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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 1, 2004 12:57 PM. The previous post in this blog was An old friend's passing away. The next post in this blog is PGE 2.0. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Phil-anthropy

One of the topics that got lost in the Thanksgiving blur was a Willamette Week cover story profiling Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford. In particular, the article detailed Stanford's relentless crusade, begun when he was at The Oregonian years ago, to prove that the murder of Oregon Corrections chief Michael Francke was not committed by Frank Gable, the Salem thug who's doing hard time for it, but instead by someone connected with corruption in the state's prisons.

Stanford revved the story back up with a vengeance over the summer, shortly after the Neil Goldschmidt statutory rape scandal broke. He had been sitting on the Goldschmidt story for quite a while when the Willamette Week decided to go for it; Phil even wound up apologizing in print for not having run the tawdry news sooner himself. Apparently he doesn't want to be saying he's sorry for a similar silence in the Francke case.

Stanford's got some other pet themes that I enjoy reading. Lately he's been ridiculing the City of Portland's pollyannish plan to finance local political campaigns with tax dollars. After a couple of shots at the proposal, one fairly extended, the columnist boiled his objections down yesterday to this:

Those "Clean Money" guys down at City Hall crack me up.... If they really wanted to eliminate big campaign money, all they'd have to do is place a limit -- say $25 or $100 -- on contributions to their own campaigns. Tom Potter did it, and look where it got him.... But of course that's not what's going on here. What they want is to have all that nice, clean tax money handed to them so they don't have to do the dirty work of collecting contributions.... Can't blame them for trying, though. If I were a politician and thought I could get away with it, I'm sure I'd do the same thing....

You tell 'em, Phil! I'm all for getting developer and union cash out of city politics -- the recent campaign finance disclosures, posted on the internet for the amusement of all, have been enough to curl my thinning Polish-Irish hair -- but I can't see doing it out of property tax dollars. This is a city that's so broke that the mayor has a canned little speech for everyone (including an under-budgeted Police Bureau) about how tough times are, that there's no money for anything. It's the city with the highest combined state and local tax burden on individuals west of the Mississippi. And we've got money lying around to be on the cutting edge with this? Funded differently, it's worth a try; paid for out of property taxes, it's a disgrace.

Of course, it's going to happen, at least for a while. Commissioner Erik Sten, whose upcoming re-election bid would be one of the first beneficiaries of the new system, has got the votes on this from City Council newbies Sam "Vero" Adams and Tom "Grampy" Potter -- the first of many Brilliant Ideas that we'll see implemented over the next few years. So guys like Phil and I can howl all we want. (Meanwhile, over on Portland Communique, Christopher Frankonis, who knows from experience about the rigors of fundraising, thinks it's a great proposal, and he never changes his mind, so don't bother arguing with him about it.)

Anyway, here's to Phil.

Comments (15)

A week or so earlier Stanford blasted the "clean money" idea by challenging Sten directly, saying "so evidently you've been taking dirty money up until now". This public funding of city elections is, in my opinion, a slap in the face of Portland's electorate. If the council enacts it without voter approval we should scream bloody murder.

I like Phil's editorializing on the Clean Money proposal, too. I previously thought it was a great idea, but Stanford (and one other Trib columnist whose name I forget) managed to change my mind, at least. So good work for that.

Dave, Isn't that your name I see on some of those eye-popping campaign finance reports? 8c)

I'm far less enthused about the "clean money" campaign after this last election where the transparency of disclosure, I believe, actually worked. Francesconi's fundraising was huge, but we knew where it came from and we didn't like. So guess what? We didn't vote for him.

Something about all that sunshine hitting those reports, eh? Sten and Blackmer are to be commended for getting the listings up on the web so promptly. Now if they would just post them in a spreadsheet format (or require the candidates to do so), so that we could analyze them more easily and thoroughly...

never changes his mind, so don't bother arguing with him about it

A not uncommon affliction in the local political blogosphere.

I previously thought it was a great idea, but Stanford (and one other Trib columnist whose name I forget) managed to change my mind

The other one was Promise King, who oddly managed to have a hit column on the same subject in the same edition.

And I still haven't had the chance to do an actual breakdown of it, but if you compare what Stanford and King allege about the proposal with what the proposal says, and the experiences of other places that use similar systems, you'll notice that what the allege doesn't actually stand up and/or is easily countered by arguments of an at least as compelling nature.

