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Changing Bovill, among others

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Bovill is a lot like many small towns in Idaho, and far beyond.

It was named for two of the earliest settlers, a couple who at the dawn of the twentieth century bought an earlier lightly-used homestead, and started ranching. Before long, timber production became dominant in the area, the couple evolved their activities into other local service businesses, and Bovill became a timber town. In the last generation, as timber has faded as an economic mainstay, Bovill has struggled.

It’s a story similar in outline to that of many rural towns.

Not many years ago, a couple named Jeremy and Heidi Ritter and set up - in this case relocated from Moscow - a different kind of business in the central business area. It is the Camas Prairie Winery (a field covered with camas plants actually is located near town), and it produces wines and has a tasting room.

Not everyone is happy.

As the Lewiston Tribune reported, “Everything was apparently going along fine until earlier this year, when Camas Prairie Winery received a retail liquor license after another Main Street business, Bailey’s Bar, lost its license. Shortly thereafter, the winery (which previously had a wholesale license) was told it needed to make several changes to comply with the town’s building code.”

From there tensions and battles escalated into heated arguments about doorways and public records, well beyond what a simple adjustment to the building site would have suggested.

More is going on here than a simple building code issue. So what’s happening?

I cannot read the minds of the people in Bovill, but the overall dynamics sound familiar. I live in a small town, somewhat larger than Bovill but with a history quite similar. Mine is an agricultural community, situated amidst farm fields not far from foothills forests, founded a little more than a century ago, which later became a timber mill town (my house was once company housing built for mill workers), after which that faded (the mill closed) and the community started looking for other options.

Eventually it found them, in the form of wine. My community seized on wine production and sales, which were growing rapidly in the area, and embraced it. Now Main Street is packed with wine businesses, and visitors from afar stop into the tasting rooms and other spinoff businesses. The place has been growing, to the point that there’s concern about the growth that has materialized.

Not everyone is happy about it. Long-timers in town remember the way the community used to be, and the phrase “It’s a timber town, dammit!” is not unknown in city limits. The question of just how wine-friendly city officials should be is a permanent undercurrent in local politics.

This isn’t really a debate over growth, or exactly a debate over wine. It’s a debate over culture: A timber-based community, or any other based on more traditional resource industries, is going to feel and look different from one where the economic base is something like wine. You can tell the difference driving through, and it feels different living there, too.

It’s not just wine. Any kind of dominant industry in a community will leave its own cultural, political and economic stamp. If a high-tech business became the linchpin of a small farm town, that would change its character just as certainly.

Most likely, some of this is what some people in Bovill are reacting to. Change of one kind or another is coming.

But there’s a catch. Many small towns will have to change, in one direction or another, if they’re going to survive. Some will embrace change and prosper. Others . . . will not.
 

The gap cannot be ignored

mckee

Personal income as a percentage of GDP is continuing to shrink, despite the general growth in the economy and employment.

What makes this decline particularly distressing is that during the same period, corporate profits have been burgeoning and executive compensation – particularly CEO compensation – has been skyrocketing. It does not take a CPA or math whiz to figure out who is getting squeezed.

As the graph in the margin demonstrates, only those within the top 20% have enjoyed any real increases in incomes in the years since 1979. The bottom four lines represent the four quintiles of the rest of the population. The actual average incomes within each of the four quintiles of this bottom 80%, when measured in actual buying power after consideration of inflation, are declining.

In the post WWII years from 1945 to 1980, incomes at all levels grew rapidly and at roughly the same rate up and down the income ladder. The recession of 1973-1975 marked the end of the post-war growth, and with the recovery from this recession, the disparity between the top 20% and the entire rest of the country began to widen.

With the advent of the Reagan era in 1980, government policies towards the economy changed. The government shifted from its reliance on Keynesian economic theories and turned to the so-called supply-side goals of maximizing production and profits. The theory was that if the owners and shareholders were recognizing maximum profits on maximum production, the gains realized would “trickle down” to the wages and salaries of the workers.

Unfortunately, it did not work that way. Where maximum profit is the goal, every cost becomes target, and with no disincentives to protect the labor class, their wages and salaries are on the block. Total incomes of the upper 20% of the workforce began to explode in the middle 1980’s and continues to skyrocket today. The bottom quintiles flat-lined and have enjoyed essentially no part of the economic growth sustained in the last 30 years. The only real beneficiaries of the tremendous growth in the U.S. economy have been essentially the professionals and highly talented, the owners and their top executives, and the shareholders. Everybody else is falling behind. Everybody.

