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Top one

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In what would become a first of it’s kind independent voter only “top one” primary, the Independent Party has requested Oregon’s Secretary of State to include all current Republican and Democratic Candidates, as well as non affiliated/independent candidate Michael Bloomberg, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein on the Independent Party’s May primary ballot. The winner of this “top one primary” would move on to the November general ballot in Oregon as the nominee of the Independent Party. If the Independent top one winner also wins another party’s nomination, that person could list both nominations on the ballot in November.

The Independent Party has already opened it’s primary election to non affiliated voters. Meaning that should the Secretary of State honor the IPO’s request, the 110,000 IPO members as well as any of the 530,000 non affiliated Oregon voters who request an IPO ballot would be able for the first time in history, participate in a Presidential preference poll that included all candidates.

Want to participate?

First, the Secretary of State has to agree to make this a Top One Primary as the IPO requested. If she does then here’s how independent voters get to be heard in this historic race for President.

If you’re already registered with the IPO: IPO ballots will be automatically sent to all registered IPO members. If you’d like to participate you don’t need to do anything – except perhaps let the Secretary of State know that you’d like her to approve the IPO’s Top One primary.

Voters who are currently non affiliated with any party, but who would like to participate in this “top one” preference poll, can either change their registration to Independent Party of Oregon by following this link. Or, alternatively, the Secretary of State has set up a cumbersome mechanism for non affiliated voters to keep their current registration, but get an IPO ballot. You will need to wait for the Secretary of State to send you a postcard in the mail. Then you must make a written request with your local election office to receive the IPO ballot. Then they will mail that to you. Hopefully all this can occur before ballots are due. (The IPO asked the Secretary of State to send an IPO ballot to all non affilaited voters as part of the notice opening it’s primary. That would have encouraged voter participation – a stated Democratic Party priority – and saved taxpayer money. The SoS refused)

The simpler way would be to re-register with the IPO online, then register back to being non affiliated after the election, should you choose to do so. (However, there are good reasons to consider remaining an IPO member. Particularly if you’d like to participate in more elections such as this presidential preference poll)

The Secretary of States response will be due soon, as a decision on ballots needs to be made within one week.

Minimum wage emergency?

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“During my tenure, I was adamant that the governor’s office and his closest advisers not blur the lines between state interest and other matters. My concern was seen as disloyalty. I was viewed as an outsider who did not understand the way that they did business. I was told that as long as things were good it did not matter whether things were right.”

So said a Kitzhbazer staffer to Nkenge Harmon Johnson after she objected to a process abuse. (The Oregonian, 11/3/14)

This isn’t just a case of a rogue Democratic Governors office. It’s endemic in the Oregon Democratic Leadership. If they think a policy is good, then abuse of process is irrelevant.

It’s now become John Oliver-esque with the laugh in your face abuse of the Constitutional emergency clause in regards to Oregon’s new minimum wage legislation.

Article IV, Section 28 of the Oregon Constitution provides that Legislation take effect no sooner than 90 days after the close of the Legislative Session, except in cases of “emergency”.

The reason for the delay is because the Oregon Constitution grants to “The People” the ability to challenge any law passed by the Legislature during that 90 days by gathering signatures and referring it to the people. If citizens gather about 60,000 signatures, the law is stayed and placed on the next general election ballot for an up or down vote.

If however, the State faces an impending emergency, then that 90 days can be waived by including an emergency clause. (And apparently 68% of all legislation now carries an emergency clause)

Emergency isn’t defined in the Constitution. So, just as Mitch McConnell can rightly say that there is no requirement in the US Constitution to allow a vote on an Obama appointment to the Supreme Court, Oregon Legislators can append an emergency clause to any legislation without explanation and negate the right of referral. Negating constitutional requirements or rights shouldn’t be taken so lightly perhaps. But I guess it’s politics. And that’s what the Democratic legislators did with the minimum wage bill.

With an emergency clause legislation takes effect immediatly, and if the people are to challenge it, the law will stay in place and the challengers need to go through a longer and more costly process of filing an initiative and petition.