So, in the end, Stanford and King haven't actually advanced a thoughtful debate on this proposal.

b!X, no offense intended with the "never changes his mind" crack. Just a statement of fact. When you're right, you're right, as I demonstrate here on a daily basis... 8c)

So, in the end, Stanford and King haven't actually advanced a thoughtful debate on this proposal.

Now that's downright smug. I haven't read King's column yet, but Stanford's got a lot of people suddenly thinking about Sten's motives, which are quite relevant. That's "advancing a thoughtful debate," albeit on the side opposite to the conclusion you have reached.

Theres another local blogger who never changes his mind either. His name rhymes with Schmogdanski.

Just statin a fact here.

b!X - Sorry, I don't understand giving public funds to people already in office so they can get their job back.

If they want the job so bad, use their own money. They can still take kickback funds regardless of this measure outside the electoral process, so I don't think it addresses the cleanliness issue.

In addition, they get more free money that could be spent on schools. Don't forget Mr Blackmer would also qual for $250K after spending a grand total of what - $200? to get re-elected.

Enough welfare for these guys.

b!X - Sorry, I don't understand giving public funds to people already in office so they can get their job back.

If they want the job so bad, use their own money. They can still take kickback funds regardless of this measure outside the electoral process, so I don't think it addresses the cleanliness issue.

In addition, they get more free money that could be spent on schools (or Mr Leonard's Police/Fire Disability boondoggle.) Don't forget Mr Blackmer would also qual for $250K after spending a grand total of what - $200? to get re-elected.

Enough welfare for these guys.

Jack,

You probably did see my name on some campaign finance reports, but the figures weren't what I would call eye popping. Our business contributed $375.00 to the Francesconi campaign and $500.00 to the Adams campaign. At a fundraising auction for Adams, I was the high bidder on a piece of artwork for $1250.00. (By the way, don't drink wine at an auction). Earlier on, I think I wrote a check to the Adams campaign for about $200.00, but I don't have my check register here at the office so I can't say for sure. That adds up to $2325.00 in total for the race. It's not exactly chump change, but it certainly doesn't put me or my company in the heavy hitter category.

Now, the question is, did I think those donations would influence anyone's future vote? Of course not. Did I think those donations would buy "access" to those folks? Maybe, but it was really a moot point. I've found that I've been able to access council members via e mail and telephone from well before the campaign and have always received responses and been listened to.

So why make the donations? Because those were the guys I wanted to win, pure and simple. We don't do business with the city and never have. We're too small of a company to undertake software projects of the scope the city would need. Nor do we need to be located in the city, it just so happens that we are. The general health of the local economy does, however, affect our business and I thought Jim and Sam were the two that could do a better job on that score.

I have two main objections to Sten-Blackmer. The requirement for 1000 individual contributions of $5.00 stacks the deck in favor of the incumbent. One thousand is a whole bunch of contributors. I'll bet Francesconi's million dollars did not include that many individual contributors. But you take an incumbent who is cozy with the police union, or the teachers, or the firefighters... they might have an easy time of it. The second objection is that they are going to use taxpayer money. That means everyone contributes to the candidate, even if it is not the candidate of their choice. Why should I or anyone else pay for the campaign of someone we oppose or disagree with?

I like Sam, as you know. But I've heard that he seems to be in favor of this scheme. He and I are going to have a serious disagreement if that's the case.

Sorry for the length of this post. I hope it clarifies the thinking of at least one less than eye popping political contributor.

Dave

For what it's worth, David's explanation of why he contributed to campaigns is consistent with my experience being on the other side receiving campaign contributions for years: Contributors don't try to influence how you'll vote, they try to help you win because they already know you're likely to vote their way (at least, more likely than the person you're running against).

TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Phil-anthropy:

» How to finance City Council campaigns from Isaac Laquedem
I have followed with great interest the discussion about the proposal to provide public money from the City's fisc to finance campaigns for the Portland City Council. [Read More]

» Phil Stanford keeps on keeping on from JohnHays.net
Jack Bogdanski has a post about one of my favorite columnist and investigative reporter. The post is about Phil Stanford. [Read More]


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