Thank You, Emilie Boyles

Chris Smith

Really, I mean it.

Even as Voter Owned Elections is changing the face of campaign finance in Portland, making elections more open, fair and accountable, Emilie appears to be single-handedly seeking every potential weakness in the system – and VOE will be stronger for it. Better to get it over with in the first cycle than drag it out! Of course, the allegations against Emilie’s campaign, if true, are already violations of VOE as written, the trick is to make sure the system catches them effectively and efficiently.

I was a member of the panel that helped critique the design of the system before it was adopted by City Council. I became a fan of public financing for elections when I researched the issue for City Club back in 2000 (PDF, 76K). Like thousands of other citizens in a grassroots effort, I encouraged City Council to adopt this important reform. We knew the system would not be perfect, that’s why a Citizens Campaign Commission was established to monitor the system and recommend changes to Council. So what have I learned from the experience to date? Here are some suggestions for things the Citizens Commission should look at:

Keen-eyed readers will note that the list above includes no lessons about how candidates spend their money. In fact, that portion of the code received an intense amount of scrutiny before adoption, especially from the City Council members asked to vote for it. I am very confident that we will find the provisions on use of funds will stand the test in this cycle.

Thank you, Emilie.

Comments

  • rj (unverified)
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    And thank you Chris for keeping at the forefront the very reason to find a leader to replace the author of the flawed and costly Clean Money ordinance.

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    How about we also include a checkbox on the form a candidate uses to participate in VOE, which states, "I have read the City Code and administrative rules for this system." Make them go on record so if they later claim they were somehow victimized by the system (I'm talking to you, Emilie Oy), we can ask them how that's the case, since the law/rules are clear and they claimed to have read them.

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    I participated in some of the early discussions, testified in front of council, and was a thorn in the side of Gary Blackmer and Susan Francois -- on one particular issue: the allowed forms of payment.

    I argued then, and continue to argue now, that in addition to $5 checks, we should allow $5 contributions to be made by credit card and debit card. When a donation is made by "plastic" we know who made it, and we know their address.

    I made a tangential argument then that is more important now: cash is untraceable and the identity of the real source of funds is unknowable.

    The whole damn point of the system is to ensure that there are 1000 people who believe in a candidate enough to donate a token sum of money. If we can't verify -- and more importantly, if the citizens of Portland won't believe (especially now) -- that the participants in the system have even crossed that basic threshold, then there's no point in having VOE.

    At the time, the auditor argued to me that the system was designed to generate personal interactions between candidates and citizens. He argued that credit card donations would encourage campaigns to run internet-driven qualification drives. He argued that that would be less personal and less interactive than personal solicitations.

    I disagreed -- and continue to do so. Anyone who has spent any time hanging around BlueOregon could easily attest to the personal interactions with, say, Commission Randy Leonard that are possible here. Many, many people have remarked to me that they feel that they know him, they know how he thinks, and they believe that he's accessible to citizens -- right here at BlueOregon.

    Contrast that interaction with the kind of "personal candidate interaction" engaged in by Emilie Boyles and Lucinda Tate... er, excuse me, by Volodymr Golovan.

    I think my point is proven.

    I hope that in the next round, we'll get rid of $5 cash donations -- and substitute $5 credit/debit card contributions.

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    Kari, I take your point about credit cards being more verifiable than cash, but let me ask you how you would see it working. I collected qualifying contributions on behalf of two candidates. I basically carried around the sheet which each contributor had to fill in their name and address and then sign (the signature being an affadavit that they lived in Portland and were contributing their own money).

    How would you see that being done with credit cards. Are the volunteers going to carry around validation machines, or do you want volunteers running around with sheets full of credit card numbers (makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle) to be submitted for back-end processing by the campaigns?

    How easy do you think it will be for a VOE candidate's campaign committee to get a merchant account? Or do you see a third party providing this service (does PayPal have an elections division)?

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    On Tuesday, the League of Women Voters of Portland acknowledged start up issues and called for the Auditor and the Citizens Campaign Commission to specifically review greater monitoring of cash flow and voter registration requirements.

    The press conference was attended by Oregon Action, Money in Politics Research Action Project, Citizens Utility Board, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of Portland, Public Campaign, ACORN, Communication Workers of America, Community Development Network, Oregon State Public Research Group, and other organizations representing tens of thousands of Portlanders.

    The Oregonian attended the press conference but did not cover it.* The coalition's call for increased safeguards was picked up by KEX, OPB, KOIN and other electronic media.

    [Disclosure: I worked with Money in Politics Research Project on the press conference.]

    *While the Oregonian did not cover the coalition's response to their stories, their editorial department did repeatedly blast VOE because of the issues addressed at the Tuesday press conference.

  • Mr. Magoo (unverified)
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    Chris - Don't thank Boyles, she may have killed any chance VOE had of winning on the ballot when it eventually gets there. When this does get to the ballot you can bet that the opponents will be lining up lots of cash to run ads pointing to Boyles and the fact that her apparently fraudulent signature sheets sailed right through the Auditor's Office unchallenged - until other's pointed out how fishy they appeared. I hope I am wrong, but this may be the first and last VOE in Portland.