But perhaps there was an emergency in this case?

Without an emergency clause, the minimum wage legislation would have taken effect 90 days after the 2016 legislative session ended, or June 5th, 2016l. If someone challenged the law within this time period by gathering signatures for a referral the minimum wage law would have been stayed until November, 5, 2016 and we’d vote on it.

But the Legislature believed that the wage crisis was an emergency and we had to raise the minimum wage immediately and we couldn’t wait 90 days. No, just kidding.

Because here’s the thing. The law doesn’t raise the Oregon minimum wage until July 1, 2016. That’s a full 115 days after the legislative session ends. So an increase in the minimum wage is such an emergency that we can’t wait 90 days, however we can wait 115 days?

And it’s even more ludicrous. Because the wage increase in July 2016 is only twenty five cents and The larger increases are phased in over 6 years. Some emergency. One that doesn’t start until 115 days after the session, then can be addressed over a 6 year period of time.

For those of us who believe in the spirit of due process, regardless of your position on the minimum wage, it’s beyond frustrating. Because it’s the process of law, and abiding by the spirit (substantive due process) and letter of that process (procedural dues process) that protects our constitutional rights and gives legitimacy to our government. When lawmakers intentionally violate or abuse due process they damage our democracy.

But as far as Oregon Democratic leaders are concerned I guess …as long as things are good it does not matter whether things are right.

Alternative Citizens view

Editors Note: This is a guest opinion on Oregon Outpost by Kyle Markley, an appointed member of the Joint Task Force on Campaigns Finance Reform. Previously, Oregon Outpost published an article by fellow task force member Seth Woolley a longtime supporter of campaign finance reforms. Markley has twice run as a Libertarian for State Representative in the swing district HD30, in 2012 (5.8%) and 2014 (8.9%), and is currently the Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of Oregon.

The Joint Task Force on Campaign Finance Reform was charged with analyzing the subject of campaign finance. I believe the Task Force has fallen short of that goal. The report of the Task Force makes many observational findings, but it is not clear which observations the Task Force believes are problems, nor about which of those problems are best solved by government. That is because the Task Force had little debate, and no votes, on those matters.

Furthermore, when the Task Force examined alternative proposals for a Constitutional amendment, the discussion stopped and the voting started too early. We made observations about the different aspects of the proposals, but we did not debate any of those aspects on their merits. It was premature to make a recommendation to the Legislature without having that debate.

As a Libertarian, I cherish the freedom of speech, and particularly the freedom to speak about politics and to criticize the government and elected officials. I believe that political speech violates no one’s rights, and that therefore it is improper for government to suppress it. I furthermore believe in a right to privacy that includes privacy about one’s political beliefs and activities, and consequently oppose mandatory public disclosure of campaign contributors or of independent expenditures. I look back fondly to the founding of this nation, when the Federalist Papers and the Antifederalist Papers were published anonymously to focus the vigorous public debate on ideas, instead of on personalities.

Everyone should have the freedom to express their political ideas, privately or publicly, openly or anonymously, as much or as little as they choose – and the government should protect that right, not create burdensome regulations that stifle political participation.

The accepted rationale behind campaign contribution limits is that large contributions have the potential to give the contributor undue influence over elected officials, creating the potential for corruption. Of course, no one can define what level of influence is “undue” – in a representative government, elected officials should be influenced by the people. Even setting aside the hollow rationale, it is doubtful that a large contribution made in support of a politician’s declared agenda would “influence” their actions if elected, anyway. (If my campaign slogan is “a chicken in every pot”, and then the National Chicken Council gives my campaign a million dollars, they aren’t influencing me – I was already pro-chicken.)

If the problem is rather that government is too cozy with special interests, then the solution is to take away the government’s power to play favorites – not to take away freedom of speech. The government has too much power, not the people.

The standard Libertarian advice is that people should have as much freedom, and government as little power, as possible. Giving government broad authority is a mistake. It is a responsibility of legislators to define government power narrowly, to prevent it from stifling individual freedom. How is this perspective applied to the topic of campaign finance? Let us assume, for the sake of argument, the standard rationale – that limiting large contributions reduces the risk of quid pro quo corruption.