The middle class, which at one time was the thriving bulwark of our society, is vanishing. We have reached the point now where fully half the population lives in a low-income status, many at or below the poverty line. And this trend is continuing to worsen. Since 1980, incomes within the middle and lower ranges slowed sharply or receded. The U.S. was ranked 6th from the bottom of the 173 countries in the free industrialized world in terms of income and wealth inequality.

The wealthiest 1% now own about 40% of the total wealth – a share higher than at any point since 1962. There is more wealth in this 1% than in the bottom 90% combined. And it is continuing to widen.

The owners, shareholders and consumers are well protected and taken care of, both by market forces and government regulation. Only the labor end of the economy is totally out in the cold economically. Market incentives are really available only for the well-educated, the highly skilled and the exceptionally talented. The ordinary worker has, in essence, been abandoned.

The Republicans have buried their heads in the sand to sing the praises of unfettered free-market capitalism. They view with disdain any efforts at government intervention, labeling such as “liberal” causes, which they equate to socialism, and insist that all such should be eradicated. Socialism is considered to be a form of totalitarianism, a failed experiment, unworkable in any society that values individual incentive and innovation. Any concept of rebalancing the wealth of the country is considered the pinnacle of liberalism and socialistic thought, meaning that any aspect of this concept is a complete anathema to the coveted ideal of free market capitalism. Compromise has become unthinkable.

Too many Democrats have also buried their heads in the sand to avoid any attempt to confront these issues head on. They have allowed the Republicans to define the term ‘liberal” and to then equate it to the equivalent of a nasty, four-letter word. The Democrats then run away from any attempt see such a label attached to their efforts or campaign beliefs.

Despite the fact that every other industrialized nation in the free world embraces some modified version of socialism, or at least utilizes socialistic devices to the benefit of their populations in some areas, too many Democrats seem to agree with the Republicans, and continue to act as if “socialism” at any level or in any form is a poisonous concept, not even to be discussed as an appropriate solution for any problem facing our world today.

This means that the concept of income or wealth redistribution cannot be mentioned in polite society today by anybody. The Republicans refuse to discuss it at all, and the Democrats are afraid of the liberal label that might be attached to any meaningful efforts if they bring it up. The result is an empty void over what may be the most crucial social and economic issue of our day.

What should be becoming painfully obvious is that some level of government intervention is going to be needed to reverse the trend of an economy that is rapidly transferring all wealth to the very rich. It is the essence of what is essential. The hands-off approach is only making it worse.

There are a variety of remedies to the issue of inequality of wealth, and plenty of room for debate on most of them. They run from steps to reinvigorate labor unions to increasing the availability of higher education and post-high school training to reactivating a national minimum wage to imposing maximum ratios on compensation to enacting various tax incentives to encourage diversity. There are undoubtedly more ideas that could be explored.

What must happen is recognition by both parties that (1) something must be done and (2) the solution is a legitimate area for government intervention or assistance. This should not be a partisan issue. This is the survival of the way of life as we have grown accustomed for everyone. Both sides must commit to a diligent search for acceptable and effective remedies if we are to reverse the distressing trends that are becoming increasingly obvious.
 

Lessons in Ohio

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As I write this, the results aren't yet final in the super-close 12th congressional district in Ohio - the last congressional special election in the country. The lead between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O'Connor has bounced back and forth enough that you have to wonder, realistically, if this thing will go to recount.

There are some thoughts about this final congressional special that do seem worth some reflection.

First, the fact that it's so close - much more than who wins it - is what's remarkable. This is a congressional district held for decades by Republicans, where Democrats should not have gotten close. An election as close as this is a serious indicator of what's ahead in another three months.

Second, both candidates will be back on the ballot in three months, whichever one gets the honor of serving in the U.S. House for the next 100 days or so. And the electorate will be a little different, and a little larger, then.

Third, this is not completely a two-way race. There is a third candidate: A Green Party nominee named Joe Manchik. His vote, only a sliver of what the other two have amassed, is nonetheless more - at least much of the time - than the gap between the other two candidates. Presumably, the Greens would rather see Democrats than Republicans win, but every vote they cast throws a wrench in that goal. (The same would be true, with show on other foot, if the third party contender were, say, a Constitution Party nominee.) If Balderson wins by less than the Green nominee, there's a place where fingers logically ought to be pointed.

