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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 8, 2008 9:03 AM. The previous post in this blog was Steve Novick: He's no Al Franken. The next post in this blog is Move over, Britney. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hair-splitting over "clean money"

The City of Portland's ruling on whether City Council candidate Charles Lewis could use taxpayer-financed "clean money" to fix potholes on an unpaved eastside road shows what kinds of insane judgments the city is going to have to make if the "voter-owed elections" system continues. The city wrote Lewis that --

As long as your use of gravel is:

(a) a lawful activity, and complies with Portland City Code, including City Code Section 17.42; and

(b) is part of a direct campaign event,

Campaign Finance Fund revenues may be used to purchase gravel.

Now what's a "direct campaign event" -- and as opposed to what? An "indirect campaign event"?

And it seems that the same sort of line-drawing will have to be done when judging whether a "clean money" candidate has used his or her own money for campaign expenses, which (if I've got it right) is illegal if the candidate has accepted public campaign money. For instance, if a candidate gives a large chunk of her own money to charity and makes a big deal out of it, is that an impermissible campaign expenditure? Is it a "direct campaign event" to give the private money and hold a press conference on the charity's front steps?

Not to mention the freedom of speech issues that these rulings will raise. What a mess. Typical Sten. Typical Portland.

Comments (16)


So let me get this straight. I could be a candidate, get public financing, and decide it would be a great idea to have a pool party at my house and invite local community leaders and politicos to shmooze. It's a great campaign idea, only problem is, I don't have a pool in my backyard. Well, I do have $150,000 of 'clean money' and an inground pool will cost only about $20,000. The primaries are in May and this is Portland, so it will need to be a heated pool, of course. Refreshments will need to be served. On open bar is always a good idea when you're trying to loosen things up. Of course, I'm going to need some extra patio furniture, one of those big gas grills to cook up the steaks... There will be plenty left over for yard signs, buttons, pins, etc.

Ted,
You've opened our eyes to a whole new level of possibilities for the use of "clean money."

Wake up Portland! The thieves are in our house and few are raising their voices in protest. Fortunately, a growing list of abuses have been reviewed here frequently. Hopefully, enough people will wake up and will take action to "clean house."

When the VOE was started I thought it would be cool to move to Portland, change my name to Art and run for office. I would contact several art groups and gallery's and tell them if somehow I received the donations and signatures to qualify, I would purchase paintings and sculptures with Portland themes and spirit chosen by a committee of art groups and gallery representatives. I would spend about $200,000 on the Art for City Council campaign.
-d

What we need is a real clown to run for office, as recently occurred in Alameda, California...

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/10/03/ap/strange/mainD8KHC64O1.shtml

I think Phil Stanford originally came up with the idea.

Think of all the possibilities: a clown car driving around town dispensing clown candies, whoopie cushions, and clownsicles. Cannons blasting confetti mixed with "vote for the clown" bumper stickers and and scantily glad clown "helpers" working the crowds.

All in the name of feel good inclusion and drawing non-traditional candidates into the race.

Who cares if the incumbents still win every race in the primary (as the Fireman will soon prove)? We've got publicly financed campaigns to make us all feel better, and make the open seats more difficult for the contenders to win outright.

Aw gee...Where's 'Rusty Nails' when we need him?

One would hope there has to be some middle ground between Corporate owned election and what we call Voter owned elctions. The public financing system here is a bit lacking..... ;(

Careful now. The Opiates are gonna write you a sternly-worded email.

a clown car driving around town dispensing clown candies, whoopie cushions, and clownsicles.

Portland got there long ago. We've already had Extremo the Clown running for mayor.

Well, let's not kid ourselves too much here. All campaign money gets spent on something. For every dollar spent, there's a vendor or employee receiving it. Why does it matter what industry receives the campaign's business? Does the media have a monopoly on campaign receipts?

I'm not sure it's so afully bad if that money gets spent with a gravel company and a store selling shovels instead of on thirty seconds of television airtime. It may not be very effective in terms of reaching a wide range of voters, but at least it leaves the city with a lasting tangible improvement. How many TV commercials manage that?

"Clean money" is now buying blog ads, too. I'll take the money, but I still think it's a bad idea.

The pool would violate existing State bans on personal use. The City's public funding rules must still comply with state rules.

I remember Extremo the Clown running quite fondly ... he made my job more interesting. I think that may have been the year Jim Spaag ran as well - the naked guy from public access. Except he died during the race if I'm not mistaken. Ahhhh .... Portland politics!

I must admit, I'm happy to no longer be working in the City elections office and responsible for drafting those kinds of responses.

Susan,

Yes, but you are setting up precedents that could lead to costly litigation. Boyles was able to make a mockery of VOE and get away with a lot of loot, and she's an idiot! I'm not one of those people who think you are in any way to blame for this mess. You do you job and do it well. But in terms of crafting policy and strong internal controls, it's just terrible work.

Consider what has happened. Now you can gather up all your neighbors and their friends. "Hey, you know those street improvements we've been trying to get for a long time? Give me $5 each, I'll get 1000 signatures, collect $150K, fix the holes,and we'll have a big block party for a campaign event. Keg, steaks, band, the works." You have just created a truck size loophole that goes against one of the rules of VOE originally set up--no exchange of value can take place for the $5 donation that goes with the signature. See where I'm going with this? It's endless.

A far better approach would be to have candidates make their campaign expenditures then submit a monthly expense report to be reviewed. You reimburse monthly up to the VOE limit. The risk is then on the candidate to use the money wisely, not on taxpayer to hope he/she doesn't get shafted. That would be a normal internal control.

Just for the record, Susan no longer lives or works in Portland. She is a nun. Seriously.

Thanks for the reminder Jack! :) Yes, I am in fact Sr. Susan now. Almost as strange as a clown running for mayor.

By the way, I'm living in Jersey City and working in Newark these days .... Portland has NOTHING on Jersey style corruption.

The Hoboken police chief was just fired for using city money to pay for a drunken frolic through New Orleans with his SWAT team (and photographs of him with topless women holding his gun cover the front page). The former Newark Mayor's corruption trial is under way, for among other things selling City land to his mistress for next to nothing and having his body guard do household maintenance for her on a regular basis.

It makes Portland's "scandals" look almost quaint!

Peace

Sr Susan, I think it is questionable that Jersey has something over Portland's corruption.

We had a mayor that raped a 13 year old.

We had media and governmental officials that covered it up.

We have a county sheriff that has an
affair after issuing an illegal concealed weapons permit to her husband, then forcibly puts the husband into a alcohol treatment program and continues the relationship.

We have a developer and a governmental agency that builds 100 parking spaces that normally costs $20T to $30T per space but charges the public $65T.

We had a police chief that had an affair with a direct employee and gets slapped on the wrist.

We had a controversial tram built without any full auditing of four times cost overruns.

We have county commissioners that voted on an major issue without following state laws.

We have a city council that promotes ,then votes on a street naming change without following it's own statutes.

We have a city council candidate that steals $100T from a VOE system and gets away with it.

We have a state purchasing agent that steals $1 MILLION from the state pen.

And we don't even have an attorney general that believes in investigating anything.

Who's better? And what a way to measure.

LW - point taken.

What is it they say about power & corruption? The two seem to go hand in hand.

Maybe it's just that I'm new here in NJ and was in Portland for 16 years. The corruption here just feels different and more pervasive.

Maybe it has something to do with the size of the two communities? It always struck me as relatively easy to become engaged as a citizen in Portland if one felt like it, compared to many other places. There seemed to be more transparency. These are just my perceptions.


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