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Friday, September 10, 2004

Tale of two news stories

Thursday's Oregonian contained the blaring front-page headline: "Saif clears ethics accusation." I had to laugh. "Clears"? What the story actually said was that the state Government Standards and Practices Commission "could not prove" illegal lobbying by Saif via its contract with disgraced former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt.

I'm not surprised that the commission "could not prove" it. First of all, the commission is notoriously understaffed -- as I recall, there is something like one director and one investigator, that's it -- and it would be hard for them to dig very deep, even if they wanted to. Second, a major point of the whole Saif scandal is that in key areas, records weren't kept, and in other key areas, by Saif's own admission, records were destroyed. So if you're going to find evidence, you're going to need to do it by intense investigation -- the kind that the ethics commission isn't set up to do. (And the Legislature expressly wants it that way.)

I filed a complaint with that commission once. I and some others accused a physician who held a high state office of a conflict of interest. The commission hemmed and hawed and came up with a nice pat explanation of how there was no conflict. It also included in its report a discussion of our motivation for bringing the complaint, which I thought was interesting. Anyway, it turned out that many months later, it was revealed that the good doctor was a raging alcoholic who was so in denial that he gave up his license to practice rather than go for treatment. (The guy had been driving around the freeways so drunk that other motorists were calling 911.) Nobody at the Standards and Practices Commission had ever asked any questions about that, I'm sure.

Yesterday's news stories included quotations from Gov. Kulongoski and others that, by golly, we're glad that we've got a cleanup specialist in Saif now, and everything's fine. Time to put this unpleasant chapter behind us and get on with our bright future, blah blah blah.

Anyway, back in today's Metro section, The O casually got around to confirming that there's now a federal investigation under way into government corruption in Oregon generally. They're not naming any names, but one of the deals the FBI is looking at is Saif and its relationship to Goldschmidt.

Now that's news.

Comments (3)

When is the gov't (or Willamette Week) going to look into the UofP and their strong-arm tactics of taking houses along the bluff?

I do not necessarily look at the federal interference as a good thing. They could be just running interference.

Take a gander at the FBI and SEC when they poked their nose into San Diego recently. It seems there is an unsound pension plan down there. A huge increase in pay has an additional multiplier effect upon underfunding; because of unsound plan design.

One would think the rational role would be to complain about unsound plan design; or even halt the pay increases pending a design fix. Instead, the FBI, SEC, Bond Rating folks, etc. look at the scene and, like an opportunist, say that the underfunding must be remedied by taking local dollars and throwing it into a fund where a significant chunk will be retransferred to the wall street casino (where proper unaccountable skimmers can work their magic). It is like a chorus of thieves threatening jail time. This may come as a surprise but I would prefer local corruption to remote corruption (used to hammer the locals) because it is marginally easier to visualize that a potential fix is possible and can lead the way to a bright future.

1) http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040720/news_1m20pension.html
2) http://www.sddt.com/Commentary/article.cfm?Commentary_ID=169&SourceCode=20040628tza

The fed folks are more inclined to bow to their political appointees. Oregon is not a constituency but more like a protectorate. A Wikipedia description of a protectorate included the following sentence: “The British administration installed carefully selected local kings under a program of indirect rule through the local oligarchy, creating a network of British-controlled civil service.”

I hate the pupet masters more the their pupets. (The big O is like a pupet too, btw, at least they act like it.)

Two comments:

(1) The feds are often the best hope to catch state officials in acts of corruption. Does the name Spiro Agnew ring a bell?

(2) I'm a SAIF supporter (at least on the ballot measure to cut them open and let their chief competitor feast on their entrails) but I think the way the media has played this is despicable.
SAIF has been cleared in this case in the same way that Kobe Bryant was cleared in his rape case: in the end, it was too much trouble to prosecute, regardless of guilt. Congratulations, the system works--the way it has always worked.

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