We can see immediately that there is no justification to limit contributions to ballot measure campaigns: ballot measures are text, not people, so there is plainly no possibility of corruption of elected officials. Campaign contribution limits for ballot measure campaigns would suppress political speech but have no anticorruption effect whatsoever. But limits would reduce the quantity of political speech, taking information away from voters. Surely that is not what we want.

Similarly, recalls in Oregon involve the removal of an official from office, but not the selection of their successor. So recall efforts do not create the potential for corruption of that successor, who may in fact be unknown to the recall committee and its contributors. (In Farris v. Seabrook, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals followed this reasoning in upholding an injunction against enforcing contribution limits against a recall committee. In that decision, the court noted that no one “has presented any evidence showing that contributions to recall committees in Washington raise the specter of corruption, and certainly not in this case.”)

Independent expenditures related to ballot measure and recalls are yet another step removed, and so again pose no corruption risk that could justify the suppression of political speech. More importantly, expenditures for political speech are a direct exercise of freedom of speech, protected by black-letter Constitutional law. Spending your own money on your own political message is your right.

Even when focused narrowly on contributions to political candidates, it is a mistake to limit all contributions without considering their purpose. Political committees may engage in non-electioneering activities that present no potential for corruption, and those activities should not be limited. For example, in Institute for Justice v. State of Washington, the court ruled that “free legal assistance to a political committee in a federal civil rights lawsuit” cannot be treated as an in-kind campaign contribution. (The Motion for Summary Judgment in that case is worth reading.) In Cozen O’Connor v. Phila. Bd. Of Ethics, the court ruled that litigation over ballot access is distinct from electioneering, and that “forgiveness of the Committee’s legal debt, incurred to defend [the candidate] in ballot challenge litigation, would not constitute a ‘contribution’ that is subject to the Code’s contribution restrictions.”

The pattern in these cases is that the definition of a campaign contribution was too broad, and it took judicial review – meaning lots of time, money, and lawyers – to push the law back to where it belonged. The lesson to learn is that laws should be drafted narrowly in the first place, so they affect only what is intended. The wrong lesson is that there should simply be an exception for legal defense funds – because then you’ve already forgotten that a legal offense fund may be needed for similar reasons, and you’re simply in denial that political committees might engage in any other sort of non-electioneering activity.

It is dangerous for governments to have the power to suppress political speech. The temptation to use that power to benefit incumbent officials is too great – and this risk must be considered against the purported benefits of campaign finance restrictions.

When the government has the power to suppress criticism of government officials, you get lèse-majesté as in Thailand (where a tour guide’s Facebook posts netted a 30-year jail sentence) or Turkey (where a newspaper editor was arrested for tweets critical of the President). Don’t claim that it couldn’t happen here – it already has. In 1798, less than ten years after the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the Sedition Act enabled those same kinds of prosecutions in America. Of course it was unconstitutional. But it happened. Preventing it from happening again requires vigilant defense of your rights.

The Citizens United case, frequently maligned by supporters of campaign limits, was actually a case about protecting the right to criticize government officials. A nonprofit corporation “Citizens United” created a documentary film critical of then-Senator Clinton, and wanted to make it available via video-on-demand shortly before the 2008 primary election in which she was running for President. They wanted to advertise their documentary on broadcast and cable television, which would be considered a corporate independent expenditure – which was totally forbidden (a felony!) in the time shortly before an election.

In other words, there was an association of people pooling their resources for the purpose of publicly criticizing a sitting government official who was running for higher office. But the government had passed a law prohibiting their speech at precisely the time it would have had its greatest impact.

Does suppressing political speech near elections inform the electorate, or keep them ignorant? Does limiting the freedom of people to criticize elected officials make those officials more accountable, or less?

That is the proper context in which to evaluate Hillary Clinton’s stated litmus test for Supreme Court appointments. She said that she will only appoint Justices who would overturn a case which affected her, personally. For that, she deserves unceasing scorn.

