. Which means The O's staff gets kudos for being very responsive to uppity bloggers like us, but in a sign of their relative newbieness to blogging, they failed to leave a "we pulled something" sign to occupy the space as netiquette dictates. (Ironically, they commented earlier in the day on a Blue Oregon contributor pulling a cartoon nobody liked, and BO staff commenting on that comment. So they really should know how it's properly done.)

We do hope the paper will return with a more developed story--perhaps even in print this time-- which we would be happy to credit them for and cite in this space. And Ms. Danks, should you be reading this, we'd love to talk to you, too. We can help each other, I bet. We welcome your response in comments, or via email at loadedorygun -at- gmail -dot- com. (That goes for everybody!)

Update, 315pm--

As helpfully noted in the comments, the story is back. The inaccurate headline is gone, but the rest of the story is almost exactly the same. I think there is still some slant to the presentation of the article, so as to make it seem like everything's OK because Biggi has paid his wife and kids like he was ordered to--but the principal facts of the story are rendered correctly, and it doesn't say we've been disputed anymore, so we'll stop bitching now. Thanks to The O for correcting the headline.

Spanning The State--Get Off Your Ass And Enjoy The Sunshine Edition

Its supposed to be a gorgeous day today for most of the state--so as soon as you've finished reading this week's installment of Spanning The State , go outside and soak up some of those Vitamin D enriched rays o' sun. This is Oregon, after all. You gotta get that sun while the getting is good.

A bit of housekeeping first, however. The piece posted on LO Friday night entitled Deadbeat Domonic Biggi was reported incorrectly by Oregonian reporter Holly Danks (Click on the link and read the update and the bottom). Discussions with the Oregonian on the matter have resulted in Danks' story being pulled while the editors review the sourcing, documents, etc. We'll let you know how things shake out as events unfold.

Now before you shut off your computer and step outside, let's Span the State!


The collective whine eminating from the State of Oklahoma over the blown call during the Oregon came is beyond tedious. Yes there were two really bad call that screwed the Sooners. But its not like they didn't have other opportunities to score that they flubbed all on their own. Its time for Oklahoma to GET THE HELL OVER IT.

Gas prices in Oregon remain among the highest in the nation. Its either vote for Bush or get the longest gouging at the pump, I guess. Somehow it seems more ethical to take the gouging.

Monies set aside to keep rural doctors in a position to keep their practices in rural areas may not necessarily being spent as it was intended. The money was allocated mostly for obstetrics but seems to have gone to doctors practicing other specialties and in areas that are served by urban hospitals.

Part opinion-part reporting is evidenced in this piece at the Bend Bulletin. The author seems to lament the possible end to the "golden age" of Oregon politics. To his credit, he takes shots at all sides of the political spectrum. But this piece is oddly placed as a news piece where it may be more appropriately put into the opinion section.

Just in case the the media didn't have you scared with terrorism threats and e-coli, brace yourself for West Nile Virus. The only thing we have to fear is all this saber rattling about stuff to be afraid of.

Oh by the way, I'm not the only one that thinks its time for the Sooners to get over it.

The paper of record in Lebanon is encouraging a no on Measure 39. Their beef with the proposal stems from the way it increases expenses on the state without addressing the real eminent domain issues.

This isn't an Oregon-centric story, but its worth noting. Anyone who has a child in a Reading First school--its time to start demanding your school withdraw from this federally funded program. The program requires that students participate in reading for a large chunk of the school day--with idea sold to teachers and parents that they'll be using materials from across the curriculum for the reading. Except they don't use the cross-curriculum materials. An audit of the program shows that it forces the use of a phonics curriculum and doesn't allow the other materials. So students aren't getting the science, social studies, health and other subjects to make room for the copious amounts of time required with the mandated curriculum. What's more, the audit finds (surprise!) Bush cronyism, conflicts of interest, enforcements outside the law and a steering of funds improperly. If you're unsure about the status of your local school when it comes to Reading First, check here and here. Start attending Site Council and School Board meetings. Oregon schools need to opt out of this program. This is one of those times where throwing the baby out with the bathwater makes sense.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Deadbeat Domonic Biggi

On Tuesday, TJ posted a piece about GOP state rep candidate Domonic Biggi's Fibtastic Resume'. In the piece, TJ notes some discrepancies in Mr. Biggi's list of self-described accomplishments. Following the piece, someone at the Biggi campaign saw fit to make the appropriate changes to the website.