Fourth, the voting pattern is a stunningly close match to what we've seen in district after district in elections this year. The close you get to urban areas, the more blue (Democratic) they are; the more rural, the more red (Republican). That shows up perfectly in not only Ohio 12 but in the Pennsylvania contest earlier this year and many others. It will be a template for races to come in November.

Top place for most interesting result of the night, though, may come from Missouri, where voters are deciding whether to keep or throw out that state's Right to Work law. With 44% of the vote in, they were opting 64.2%-35.8% to throw it out. That result - the margin is much too large to realistically be overturned, or misread - is likely to be widely noted in the months and years to come.

Oh, and the Colyer-Kobach races in Kansas is fascinating too.
 

Idaho needs an accurate census

jones

There appears to be some political chicanery afoot with the upcoming 2020 census. On the surface, it might not seem to be unusual for the census questionnaire to ask respondents if family members in their household are citizens. However, the census form has not had a citizenship question since 1950.

The Census Scientific Advisory Committee, an official government entity, has recommended against including the question. The Committee declared, “We hold the strong opinion that including citizenship in the 2020 census would be a serious mistake which would result in a substantial lowering of the response rate.” The concern is that immigrants, documented and otherwise, might not answer the question for fear of being targeted by the authorities.

Such fears might not be irrational because information from the 1940 census was used to round up Japanese-Americans and send them to concentration camps, like the Minidoka camp in Jerome County. The census information was supposedly confidential but it was nevertheless used to locate and incarcerate these innocent people, over 60% of whom were U.S. citizens. It was a clear violation of their rights.

The census was never intended to count just “citizens” of our country. The U.S. Constitution requires a count every ten years of “Persons” in the country in order to determine apportionment of “Representatives and direct Taxes.” Slaves, who were not considered to be citizens, were to be counted as “other Persons,” with a three-fifths value. That chapter of our history was shameful.

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, testified to Congress last year that he decided to put the citizen question on the next census form at the request of the Justice Department. However, recently discovered evidence shows that to be a naughty fib. In truth, Ross requested the Justice folks to request the question. It appears he was asked to include the question by political operatives who wanted to depress immigrant participation in the census. States with large immigrant populations, like California, might lose some of their Representatives in the U.S. Congress as a result of a substantial undercount.

How might this affect Idaho? Well, Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the Union. It has a fair number of immigrants, documented and otherwise, and could suffer from an undercount of residents in at least two ways.

First, many federal programs allocate funding to the states based on their census count. The funds are divvied up based on the number of “persons,” not citizens. An undercount would short-change Idaho in many federally-funded programs.

Second, apportionment of the 435 seats in Congress is allocated among the states based on the census of “persons.” Although it is unlikely Idaho would be entitled to an additional seat in Congress based on the 2020 census count, it is not out of the question to think we might grow enough to qualify based on the 2030 count.

There is no good reason to politicize the census by deliberately trying to cause an undercount of any state for any reason. That is why the professionals in the Census Bureau oppose the citizenship question. No valid reason has been shown to support it. Fast-growing Idaho could suffer collateral damage from this political skullduggery.
 

Kill the messenger

rainey

One day, the certainty of judicial and/or political justice will bring down Donald Trump - in the White House or out. That you can take can take to the bank.

The public record and the political landscape are already littered with enough evidence to convict on a number of counts: conspiracy, obstruction of justice, profiteering from high elected office, etc.. Before it’s over, there could well be another charge. Inciting violence leading to personal attacks, manslaughter or even murder.

These last crimes I throw in the pot because, if he continues to deliberately make our national press out to be “the enemy of the people,” some sociopath will reach for a weapon. It’s happened often in other countries at the hands of a dictator or two and hit us domestically just a couple of months ago.

It’s been a long time since my active media years. I’m sure the danger is worse now and being in the public eye likely draws more nutcases and unwanted confrontations than it used to. But, I’ve had a few instances in which law enforcement got involved and arrests were made. Even at a family funeral, we had a threat and undercover officers.

From the mid ‘60's until 2000, I worked in both radio and television in Boise and elsewhere. Several times over the years, direct threats were made and personal property vandalized. For a period in the ‘70's, I had occasional rides with cops to and from work. There were also a couple of face-offs in stores with some angry folks. I know many other media types with similar experiences.

We didn’t have the I-Net then, or cell phones and other forms of instant communication. In ensuing years, and now with Trump trying to create a torch-and-pitchfork brigade, I’m sure security issues and personal dangers are much more everyday concerns for media people.