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    Emilie appears to be single-handedly seeking every potential weakness in the system

    Hmmm...not so single-handedly, Chris. Emilie got her money to play with (or pay her rent with). Lucinda Tate, a far more viable candidate in my opinion, crashed and burned before the checks were handed out.

    I don't know that I would wave my hat in celebration that the abuse of the system reared its head so quickly --and blatantly-- without any, to date, check on it. We can be amused that the anti-tax folks at Northwest Meridian took a couple of grand of taxpayer money for a full-page ad for Emilie...but are they gonna give it back as a wasteful expenditure of city resources? Don't hold your breath.

    Emilie can't pay the money back. It ain't there. What's she gonna do, sell her blood?

    You seem shocked, shocked, that the Oregonian didn't cover the Tuesday press conference. Are you equally shocked, shocked, that this same paper featured the endorsement of man-of-steel Saltzman?

    It's not a level playing field. Voter Owned Election schemes can help with that, but only so far. That only some candidates --and I point to my favorite candidate Amanda Fritz-- followed the rules..its too bad --not a good thing-- that this experiment in democracy is distracted by con-artists taking advantage of a poorly thought out product.

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    Chris asked, How easy do you think it will be for a VOE candidate's campaign committee to get a merchant account? Or do you see a third party providing this service (does PayPal have an elections division)?

    I think it would be just as easy for a VOE campaign cmte to get a merchant account as any other campaign cmte. Which is to say, a pain in the a**.

    I think they could also use PayPal - either in the traditional way, or with a front-end layer built on it (like our MandateMoney service, which I won't pitch here.)

    As for the more important part of your question -- how would you collect both money and signatures? Yes, that adds a further wrinkle - but not one that's impossible to overcome. One option would be using validation machines (like the ones provided by local firm AuctionPay.)

    Another option would be to follow up donations with a paper form that solicits the signature. It's an interesting question if we're going to require that a solicitor be present - since you couldn't do it by mail, but we already do that for initiatives. (Since a person can be a solicitor for themselves.)

    Keep in mind that any $5 donation that doesn't ultimately get matched with a signature would just become a seed money contribution.

    I think these are technical questions, rather than substantive ones. If we're going to accept $5 donations via the payments mechanism that is now preferred by a majority of Americans (both bu survey, and by practice) then the technical details can be sorted out.

    (Though I do suppose that greater attention to the technical questions by the elections office might have kept VOE out of the mess its in now.)

  • Arnold (unverified)
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    Requiring checks seems the simplest and most straight forward. If it raises the bar to high, then change another bar. Make it 750 checks. Or 500 checks.

    The idea of signing a pledge to the Code and rules has merit as well. The Citizen Committee needs to get crackin and have a louder voice in this.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    It costs about five bucks to get a signature notarized.

    This can dispense with the potential problem of setting an arbitrary number like 5 bucks of 50 bucks or a million bucks or two bits or even a gold coin.

    It is, after all, just to verify the signature?

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    The idea behind the $5 contribution was to avoid the issue of people who will sign something you stick in their face just to get rid of you. A notary fee of an equivalent amount would seem to fit the bill.

    But, the logistics of getting a solicitor, the contributor and the notary in the same place at the same time seems like it raises the bar a lot higher than even requiring checks (and that's from someone who does not normally carry a checkbook around with him).

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    Kari, to your comment about the Auditor's office, one thing I forgot to mention in the original post is the interface between state law and city code. In thinking through the risks, we in part under-evaluated the risk of forged signatures because we knew it was a violation of state law. What we didn't spend enough time on what how to bring the state law violation back into the certification question.

    So that's how you can get a scenario in which Mr. Golovan potentially goes to jail with Emilie getting to keep the money (although I think Emilie will be on the hook for the money for other reasons).

    A couple of lines in the code making violation of state campaign law a grounds for denial of certification or de-certification would take care of that.

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    A couple of lines in the code making violation of state campaign law a grounds for denial of certification or de-certification would take care of that.

    Yeah, who missed that one?

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    The AG cannot derive any greaer authority from a city code. The local DA though could enforce, or try to enforce, a code provision making conduct criminal.

    The city cannot alter state statutes.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    If Ms. Tate and Ms. Boyles are treated differently based on similar facts of invalid signatures then this is a potential problem now before even wondering about a rewrite.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    "we in part under-evaluated the risk of forged signatures because we knew it was a violation of state law."

    Chris -

    Are you saying that the question of how to verify signatures was asked and it was decided that there was no need since it was a violation of state law? How did you expect to catch violators with no signatures on record?

    "What we didn't spend enough time on what how to bring the state law violation back into the certification question."

    So what amount of time was spent on this question?

    It seems to me this is a pretty good example of "citizen participation" in Portland at its worst. They hand-picked a group of people who would not ask hard questions that might be deal killers but who would feel ownership of the result and support it.

    That doesn't serve the broader public, but it also often doesn't serve projects very well when the basic premises of the boosters are never questioned. Even if Emily Boyles and company have helped by exposing (some?) flaws, its friends have not done it any favors by failing to consider them in advance. All I can say is it is fortunate this thing didn't make it to the ballot this year.

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    Ron, the point is not to give the AG more authority, but rather to give the Auditor authority re certification based on the violation of state law.

