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Posts published in October 2016

Trump 29: The end of due process

trump

This is not the first time I've touched on the threat/promise by Donald Trump to, should he win the presidency, throw Hillary Clinton into prison. (See Trump 37, "Lock her up.") There, I pointed out the danger of getting into the practice of prosecuting and imprisoning one's political adversaries - this being something that tyrannies, not solid democracies, do. But this topic, revisited so forcefully in Sunday's town hall presidential debate, carries with it a second concern maybe even more frightening than the first.

At the debate, Trump said, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. Because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it. And we’re gonna have a special prosecutor.” Later, Trump said Clinton would have good reason to fear a Trump presidency “because you’d be in jail.”

Trump's campaign manager tried on Monday to call the jail comment "a quip". Sorry - these guys have long since run through their quota of trying to excuse dangerous and apalling comments by saying, "can't you take a joke?" Its nothing more than the stupid defense of a caught-out schoolyard bully.

Not only that, but about the same time Monday Trump running mate Mike Pence called that "one of the better moments" of the debate.

Besides that , as Politico reported: "When Trump spoke Monday in Pennsylvania, he clearly reiterated the special prosecutor pledge, but did not explicitly call for Clinton to be jailed. However, he did look on approvingly, smiling and pointing as his speech was interrupted with the chants about putting the Democratic nominee behind bars."

Most specifically, Trump was calling on prosecuting and imprisoning - convicted and sentenced without so much as a review of whatever evidence there may be - his political opponent for some unspecified offense (does it matter what it is? Apparently not). In other words, to hell with due process, and the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

In other words, throw the Constitution out the window: Trump has anointed himself judge, jury and executioner.

As of now, he's mentioned only Hillary Clinton as a target. But can you imagine it would stop there? Anyone who got in Trump's way, if he was able to get away with it (i.e., hire enough subservient underlings to do whatever garbage he wanted done), would be at imminent risk of arrest and punishment, which might range to . . . oh, hell, since Trump is already on record supporting torture "and much worse," there's really no limit to what he might do to you.

If you think that's hyperbolic, listen to some people - quoted in an article of Politico - not prone to great exaggeration: federal attorneys.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder warned, "he is promising to abuse the power of the office."

Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor with experince in the George W. Bush White House (now at a private law firm), said “A special prosecutor is supposed to investigate and isn’t appointed to put people in jail. You’re kind of skipping over an important step there. Can you imagine being the defendant prosecuted after being told the prosecutor was someone who was appointed to put you in jail, that had already foreordained that result? ... It’s absurd and, if it were serious, it would be absolutely terrifying because it suggests there’s no due process.”

Politico noted, "Prosecutors said it would be a violation of legal ethics for an attorney general to accept such a direction, although they said it was less clear whether it would be outright illegal.
'It would be, at the very least, unethical, and it may be a violation of law,' Paul Charlton, who spent a decade as a federal prosecutor before serving as U.S. attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush said. He also said anyone prosecuted in such a situation would have a strong argument that his or her constitutional rights to due process had been violated."

The rule of law, as imperfect as it may be, would be replaced by the rule of Trump. God help us all. - rs

The permeator

rainey

That’s a new word up there. “Permeator.” I made it up. The root for it is, of course, “permeate” which means something that “spreads throughout” - something that “becomes part of everything it touches.” Like sand in your car after the kids played on the beach. Like the foul odor when your dog has tangled with a skunk.

“Permeator.”

Since I made it up, there has to be a definition - which is Donald Trump. “Permeator.” Over the last 18 months or so, the bastard has “permeated” just about every part of our culture. You can’t get away from him, his opinions, lack of morality, false claims and outright lies. They permeate every part of our society.

Most political wonks - present company included - have grown sick of the name and the person attached to it. But, you can’t escape him. Oh, there are a few political types who run the other way - toward him - but not many. One such not running away is Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus who undertook writing 100 days of very articulate columns of 100 reasons why no one should vote for Trump. Randy’s written about 70 so far and still going. How he’s keeping his food down we haven’t discussed.

Trump, with his obvious divisiveness, has truly permeated our entire society. Only three other politicos who came about as close to that to my mind: FDR, former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long and Barry Goldwater - God rest his angry soul. If the fawning, ratings-hungry national media we have now had existed in the ‘30's to the ‘60's, they likely would have matched Trump’s permeating everything. But they didn’t. So we’re stuck with today’s left-overs.