The “kill-the-messenger” effort is as old as humanity. Even the Bible has some prominent instances. None more dramatic than the case of John The Baptist. Journalists in many countries have been killed for doing their jobs. Our own recent domestic case was in Maryland this year when five staffers were shot to death.

The people shouting foul mouthings and flipping off the media at Trump rallies, have been deliberately whipped up by his lies and phony charges. Standing with equipment on raised platforms at the rear of those crowds, reporters are sitting ducks for verbal attacks. It’s quite possible, one of these days, an angry Trumper will reach up for someone, or the equipment, and we’ll have exactly what Trump wants: a physical clash to make reporters more fearful and give his followers a way to vent their frustrations. Real or imagined.

There are many bad indicators involving Trump. His constant rallies - at taxpayer expense - are little more than narcissistic “booster shots” for someone who knows the noose is tightening. His reported desire to face Special Council Robert Mueller, because he thinks he can go “mano-a-mano” and whip Mueller’s team, is another. His repeated arbitrary condemnation of treaties and long-standing mutual pacts with other countries shows his own insecurities and need to “call the shots” in all things.

His need to undermine the media - “kill the messenger” - is self-apparent. “Don’t believe what you see and hear,” he tells them. “The lying media - the failing media - the fake news media.” He seems to believe if he can turn his political “base” into a bunch of worshiping sycophants who accept only what he says and does as “truth,” he’ll survive to run again in 2020.

There is growing evidence his “base” is not as large as he and many Republicans in Congress believe. Looking at polling “internals,” you see his support is a percentage of a percentage of Republicans and nearly zero Democrats. The real hardcore “base” is something around 30% of all voters. Not insignificant but not a winning percentage, either.

In spite of his lies and bashing, the media, in my opinion, must adhere to one rule: don’t fight back and, thus, make themselves part of Trump’s “story.” Real reporters know that. But, a lot of button-pushing, bean-counting, absentee, non-professional media owners and stockholders don’t.

Trump’s will lose eventually. But, the lasting damage he’s creating in nearly everything - social, governmental and in this countries relationship with other nations - will be with us for many, many years. Where we get our information, from whom and what we believe are also becoming casualties.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 6

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

With the arrival of August, preliminaries begin in the fall general election campaign season. An early activity was a debate between the candidates for superintendents of public instruction; more faceoffs are expected soon. Menwhile, smoke gathered over the skies of southern Idaho as one wildfire after another popped up.

New projections from the Idaho Department of Labor forecast that the state will add just over 105,000 jobs by 2026, bringing total statewide employment to approximately 841,000. In 2016, statewide employment was 735,000. This new projection indicates expected growth of 14.4 percent for the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026, for an annual growth rate of 1.4 percent.

Senator Jim Risch, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the lead senate committee investigating Russia’s attempted interference in our 2016 elections, on August 1 participated in a hearing on foreign influence in our election process through social media.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced 22 new Energy Frontier Research Centers, including one that will be led by Idaho National Laboratory. This is the second time INL has won the opportunity to lead an EFRC.

The Idaho Department of Insurance has posted on its website, proposed health insurance premium rates and the requested increases for plans sold starting January 2019.

The state superintendent’s race kicked off Thursday as Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra and Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson squared off in front of hundreds of educators in Boise.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has released the latest annual report from his office’s Consumer Protection Division. The summary represents a detailed look at the division’s work between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.

Close the Gap Idaho, a health care network of over 300 organizations and individuals statewide, has released a health care questionnaire for candidates for elected office in Idaho. The questionnaire covers a multitude of subjects, ranging from Medicaid, the benefits of health care coverage and gaps in Idaho’s behavioral health care system. The questionnaire is being distributed to the media, organizations hosting candidate forums and the public.

IMAGE Giant propellers stand above a farm field west of Burley, generating increasingly substantial amounts of electric power in the region. (photo/Randy Stapilus)
 

Statewide funding for charters?

schmidt

Charter School Facility Funding could be a state-wide solution. Idaho currently has two ways of supporting public school facility funding.

Charter schools receive a fixed amount per year based on their enrollment and what districts raise. The state has allowed districts to run bond elections that need a 2/3rds majority to pass. This uneven playing field does not satisfy the constitutional requirement that education in Idaho be “free, common and uniform”.

