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Levels of protest


Larry Galizio

There’s a normal practice among lobbyists and interest groups when time comes to decide who gets campaign contributions from them: You give to your friends, with maybe some occasional stretching of definition to ensure that, as much as practical, you’re also giving to winners. (Giving to losers will do you little practical good.) The norm is that, occasional Blagojevich situations notwithstanding, you don’t try to buy votes with contributions, rather you support those who already are your friends. A look at campaign contribution reports usually shows more closely who your friends are than any attempt to buy influence as such.

This is worth bearing in mind when you consider a few new quotes in a furious little squabble having to do with Oregon House Bill 3100.

Back story in thumbnail: The Metolius River Basin is in the eastern Cascades roughly northwest of Band and southwest of Madras, a key section at issue lying in Jefferson County. It is uncommonly undespoiled, notably the river’s water quality and resulting habitat, and there’s great concern about anything that would diminish it. Proposals have arisen for building resorts in the area, and these have been controversial, locally and beyond. Jefferson County (its elected officials, that is) has been generally amenable to the development. But the state Land Conservation and Development Commission has recommended designating some of the region as a critical environmental area, which could block the development, or at least severely restrict it. HB 3100 is the bill that would, among other things, ban the resort development by supporting the LCSC. Presently, it is in the House Land Use Committee, and has 15 sponsors. The bill is, obviously, strongly opposed by supporters of the resort proposals.

The blowup evolved from a news report in the April 19 Bend Bulletin: “The [pro-resort] group’s lobbyist, Hasina Squires, said the contributions were given to lawmakers who were receptive but have ‘not necessarily’ said they would support the Metolian [resort] project. Top recipients on the Democratic side include Rep. Larry Galizio of Tigard ($3,000), House Speaker Dave Hunt of Gladstone ($2,500), Rep. Tobias Read of Beaverton ($1,250) and several with $1,000, including [Arnie] Roblan. Top recipients on the Republican side were Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver ($2,500), and several with $1,000, including Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend and Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles.”

We’d guess Squires would dearly love to be able to take her quote back. (We’ve seen no dispute on the accuracy of the quote.) She could have meant that the contributions went to candidates who were friends of the resort effort plus others who might be on the bubble on the issue. If so, they guessed wrong about at least one, Tobias Read, who’s a co-sponsor of HB 3100, and maybe others.

But her words might also be taken to mean that the money went to candidates who might look more kindly on the effort as a result of the donations. (A more extensive quote in the original Bulletin story would have been helpful here, one way or the other.)

The Bulletin story is behind a pay wall but blew up through a post on BlueOregon by Carla Axtman, who wrote of Squires’ comment: “Translation: We gave piles of scratch to those we thought we could shoehorn into doing what we want. Looks like we’ll be finding out pretty soon who that works with.”

That drew this angry response from Representative Larry Galizio, D-Tigard: “Apparently disagreeing with Ms. Axtman is a necessary and sufficient condition for being on the take. The concluding remarks in Axtman’s post represent the height of arrogance. I’ve received more than 20 times the amount of money identified in this cynical rant from public education interest groups…..following Axtman’s logic that is why I support public education. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been in public education for over 15 years and was chair of the ways & means education subcommittee in the 2007 session that made the greatest investment in education at all levels of public education in Oregon’s history. FYI Ms. Axtman – running in a swing district….$3,000 is a pittance. Moreover, Ms. Squires represents special districts and other clients with whom I’ve met on several occasions. This obviously illustrates my evil intent.”

In a followup comment, he said that he will vote against the bill. It will, he said, impose a state policy on what ordinarily might be a local planning and zoning process, thereby giving useful talking points to land use planning critics.

The counter to that is the string of peculiarities in Jefferson County’s handling of the Metolius situation.

The core assertion as to what the lobbying style and financial contributions were all about – or intended to be about – came from Squires. Fellow BlueOregon blogger Kari Chisholm commented, “I don’t know Ms. Squires – and had never even heard of her before this story – but telling a reporter that you’re doing your best to buy off legislators can’t be a very effective lobbying strategy. You’ve just made it much harder for those legislators to support your position.”

Squires is a visible and active lobbyist, working on a number of subjects apart from the Metolius. She is, for example, government affairs director of the Special Districts Association of Oregon. The campaign contributions in question came not from her but from Dutch Pacific Resources LLC ($22,000 in all), which is one of the resort developer companies. What did they think they were getting for the contributions? Which interpretation of Squires’ comments about the money should be attributed to them?

As for interpretation, Axtman’s comments might best be read as a question: What is the meaning of this meshing of business and policy interests? It did have the effect of drawing out Galizio’s view, in some detail, on the bill. That’s the point also where some explication from Squires or Dutch Pacific might be useful. Otherwise, people will feel free to draw their own maybe unsavory conclusions about Dutch Pacific, Galizio and everyone else involved.

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