In this latest mess - the sexual assault tape - he’s managed to singlehandedly bring the media down to his slime ball level. For many a year, when someone in the “news” business had to use a four-letter word normally reserved for NFL locker rooms, media cretins used one or two letters and some blanks - but at a level primitive enough anyone could quickly figure it out. They weren’t “actually” printing or saying something rude or obscene - just using “word association.”

But Trump has changed that. Now, his latest obscenity is printed/spoken without the substitution of blank spaces. Word for sleazy word. Front page of major newspapers, across the screen on your TV - even in the family hours - and unfiltered on what’s left of radio “news.” He’s crudely lowered the bar - again - and the willing media has followed right along.

Trump has wrought changes in family relationships, caused business partners to break up, lowered the standard for what .is acceptable language, befouled the electronic “pages” of what’s laughingly referred to as “social” media. He, alone, has turned off millions of Americans on politics, increased more violent “acting out” in our nation’s public classrooms, driven coverage of our three wars out of the media spotlight, introduced dozens of worthless insults to our standard of public decency, gone through the bottom of the barrel to find new lows in political discourse.

He’s falsely attacked the honor of otherwise very respectable public figures, lied continuously about every political/private issue he touches, turned our national media into a pack of sycophants bowing and scraping before his every appearance. He’s spoken in blatantly racist terms, insulted a world religion, shown himself to hold women in contempt, broken hundreds of contracts with people he’s done business with, committed personal infidelities in multiple marriages, proven his word is not his bond and has shown repeatedly in speech and deed that he can’t be trusted.

Whew!

To me, all that - and likely more I’ve overlooked - is proof of just how far this worthless piece of humanity has PERMEATED our entire society. To millions, he’s made acceptable the things we’ve spent years telling our children not to do or believe in. He’s created a following blind to how our country has operated for centuries, become a false prophet to the unknowing, tied together a ragtag lot of misfits looking for something for nothing, offered false hope of quick and easy solutions to intractable problems and made promises no intelligent person could believe.

There is no joy in reciting all this. None. We’re a deeply troubled nation in search of badly needed answers to both our national ills and our anger with one another. We’re on a troubled path to an uncertain future very much different than our past. The need - the absolute need - for wise and proven leadership has not been greater since the Civil War. Then, we had someone with foresight and the absolute power to unite. We need that miraculous mix again.

What we’re left with now is The Permeator. Even when he’s defeated - and he will be - his treacherous presence will still be felt. He, and his cancerous effect on nearly all parts of our society, will last long after our national election. What he’ll leave us with is a need for a national cleansing.

Trump 30: Mob boss

trump

Does Donald Trump think that the job he's running for is mob boss?

You might think so.

He's had lots of interaction with mob figures over the years. To some extent this is unavoidable given the work he has done, which has involved building construction in New York City. If you do that on a substantial scale for very long, you'll mostly certainly have some interactions with the mob. So the fact of some connections isn't legitimately an enormous deal.

But the relationships seem to be more than fleeting. "There have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the mafia," former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said on February 28. "Maybe his taxes show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported."

Politifact added that "It’s important to note that Trump hasn’t been charged with any illegal activity, and it’s reasonable to argue that he was unaware or even a victim in some cases. But Cruz has a point that the mogul has been linked to the mob for decades."

David Cay Johnson, the great financial investigative reporter who has been looking into Trump and money for many years, concluded there were serious issues. As Politico reported about his findings, "In his signature book, The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump boasted that when he wanted to build a casino in Atlantic City, he persuaded the state attorney general to limit the investigation of his background to six months. Most potential owners were scrutinized for more than a year. Trump argued that he was “clean as a whistle”—young enough that he hadn’t had time to get into any sort of trouble. He got the sped-up background check, and eventually got the casino license. But Trump was not clean as a whistle. Beginning three years earlier, he’d hired mobbed-up firms to erect Trump Tower and his Trump Plaza apartment building in Manhattan, including buying ostensibly overpriced concrete from a company controlled by mafia chieftains Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano. That story eventually came out in a federal investigation, which also concluded that in a construction industry saturated with mob influence, the Trump Plaza apartment building most likely benefited from connections to racketeering. Trump also failed to disclose that he was under investigation by a grand jury directed by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who wanted to learn how Trump obtained an option to buy the Penn Central railroad yards on the West Side of Manhattan. . . . No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks."

But all this isn't the key point.