    And Ms. Boyle and Ms. Tate should not be treated differently. But Ms. Tate does not have any public funds in her possession, while Ms. Boyles does.

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    Ross, I can't tell you how much time was spent on the question because there were so many conversations in different places that I don't know how many times it came up. The review was very thorough, including by national legal experts on the topic.

    We missed this one - but everyone involved had a strong incentive to get it right.

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    Why is this system still referred to as "Voter Owned Elections" when the City Council continues its refusal to permit the registered voters of Portland to vote whether they want the system or not?

    I have yet to read a single post explaining or defending why Portland's voters should be barred from approving a system that gives tax money to candidates who "qualify" through the support of persons who themselves may not be registered voters.

    Until then, we don't have Voter-Owned Elections, but rather, Council-Owned Elections.

    • Wes
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    Wes, the plan is in fact to put the system in front of voters in 2010, when the can decide whether they like it or not based on actual experience with the system, rather based on $350K or so of television advertising telling them it's welfare for politicians.

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    Wes --

    I don't expect this to change your mind, but Voter-Owned Elections wasn't the result the city council forcing it down people's throats, it was grassroots organizations like the LWV who pushed for this reform in the first place. During the hearings, comments in the hundreds ran 2 to 1 in favor of VOE.

    Again, a partial list of orgs behind this: Oregon Action, Money in Politics Research Action Project, Citizens Utility Board, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of Portland, Public Campaign, ACORN, Communication Workers of America, Community Development Network and Oregon State Public Research Group.

    As Chris mentioned, this WILL be referred to voters after a few cycles and after adjustments have been made. That was part of the original council vote.

    Also, both Sam Adams and Tom Potter signed on to this during the 2004 campaign. They campaigned on this platform, Sten has always been a supporter, and Saltzman was moved by the need to bring more diversity to the council.

    Voters could have rejected pro-VOE candidates but they didn't. They could have signed onto the $350,000 campaign to get the repeal on the May ballot but they didn't.

    But this will be put to a direct vote, and I agree with Chris -- if this was on May's ballot, you would have likely seen just a battle of sound bytes rather than a more informed debate on the merits. In other places like Maine and Arizona, support has grown over time. But if people don't like it, they'll vote it down and we can go back to the old system that PGE, Qwest and the Oregonian seem so enamored with.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    "Wes, the plan is in fact to put the system in front of voters in 2010"

    Mssrs Burr and Smith - This City Council can't commit any future city council to any action - this is a bogus argument.

    You know they have no intent of ever letting the people vote on VoE (maybe they have that much confidence in it.) I agree with you - Emily Boyles is great for VoE, I hope we have another dozen more like her in the next election cycle.

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    Voters can vote on VOE the same way they are voting on the Tram and on every other City policy. Vote out the incumbents who passed the policy.

    Chris, I don't particularly worry about a higher hurdle via checks or a merchant account for credit cards. Personally, I think you set the bar too low.

    But as you know, I worry that the result of this system will be too many candidates and too many choices for voters on a single ballot--a situation that causes all sorts of problems. Much as it runs against the your populist streak, it is fairly easily shown that more choices actually makes it harder to come up with coherent group choices.

    So raise the hurdle and we'll be a bit more selective in who is able to get over it. It will be good for all involved.

  • Pavel Goberman (unverified)
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    The media is attacking Emilie Boyles. It is a PR of Sten. Where is the voice of Emilie? The media must report all truth. Commissioner Sten is violating the Constitution of USA: Portland Police is making the PEOPLE criminals without any evidence, without court decision, but Sten and Mayor Potter are supporting, covering up crimes of Portland Police. Change dirty diapers, get not honest Sten out from the PEOPLE's office: vote for Ms. Boyles, she is helping and respecting the PEOPLE.

    Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Repres. (against D. Wu)

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    Chris & Charlie:

    Thanks for the replies. Until Portland electors approve this sytem, I prefer to call it TFE (Taxpayer-Funded Elections).

    And my objection isn't just about the money, which is a relatively small amount compared to the entire city budget. Heck, the city will probably end up paying Angela Oswalt more than Boyles to settle up Foxworth's escapades.

    Three elected officials (with the help of a fourth, the Auditor) imposed upon city electors a system in which non-electors may determine if a candidate "qualifies" for up to $350,000 in public money, all while insisting the city's voters own it.

    Nope. I suspect those electors will exercise their referendum rights long before 2010. And I agree with you both that Emile Boyles will be the candidate voters remember more than Amanda Fritz, even if Fritz is elected.

    Oh, well. This thread was about Boyle's exploitation of the Taxpayer-Funded Election. Sorry to get off track.

    • Wes
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    Wes - a correction - VOE was adopted by FOUR members of Council, not three.

    Steve - You're correct that the current Council can't bind a future Council. But they did direct the Auditor to prepare a referral for their review for the 2010 election. So at a minimum the Council in 2009 will have a political hot potato to explain if they don't want to refer it.

    Paul - Having helped two candidates get their qualifying contributions, I don't think 1000 is radically off. Erik did it relatively quickly because he had an existing organization. The more relevant case is Amanda. She was very organized and very inclusive and she had to work extremely hard at it. I'd be very interested to see a candidate that did not have strong community support get to 1000 without breaking the rules.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    I can't tell you how much time was spent on the question because there were so many conversations in different places that I don't know how many times it came up. The review was very thorough, including by national legal experts on the topic.