My town is blessed with a great public-school district. The district sponsored the first charter school in the state. When another charter school applied to the district for sponsorship, the district deferred. The state charter commission was established and now charter schools are sponsored from Boise, not locally. So, our town has the public-school district, a district charter school and a state commission sponsored charter school.

The state-based charter school recently announced they have plans to build a new facility. This will be funded through a system established by the legislature in 2012. Charter schools receive funding for facilities straight off the top of the state-wide schools budget. The amount is tied to both enrollment and what all schools receive from local bond and levy income for their facilities and will reach a maximum amount (50%).

In 2005 the Idaho Supreme Court declared the way public schools have to raise money for facilities unconstitutional and expected the legislature to solve this problem. The legislature has done nothing to solve this. But they sure solved it for charter schools.

Full disclosure, I was in the Idaho Senate when this was debated and voted on. I voted against this scheme. A colleague posed a question during floor debate: “If this is such a good idea for how to fund facilities, why not extend it to all schools?” There was no answer from the sponsor. But it’s a valid question.

The Supreme Court’s decision that school facility funding is unconstitutional was based on the wide variation from district to district we see in support for facilities. Bond elections are brutal; a high bar to clear and tax bases vary dramatically. The Idaho Constitution requires a common, free and uniform education for all. Automatically giving charter schools a fixed percentage for facilities based on the amount local districts have to sweat blood for is unfair and clearly unconstitutional. Basing all schools’ facility funding on enrollment is very fair and uniform.

We have a solution staring us in the face. There is a legislative interim committee studying the “school funding formula”. Ask them why they haven’t considered this solution. Keep in mind, the vast majority of school funding goes to pay people to teach our kids, not build classrooms. But our current system that takes from paying teachers in all classrooms to help only charter schools with their building needs is unfair, unconstitutional and bogus. Expand the enrollment-based funding for facilities to all schools. This would provide more uniform facilities, lower local property taxes and satisfy our constitutional duty. What’s good for charters schools should be good enough for all. Let’s be fair.
 

Building a perfect storm

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What would it take for Democrat Paulette Jordan to win the governorship in November over Republican Brad Little?

You might inquire in response, why ask? Little is heavily favored to win, right? And yes he is; and none of what follows should be interpreted to the contrary. But likely is not the same as certainty. Just ask all those prognosticators about their 2016 presidential estimates.

In a batch of conversations around southern Idaho this last week, with some well-informed people in both parties, a common perspective emerged, which might be useful to consider as the campaign season unfolds.

First, the most favorable estimates of a Jordan win put it at about 10 percent: One chance in ten. Others figure the prospect at around five percent. No one went much lower than that, which means a consensus view that she has a small but not insignificant chance of winning.

They gave her a better chance than other recent Democratic nominees. Most people I talked to (opinions were not divided along party lines) thought Jordan was likely to get either the best percentage for governor, or nearly the best, of any Democratic nominee since Cecil Andrus in 1990. Most estimated percentages for her in the low to mid-40s; several thought percentages around 45 or 46 were plausible. That would imply a seriously close contest.

Why? One reason is that she’s a strong campaigner. Most than most Idaho candidates, she has presence and draws immediate attention where she goes, and voters tend to respond to that - and react to the response. The people I talked to in both parties had strong favorable opinions of Little - his character, knowledge of issues and of the state, skill as a leader, and overall probability that he’d be a good governor - except when it came to his role as a campaigner. There his skills were less obvious; he’s not the natural campaigner the current governor has always been. We’re now entering a space in the cycle where that may matter.

Both Jordan and Little emerged from contested primaries. But most people - not everyone but most - thought Little was at greater risk of losing some of his own party’s base because of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the primary. Specifically, the thought was that a number of backers of losing contender Raul Labrador, many of whom likely spent most of campaign season thinking their man would win the nomination, may be disgusted enough to not vote. If the election is otherwise close, that could matter. (There was some argument that dynamic could hinder Jordan too, but most thought that less likely.)

2018 may be a Democratic sweep year. That’s not a certainty, and political waves don’t splash the same everywhere; the waves in Idaho probably would be more like ripples than a tsunami. It would not, for example, come anywhere close to turning the Idaho Legislature Democratic; but a shift of five or six seats (out of 105) toward the Democrats might be a realistic prospect. That could slosh upward, adding a little more to the Jordan column.

Aside from national trends, there’s a local issue that could matter: The Medicaid expansion ballot slot. That might have the effect of drawing out a significant number of Democratic-leaning voters, and become a real factor in races that otherwise are close.