Unfortunately, Biggi has some other issues that can't be so easily expunged.

Over the last year or so, Biggi has gone through a messy divorce. When I viewed the divorce and court documents at the Washington County Courthouse, it was a huge file. About 500 pages that filled two large file folders.

Among that heft of paperwork is evidence that Biggi had shirked his responsibility for child support (I redacted the email addresses for the privacy of Mr and Mrs Biggi). The email is dated six days before Domonic's wages were apparently garnished for what I understand is back child support.

The issue eventually went to court where Domonic Biggi was found in contempt of court with the following findings of fact:

A. The parties were divorced pursuant to a General Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (the Judgement).

B. The Judgement provided, in part, that Mother would have a money award against Father for child support in the sum of $1729 per month beginning on September. 1, 2005.

C. The judgement also required Father to pay maintenance and transitional spousal support to Mother.

D. Father's actions in failing to pay the court-ordered child and spousal support were willful.

E. The court made additional findings from the bench. A copy of the court's ruling is attached and incorporated to this judgement as exhibit 1.

Domonic Biggi was then sentenced to 24 months bench probation. In addition, Biggi is ordered to follow all terms of the divorce agreement as well as "Any funds available to Father shall be utilized to pay towards his outstanding support arrearages". Biggi was also ordered to be current in his support obligations as of June 1, 2006.

Finally, he was ordered to pay attorneys fees and court costs incurred by his former wife.

Its unfortunate when people end their marriage. But its downright irresponsible when a man doesn't make a good faith effort to take care of his kids and obligations. According to these court documents, Domonic Biggi has been neck deep in that irresponsibility.

[Update-Sat AM]: I completed this post after a long day of work and running around to get research on this story. I inadvertently left out a couple of things.

First of all, this story was a team effort. TJ did the initial track down of the case number and court synopsis, which was invaluable in obtaining these documents. The initial footwork was all his.

Second, I noted that the judge ordered Biggi to be completely current with his support obligations by June 1, 2006. It appears that he wasn't. Biggi had a supplemental judgement levied against him in mid July of this year. He was giving up at least part of his 401K at Beaverton Foods apparently to catch up on back support.

[Update-Sat, 1:00 PM] Holly Danks over at the O's political blog reported that Mrs. Biggi says Domonic is now current on his support. However, Danks either didn't read my post or didn't get it..because she accused me of saying that Biggi was currently behind. Not only did I not say this--I clearly posted the sourcing with all the dates showing when he was behind.

Its nice to be sourced by the paper of record. But the least they can do is actually GET IT RIGHT. Sheesh.

Hooley, DeFazio Fence in Their Constituencies

It's a rare sight to see three Oregon Representatives vote yes on a Republican-sponsored bill; usually either it's a safe enough vote to be unanimous, or there's only one straggler on an otherwise repugnant bill. Yet last week's "Secure Fence Act of 2006" (I still shake my head every time I read that) won two defectors, Darlene Hooley and Peter DeFazio, to go along with "sure George, whatever!" kid Greg Walden. The bill passed by a margin that exceeded Democratic votes for the bill, but just because you know you're going to lose doesn't mean you necessarily need to vote for it...

...unless of course you're using an electoral rather than ideological/policy lens to evaluate the bill. If there are two House races with any contest value at all this season, it would be those involving Hooley and DeFazio. Both are facing well funded challengers, and Hooley's opponent in particular has launched a fierce attack on her credibility. Plus, after Walden they hold the two "reddest" seats in Oregon. DeFazio's Democratic registration edge is currently fewer than 10,000 voters, and Hooley starts off with a 7,000 voter deficit in the 5th. Having just been back in their districts, and perhaps getting the sense that their more Republican constituents have immigration on the brain, I'm not so sure personal ideology or rational consideration drove the votes here.

As WaPo indicates, the whole process was somewhat of a farce. The bill calls for about 700 miles of double-layer fencing across the southern border; an agreement to study the northern border for fencing there; and the power of Customs agents to apprehend fleeing people as the Coast Guard would--meaning, with force. Each of these elements was part of an omnibus immigration bill that passed the House last year, but failed in the Senate and died without a conference agreement.

