More SoWhat stinky cheese
The odor rising from the South Waterfront got a little stronger this morning -- more of the aroma left behind by Don "the Don" Mazziotti, recently departed godfather at the Portland Development Commission. He and an OHSU VP named Lois Davis reportedly hired Molly Bordonaro, Gordon Smith crony Dan Lavey, and their firm on a six-figure (eventually, seven-figure) no-bid contract to lobby Congress for pork for SoWhat -- even though the fix was already in for the federal money.
For a while, the PDC was forking over $10,000 of city taxpayer dollars to the lobbying firm, the Gallatin Group, every month, while the SoWhat developers and OHSU were paying three times that much. Over time, the story indicates, the PDC paid $170,000 of lobbying costs out of pocket (with another $60,000 apparently authorized but unspent), before shifting to an even more outrageous deal, whereby the city is paying a 50 percent "commission" to OHSU for supposed lobbying results. All the while, the congressional delegation is unanimous in the view that the project didn't really need to be lobbied -- and definitely not to the tune of $1.2 million.
Of course, the O story buries some of the most important stuff way down there. It turns out that the city may be using federal funds to pay for the aerial tram [rim shot] -- at least indirectly -- and that's not sitting well with Senator Wyden:
When [the city] backed out, the development commission agreed to repay OHSU if the lobbyists succeeded in landing federal cash. For every dollar the Gallatin Group attracted above $4.2 million in last year's transportation bill, the city will repay OHSU 50 cents, according to the deal the City Council approved in June 2004....Good golly Miss Molly -- you mean OHSU, Homer Williams, and the Don snookered somebody for money for SoWhat and the tram? Jeepers, I can't believe it. Opie and Big Pipe would never have let that happen.
The transportation bill ended up with $11 million. Under the formula, the city reimbursed OHSU for half the money it attracted over $4.2 million, which means Portland owes the university $3.4 million. That's more than twice what the lobbying efforts cost the university through this spring. The university plans to spend the reimbursement on the rising cost of the aerial tram.
But news of that deal apparently was not shared with some Oregon lawmakers.
Wyden, for example, repeatedly denied requests to use federal money for the tram.
Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff, said: "If federal funds he helped obtain became part of a shell game to pay for the tram, Gallatin and OHSU should have disclosed the arrangement. We are going to get to the bottom of that question."
Speaking of sleaze, in a sidebar, we learn that part of what the lobbying firm was reportedly doing on the city's and OHSU's dime was political fundraising for local politicians!
The Gallatin Group reported five times in work summaries provided to the city of Portland that it had raised campaign money, hosted fundraisers or organized River Campus Investors' attendance at fundraisers....Wow. I guess we had public campaign financing even before Opie's little "clean money" clubhouse opened for business!
[T]he Gallatin Group reported hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Smith where South Waterfront was discussed, according to Lavey's February 2004 report.
The Gallatin Group's fundraising extended to the city of Portland, too.
Also in February 2004, the firm reported raising money to support, among other politicians, mayoral candidate Jim Francesconi. Lavey wrote: "raised money in support of Sen. Smith, Sen. (Ron) Wyden, Congresswoman (Darlene) Hooley and Jim Francesconi on behalf of the RCI (River Campus Investors) team."
Nice investigative job by the O. Several years too late, of course, but quite interesting nonetheless.
Just remember, everybody: Everything's fine. City That Works. Brownfields to greenfields. Biotech. Nanotech. Smart growth. Eco-roofs. $635 a square foot. Affordable housing, maybe someday maybe. Kohler Coaster. Wine and cheese with Sharon Kitzhaber. The FBI has no business sniffing around our City Hall. Emilie Boyles -- bad! Canola oil -- good! Go by streetcar! (Illustration courtesy Portland Freelancer.)