I agree that “something needs to be done” about the Citizens United decision – and that thing is reading it. The decision deserves to be widely read. It is an excellent example of the Court standing on principle and defending individual rights against a government and popular opinion that would trample on those rights.

Party switch

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People who are members of a party always reserve the right to change them. That's happened too tho the Oregon Independent Party, as this release shows. - ed

An announcement by David S. Taylor Jr. , who had previously filed as an Independent Party candidate for Oregon House District 30 (Hillsboro).

Saturday, January 16, 2015

It has been a great experience for me to learn more about the political process over the last few months. In that time I met some really great people and learned a lot about what matters to Oregonians.

I have always considered myself an Eisenhower Republican, meaning that like Eisenhower I believe that: “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with the people’s money or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative”. I believe strongly in individual liberty but also in the responsibility to safeguard those most vulnerable.

I have said from the beginning of my campaign that I was a reluctant Independent. I am appreciative of the avenue of opportunity the IPO offered me to take part in the political process, however after careful consideration I have decided to take a different direction for myself, my family, and my community.

Recently, I have been inspired by the Republican idealism of Marco Rubio and he has renewed my belief in the American system and Republican Party. I have decided to become more involved in his mission for a New American Century.

As such I am suspending my campaign and will be registering as a Republican. This is not the end, this is only the beginning and I am optimistic for what the future will bring to my district and the state of Oregon.

Very respectfully,

David S. Taylor Sr.

While Mr. Taylor isnt eligible to file as the GOP candidate, he could seek the GOP nomination for HD-30 as a write in candidate. So far, there are no Republican candidates for that nomination. Democrat Joe Gallegos now holds that seat.

Taylor is a poverty fighting, pro marriage equality candidate. If elected as a Republican, he could join with Rep. Knute Bueller to form the core of a more modern Oregon GOP.

Coffee with an IPO candidate

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I had a nice one hour chat with Independent Party of Oregon candidate for Governor Cliff Thomason this week in Beaverton.

Before I met Cliff, I read his website to see what issues were important for his campaign.

Local Control: This is an issue that Cliff highlighted in our conversation as well. And it seems to be near the top of his list. He wants to return more control of schools to the school districts. And he proposes that a large percentage of lottery dollars generated in each county be returned to the counties as sort of block grants. Now, the lottery dollars are used for economic development programs as directed by the State office in Salem.
Green Jobs: However, the green jobs he’s referring to are more “green” as in chlorophyll rather than “green” as in Solyndra or BETC. He wants to promote the wine industry and industrial hemp. As well as agri-tainment, which would incorporate agricultural experiences and tourism.

A State Bank: A progressive populist idea that is gaining traction statewide. Did I mention that Cliff is an industrial hemp farmer? The marijuana industry needs to have secure, safe, lawful banking services. The idea of a State Bank has been around for a while, and offers some real benefits. With the legalization of Mariuana, the State Bank idea has additional potential uses that no other entity could provide.

Anti Corruption: Cliff’s anti corruption page on his website is called “Kitzhaber Crew” where he talks about the corruption of our system by the good old boys and girls of the Democratic Party.

My first impression of Cliff is that he’s friendly, open and astute. He’s a businessman from Grants Pass. I’ve met a lot of businesspersons from middle class suburban and small to mid sized towns. They are pillars of their communities, members of their Chambers of Commerce and they fill the volunteer positions on city boards and commissions. Regardless of their political ideology, they love their communities and care about their neighbors. They are also much smarter than many urban denizens and deep blue politicos who live east of the tunnel and west of I-205 believe. Maybe it’s the loafers, camelhair blazers and American flag pins on the lapel that confuses some PDXrs.

We talked for an hour and could have talked longer. He was most intense when he talked about the urban rural divide and the need for more local control. And how different Josephine County and Grants Pass are to Portland and the upper valley. He even talked about how different Grants Pass is from rural Josephine County.

He had just come back from a KBOO podcast recording, and was wondering how well he did. He was asked about his position on the minimum wage, which is an escalating minimum wage based on age. We debated that for a minute, I don’t think I convinced him of my position, and he didn’t convince me of his. But at least he has thought about the minimum wage and the need to increase it for working families, while also considering the effect on non metropolitan employers.