Coming back from the Labor Day recess, Republican leadership seemed to telegraph that immigration reform was considered dead for the year because of the gap between the House and Senate versions. But the House leadership decided they might be able to force the Senate to vote on the same bill, only in a la carte fashion. From the WaPo article, it's not at all clear the Senate is going to buy the gambit, which surely everyone in the House understood when they voted. As with nearly all bills you'll see passed in the early fall session of an even-numbered year, any relationship the vote has to an actual problem that the bill might solve is entirely incidental.

So Hooley and DeFazio were doubly freed: they knew their votes would never impact the Act's passage, and there is little to no chance that the Senate will pass the comprehensive reform bit by bit in individual bills. They may say that they were freed to vote not their conscience but their political strategy, since it cost nothing in real terms but may blunt a later attack saying "Darlene Hooley voted against securing our borders" or "Peter DeFazio wants open borders and no fences to stop the onslaught."

But that's what Democratic politics is lacking: any kind of stand that attempts to persuade rather than accomodate. It is NOT wrong to attempt to convince the electorate that your party's ideology, policy and competence are the proper set. What IS wrong is fearing an attack for voting the way you believe, and having so little faith in your own position as to leave you voting a particular way in order to get by within your district. Does Hooley really believe a series of fences is going to stem immigration--especially when half of undocumented aliens arrive legally? God, I hope not--and since there's not actually any funding for the fence, which may run anywhere from $2bil to $7bil to build, they were triply freed to vote No on an empty legislative promise.

One thing that DeFazio may have going for him that Hooley doesn't, is that he voted for the original House bill that was borderline racist in intent. Hooley, however, voted no. As I said, the 2005 bill was comprehensive, so there may have been some kind of poison pill in the larger bill that triggered her 'No.' But last week's bill was lifted almost verbatim from the original, down to the location and length of some of the specific areas for the wall. I waited all day to hear from the Hooley camp as to why she switched her vote, but no matter what they say, there's a strong argument for Nov 7th as the prime motivator for these Yea votes. Boooo.

Why Measures 46 & 47 Suck

[Correction: M47 would not effect ballot initiative. It effects giving to candidates. I apologize for the error.
However, the main point about the inequity of M47 still stands. Its still means that fat cat donors can give large donations to campaigns while not allowing groups to do the same. And it still sucks.]

One of the things that really burrs up my saddle about the initiative process in Oregon is the lack of an impact statement to go along with the proposals.

What I mean by that is I think there ought to be research done by a nonpartisan, government entity which looks at each initiative proposal before they're circulated for signatures. That research should study how that initiative would impact Oregonians. The reports finding would then have to accompany the initiative during the circulating process as well as published in the papers.

In my view, had this been done with 46 & 47, they'd never have made the ballot.

Measure 46 is a single sentence which changes the Oregon Constitution to allow spending limits. As it stands, Oregon has some of the most broad free speech laws in the nation--and campaign contributions are counted among them.

Measure 47 is the real barn burner, though. It puts up hard core restrictions for campaign giving for membership organizations, unions, and non-profit organizations. At first blush, this might seem reasonable. But what 47 fails to do is place restrictions on individual donors.

This means that uber wealthy fat cats like Loren Parks and Howard Rich get to keep on writing their massive checks to rightwing nutjob ballot initiatives while everybody else has their hands tied.

Campaign finance reform is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. But this mess isn't going to do it. Its only going to create a vacuum to be filled by the in and out of state wealthy who will be catered to by politicians in order to get campaign money.

Just say no.

PBS in the Hizzie on Howie!

When commercial TV fails--and it almost always does when it comes to election season--thank God for public television. PBS' David Brancaccio will devote an entire episode of NOW to ballot initiatives and Howard Rich, the astroturf king behind them. It's unclear how much he will talk specifically about Oregon's TABOR measure, but depending on when the episode was written some of the states discussed (such as Montana and Oklahoma) no longer have bills to worry about. (I rather envy the states that don't have to brook fraudulent, out of state paid signature collection. I simply don't get the construct that an initiative presented with irregularities can still be considered legitimate, but that's Oregon law for you.) But even if they don't mention Oregon once, to have an entire hour devoted to exposing Rich's distributed fiscal pogrom is a rare opportunity for politics on television to actually have some meaning.