    By "national legal experts" I think you mean national advocates of VOE with legal expertise.

    We missed this one - but everyone involved had a strong incentive to get it right.

    I don't doubt that. The problem is that the "strong incentive" "everyone involved" had was a mutual desire for VOE to be implemented. My point was this is not untypical of what passes for citizen participation in Portland. The "citizen" component consists of hand-picked people who will not ask hard questions that challenge the fundamental assumptions of the people leading the project. An advisory group that included both the sympathetic but un-committed and a few critics would not have allowed this thing to go forward without a much more critical review of the specifics.

    And I don't think the argument that - well this is just a beta test is particularly persuasive. Maybe Microsoft can get away with using their customers as beta testers, but most of the rest of the world needs to have a finished product when they go to production. The reason for that may be apparent here - its not clear that the reputation of VOE hasn't been fatally damaged.

    Good intentions aren't enough.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    Paul,

    "Voters can vote on VOE the same way they are voting on the Tram and on every other City policy. Vote out the incumbents who passed the policy."

    This is potentially broad enough to do away with pretty much all laws that limit the actions of government.

    If signature gathers are restricted from Pioneer Courthouse Square should a court have said no problem, just go back and campaign for someone new so that they can remove the restriction?

    I sure hope that you are picturing voter actions as a wholly distinct issue from that of the lawfulness and applicability of current law.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    Chris,

    I was hoping you would share your thoughts on whether Mr. Tate must get her money, if Ms. Boyles is allowed to retain hers. Or, if Ms. Tate is refused delivery that the dollars previously delivered to Ms. Boyles must be ordered returned immediately.

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    Ron, Lucinda Tate was denied certification on a clear procedural issue, one which did not come into play is Emilie Boyles certification.

    However, both campaigns are still under investigation for the contribution collection practices.

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    Ross, there were three Council hearings, a detailed report by the Auditor, a City Club forum, and grass roots outreach by organizations including the League of Women Voters, Oregon Action and City Club.

    Literally thousands of citizens asked Council to adopt this.

    Exactly what other avenues of citizen involvement would you have suggested?

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    Literally thousands of citizens asked Council to adopt this.

    Exactly what other avenues of citizen involvement would you have suggested?

    Gee, how about a "Yes or No" public vote?

    • Wes
  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    Chris,

    I had filed for the auditor slot in early February, and filed the form to obtain the mandatory pre-authorization to get the 1000 signatures and 5 dollar "contributions."

    If I had strolled out to get those signatures and contributions in front of City Hall would it have been a civil matter or a criminal matter?

    Surely I could choose to defy the apparent restriction on such activity, and thus split the issue of criminality from that of plodding along asking for civil review via the "procedural" component of the code and a subsequent appeal to seek a court order. I could also allow the Auditor time to remedy the failure to place my name of the ballot at any time prior to when they are dropped into the mail later this month. If I win on the issue of whether my name must be placed on the ballot . . . what then becomes of the refusal to allow me to gather signatures and five dollars contributions?

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    Ron, I don't think I understand all the issues in your case. Are you saying the pre-authorization was denied?

  • ron ledbury (unverified)
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    Chris,

    Yes, both were denied.

    The range of issues I could raise in court are rather broad, inclusive of challenging procedural features. The existence of procedural "opportunity" would not itself block my challenge.

    There is an interesting case where an issue on appeal of a LUBA case was whether the merits of constitutional objections could be first raised on such an appeal or were precluded by reason of failure to raise them earlier in the process before the local government or before LUBA.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Ross, there were three Council hearings, a detailed report by the Auditor, a City Club forum, and grass roots outreach by organizations including the League of Women Voters, Oregon Action and City Club.

    Literally thousands of citizens asked Council to adopt this.

    Exactly what other avenues of citizen involvement would you have suggested?

    Chris, I think you are mistaking a public debate for citizen participation. They aren't the same thing. Public debate is about public opinion - both shaping it and hearing it. Its power is really in the number of people who come to agree with a particular point of view.

    Citizen Participation is about getting people's collective wisdom - asking them to apply their own knowledge and experience to the problem. Its power comes from the value of the information and its persuasiveness with decision makers, not how many people agree with it. Usually that requires three components:

    • Provide people with information and a chance to ask questions,
    • Provide a structure for them to discuss that information with their fellow citizens and; *Provide a means for the group(s) of citizens to provide its collective advice.

    Its really what you are doing on all those advisory committees. TPAC, for instance, doesn't make decisions. It provides advice to those that do.

    In the case of voter owned elections, I guarantee someone in a citizen participation process would have asked. "So, whats to prevent someone from just going through the phone book and putting names on the petition?" "How do you assure someone doesn't take the money and pay their friends and relatives for "services" to the campaign?" "How do you make sure someone else isn't paying the $5 for people?" Out of a collective citizen participation process you might have found that those were not just niggling questions by people who opposed the whole idea, but concerns even of people who wanted to see it work. And if you have a bunch of people all agreeing something is a concern it might take on more immediacy.

    Gee, how about a "Yes or No" public vote?