It's that Trump seems to have looked over at mob bosses and extrapolated that this is how a president could and should effectively do his job. Commentators in Europe speculated that he was really running for mob boss of the United States, based on his demeanor and even patterns of talking, and approach to many issues. His unilateralism - a stunning lack of recognition of the relative roles of the Congress and Supreme Court and states and other participants in our government, is right in line.

He's running for mob boss. Problem is, we don't need one. - rs

Why the furor

watkins

So, I've been mulling over this latest Trump debacle – and of course the question that keeps coming up is: Why, after all that he's said and done – and especially his history of denigrating comments about women – is this particular bit of slime creating so much furor among Republicans?

In the past months we've been subjected to multiple Trumpisms, any of which coming from a normal person would have caused even the most craven of of his own party to speak out, and would have likely effectively ended the campaign. But not so with this sack of garbage. The Republicans have continued to suck it up, make excuses and let his comments slide.

But this time, for some reason, Trump's comments have not only created a firestorm within the party, you have Republicans announcing they will not vote for him, disinviting him to campaign events, calling for him to step down from the election, and actually saying his comments were beyond acceptable; “disgusting, vile, sickening” are a few of the adjectives used.

Which brings me back to my original question: Why this time? It's certainly not his first foray into “deplorable” territory – his comments are well-documented, I'm not going to attempt to repeat them all here. But through it all the Republican organization has stood by him...so why is this finally the straw that broke the camel's back?

My theory? & yes – I know this is not going to sit well with some, and I'm usually the last person to cry misogyny or racism … but, here it is:

In ALL of his prior repulsive comments, Trump has always targeted: non-whites, “foreigners,” Democrats that Republicans already hate (ie: Hillary Clinton), women that don't meet the GOP standards of attractive (Rosie O'Donnell; even Carly Fiorina), and individuals or groups that basically have some weakness already – even Heidi Cruz, whose main issue is that she is married to Ted Cruz who nobody (Republican or Democrat) seems to like.

In classic “Bullying 101” fashion he's always attacked someone who is already weak, and already viewed with disdain by the Republican bullies as being out of the mainstream.

But lo and behold! What people heard on that Access Hollywood video was Trump attacking THEM! He was denigrating “beautiful” white women! Women that Republicans see as respectable, successful, and attractive, and most importantly – part of their “tribe.”

Women who could actually be Mitch McConnell's or Jeb Bush's daughters. Trump just jumped the fence and came into their yards!

All of a sudden his comments got personal. And notice the way they've responded? Not with outrage that he's once again shown his lack of respect for any human who's not him, but that he's talking about women who could be “their” women … their property. “MY daughters, MY sisters.”

“I have a wife. I have a daughter. I have a mother, and I have five sisters all of whom I love dearly,” [Sen. Mike] Lee said. “It's occurred to me on countless occasions today that if anyone spoke to my wife, my daughter, my mother or any of my five sisters the way Mr. Trump has spoken to women, I wouldn't hire that person. I wouldn't hire that person, wouldn't want to be associated with that person...”

“I am sickened by what I heard today,” [House Speaker Paul] Ryan said. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.”

“As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape,” [Sen. Mitch McConnell] said late Friday.

“Today!” We've all been hearing Trump speak that way about all women for decades – even his own wives and at least one daughter … but only with this tape did it suddenly dawn on the Republicans that it could be their own women that Trump was speaking to or about.

I don't have to repeat here the names and women he's attempted to shame over the decades, let alone the last several months; you've heard them often enough, but as I think about it, with very few exceptions every one of those women has been … not a “WASP.” They've mostly been non-white, or from another country, or successful in occupations traditionally dominated by white men, or not conforming with an Aryan profile of attractive, and most importantly they've not been “owned” by white Republican men.

For the Republicans this isn't about Trump's lack of respect for people in general, or even for women in general. It's about the fact that it's maybe – finally – sinking in that he's “coming for them,” and maybe – finally – they're starting to understand that they too need to be afraid.

Trump 31: Small peccadilloes

trump

Back in the 90s one of the chief congressional staffer pit bulls sicced on to Bill and Hillary Clinton was Michael Chertoff, a Republican by party (now as then), an attorney by profession and during the George W. Bush Administration secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

He has also said he will endorse and vote for Hillary Clinton for president, saying she has the qualities and background to do the job well.

In an October 7 piece on the National Memo, writer Joe Conason noted this: "Asked about Clinton’s email problems, Chertoff briskly brushed that overhyped 'scandal' aside, comparing it with the Whitewater circus as a frivolous distraction from serious issues."