A step removed from PBS but even more in the true public interest is community access TV. If you're a sad and demented person like me, and think the Oregon Center for Public Policy's Chuck Sheketoff is like a rock star, you're in luck. Last Friday Sheketoff and Oregon Business Assocation President Lynn Lundquist debated Measure 48 chief petitioner Don McIntire and Measure 48 campaign spokesperson Matt Evans before a packed crowd at the Salem City Club, and the CCTV access network will run it a bunch of times over the next week:
  • Thursday, September 21 at 4:30 pm
  • Friday, September 22 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, September 23 at 1:00 pm
  • Wednesday, September 27 at 6:00 pm
  • Thursday, September 28, at 4:30 pm
  • Friday, September 29 at 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, September 30 at 1:00 pm
Check your local program guide to see if CCTV's available in your area. TV that's good for you! Imagine that!

Lastly, OPB will have its own contribution to election news by doing an hourlong Oregon Territory profile on Measure 43, the parental notification bill. The inimitable Kristian Foden-Vencil will report, and the two campaign managers for the Yes-on and No-on camps will debate. If you miss the 4:30pm broadcast today, it'll be streamable afterwards.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jeff Kropf's panties are inna bunch. In other news, water is still wet.

Perennial knee jerk reactionist Jeff Kropf (R-whacko) is bent out of shape because his pet charter school decided not to follow state law:

The Oregon Department of Education for the first time is threatening to withhold money from a charter school, saying it violated state law by requiring parents to serve as learning coaches as a condition of student enrollment.

The department also said Friday that the Oregon Connections Academy -- a virtual school in Scio that uses the Internet, mail and telephones to deliver lessons -- must use a lottery rather than a policy of admitting students on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Until the school provides evidence it has corrected its admission policies, state money will be withheld and put in an escrow account, the Department of Education said in a letter to Gary Tempel, superintendent of Scio School District, which chartered the academy.

Kropf is in usual temper tantrum spin mode, trying to get legislators not to approve federal grant money for ODE.

Its not as if ODE hides the rules and doesn't let the charter school people see them. Don't follow state rules--don't expect state money. How tough is it to understand?

You can bet if this was a union that had violated state law, Kropf would be up their asses--whining about how they're all criminals.

Kropf has a checkered history of bizarre proposals and creepy behavior.

At least he's consistent.

Ted 47% Ron 38%

The GOP-leaning Rasmussen polling released its latest snapshot showing Kulongoski: 47%, Saxton: 38%. Its a sample of 500 people.

There's no indication that any of the other candidates were polled. I wish they'd poll the whole spectrum. I think it'd be interesting to see how it shakes out when the kettle is full.

Write Your Own Caption:Get On The Bus Edition

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Does Potter Feel "Secured" by Wackenhut?

I had an odd set of reactions reading last Wednesday's issue of Willy Week (I always seem to be about a week behind commenting on them, don't I?) about Mayor Tom Potter quietly arming guards for Portland's City Hall, as part of an agreed increase in security but in a surprise rollout of the change. For a while I wasn't sure what the point of the story was: was it about City Hall not really needing the extra security, seeing as how there's been no spike in crime at the building that I know of, and of course the city and country are in the trough of historic crime lows...or was it that hello, 9/11 was five years ago and you're just now beefing up security? Or was it that Potter did it on the sly? Or is it that they're carrying concealed weapons?

And while I was turning all that over in my head:
City Hall guards wouldn't comment, and Ben Blair, the head of Florida-based Wackenhut's local operations, which includes security at the two city buildings, said he couldn't discuss the extent to which the guards were packing heat.

"Those types of questions go straight to the security posture of the building," Blair says.
WACKENHUT! They're guarding Tom Potter? Isn't he an ex-cop? I could tell you about Wackenhut's sad past when it comes to security, but I'm sure this article reaches a specific narrative at some point, and nobody wants to see me get on my high horse about what an awful company it is. So let's get back to the article...Erik Sten says he knew even if Randy didn't--and as long as it wasn't Force 10 from Navarone in the lobby, he was willing to give it a try. Ahh, so it's a commissioner conflict piece! See, Sten's calling out Randy AND the old man! (Randy does much of Sten's work for him here, freaking about "frightening characters." I know for a fact being an urban firefighter is not a weirdo-free experience, so I don't know when he got so fearful. Too much time off the line, I guess.)