    Frankly, I don't think elected officials should be allowed to refer things to the voters. Oregon has a process for forcing a vote when people disagree with something elected officials do. And it has a process for putting things on the ballot if elected officials refuse to deal with them.

    If an issue isn't important enough for those mechanisms to work then it probably isn't important enough for the the typical voter to take the time to carefully research and consider the issue either. People end up voting on their ill-considered judgements made between their real lives of job and family, informed only by sound bites between segments of their favorite TV shows.

    If the politicians think it is important enough for people to to inform themselves and vote on, they ought to have to test that belief by collecting signatures just like everyone else.

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    Ron, I still don't understand your case, but the distinction between criminal and civil would be this:

    If you collected contributions in which someone other than the person listed gave the money, that's potentially criminal under state law.

    The question of whether the contribution could count as a qualifying contribution under VOE would be civil.

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    "People end up voting on their ill-considered judgements made between their real lives of job and family, informed only by sound bites between segments of their favorite TV shows."

    This is a cynical, but stunningly accurate portrayal of the City Council's attitude about the Portland electorate and Taxpayer-Funded Elections (TFE). The council made sure all taxpayers, not just "voters", end up owning the bill for this system.

    But if those stupid, gullable, ignorant and easily impressionable voters actually had the opportunity to vote whether they want to own this system or not, they might just say, "No!"

    Can't let that happen. Make 'em earn it the hard way.

    Electors tend to resent being considered to dumb to know what's good for them and they quite often eagerly sign intitiative and referendum petitions, if for no other reason than to emphasize that to their elected officials.

    • Wes
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    Wesley,

    Are you advocating weakening the Republic (Which in princple states that you elect representatives to make your decisions, and if you don't like their decisions, you vote 'em out in the next election) in favor of direct democracy (where "the people" however well or poorly informed, make all decisions by direct vote)?

    Hint: Republicans believe in the former, hence the party name.

    The founders were pretty terrified of direct democracy for precisely the reasons thqat you and Ross are scoffing at.

    <hr/>

    When I want to take a position on any issue, especailly here on Blue O, I do tons of research first, if for no other reason than that other commenters will call me out in a second on inaccuracies in arguments or logic trains, etcetera.

    Does anyone here really think that the fabled average voters do the same kind of research before making up their minds on the issues of the day?

    <hr/>
  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    This is a cynical,

    There is nothing cynical about it.

    stunningly accurate portrayal of the City Council's attitude about the Portland electorate

    The City Council was elected by the voters. What's remarkably cynical is pretending you are somehow standing up for their judgement while demanding the politicians they elected force the voters to affirm each of their decisions one at a time. What's cynical is demanding elected officials refer things to the voters because you are too lazy, or not persuasive enough, to collect the signatures to do it yourself.

    But if those stupid, gullable, ignorant and easily impressionable voters actually had the opportunity to vote whether they want to own this system or not, they might just say, "No!"

    I think you are projecting your own view of voters. I think they are busy people who are smart enough not to waste their time on things that aren't very important to them. If they agreed with you that it was important, you wouldn't have any difficulty collecting the signatures to put it on the ballot.

    Electors tend to resent being considered to dumb to know what's good for them and they quite often eagerly sign intitiative and referendum petitions, if for no other reason than to emphasize that to their elected officials.

    A remarkably cynical remark. We know no one would be so irresponsible as to sign an initiative without reading and reviewing its entire contents and carefully considering expert opinion.

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    ....eagerly sign intitiative and referendum petitions, if for no other reason than to emphasize that to their elected officials.

    You're right, there are voters who will sign virtually any petition "just to get it on the ballot" -- so, you'd think with $350,000 the First Things First would have no problem qualifying their repeal.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    The founders were pretty terrified of direct democracy for precisely the reasons thqat you and Ross are scoffing at.

    And the rate of literacy in the 1700's was ...? They mistrusted women as well.

    The fact is that the general public has a huge amount of expertise that they charge for in their business lives but are willing to make available to government at no cost. And there is plenty of knowledge and wisdom out there that isn't commercially valuable but will nonetheless make public decisions better informed. The VOE flaws are not inevitable and those who participated in the process, whether elected or not, shouldn't see the fraud that apparently was allowed to occur as anything other than a failure on their part.

    What I was trying to point out to Chris, is that failure is at least in part a failure of the process that brought this legislation about. Hand-picked citizen advisory committees are hand-picked for a reason. There is a real fear on the part of those committed to a particular decision (or range of decisions) if they and their friends don't control the process it could raise issues that endanger the entire enterprise.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Italics off I hope.

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    Ross wrote, My point was this is not untypical of what passes for citizen participation in Portland. The "citizen" component consists of hand-picked people who will not ask hard questions that challenge the fundamental assumptions of the people leading the project. An advisory group that included both the sympathetic but un-committed and a few critics would not have allowed this thing to go forward without a much more critical review of the specifics.

    Ross -- you're describing exactly my participation on at least one afternoon-long small group meeting.

    I came into the meeting sympathetic to the cause, but skeptical that we could craft a system that would avoid all the technical pitfalls. I spent most of the time coming up with scenarios under which a nefarious candidate or campaign manager could "game" the system. Most of the time, the proponents and experts argued that "no one would ever do that." As I said then, that's hardly a reassuring answer. After all, campaigns run to win. If they find a loophole, they'll exploit it.