I could tell many of his economic ideas were conservative and asked him what differentiated his candidacy from a GOP candidate. He admitted that it was harder to find many economic policy differences, however he said that social issues are not on his agenda or To Do list. He wanted to find common ground, not wedge issues that divide people.

Cliff comes from the “Rindependent” part of the IPO. That is, those slightly to moderately right of center populists who are economically conservative and socially agnostic or even socially libertarian. (As opposed to the “LIndependent” wing of the IPO, progressive populists who prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. Or to “MIndependent” IPO members who are policy moderate populists who seek to reform the democratic process itself as the way to improve substantive policy.)

Cliff will appeal to a large number of IPO voters from rural and small town areas, especially in southern and eastern Oregon. But his support for a State bank should also draw support from progressive independents as well as the powerful marijuana industry. His anti corruption message will win support from all IPO members. Heck, all Oregonians. But, I’d suggest he refocus it onto systemic corruption that both the Democratic and Republican Parties and their donor bases benefit from. (But that’s the MIndependent in me speaking there)

He should rethink his position on the minimum wage. A better option would be to simply allow local governments to increase their minimum wage to up to $15/hour. And/or an increase in the Oregon earned income tax credit which would focus wage increases on working families living below the poverty level.

He needs to address more of the concerns of urban voters. I get that a lot of rural voters rightly believe that the State Government ignores issues important to them. The way to highlight that is by making sure you talk about urban and rural issues. Show us how it’s done. The cost of housing and homelessness – issues that effect mostly urban areas – are issues that our governor has to address. He needs to remember that he still needs the votes of LIndependents in the IPO primary and moderates and urban voters in the general election.

How will Cliff fare?

With the Democrats offering Kate Brown, and the GOP so far offering just Dr. Bud Pierce, the IPO should be pleased that Cliff Thomason is running for its nomination for Oregon Governor. He certainly represents a large number of IPO members philosophically and has some interesting ideas that Oregonians from all over the political spectrum could support. Particularly his backing for a State Bank and more green jobs.

Not really exploded

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When people talk about Oregon’s “budget” they are generally talking about Oregon’s General fund Lottery fund budget. That’s the budget the State Legislature votes on and adopts every two years, and includes education, public safety and most human services expenses. (The General Budget is not to be confused with the all funds budget, which includes all the federal funds transfers, general budget, lottery budget, expenses from trust accounts, and dedicated fees and expenses. The Legislature has little control over the all funds budget.)

This is an analysis of Oregon General and lottery funds Budgets from 1999-01 biennium to the current 2015-17 biennium.

So is the Oregon General funds budget out of control? Are we throwing more and more money at education? The answers I think are probably not, and an emphatic no.

For this analysis, I chose 1999 as a starting point. For a couple reasons. First, it was after all the Measure 5 and 50 phased in when the state started picking up the majority of State education spending for all schools. If you start earlier, it would look like there was enormous growth in education spending, but that’s misleading. M5 and M 50 capped property taxes and education spending was largely transferred from local districts to the State. So taxpayers did see more State tax dollars going to education starting in the 1990’s but they also realized a reduction in local taxes because their property taxes were held down. Using pre 1999 budget data would therefore create and apples to oranges comparison unless I was to delve into all the local property tax relief taxpayers received. Ain’t gonna do that.

And, 1999 was also a good year for the economy. There was steady growth, low unemployment and the 2001-2003 downturn wasn’t contemplated. Similar in many ways to our recent economic long and steady growth.

The Budget hasn’t gone off the rails. In fact, through the 2013-15 budget it was been below the inflation and population adjusted average. (By the way, this is the TABOR formula that many conservatives argue we should adopt). The most recent 2015-17 budget is high historically, but when you compare with other post recovery budgets (1999 and 2007), not terribly so. And of course, many will argue that the budget should be accelerating at a higher than average rate to get education spending back up to where we need it to be.