No, wait, that's not the story. It's money...of course, of course. The city's spending $1.1 million on the upgrades, for just two buildings? And the other upgrades have been delayed? Wait, it's an inefficiency in government piece! They can't even pick a security force right! The first company couldn't qualify because the City was favoring cops with Portland PB experience, and they didn't have enough. So that left them (intentionally? Is this actually a corruption piece about Potter favoring his retired cop buddies from PPB? Ooooh, me likey corruption pieces!) to fall back on option #2, Florida-based WackenAAAAGGGGHHHH!

That's one too many references about the company that is to keeping things secure, as Paris Hilton is to preserving her family's financial legacy and social reputation. Forgive me, but I've gotta go on a bit of a rant here. I restrained myself the first time they came up, but now I must tell you that the real story is who Portland has contracted their security with, and how anyone important in Portland could not know what a suckful company Wackenhut is.

I'm sure most readers are at least familiar with the name Wackenhut--cause it's funny--and may even know they do security for a living. Some may even know that they make big bucks running prisons for states. But what most people (including me) likely didn't know is that the company is now run by the Danish firm Group 4 Falck, (certainly not a catchier nom). I came to know about Wackenhut during the 90s when the prison industry went through the roof, starting with Mario Coumo's New York. It was a way to score both political points and put people to work in rural areas where towns desperately wanted some kind of employment apparatus to save them. As Michael Scott puts it, a win-win-win scenario.

Well, guess which company caught onto the boom and made themselves the second largest private security company in the U.S. Wackenhut eventually picked up all kinds of security contracts, but they made their bread on prisons, prisons they took over from state and local governments who decided that private entities could run every function of government better. And for a while it seemed like that perfect American capitalist match: making money off America's strong values.

But toward the end of the 90s, the blue-collar feel-good narrative began to implode. I recall reading at the time a 1998 Atlantic Monthly piece that was more broadly about the prison-industrial complex, and how economy and politics were running prison management like the machine that made thneeds, and prisoners were the truffula tufts. I apologize that it's subscriber only, but it's almost worth renewing my expired subscription just to read it again. A prime culprit in Atlantic's observance of the Southwestern states that had gone full gonzo with privatization was Wackenhut. Why? They simply sucked at their jobs:
# New Mexico: Riots broke out at two facilities operated by Wackenhut. At the company's Santa Rosa facility in Guadalupe County, a riot in August 1999 left one guard dead and one inmate wounded. Nine days earlier, an inmate was beaten to death by another wielding a bag of rocks. In its first year under Wackenhut control in 1998, the Hobbs Correctional Facility in Lea County was the site of three fatal inmate stabbings, six nonfatal stabbings, a "near-riot" and allegations of guards using excessive force, according to reports in both the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune. The papers also reported that in January 2000, four mentally ill inmates in the Hobbs facility filed a class action lawsuit alleging that they were denied access to medical treatment. The inmates also alleged that the facility was understaffed and the guards were poorly trained and abusive.

# Louisiana: In April 2000, allegations of guards abusing juvenile offenders prompted the state to take control of the Jena Juvenile Justice Center run by Wackenhut, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported. The facility, opened in December 1998, was plagued by problems, including riots during the first month the facility was open, allegations of "abusive and untrained" guards, and lack of "meaningful" rehabilitation programs, medical care, and educational opportunities. The paper reported that inmates also complained of shortages of food, supplies, and clothing. According to the Advocate, juvenile inmates said they would purposely mutilate or attempt to kill themselves, hoping to get away from their "tormentors."

# Florida: At the Broward County work release facility in Ft. Lauderdale, allegations of sex between guards and inmates, and a successful escape, caused the county sheriff to ask for tighter oversight of the Wackenhut facility. According to The Palm Beach Post, five guards were either reprimanded or fired as a result of the allegations. In June of 2000, the Florida state ACLU filed a public records suit against the Palm Beach Gardens-based Wackenhut for "stonewalling" access to records. The ACLU said they believed the documentation it sought would confirm ongoing allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and "excessive profit" taken by the company.

# Elsewhere in Texas, a former inmate of the Wackenhut-run minimum-security lockup in Lockhart claimed she was raped repeatedly over a four-month period. In July 1998, as reported in the American-Statesman, the former inmate filed a federal suit alleging that, although a prison internal affairs investigation found that the sex was not consensual, Wackenhut officials failed to fire or reprimand the accused guard. The guard later quit after a second sexual assault allegation came to light.
As bad as all that is, the one thing this piece doesn't cover that the Atlantic article did (and you'll have to take my word for it) is the horrendous record private companies have with their #1 job: simply keeping people from getting out of the prison and back into the community. In fairness here, Wackenhut is no worse than other prison security providers, but none of the companies deserve any fair praise for their efforts.