    I regret that one of my crazy scenarios didn't include collecting and/or forging the signatures and just coming up with $5000 on the side (which may, or may not, have happened.)

    In the end, many of my suggestions resulted in adjustments to the system to eliminate or minimize loopholes. In other cases, they explicitly forbade particular activity -- which then just becomes a matter of enforcement.

    Here's the key point: You weren't there, so your assumptions about the motivations of people in the room are faulty. There were quite a number of skeptics in the room, some who were won over, and others who were not.

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    I just got the weirdest email:*

    FROM: EMILIE BOYLES, FOR THE GOOD OF PORTLAND INC. ATTN: THE PRESIDENT. COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON. GRACE AND PEACE AND LOVE FROM EAST MULTNOMAH COUNTY. I HOPE THIS LETTER DOES NOT CAUSE YOU TOO MUCH EMBARRASMENT AS I WRITE YOU IN GOOD FAITH. WE HAVE A MUTUAL FRIEND WORKING AT THE NIGERIAN EMBASSY WHO THOUGHT YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN A UNIQUE PROPOSION. PLEASE EXCUSE MY INTRUSION. I AM CANDIDATE EMILIE BOYLES. I RECENTLY RECEIVED US $145,000 (ONE HUNDRED FORTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS) DUE TO OVERINVOICING AND CREATIVE SIGNATURE GATHERING FOR PORTLAND’S PUBLIC FINANCING SYSTEM. ALTHOUGH I AM A GOOD CHRISTIAN WOMAN THE STATE’S ATTORNEY GENERAL AND ELECTIONS DIVISION ARE NOW INVESTIGATING MY CAMPAIGN. I REMAIN A CANDIDATE FOR PORTLAND CITY COMMISSION POSITION 2, BUT MAY BE A VICTIM OF CAMPAIGN FRAUD BECAUSE OF THE ACTIONS OF ONE OF MY POLITICAL OPPONENTS IN THIS RACE NOT ME. WE HAVE MADE THE NECCESARY ARRANGEMENTS AND ALL WE NEED IS A RELIABLE PARTNER TO HELP US MOUNT A LEGAL DEFENSE. MY COLLEAGUES HAVE AGREED TO GIVE YOU 30% OF THIS SUM FOR YOUR ASSSISTANCE, WHILE 10% WILL BE SET ASIDE TO REIMBURSE ANY EXPENSES INCURRED BY EITHER OF US DURING THE PERIOD OF TRANSFER, WHILE WE WILL KEEP 60%. I HOPE YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE SENSITIVE AND CONFIDENTIAL NATURE OF THIS CORRESPONDENCE. PLEASE CONTACT ME AT EMILIEBOYLES.COM TO GET IN TOUCH WITH ME DIRECTLY. TRULY YOURS FOR THE GOOD OF PORTLAND, EMILIE BOYLES

    *parody letter

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    And the rate of literacy in the 1700's was ...?

    As long as 53% of the population remain unaware that the earth orbits the sun, and that it takes a year for this to happen, I'm sticking with my POV re direct democracy......

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Ross -- you're describing exactly my participation on at least one afternoon-long small group meeting.

    Kari -

    Maybe. But you are hardly a typical citizen with no pre-conceived ideas about how campaigns might be run.

    You weren't there, so your assumptions about the motivations of people in the room are faulty. There were quite a number of skeptics in the room, some who were won over, and others who were not.

    My impression, and it may well be wrong since I didn't pay close attention, was the advisory committee was hand-picked. That they solicited advice, such as yours, from other people who they thought would be knowledgeable. I.e. - technical experts.

    That is not really what I am talking about at all. It is precisely the people who have experience that does not seem to match the specfic problem that often ask questions and suggest solutions that are most helpful to identify the problems hidden in the assumptions of the poeple who are most knowledgeable.

    I am really trying to figure out how the "take names out of the phonebook" sapproach to signature gathering was not considered. It is something virtually any petition gathering company understands since they have to monitor their own operations for that problem.

    This friend of Emily Boyles is hardly the first volunteer to try to "help" their candidate through forgery.

  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    Pat:

    "Wesley,

    Are you advocating weakening the Republic (Which in princple states that you elect representatives to make your decisions, and if you don't like their decisions, you vote 'em out in the next election) in favor of direct democracy (where "the people" however well or poorly informed, make all decisions by direct vote)?"

    No, not exactly. There is an alternative for the people who object to decisions made by their "republican" leaders. As you know, embedded in the Oregon Constitution and, by extension, the City Charter is the principal that the people have "reserved to themselves" the power to initiate and refer legislation themselves.

    The initiative and referrendum powers are not granted by the government to the people, but the other way around. The people have created a republican (i.e. representative) legislature, while reserving to themsleves the power to act as a direct democracy. That's true at the municipal level as well.

    At times these two legislative bodies (elected representatives vs. electors) don't see eye to eye. More often than not, the people either initiate legislation the representatives refuse to adopt or they overturn a decision made by those representatives.

    I suspect that if and when Taxpayer-Funded Elections are put to a public vote, those smart, well-informed Portland electors will toss the whole thing overboard.