I was rather surprised of two things. First, that all candidates talk about education but fail to prioritize it in their budget. Second, in spite of consistent complaints from some candidates about out of control spending and how we should quit throwing money at schools, K-12 and higher education have actually been the big losers in the budget battles over the past 16 years. Its public safety and human services that have been the big gainers. Both in inflation adjusted dollars, and as a percentage of the total Oregon State Budget.

I’m not arguing that we should cut human services. What I am arguing is that if there is out of control spending, it hasn’t been on schools. It has been on public safety and courts – and most probably a large part has been on incarceration costs – and on human services.

So the next time an incumbent claims that they are protecting school funding, or someone argues that we just keep throwing more and more money at schools, you can share this post with them.

Scandal at DOE

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The scandal is exploding. For several months, information has dribbled out about how Oregon’s Department of Energy ignored the regulations regarding the resale of BETC tax credits. Now, in a Oregon GOP leaders have sent letters to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the state’s U.S. attorney, the FBI, the IRS and Marion County District Attorney Walter Beglau demanding a probe of allegations that employees at the Oregon Department of Energy and Department of Revenue violated state law on energy tax credits, engaged in favoritism and allowed some people to evade capital gains tax.

Governor Brown and AG Rosenblum have not responded.

But just a few hours ago, Democratic Senate Leader Peter Courtney and Democratic Speaker Tina Kotek demanded an “overhaul” of the Oregon Department of Energy.

Unlike the Cylvia Hayes scandals which involved a few hundred thousand dollars and a lot of personal ugliness, this new DOE scandal looks like it could involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidy’s to recoup bad investments from insiders or favored constituents as well as violations of the law by top government officials in the Department of Revenue and the Department of Energy.

Make no mistake. Mr. Courtney and Ms. Kotek were quick to get out of the way of this moving train. Something they were quick to do when the Kitzhaber scandal finally erupted as well.

There will be pressure to not make the names of the BETC tax credits public. There will be pressure in the February session to quickly amend the DOE rules regarding retroactive authorization of the illegal discounting of the BETC tax credits. There will be pressure to blame Kitzhaber alone.

The GOP needs to resist the urge to blame Kitzhaber and Hayes and focus on the crony capitalism that the Democrats engaged in. (Unfortunaetly, the GOP will be pressured by its own financial donor base to not go there. Since they also enjoyed the benefits of the BETC credits).

As pressure builds on the AG to investigate or if the District Attorney or Feds decide to investigate, how will the scandal be used by the Carbon Industry in it’s 2016 Ballot Measure that would terminate the Oregon Clean Fuels Program?

Independent Democrat strategy

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When Sen. Chip Shields (SD22-Portland) announced he wasn’t running for re-election and Rep. Lou Frederick (HD43-Portland) announced his intent to run for that seat, Frederick’s seat became in play. In a city with may more ambitious Democrats than available positions we may expect several candidates in the May primary.

HD43 is 61% Democratic and 5% Republican so commonplace for the winner of the Democratic primary to start ordering furniture to their Legislative office in Salem. And typically in these deep blue PDX districts, the Democratic nominee even wins the GOP nomination with a handful of write ins. So all the non Democratic voters end up with basically no viable choices in November.

So far two candidates have announced for the Democratic HD43 nomination

Tawna Sanchez, is the Family Services Director at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA Family Center). And Roberta Phillip-Robbins, a youth and gang violence prevention specialist for Multnomah County.

Both seem highly qualified and capable. Judging only from their websites Ms. Phillio-Robins has garnered much of her support from the Democratic party stalwarts. A check of her ORESTAR finanical reports confirms that. On Ms. Sanchez’s endorsement page, she lists community activists, parents, educators and small business owners. Ms. Sanchez hasn’t filed any financial reports with ORESTAR yet.

A few other office seekers may jump into this race, but these two candidates seem likely to be at the top given their early start, qualifications and endorsements.

If we had a top two system, these two fine candidates would likely be on the November ballot and HD43 voters would get to choose between them. But we don’t, so one of these two candidates will likely be the Democratic nominee and presumptive new State Representative. That means that just 61% of HD43 voters will be able to vote for their next State representative.