Undeterred as caretakers of our prison systems, Wackenhut started guarding energy complexes, notably nuclear power facilities. The SEIU just last month took a swipe at the company for failing in their duty to secure the Seabrook facility in New Hampshire:
The union outlined problems at those facilities including inadequate staffing, shortcuts during patrols, workers allowing unescorted visitors to enter protected areas and permitting unsearched new fuel containers into a protected area and leaving them unattended.

Wackenhut spokesman Mark Shapiro pointed out Wackenhut itself is not included in the NRC citation.

Stephen Lerner, director of SEIU property services, said: "Wackenhut has again demonstrated an inability to play by the rules and provide adequate security. Until the NRC takes action against this irresponsible contractor, the public can have little confidence that our nation's nuclear facilities are safe and secure."
The SEIU piece then lays out its major beefs with Wackenhut, primarily around poor training and overworking, that contribute to security lapses. The NRC can't say it wasn't warned; SEIU had been making the same claims for three years:
According to the union's analysis of public documents, press reports and surveys of employees, inappropriate people are placed in sensitive positions as part of Wackenhut's hiring practices.

Despite the company's claim that it provides extensive training to guards, the union alleges Wackenhut security officers often receive limited training.

The company's working conditions make it difficult for its employees to provide quality service, the union said. Many security officers work excessive overtime and Wackenhut has retaliated against - rather than encouraged - employees who point out security lapses.

"Wackenhut is underbidding everyone," said the SEIU's Cappella, whose union has an agreement with 30 different security contractors in Chicago alone - all offering fully paid health plans. "They are just about the only company that is refusing to provide a fully paid health plan for workers and their families."

Most of Wackenhut's plans are 80/20 or 66 percent employer paid and devoid of family benefits, he said.

"For someone making eight, nine or 10 bucks an hour, they can't afford [health care]," Cappella said.
Perhaps realizing that their failure to secure the facilities they were entrusted with might be seen as detrimental to receiving further contracts, in the case of Massachusetts's Pilgrim nuclear station Wackenhut seized on an ingenious solution: use a subsidiary that tests security teams on behalf of the nuclear watchdog agency, to test Wackenhut's personnel guarding the facility!
The deal was described in one editorial as "a frightful excursion into privatized homeland security," and was the subject of bipartisan criticism in a key Congressional oversight committee.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), chairman of the House subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, said "A proposal to hire an attacking force from the same company used to protect several plants raises legitimate concerns about the integrity of future mandatory force-on-force exercises."

The program was "like a take-home exam," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). "The very company that makes a living guarding nuclear power plants is also testing nuclear power plants' security." Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Washington's leading government accountability group on nuclear issues, told the Associated Press that the contract, "is not an apparent conflict of interest -- but a blatant conflict of interest."
Think it can't get worse? How about their record securing airports? In Hawaii, the president and associates of a small airline scheduled a meeting to complain about the poor treatment given their employees by Wackenhut personnel assigned to Maui's Kahului Airpot--and got an asskicking by the airport's chief officer for their trouble.

In that case the assaultees had a right to be there--heaven help you if you're an immigrant who is placed into a detention facility at a major airport like JFK, who has hired--guess who--to run those facilities. Some of the described behavior is no doubt due to the current posture taken by INS regarding detained immigrants--but it's no surprise that Wackenhut seems more than willing to apply that posture in practice.

Still not convinced? I saved the best (worst) for last: the Department of Homeland Security--the folks who brought you bloated bureaucracy, billions in no-bid security contracts, and a near-total lack of oversight--even they have limits to the amount of bald incompetence they'll tolerate:
After revelations of extensive security breaches at Department of Homeland Security headquarters, DHS has decided to solicit a new contract for security personnel.

The new contract was supposed to go into effect April 1, but DHS has been mum on whether it actually signed a new contract, and if so, with which company. Wackenhut Services Inc., the company that generated criticism for security shortcomings, currently provides protection at DHS headquarters. DHS would not say whether Wackenhut has received another contract to provide security.