More exactly, Chertoff said this:

In the end … I go back to Sept. 11, 2001, and I was on duty. I was the head of the [Justice Department’s] Criminal Division and I was part of the immediate response to prevent that from happening again. In looking back on that I realized that in the ’90s we spent an enormous amount of time pursuing issues involving the Clintons’ associations back in Arkansas in the ’80s, Whitewater and other things, and we didn’t spend nearly the same amount of time on what bin Laden was up to and others were up to in the region. And it reminded me that — you know — the ability to spend an inordinate amount of time chasing small peccadilloes is a luxury we only have in a world at peace.

Think now about how much time Donald Trump has spent attacking enemies (many of his own making), getting into battles over basic deportment, and in general devoting a whole lot of his time on pointless junk. A president's time is precious and critical; there is never enough. Does Trump look like the sort of person who will manage it well? Ever? Or have the perspective to understand what is worth his time and what isn't? In the end, only a president can make that call. - rs

Kinds of qualifications

stapiluslogo1

In the May primary election, candidates for an open state Supreme Court seat included two of the most deeply qualified candidates for the high bench in the state’s history. The voters didn’t choose either of them.

But then, qualifications can come in many flavors. They differ considerably between the two remaining candidates, Robyn Brody and Curt McKenzie, competing for the seat now held by Chief Justice Jim Jones.

Jones had an extensive history in partisan politics, running unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for Congress (against an incumbent) in 1978 and 1980, then successfully as a Republican for attorney general in 1982 and 1986, finally losing a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 1990 to Larry Craig.

Quite a few Idaho justices have had background in the give and take of partisan politics, and that can be an asset on the bench. We tend to forget it now but many federal Supreme Court justices through our history had extensive political histories too, and we probably are not well served by limiting the roster of justices to veteran judges and law professors. People who come from other perspectives and especially from politics, where they typically have to work with a variety of real-world situations and viewpoints, could contribute a great deal.

So the idea, which seems to have spread widely, that McKenzie’s legislative background ought to be a black mark against him, doesn’t really work. As a resume point, it seems more a plus than a minus.

There are other kinds of background that would be useful on the court.

Most recent Idaho Supreme Court justices have come from either lower benches or from the top law firms in the state, mainly in Boise. Jones is the near-exception in the current group (the attorney general’s office can be considered the state’s biggest law firm); Daniel Eismann, Roger Burdick and Joel Horton all were district judges, and Warren Jones was a top litigator with one of the leading private firms in Boise, Eberle Berlin.

Compare that with this from a description (in the Spokane Spokesman-Review) of attorney Brody: “Robyn Brody’s law office in downtown Rupert is right next door to the police station and not far from the courthouse and City Hall. ‘I get a lot of walk-in traffic,’ she said. It could be someone needing help appealing their unemployment decision, or seeking information on how to get a marriage license. Her law practice includes that work, plus water law, an array of business clients, major real estate transactions, and representing a local hospital, several community health centers and two school districts.”

An attorney doesn’t get much more grounded than that. A small-town attorney taking in such a wide range of law work may not develop super-deep specialized expertise, but probably will have a strong sense of how those decisions emanating from Boise hit home in the far reaches of the state. It’s not glamorous or especially prestigious, but it sure is real. And, while several of the current justices (Eismann, Burdick, Jones) do have some small-town law practice experience, that’s awhile back in their pasts, mediated through years on the bench. (Candidate McKenzie practices in the Boise, and his experience would be mediated through statehouse legislative experience.) Brody’s background would bring something to the court that isn’t there now.

Brody also brings more to the table. She has worked for a larger firm (Hepworth Lezamiz & Hohnhorst in Twin Falls), and has background in Idaho (and as far away as Russia) to broaden her horizons. She evidently has a good reputation with her peers, serving in leadership in the regional bar association, usually a positive indicator for a prospective judge.

Without party labels (either explicit or implicit) as guidance, Idaho voters will need to look deeper to make their choices for the Supreme Court.

Trump 32: War crimes

trump

Donald Trump seems to take the whole subject of war crimes lightly.

He has spoken of targeting bit just terrorists but also the families ad associates of them.

Waterboarding isn't enough, he said; what we do should be "much tougher."

“We have to be so strong,” Trump said. “We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we’re dealing with violent people viciously.”

For example, in June in New Hampshire, Trump proposed again, as one publication put it, "America should hold itself to the same standard as a fascist death cult."

American military forces long have held to a standard that, while in general orders must be obeyed, war crimes are illegal orders, and as such should be refused.

