Has the "clean money" fraud already begun?
Leave it to The Oregonian to get it exactly backward. Here one of its reporters uncovers apparent fraud in the City of Portland's new "clean money" public campaign finance system, and what do they lead their front-page editorial with? "New system working great -- really opening up the process."
Nonsense. Let's get to the real heart of the matter. Here's what the story reveals about Emilie Boyles's participation in the new taxpayer-financed system:
Nearly 950 of her seed donations came from Russian, Croatian and Slavic immigrants living in east Portland -- at least nine of whom say they don't recall contributing.What a mess.
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There's only one real requirement candidates hoping for public funding must meet: All their contributions must come from Portland residents. To verify that, city regulators pull almost a third of their donations and check addresses on www.portlandmaps.com.
Boyles passed with no problem. Yet in a quick, random survey of her donor list conducted in both English and Russian, nine people said they did not recall giving her money -- and seven said they did not recognize her name.
"I don't know who that is," said Ivan Pukay, who lives on Southeast 137th Avenue, when asked about Boyles. "I don't have work. My money is very low. When I have it, I keep it."
Alex Grainko and his wife are both listed, but he says he does not remember contributing: "How am I going to give money for someone I never heard of?"
Speaking through a translator, Mykola Chubay said someone appeared at his church seeking signatures for Boyles' campaign. But he does not recall whether he gave $5. He and another person from his household are listed as donors.
Aleksander Gorpinich, a 17-year-old high school student, also heard a pitch for Boyles at a church service. But he said he never donated to her campaign. Gorpinich said [Vladimir] Golovan [who gathered signatures and donations for Boyles] is his father.
In many cases, Golovan did the bulk of the work on Boyles' contribution sheets -- writing the donors' name, occupation and address. That's legal. But in some cases, husbands or wives appear to have signed for their spouses. And in a few instances, one person signed for an entire household -- an apparent violation.
I'm not necessarily opposed to the principle of public financing of political campaigns. I do strongly disagree wth the O's statement that it's opened up the process in Portland, for reasons I laid out here a while back, but getting the old West Hills money out of the political driver's seat in our municipal elections is not a bad goal.
The devil, of course, is in the details, and when you put a potentially decent idea into the hands of the Portland City Council -- particularly Commissioner Sten, the architect of the system as well as (surprise, surprise) one of its first three beneficiaries -- it's bound to get screwed up. Five-year-old kids signing, people signing for their spouses, candidates swearing they got cash contributions from people who have never heard of them -- it's a steaming pile of bureaucracy gone wild.
This program is to campaign finance reform what the city's water bureau billing system is to financial management.
If some of Emilie Boyles's signatures are from people who didn't give her $5 before she filed, she should not get a dime of taxpayer money. And somebody down at City Hall had better take a closer look at the veracity of her filings, before the scandal expands.
Where is the county district attorney? Where is the state attorney general? Where is the U.S. attorney?
And where is the City Council? Hey, Fireman Randy, why not take a break from your busy schedule of enforcing animal-related ordinances to take a tough stand on the enforcement of this set of rules? You've done the minks and the dogs -- what about the rats?
UPDATE, 3/31, 1:43 a.m.: It just gets weirder and weirder. Now candidate Lucinda Tate has filed at the 11th hour for "clean money," and she had the same guy that Boyles had (here he is pictured with another fine politician) out collecting alleged signatures and alleged cash contributions for her among the Slavic community. What a joke! Great job, Opie! Read the update here.