Several current and former security guards at the Department of Homeland Security’s sprawling Nebraska Avenue complex have called attention to what they characterize as a lack of training and preparation of guards employed by Wackenhut. An Associated Press report published last month described the mishandling of an anthrax threat at the headquarters, as well as accounts of under-guarded building entrances and malfunctioning detection equipment.
Feeling safe yet, Tom? And while we're at it, if you're trying to do a favor for some of your old cop pals, why are you helping their employer perpetuate the practice of paying your friends like shit, and offering them lame benefits? The bottom line, which I congratulate you on reaching with me after the preceeding diatribe, is that Wackenhut has no business guarding my parking space--much less Portland's government buildings. Not only are they a company that frankly fails to meet the City's standards for being good employers, they're not even good at the job they're being paid to do. At least Wal-Mart actually has low prices to justify their serial assrape of suppliers and workers--what's Wackenhut's excuse?

The three faces of Mattie Day, Minnis Minion

Earlier today, a reader sent a copy of The Mount Hood-Gorge Connection (warning: PDF) to me. Its the September 2006 issue containing a rather gag-inducing profile of GOP House Speaker Karen Minnis. For your gag reflex pleasure, here's a sample:

John Minnis came into Karen’s world of public policy in 1998. The girl who wanted for shoes and who could belt out a song found a new voice as State Representative
and now Speaker. She is leaving footprints of compassionate and disciplined leadership in the halls of the community’s house. Karen Minnis defied the odds that were against her as a woman who was raised by uneducated parents in poverty. She has risen above the obstacles, nurtured her children, stood by her husband and now stands in a place of humble leadership.
This is quite an article coming from a periodical which claims itself to be an "independent publication". Its like Joan of Arc meets Mother Teresa meets Dr John McLoughlin sans male stuff.

Another point of interest with this piece is the author. The byline says by Mattie Day for The MHG Connection. Mattie Day is also listed as a "contributing writer" (see page 3 of the PDF) for the paper. (The paper also contains a "letter to the editor" from Toni Manning of Friends Who Believe Rob Brading Wants Little Kids To View Porn While We Take No Personal Responsibility For Our Parenting).

Oddly, Mattie Day is also listed as communications assistant to the Speaker. In other words, her salary is paid for at least in part with our tax dollars.

But the rabbit hole goes even deeper. There is also a Mattie Day listed on staff with Adams and Company, Douchebag of Double Dealing Dirt Chuck Adams' company.

That looks an awful lot to me like the same person is writing an "independent" article about Karen Minnis without disclosing her business relationship to the Speaker (where she draws a taxpayer funded salary) while subsequently drawing another salary with Minnis' political consultant--again, without disclosing as such in the article.

But it would be wrong to jump to conclusions without at least checking with the paper, right? After all, there could be thousands of "Mattie Days" who mill about the greater Portland-Salem metro region. Maybe several of them just happen to be working in several different capacities for Karen Minnis and her consultant.

Hey. It could happen.

So TJ called them up for me yesterday, querying in his inimitable style about the seemingly very busy Mattie Day. Here's his description of how it went as relayed to me in email:
I introduced myself as TJ from Loaded Orygun to a woman who answered the
phone, and appeared to be in some kind of managerial position with hiring
authorization. When I asked if Mattie was a regular columnist, she
said she (Mattie) was going to be doing a lot of writing for "her" (the
voice on the phone and by extension one assumes the paper) in the future.
She said they were currently in negotiations. I said, so it's a paid
position, right? She asked "who are you again?" I repeated myself, and asked
"but she would be paid?" She said, "that's kind of a, uh..." to which I
replied, "I'm only asking if she's paid, not what she'll be paid," and then
asked if she was aware Mattie worked as the Communications Asst for Speaker
Minnis, and was also on staff for Chuck Adams and Company, who do consulting
for Minnis. She asked, "where are you from again?" and I repeated myself,
then asked the question again: were you aware...etc? She cut me off and
said, "what's your phone number?" which I gave, and then asked again, "were
you aware..." [click]

I called back and said we might have been accidentally cut off, repeating my
identity, question and contact number for the paper's voice mail.

Not so forthcoming, eh? It doesn't look good.

So far I haven't been able to reach anyone with the Speaker's Office or the campaign to clarify and verify this strange, unsolved mystery of Mattie Day.

I'll post an update as it becomes relevant.