There’s also a strategic risk Little has to watch out for. His message and approach logically would involve staying relentlessly positive, making the affirmative case for the current administration and sticking with the course. He’s mostly been hewing to that tack up to now - excepting a few shots fired at competitors in the primary - and it’s the smart thing to do. But … if polling shows the race tightening closely toward the end, if voters are simply in a very dissatisfied mood, there would be a temptation to improve his position by going harshly negative on Jordan - to drive up the base and change the conversation and weaken whatever momentum she has. That would be a mistake and probably would backfire. Little probably won’t go there (it’s certainly not in his native temperament). But if the race tightens, the temptation would arise, and I’ve seen any number of campaigns that have given in to it, usually to their eventual regret.

A Jordan win would take a perfect storm in an alignment of stars. The odds are against. But don’t ignore this race; the raw materials for an upset may be widely scattered but they do exist.
 

The debate debate

harris

Since my last article, the Democrats and Republicans and their nominees for Oregon Governor have been busy.

Oregon Senators Nathanson (Democrat) and Boquist (Republican) asked Legislative Counsel whether Oregon Campaign Contribution laws required Debate sponsors to include all major party candidates or if not, be required to report a political contribution to the candidates they did invite. Dan Gilbert, Deputy Counsel provided an analysis that ended with:

“If the hypothetical debate (That left out Independent candidate Patrick Starnes) occurred within 60 days of the general election, we therefore believe that it would likely fall within the expanded definition of a “communication in support of or in opposition to a clearly identified candidate or measure” set forth in HB 2505. Moreover, as there are currently three major political parties in Oregon and not all of them would be invited, we believe that the requirements for the exception set forth ORS 260.007 (10) would not be met. It is likely that the media outlet would therefore have to report the value of the debate as (depending on the involvement of the participating campaigns in the debate) either an independent expenditure or a contribution to the campaigns of the two participating candidates.”

In essence, here’s LC’s opinion: We assume a debate is an “independent expenditure”. As such, the law provides that if a debate/forum occurs within 60 days of the general election (September 8, 2018), then the debate sponsors must either include all major party candidates, or report the value of the debate as an independent expenditure. That seems like a potential win for Independent Candidate Starnes. Since sponsors are typically non profits like City Club of Portland and League of Women Voters and AARP of Oregon who would be jeopardizing their non profit 501c3 status if they made an independent political expenditure. And broadcasters like KATU and KGW and OPB could violate their broadcasting licenses if they made a political expenditure.

The Independent Party fired back. Saying that the 60 day rule doesn’t apply and it doesn’t matter when the debate/forum is held, all major party candidates need to be included in debates or the sponsor must report the value of the debate. They argue that is because a debate/forum is not an independent expenditure, it’s either a coordinated expenditure, or its a contribution. If they are correct, than the 60 day rule contained in 260.005 doesn’t appear to apply.

Here is the legal language in dispute over this issue:

“an expenditure by a person for a communication in support of or in opposition to a clearly identified candidate or measure that is not made with the cooperation or with the prior consent of, or in consultation with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate or any agent or authorized committee of the candidate, or any political committee or agent of a political committee supporting or opposing a measure.” ORS 260.005 (10)

The BOLD language is the text the LC cited as it’s rationale as to why a debate/forum is an independent expenditure. However, the IPO points out that the LC ignored the rest of the sentence (in italics). The argument is, debates and forums are always done with the cooperation, coordination, request and suggestion of the candidates. So, it is coordinated expenditure and/or a campaign contribution.

Willamette University is organizing a forum and all the major party candidates have been invited. According to one of the organizers, the students are most excited about the appearance and inclusion of the Independent nominee.

The Oregon League of Women Voters, AARP Oregon and Portland City Club are holding a debate within 60 days of the election. (date currently uncertain) They have sent a questionnaire to all candidates for Governor asking them to prove the seriousness of their campaign and their viability and stating that they will be the final arbiters of who is included in the debate. They are calling this application to their debate an invitation. That’s sort of like telling your second grader that they need to invite all their school mates to their birthday party, then finding out that the child sent their classmates an application asking them what clothes they were planning on wearing, what type of present they would bring and asking who is included in their clique and advising that they would then be asked to come based on some subjective standard. Doesn’t really pass the smell test as an “invitation”.

But perhaps they are sending these applications out to all major and minor party candidates with the understanding that the three major party candidates have to be invited but they don’t want to single out minor party candidates for special vetting.