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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The usual suspects

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman recently announced that he won't be taking "clean money" in his re-election run against challenger Amanda Fritz and others. Saltzman's going to take only the traditional "unclean money," and he apparently believes that the early bird catches the worm. His campaign finance report filed this week shows him collecting nearly $70K in cold cash already toward the campaign, with the general election still more than a year away.

Leafing through the 39 pages of disclosure in the report is pretty interesting. So far, Saltzman's taken more than $500 from a couple of folks, at least on paper. Someone named John Andrews, listed as an employee of Melvin Mark Co., kicked in $1,000, and Marjorie Saltzman (a relative, perhaps?) was good for another $1,000. All the other entries are $500 or less.

But when you look a little more closely, you see that, as I suspected, there are some noticeable instances in which persons and entities who may be related have contributed simultaneously, arguably with the effect of making those $500's add up to more.

For example, in addition to $500 from Jordan Schnitzer, Saltzman took $500 each from Lois Schnitzer, Schnitzer Investment, Schnitzer Steel, and Harsch Investment (which when last I looked was owned by Schnitzers). That's $2,500 total from people or companies with the same last name or some variation thereof, not to mention Ken Novack, listed as being employed by Schnitzer Investment (another $500).

There's $500 from Jim Winkler, and another $500 from Winkler Development. In addition to $500 from Homer Williams, Saltzman took $500 from Hoyt Street Properties, a name long associated with Williams (although he may no longer be an owner, according to some press reports).

There's $500 from each of these donors: Mary K. Mark, Melvin J. Mark, and Melvin Mark Jr.; and as noted earlier, $1,000 from someone identified as working for Melvin Mark. There's $500 from Richard Alexander, and another $500 from Carilyn Alexander, same address. Ditto for Alison Kehoe and Martin Kehoe, and Joan Kingsley and Wayne Kingsley.

Other aspects of the report also make for fun reading. Saltzman got to both sides of the feuding Naito clan, I think. Verne Naito coughed up $500; Made in Oregon, which I believe the other side of the Naito family controls, gave another $500.

Many of the other usual suspects are in there, but some of the amounts are comical. Long-time bank exec George Passadore, whose occupation is listed as a member of the Tri-Met board, pungled up only $250. Heck, Maria Rojo de Steffey could scrape up that much, and she did. Peter Kohler, who pulls down $600K-plus as the head of OHSU, could be talked out of only $100 for Saltzman. Robert Widmer, Mike Lindberg, and Bev Stein popped for only $100 as well.

Rounding out the all-star cast were $500 contributions from such folks as Kroger (the same outfit that runs Freddy's, I'm guessing), American Medical Response (the ambulance guys), lobbyists Northwest Strategies (which I think is Len "Slots" Bergstein), Mark Bruun, David Evans and Associates, the Trail Blazers, Mark Dodson, Wayne Drinkward of Hoffman Construction, Gerdling/Edlin Development, Douglas Obletz, Oregon Entertainment Corp. (is that the same one that runs the adult video store?), Chet Paulson, Plaid Pantry, Mike Powell, Pat Prendergast, Dan Wieden....

You get the picture. Although the good commisioner is going to put his best grassroots face on from here to election night, his booster club ain't exactly an OSPIRG meeting.

Comments (24)

We've gotten awfully cynical. I remember reading a recent campaign report that had five or six contributions from Limited Liability Corporations --all listed in a row-- written,no doubt, by the same person, with the same pen, the same day. They all used the same PO Box. In Eugene.

Saltzman seems to be establishing himself early as the candidate of cynicism, and business as usual. My daughter, who lives in NYC, would love to be one of Amanda's $5 contributors...but Amanda would have none of that. Say what you will about public financing of campaigns --and I have my issues with it-- I'm proud to be a supporter of Amanda and the integrity she'd like to bring to the City Council.

Tracy Blakeslee owns the Fantasy Bookstore operation (and he's on the list) - don't know about Oregon Entertainment Corp.

PS: I liked the handwritten changes of occupation - one person morphed from a PR consultant to an "arts advocate". Ha.

Yes, it truly is a Who's Who of landed property and business interests. Apparently, Big Pipe isn't too interested in the common Joe/JoAnne but that's not a big surprise.