Trump said that in his administration that won't happen: “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. If I say do it, they’re going to do it.” Exactly how that would come to pass, he didn't say.

On a few occasions, such as for a stretch in March, Trump seemed to back off. He said then that "“I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters. I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans.”

Given a few weeks, he reverts to torture and mayhem.

Does this sound like America to you? - rs

Trump 33: Maybe I will

trump

When can something be both awful and chaotic and wonderfully good news at once?

Donald Trump has provided an answer. Just because he's been running for the last year and a half for the presidency doesn't mean that, you know, he'd actually take the job.

Given the other 99 items on this list, this could stand as terrific news. Of course, he could decide to take the job too, so that's a limited boon.

At the same time, a decision that he would not take the job would be a matter of sheer chaos. The departure of a prospective president - or a new president - under such conditions would leave the country in a mess.

"I'll let you know how I feel about it after it happens," Trump said to the New York Times. Great timing. - rs

Where have all the salmon gone?

carlson

Former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was in Coeur d’Alene recently to address the first annual north Idaho dinner for the Idaho Conservation League.

The dinner is also a living memorial to the late Scott Reed, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who helped found the ICL, and who also became an expert on Environmental Impact Statements and water law.

Reed is survived by his beloved spouse, former State Senator Mary LouReed, a daughter, Tara, and a son, Bruce, who served former President Bill Clinton first at the Democratic Leadership Council and then as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor.

Fellow Coeur d’Alene attorney and ICL board member Buddy Paul spearheaded the effort to put the sold-out dinner together.

At 78, Babbitt still is ramrod straight in posture, quiet and modest in demeanor, has a ready smile, a great sense of humor, an intellect like few others, and an undiminished passion for protecting the environment.

For an hour before the dinner, Governor Babbitt (the 47th Secretary of the Interior) sat down to discuss the future prospects for survival of the ocean-going salmon on the Columbia and Snake River systems, with two of Idaho’s leading conservationists: Pat Ford and Rick Johnson. For years Ford headed up the Boise office of the group “Save Our Salmon,” and before that was the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Rick Johnson is the current executive director of ICL.

Ford is a strong advocate of taking out the four lower Snake dams, breaching them to restore natural river flow. Once again (4th time?) a Federal District Judge in Portland, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, has ruled that the Biological Opinion on whether the dams too adversely inhibit the journey of the smolt to the sea is deficient. Therefore, ipso facto, the EIS so dependent on the BIOP, is also deficient.

Ford is the quintessential “lean, mean fighting machine,” and a vigorous advocate for restoring the salmon and steelhead runs, He speaks eloquently and writes with style and passion on the need for the region to take the proper steps before wild salmon and steelhead are extinct.

Still freckle-faced with red hair, he was quickly called “Pixie” while attending Columbia and receiving his undergraduate degree. Though “retired” Ford is still a master of detail as well as a master strategist.

This particular day Ford has a specific ask given that new hearings have been ordered by the judge. Ford has chafed at the inadequacy of the previous BIOP’s and EIS’s in part because none of the previous one’s did an honest and diligent examination of the breaching option.

He instinctively knows that a better examination by the Task Force charged with the responsibility will create more support for his goal. He wants to make sure that the incoming administration knows the importance of the issue. He also has spotted a shortcoming that has contributed to the inadequate reviews: there is no one from the Interior department’s fish and wildlife agency or from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Task Force.

His ask of Babbitt then is a letter to another former Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who heads up Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team with Babbitt encouraging the Transition Group to pay heed to his request.

The former Arizona attorney general and 9-year governor still absorbs quickly and acts decisively.

He jokingly tells Johnson and Ford that he is once again a public employee working for the State of California at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, heading up a Task Force that is examining California’s overworked, overdemand, overconsumed rivers.

He tells Johnson and Ford he is already zeroing in on the need salmon have for stream temperature no higher than 56 degrees if one wants to maximize the reproduction capabilities of the salmon and steelhead.

Ford commits to doing a draft and is rightly pleased to have achieved another small step in his relentless pursuit of preserving at least some of the historically magnificent salmon runs. Three warriors for the environment to whom future generations will owe much amble off to the reception.

Trump 34: Nothing broader

trump

You can't quite say that Donald Trump is completely unable to draw a connection between his approach to an issue and the way it would affect real people. His first answer in the last presidential debate (though none of his answers afterward), on trade, did contain some linkages along that line. But left alone, without the advice of staff ringing in his ears (even a half-hour after the debate's launch), he loses the plot.