    • Wes
  • Wesley Charles (unverified)
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    For those who favor Taxpayer-Funded Elections (TFE) and cite the success of Arizona and Maine as examples, consider this:

    Arizona and Maine are distinct from Portland's system; and not only because those states limit "qualifying contributions" to those made by registered voters and they actually require proof of payment (duh).

    No, Arizona and Maine are different than Portland because the systems in those states were approved by voters on a state-wide basis.

    Now, that's progressive . . .

    • Wes
  • Dan Petegorsky (unverified)
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    It's worth noting that while there are several key points being debated here, not one of the technical issues could in any way be addressed by putting the system up for a vote on the ballot.

    Throughout this process, calls to refer this to the ballot have come almost exclusively from those who were opposed to the system from the get go. That is, they were raised as a strategy to defeat the whole idea of publicly financed elections, not to improve and adapt a system that seen remarkable success in states where it has been implemented.

    In contrast, designers of the system (including myself, as well as those who helped design the systems in Maine and Arizona) tried to anticipate a range of details that would affect its operation here in Portland - some of which we anticipated, some of which we did not. We expected that, and it will not be hard to refine Portland's system based on our experiences this cycle.

    It is, then, more than a little disingenuous of the die-hard opponents of public financing to keep insisting that all this would have been taken care of by a public vote. The kind of legislative process that preceded the Council's adoption of Voter Owned Elections here allowed for far more give and take on its details than any simple up or down vote on a ballot measure could have. Let's be real.

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    Charlie:

    Your parody blend of Voylespeak and Nigerian scammer e-mails may be the funniest political parody I've read since the "Preznit giv me turkee" parody. That was truly inspired!

    To see "Preznit giv me turkee," you can view it here: http://atrios.blogspot.com/2005_11_20_atrios_archive.html#113284634221898261

    For what it is worth, the document that it parodies is a real "student behavior contract" written by a seven-year-old boy in Louisiana who had been scolded in front of his classmates by his teacher and disciplined for his responses to questions from another student about his parents (and the details he provided about his two mommies). You can see the original here: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/parenting/11941res20031201.html#attach

    Steve

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    The kind of legislative process that preceded the Council's adoption of Voter Owned Elections here allowed for far more give and take on its details than any simple up or down vote on a ballot measure could have. Let's be real.

    Dan, you're exactly right.

    In fact, had there been a vote on it and it passed, and THEN some technical issues found, the opponents of the system would have cried foul -- "You're changing the rules of the game! You're thwarting the will of the voters!"

    Better to work out the glitches now, and then put it up for a vote.

    And remember, always remember: There's an investigation underway by the Attorney General, and the allegations involve violations of the existing system. If someone breaks the rules and gets caught, that's a success for the system, not a failure.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    If someone breaks the rules and gets caught, that's a success for the system, not a failure.

    And if someone breaks the rules and doesn't get caught you won't know it. So that looks like a success too. Exactly what would failure look like/

    Better to work out the glitches now, and then put it up for a vote.

    I am sorry, this is about as lame as it gets. The people responsible for crafting this legislation can't duck responsibility for the problems by saying this is all just an experiment. All new legislation is an experiment. The problems that are occurring are not unforseeable.

    In fact, the fundamental problem underlying all this scandal is a that someone might use the process to collect money for private gain. This was raised by, among others, Phil Sanford. The people who dealt with this all seemed to not take that issue very seriously, they thought in terms of how it could be mis-used for political gain. The idea someone might just take the money and spend it to enrich themselves, their family and their friends doesn't appear to have been a real concern.

    1) Conflict of interest

    The obvious way to make money from this process is just to funnel the campaign business to your family and friends. The situation with Emily Boyles daughter confirms that. In truth there is no criminal violation here if Boyles daughter actually does some reasonable amount of work for the campaign.

    Proponents Failed Solution: People who just want to make a buck won't be able to get 1000 $5 contribution. Of course it not clear really this solution really failed.

    Solution 1: There needs to be a very tough conflict of interest rule that bans self-dealing of any kind. These are public funds given in trust to the candidate. They shouldn't be allowed to rent office pace from their relatives, their shift money to their law firm or hire their wife to answer the phone. In essence part of the deal of taking funds is that you will treat them as public funds.

    Solution 2: If they aren't already, candidates ought to be required to provide a complete accounting for how every dollar is spent just like any other government contractor. And every single candidate ought to be audited to assure the money is spent as intended.

    2) Forgeries

    Proponents' Failed Solution: This is a crime, no one would do it.

    Solution: People have suggested a number of them. The most obvious one is that the certification process needs to be more than pro-forma. Requiring people to register to vote in order to sign would help provide the basis for verifying signatures.

    3) Paying the $5 for people.

    Proponents' Failed Solution: This is a crime, no one would do it.

    Solution: The basic suggestions of checks etc. Truthfully, I am not sure there is a solution. Is there a law against loaning someone the $5 to sign? How do you make sure they pay it back in the future?

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Just to be clear. I strongly support VOE. I think its proponents have let us down by failing to vett it well enough. And I think part of that is that they spent too much energy on debating opponents and not enough on a making sure the process resulted in tight, well-crafted legislation.

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    Ross, I'm not ducking what we missed in the original design, although I'm a little skeptical that the process you describe would have prevented it.