Unless that is, one of these two candidates likes their chances better among 100% of the electorate in November. In which case, they could withdraw their candidacy for the Democratic nomination just prior to the deadline, then run as a write in candidate for the Independent Party nomination. (Because of Oregon’s “sore loser law” a candidate can’t run for and lose the nomination for their own party and then later get the nomination of another party).

My guess is that Ms. Phillips-Robbins wouldn’t consider such a strategy since she seems more invested in the Democratic Party and leadership would definitely frown on such a strategy. But a better case could be made to Ms. Sanchez that come March 2016, if her chances for the Democratic nomination seemed slim, running as an Independent could be the best path to a November victory. Particularly since the IPO has opened up it’s primary and non affiliated voters will be allowed to vote on an IPO ballot.

And, if she ran as a write in candidate, there would be no need for her to change her own voter registration. She could remain a registered Democrat, and if she won, she could caucus with the Democratic Party in Salem.

Utilizing the May primary ballot access won by the IPO and now open to all IPO and NAV voters could be a viable path for non career progressives to challenge Democratic party insiders in Portland area districts. It is not an option for those who seek a political career are are tied to the Democratic Party apparatus. But for Democrats who genuinely seek to be citizen legislators, it is a path that is legal, logical, and smart.

And wouldn’t democracy be better served if 100% of the voters were able to choose between these two qualified candidates in November and whoever is elected is beholden to all the voters of HD43 and not just active Democrats?

Oregon’s F for integrity

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Oregon ranks 44th in overall integrity and a miserable 49th in integrity in political financing in a new study published by the liberal Center for Public Integrity.

Oregon’s highest rating came in the category of Electoral Oversight where it rated 11th best among all states.

The Kitzhaber scandal was seen by the study’s authors as a bellweather of the weaknesses of Oregon’s integrity laws.

“For many in the state, Kitzhaber’s resignation is a thing of the past. But the scandal that ensnared the former governor highlighted a wobbly legal framework in Oregon’s government, where good behavior is taken for granted rather than enforced.”

“[T]his year’s failing grade suggests, lines are easily blurred in Oregon government, and ethical lapses and partisan abuses of power – while often not criminal – have been smoothed over by both political maneuvering and etiquette.”

In the prior integrity survey done in 2012 Oregon achieved a C-. But this time Kitzhabers resignation and the surrounding scandals lead the Center to give Oregon an F in the category of executive accountability. The scandals also exposed weaknesses in the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, and highlighted Oregon as one of the worst performing states with regard to access to information – where it received an F and was ranked 34th.

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is an American nonprofit investigative journalism organization whose stated mission is “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.” With over 50 staff members, CPI is one of the largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative centers in America. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

The secstate race

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From the Oregon Secretary of State:

“The Secretary is Oregon’s chief elections officer, auditor and archivist. Additionally, the Secretary of State promotes job growth by streamlinin​g the creation and expansion of business, authenticates documents for travel or study abroad, and offers notary training and listings. Oregon is the only state where the secretary of state is responsible for auditing public spending. In addition, the secretary serves with the governor and treasurer on the Land Board and manages and oversees Oregon’s Common School Fund.”

The chief duties of the Secretary of State are regulating and bettering our Democratic process as the chief elections officer, maintaining the registration and filings for corporations, notaries, and security interests, and auditing the functions of the State. A less important, but vital job is to act, along with the Governor and State Treasurer, as a Board of Directors for investment of the Common School Fund.

There are three Democrats who want this job. Here they are, along with their priorities as expressed on their announcements and their websites.

I went to Mr. Avakian’s website for Secretary of State to see what issues he lists as important in his campaign. But there are none that seem related to the office that he’s running for. He does cite a long list of work and his record on enforcing labor laws and equity in the workplace. He is particularly proud of his work in wage theft issues. So I looked elsewhere for information on why exactly he is running for Secretary of state and found this in his announcement for Secretary of State:

“Oregon deserves a Secretary of State who will be a champion for a fair economy, healthy environment and a strong democracy. Increasing corporate accountability in the workplace, using a wider range of tools to create good jobs, and combating climate change are just a few of the areas where this office can lead the way.”