Blakeslee is owner of Fantasy Video. Others that are interesting: T.B. Dame, likely Dike Dame, one of Homer's ol' developer buddies; a couple of guys with past/current PDC board ties - Doug Blomgren and John Russell, lots of folks with development interests (where to start...Ames, Bell, Bruun, Dame, Gerdling/Edlen, Kehoe, Mark et al., Prendergast, Russell, Homer, Winkler; others with architect/planning interests - Emmons (big advocate for Vancouver BC wannabe SoWhat development), OTAK; others from the big bidness interests: the Marks, Beltz (Dreyfus), Grubb & Ellis, Naitos, Sondland (hotel big wig), Ron Tonkin, who got some big interests in what may happen out 122nd way...and on and on...

All the little piggies are counting on another term with ol' Deer-in-the-Headlights...

"Clean Money" was pimped by 2 people* who won elections in which they each came to office after they spent MUCH LESS money than their opponents. The rest of the "Clean/Free-Money" story is the usual Chicago-/Portland-style corruption.

Pop Quiz - which will cost more: "Clean Money" or "The Aerial Tram [rim shot]"?

* - Vera Katz & Erik Sten.

So here's how this will go down. The incumbents will pass on clean money, claiming to take the high road. After all, there is an appearance of impropriety when those who voted for it take advantage of it. But here's how the scam works. The incumbents raise as much money as they want, albeit under the impression of "limited" contributions. Their virtually unknown opponents get matching funds. Even money race. Who wins in an even money race? The incumbent, hands down.

The anomaly that Potter talks about with regard to his election over million dollar Jim Francesconi wasn't limiting campaign contributions... it was the fact that Francesconi ran a horrible campaign, had no message and had no appeal.

Bingo. Francesconi's campaign was a disaster. Potter could have funded his campaign off of empty beer bottles found on the street - and still would have won.

BTW - How much did Bud Clark raise the first time when he beat Frank Ivancie? Couldn't have been much. It was Ivancie's race to lose, and he lost it. All Bud had to do was stand there and not be Ivancie.

Bingo. Francesconi's campaign was a disaster. Potter could have funded his campaign off of empty beer bottles found on the street - and still would have won.

Not only that, but Potter had outstanding name recognition, which certainly was a big help. The normal problem with low-funded campaigns is they just don't have the chance to give the public a sense of the candidate. Obviously this was not true in Potter's case.

Personally, I'd rather not have my tax dollars spent on soundbite/buzzword campaigns that convey very little truth about the candidate or his/her opponent!

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” - Thomas Jefferson

These kinds of things happen when the reverse Robin Hood mentality takes root. When the whole political culture is based on the loony proposition of robbing from the little guy (sinful and tyrannical taxes & regulations) to give to the big guy (hugely valuable monopoly grants, subsidies and exemptions) - there's no end to the wacky permutations.

What's next - using our annual property taxes for 100% of the funding for a pay-as-you-go (Ponzi) public pension scheme? Oh, I almost forgot. They already do that - it's called the COP Police & Fire Disability & Retirement Fund.

A couple things stand out reading the Saltzman report:

A "not working" Alix Goodman gave $250, the only Goodman to contribute. I have no idea if Alix is one of the property/parking Goodmans, a family usually the most usual and suspect of the usual suspects.

Oregon Sports Authority gave $500. OSA is a 501(c)(6), which, according to my cheat sheet on not-for-profits, "May not engage in direct expenditures advocating a vote for a political candidate or cause."

A portion of a summary at on 501(c)(6)'s:
Participating directly or indirectly, or intervening, in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office does not further exempt purposes under section 501(c)(6). However, a IRC Section 501(c)(6) business league may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.

I didn't read the whole 68 page document.,,id=96107,00.html

Didn't know that about the OSA. That just complicated a few lives.

Ramon, the CoP pension scheme is NOT the Ponzi scheme, yet, because it is NOT invested in Wall Street; that is the PERS plan.

