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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 6, 2006 6:40 AM. The previous post in this blog was Worst. Disguise. Ever.. The next post in this blog is You're on notice!. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, October 6, 2006

Maui-Israel-Gate expands

The number of Oregon legislators who are suddenly "remembering" the fancy trips that lobbyists bought for them keeps expanding. Pretty soon they'll be in a majority:

Rep. Billy Dalto, R-Salem, reported to the state ethics commission a $5,000 trip to China in December 2003, sponsored by the American Council of Young Political Leaders, a bipartisan group based in Washington, D.C., that promotes cross-cultural political exchanges.

And Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, reported a 2004 trip to a Maui conference, courtesy of the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association. He had failed to record the $2,600 trip....

On Tuesday, House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, said she had neglected to report a $4,000 trip she took to Israel last year sponsored by the Portland Jewish Federation. And on Wednesday, Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, reported he was on the same $4,000 trip to Israel; last week, he disclosed that he, too, had attended the 2002 Maui conference, estimated at $2,500.

The pitiful excuses they offer keep coming as well. From today's latest batch:

"I just made a mistake, that's all," [Rep. Billy Dalton] said in an interview Thursday. "I don't think enough emphasis is placed on training lawmakers about these reporting requirements."

[Sen. David] Nelson, who could not be reached for comment, said earlier that he did not report the Maui conference because Paul Romain, the beer and wine group's lobbyist, told him it wasn't necessary.

Last week, [beer and wine lobbyist Paul] Romain sent Nelson a breakdown of costs for the conference, which included $1,000 for hotel, $940 for airfare, $350 for food and drink, and $290 for golf.

What sleaze!

There's really only one answer here, folks:

In response to the flurry of corrected reports, Oregon House Minority Leader Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, has urged the Oregon Law Commission, which is considering changes to state ethics rules, to ban all but nominal gifts from lobbyists to Oregon legislators. He also recommended raising the civil fine from $1,000 to $5,000.

"We do not need gifts and we do not need meals paid for us and we do not need entertainment," he said. "It breaks the social contract with a public that needs to know we're working for the best interests of Oregon."

No kidding. But in the black hole that is Salem, nothing sensible ever happens any more. So you can expect Merkley's idea to be DOA.

And they wonder why so many decent people around here just turn the whole thing off and throw the ballots in the garbage. Can you blame them? They want nothing to do with creeps like these.

Comments (13)

"There's really only one answer . . ."

The answer is to vote out of office every legislator who violates the public trust. Period. It isn't a matter of existing laws being too lenient. We have corruption in government in large part because the voters tolerate it.

This is the result of the absolute arrogance of both parties. Until WE, the People, start holding both parties responsible nothing will change. I challenge my fellow Democrtas to stop worrying about the other side and to demand some accountability from our representatives. I dont give a damn that Ryan Deckert is a nice guy.I'm sure many say the same thing about congressmen Foley. Nice guys do bad things and they need to be held accountable. Deckert holds himself out as a leader. He is a disgrace and should be thrown out of office, as well as the rest of them

Sounds like an argument for term limits to me.
As for the "nice guys"...they are usually the ones that try to get away with crap.


It is actions like this from our state reps, both D and R, that cause me to think twice about the value of voting. It seems to be the rare individual from either side of the aisle who will still represent his/her district after being in the muck for a couple of years. And term limits have not helped where they have been applied--despite the hype from that corner. The older I get, the more I believe that this is the way politics always has been, and always will be. But I will vote this year regardless--26 yr. habit that that is hard to break.

No problem, they'll be sure and hit the hot button issues before re-election to get back in. Biodiesel! Gay Marriage! Taxes!

How does one "forget" that they received free airfare, free hotel, free meal, free drinks, free golf? I'm pretty sure I would remember these "gifts".

Maybe these lobbying and advocacy groups should re-consider whether their gifts are all the rememberable.

It can hardly be argued that staying in a hotel in Hawaii is even remotely related to getting out some message to the public. It does not even belong in the category of a campaign expenditure. It is just like ordinary taxable income . . .

. . . but income that must be made transparent by reason of the status of the candidate and the giver. Do we really want to encourage the trips by excluding such ordinary income from taxation? That is the question. (Less junkmail?)

I could think of much broader transparency to cover ALL convention center type activity by all sorts of interest groups, for-profit and non-profit alike, as a precondition to claiming the same as a valid tax reducing expenditure. Detailed transparency can be a statutory condition on any and all incorporations. If they talk politics then let it all instead be after tax; voluntary for each individual.

Jack, don't the recipients of these gifts have to report the value for income tax purposes?

Yeah Jack! What are the tax implications of the trips?

I doubt that the people who paid for the trips could be seen as acting out of "detached and disinterested generosity," and so the value of the trips is includible in gross income for tax purposes. These folks might try to take an offsetting business deduction, but it wouldn't be a sure thing.

If they didn't report the income, though, they had all better be filing amended tax returns along with their amended little Salem papers.

Jail is where these folks belong. "I forgot! I went to Israel!" would be pretty funny, if it weren't so sick.

One could argue that term limits actually encourage this stuff. Why? Wide-eyed newbies can get blinded with all the gifts that their new friends, er, lobbyists throw at them. Perhaps those who've been around know the rules and what to steer clear of. Not that anyone with common sense wouldn't question such generosity in the first place...

But then I see Karen Minnis on the list. Can we put term limits in effect for her district only??

Trips to Israel for state level politicians paid for by a local religious organization? I don't understand how a member of the state legislature would have a profound impact on U.S. foreign policy such that such a trip could be justified. Maybe I'm missing something here.

I agree with Mr. Merkley.


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