So, as far as I can tell, either Mr. Avakian thought he was running for re-election as Labor Commissioner – a reasonable mistake to make given our State’s recent history on the timing of Labor Commissioner elections – or based on his announcement only he may have thought he was running for Governor.

From Richard Devlins website under his “Priorities” tab, his content is a laundry list of Democratic priorities. A Summary:

Prioritizing stable and adequate funding for schools

There are many vulnerable individuals in our communities – abused and neglected children, victims of crime and domestic violence, and many others – and we have the duty to help them however we can.

Richard believes [that we need] a strong and improving economy and ensuring that the Oregon workforce meets the needs of employers.

In difficult financial times, state funding for public schools, health care, public safety and services for seniors are on the line, but these critical services must be protected, while at the same time protecting taxpayers’ interests. Richard believes that government should live within its means and be transparent to Oregonians, and that government officials and legislators must make difficult decisions. is committed to not only balancing the budget but also ensuring that the budget is reflective of Oregonian’s priorities

Sen. Devlin is all over the map here. And there was a lot I left out of this summary – for brevity’s sake. While some of his priorities touch on the duties of Oregon Secretary of State, he seems to have no focused idea on how he would use the power of the office, or improve elections and audits, or streamline and protect business filings and data bases.

From Rep. Hoyle’s announcement and website. Her Priorities are:

“Reduce barriers to voting and make it easier for every eligible Oregonian to have access to the ballot;

Look for new ways to streamline government by getting the most out of every tax dollar while protecting critical services;

Be a champion for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Oregon; and

Bring a renewed commitment to improving ethics and accountability.”

Now here we go. Rep. Hoyle is talking more about how she would use the tools of the office of Secretary of State to achieve policy. It still over promises, but at least the promises are directly related to the power of the office. She has obviously sharpened her message and knows what she’s running for.

What’s going on?

All these candidates know that the winner of the Democratic Primary has a close to 100% chance of being our next Secretary of State and Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin have decided that the best way to win the office in a partisan primary in 2016 is to just be a solid Blue candidate and not address the nuts and bolts of how they’d run the office of Secretary of State. In effect, Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin campaigning as if it’s for the office of “The most Democratic Democrat in Oregon”.

Why should this be troubling? After all, this is just a Democratic primary race. It’s troubling because the Democrats have a tight hold on statewide office, so the Democratic closed primary is the de facto general election for statewide office in Oregon. And the fact is, the Democratic and Republican parties are moving further to the extremes as moderates leave these two parties. So If Mr. Avakian and Sen. Devlin are correct, that Democratic Primary voters care more about a candidates orthodoxy than they do about how a candidate would perform their duties in the office they seek, then the most partisan will be rewarded in our closed primary system and we will continue down the road of hyper-partisanship.

Rep. Hoyle in contrast is speaking to the office and how she would use the power of the office to achieve some Democratic goals. And while I wasn’t invited to the recent Democratic Summit, I did see an email from Rep. Hoyle touting her position on campaign finance reform. Particularly her opposition to the idea that money equals speech. This position is contrary to the position of the Democratic Financial base (The Democratic dark money group Our Oregon is opposed to overturning Citizens United), and could represent a candidate who is more independent and able to represent all Oregonians. Rep. Hoyle has not been overly kind to the growing independent movement as represented by the Independent Party of Oregon. But she doesn’t seem as hostile to the election reform movement as she seemed during the last session. Her emerging/evolving thinking on democracy reform, and her campaign that actually talks directly to the power of the office of Secretary of State is a clear step up from the campaigns of her challengers.

Independents need to watch this race very carefully. The winner will likely be the point person for at least the next 6 years on the very important issues of campaign finance reform, election reform, and voter registration issues. All of these should be at the top of the list for voters who would like to assure that every vote counts. Not just Democratic votes. Not just Republican votes.

As of today, it appears that – to my utter surprise and astonishment – Rep. Val Hoyle is the best candidate for the job of Secretary of State. Go Val.