    But... I am very confident that the design will stand up as to question of how the money is spent. There was a LOT of scrutiny on this point, and I think Emilie is likely to be in a world of hurt based on what appears to be in her C&Es.

    The conflict of interest 'fault' falls apart if you can't spend the money for your own gain. Given that, the only motivation to forge signatures is to actually fund a legitimate campaign, and I don't think many people intending to run a legitimate campaign would risk a criminal conviction.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    "So at a minimum the Council in 2009 will have a political hot potato to explain if they don't want to refer it."

    Puh-leeze, it is not a hot potato now? Notice how Erik has not said one comment on VoE? The voters aremuch too stupid to realize how great this is, so we will never get a chance to vote on it and you know it.

    Money will still filter into receptive politician outside of the 6 months they run for re-election. Erik will get the Friends or Erik club to go shill for 1000 signatures (yes, he is that organized) and then go into hiding like now. I mean one debate with Burdick that he wanted to exclude Lister from.

    This is such a poor solution to a much larger issue, I am astounded that you believe the excuses you make for yourselves. Why not target the specific politicians who are peddling influence? You might actually address the problems instead of guessing at causation.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    The conflict of interest 'fault' falls apart if you can't spend the money for your own gain.

    But there is nothing in the ordinance that I can find that prohibits spending it for your own gain so long as you pay "fair market value" for the services rendered. Manniz can pay his law firm as long as he charges himself market rate. If Emily Boyles wants to hire her daughter, she is free to do so as long as she doesn't overpay her for the job she is doing. They just have to figure out a bunch of "services" they can sell to the campaign.

    I'm a little skeptical that the process you describe would have prevented it.

    What's funny is that description is nothing more than a standard citizen participation process and yet an awful lot of people in Portland would consider it novel. Portland's citizen participation is mostly limited to "professional citizens", whether neighborhood activists or non-profit advocates. Its not designed to do anything other than have people let off steam.

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    If the "services" Emilie's daughter can provide to the campaign are paid at fair market value and are actually for the purpose of campaigning for City Council, then that's NOT in violation, nor should it be.

    We actually had a request to specifically forbid payments to family members and determined it would probably not withstand legal challenge. The current language is the result of making it as tight was we think we can.

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    If Emily Boyles wants to hire her daughter, she is free to do so as long as she doesn't overpay her for the job she is doing.

    Yeah, that's the crux. $12,500 is lot more than Erik Sten (to pick an example) is paying for "web marketing". And Miss Kimberly didn't even build the Boyles campaign website....

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    If the "services" Emilie's daughter can provide to the campaign are paid at fair market value and are actually for the purpose of campaigning for City Council, then that's NOT in violation, nor should it be.

    Well, yes it should. Determining the "purpose" is beyond anyone's ability - the question is whether the services are related to getting elected to office. As I said above, if you want to make money off VOE, all you need to do is invent a variety of legitimate "services" that you, your family and associates can provide to the campaign and make money on.

    We actually had a request to specifically forbid payments to family members and determined it would probably not withstand legal challenge.

    I find it hard to believe that you can't legislate against conflict of interest. If you take money from people in the form of taxes and give it to candidates you ought to be able to prevent them from self-dealing with it.

    . $12,500 is lot more than Erik Sten (to pick an example) is paying for "web marketing". And Miss Kimberly didn't even build the Boyles campaign website....

    From B!x new post above, it appears she is spending a lot of time spamming various web sites. Whether that is effective or not, I think it would be hard to argue that it is not a campaign purpose.

    Kari - what is your hourly commercial rate? $100/hr? Boyle's daughter is representing the campaign to the public, she is identifying potential web sites, developing appropriate messages ... If spends eight weeks working fulltime on the campaign,I think its going to be tough to make the case that $12,500 was not 'fair market value" for her services.

    Which is why preventing conflicts of interest is important. These are not private campaign funds, they are public funds. They ought to be subject to stricter controls than voluntary contributions. Its probably not surprising that a group of campaign finance activists and political junkies focused on their ultimate purpose of electing candidates would tend to see them as identicial.

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    Ron,

    I can't make sense of your comment. Like Ross, I am simply not a fan of referenda and initiative. I think (actually, not just I think, lots of research shows) they lead to bad public policy outcomes.

    So, I just say what I said before: if you don't like some piece of public policy, vote in new leadership and pass new laws.

    I see no reason to bring VOE to a vote. Oregon is already suffering from its hyperdemocratic impulse.

    Chris,

    Let's talk after the campaign. I'd be happy to exchange thoughts, and I have access to some data being collected by U of Wisconsin on public financing in other jurisdictions. I have to say, though, I'm darn glad I didn't respond to Blackmer's suggestion that I volunteer to serve on the oversight commission! ;-)

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    Like Ross, I am simply not a fan of referenda and initiative.

    I don't know what I said to indicate this. I have collected signatures, been campaign staff and worked as a campaign manager for initiatives. I think they are an important tool for voters - albeit to often badly uses.

    <h2>My point was that elected officials shouldn't be putting stuff on the ballot except where they are required to. They are elected to make decisions. If people don't like VOE, and it is important enough to them, they will get the signatures to force a vote. When they can't its a pretty good indication that people don't share their views.</h2>

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