I could use the clean money thing to run for auditor on a campaign pledge that every single budget cycle begins anew, inclusive of all pension promises and special tax breaks and such and to assure that no future council shall be bound to honor any pledge of an unearned gift with a payoff during a future budget cycle. In one fell swoop I could clean things up and I too am empowered by the clean money campaign just as much as the boys from the hood.

See the trackback for some genuine insanity.

OK, let's take a look at a few statements here:

But here's how the scam works. The incumbents raise as much money as they want, albeit under the impression of "limited" contributions. Their virtually unknown opponents get matching funds. Even money race. Who wins in an even money race? The incumbent, hands down.

I agree the incumbent still has an advantage. But isn't an even-money race progress compared to 2002 when Saltzman had NO seriously funded challenger?

I'd rather not have my tax dollars spent on soundbite/buzzword campaigns that convey very little truth about the candidate or his/her opponent!

Part of the advantage of VOE is that unless Dan goes over $150K in fundraising (harder at $500 a pop, even when he gets 'related' entities to bundle - and triggering an opponent getting matching dollars), that's all he and a VOE challenger will be spending. You can't buy enough media for $150K to run a soundbite campaign, you actually have to talk to people. With $600K, like Dan spent in 1998 you can definitely push message over substance. VOE deliberately is designed to provide enough money to get a message out city-wide, but not enough to move into the "repetition over substance" realm.

Dave wrote:

The incumbents raise as much money as they want, albeit under the impression of "limited" contributions. Their virtually unknown opponents get matching funds. Even money race. Who wins in an even money race? The incumbent, hands down.

There is a misconception that those who participate in the clean money plan get funds that "match" those of nonparticipants. That is only partially true. In the primary, there is a pool of up to $150,000 of matching funds to be split by all participating candidates. Every dollar the nonparticipant spends above $300,000 is not matched.

For example, if Dan Saltzman raises $400,000 and three opponents qualify to receive public funds, each would get the initial $150,000 for qualifying and an addditional $50,000 in "matching funds" for a total of $200,000, compared to Saltzman's $400,000. Even in a head to head race, the participant would be limited to $300,000 no matter how much the nonparticipant raises and spends.

The pattern of fundraising reinforces my belief that the fundraising pledge is more smoke than substance.

I actually like Saltzman, by the way. I just don't think this pledge means much other than he's jumping on what seems to be the most convenient bandwagon.

The other thing that disturbs me about this funding mechanism is that I am unaware of there being any overall cap. In other words, if twenty candidates qualify, then the city will have to dish out money to all of them. They did their projections based on two or three candidates qualifying. Does anyone know if there is an overall cap? If there isn't, what will be the impact on city services if the "clean money" tab turns out to be 13 million instead of 1.3 million?

The system is in fact capped. The cap is 0.2% of city funds annually.

If we were to have more candidates than that amount would support, the citizens campaign commission would have to recommend to City Council how to allocate the available funds among the candidates.

"The system is in fact capped."

Oh yeah - that'll stop em. Uh-huh.

This whole blasted thing was passed without voter approval, so what's to stop the City Council from raising the "cap" any time it darned well feels like? All it will take is one Perot-like rich guy to run for Mayor or City Council and all the other candidates will cry like babies until the "cap" is raised so they can be more "competitive".

"Voter Owned Elections". HA. It'd be funny if it weren't so sad. The only ownership going on here is more and more people taking ownership of city residents' hard-earned tax dollars.

Thanks for clarifying the cap. Is that figure based on the all city budget of 1.8 billion, or the general fund budget of approx 440 million?

The VOE calculations are all against the All Funds budget. That's how it avoids unduly burdening the general fund.

Lots of things are passed without voter approval. That's why it's called representative government.

Why is this any different? You have every right to express your disapproval by voting people out of office.

There's a reason we have repeal procedures, and the initiative and referendum - because in the real world, "representative government" rarely is.

Simmer down, folks. This discussion will all be over in a few months.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The usual suspects:

» I'd call this 'clean money' too - wouldn't you? from Metroblogging Portland
Buried in the back of The O's story yesterday about campaign finance fundraising already underway by Saltzman and Sten was this nugget about Sam Adams' campaign debts: Since he edged out (Nick) Fish, Adams has helped his opponent pay back... [Read More]


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