Among many examples of how he has lost the connection between policy ad presidential decisions on the one hand - which is to say, his preferences - and real impacts on the other, you need go no further than one recent comment about a recent incident.

Last month an apparent political coup was launched in Turkey, shortly after renewed conflict in the Kurdistan area.

JF The morning after an attempted coup in Turkey — a country that is a NATO ally, where U.S. nuclear weapons are based, which is at the center of international tensions over refugees and the struggles within Islam and dealing with ISIS and dealing with Syria — Trump’s comments, as potential commander in chief, were, in toto: “So many friends in Turkey. Great people, amazing people. We wish them well. A lot of anguish last night, but hopefully it will all work out.”

Such a broad view of international relations: It goes no further, in the mind of Donald Trump, than the handful of people he personally knows. Nothing else is a factor. - rs

Trump 35: Maybe yes, maybe no

trump

Up to now, every candidate for president of the United States has been in deadly earnest about taking the office campaigned for. Sincerity in the desire to do that job has never been a question.

Until now.

It is true that in some records Donald Trump has said that of course he wants to serve.

But he also said, responding to a scenarioTrump has scoffed at criticism that he is not serious about becoming president, suggesting that his businesses have not benefited from his controversial presidential campaign and that he is truly in the race to "make America great again." about his winning the election and then declining to serve, that "I'll let you know how I feel about it after it happens," Trump told The New York Times.

As CNN reported, "Trump has scoffed at criticism that he is not serious about becoming president, suggesting that his businesses have not benefited from his controversial presidential campaign and that he is truly in the race to 'make America great again." -

    rs

Squaring off for SOS

jorgensen

Far from the fanfare of Monday night’s presidential debate, the two main candidates for Oregon Secretary of State squared off the following afternoon on the campus of Willamette University in Salem.
Members of the Statesman Journal editorial board moderated the forum, which was attended by around 20 people.

Republican candidate and former state representative Dennis Richardson described how his passion for public service was inspired by reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin in the mid-1990s. That later led to stints as a city councilor and in the Legislature, where he was unanimously elected speaker pro tem at the beginning of the 2005 session.

Richardson, who later served as a co-chair of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he thought he was done with politics after unsuccessfully challenging then-governor John Kitzhaber in the 2014 general election. He spent the following months volunteering at a local employment office before filing to run for Secretary of State.

Democrat Brad Avakian, a civil rights attorney and former legislator, pledged to use the Secretary of State’s office to ensure fairness and equity, and said he’s taken that approach in his current position of Labor Commissioner. Avakian said his accomplishments as Labor Commissioner include shrinking wage disparities between men and women in the state, bolstering apprenticeship programs and returning shop classes to schools.

If elected Secretary of State, Avakian said he would break down barriers to the ballot box, pursue campaign finance limits, ensure access to voter pamphlet statements via smart phone apps, return civics education to the classroom and use his spot on the State Land Board to make Oregon a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Richardson bemoaned the fact that audits were never conducted for Cover Oregon or the Columbia River Crossing project. Nearly $1 billion was spent on the Oregon Department of Energy’s controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program, he said, yet it took six years for an audit to take place. One-third of those BETC projects were “clouded,” Richardson added, and turned over to the Oregon Department of Justice for further investigation.

The Secretary of State’s Office should function as a non-partisan Government Accountability Office, Richardson said, and can use audits to stop waste.

Differences between the two candidates became very clear in response to a question about Measure 97, a proposed corporate tax projected to bring $3 billion into state coffers annually if approved by voters in November.

Richardson cited an analysis of the measure conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office, which estimated that its passage would result in the loss of 38,000 private sector jobs and cost the average Oregonian $600 per year. He added that the money it raised would go to the Legislature as a “blank check.”

Avakian said the measure was necessary, as schools have been “stripped” of music, art, shop and physical education programs. The Legislature has failed at revenue reform, he said, and Measure 97 will “fill the void.”

Both candidates did agree, however, on the need to have more clear and precise language for ballot measure titles and descriptions.

In his closing statements, Richardson characterized Avakian as an “activist” labor commissioner, and said the Secretary of State’s job is not to force change.

“I don’t think we need that kind of aggression,” Richardson said.

Avakian countered by stating that he has been putting Oregonians’ values into action. In concluding his remarks, Avakian said his vision for the Secretary of State’s office includes being assertive and standing up for the rights of Oregonians.