Right-wing fraudster Vladimir Golovan convicted

Vladimir Golovan, the mastermind behind an attempt to defraud Portland's Clean Money campaign finance system, has been convicted of 10 of 12 counts.

From the O:

Golovan, a 33-year-old Ukrainian immigrant and activist, was accused of exploiting loopholes in the city's fledging public financing system to enrich himself. He went on trial June 25 on 12 felony charges, including aggravated theft, forgery and identity theft, in connection with the 2006 campaign. ...

In testimony last week, he acknowledged copying signatures for [Lucinda] Tate and falsely signing sheets that said he collected $5 contributions for [Emilie] Boyles. ...

Golovan, 33, came to the United States from Ukraine almost a decade ago seeking, he testified, personal and religious freedoms. He became involved in church activities at several congregations in outer Southeast Portland that cater almost exclusively to Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.

Several years ago, Golovan began collecting signatures at these churches for political battles against gay marriage and abortion. That led to his work in the 2006 campaign for Broussard and Boyles.

In fall 2005, Boyles signed a contract to pay Golovan $15,000 for his help qualifying for public financing. Under Portland's new program, candidates who agree to limit their spending can receive as much as $150,000 if they can collect $5 contributions from 1,000 people.

Golovan collected signatures from 950 people but testified that he did not collect money as the law requires.

Questions: Given that this fraud was discovered prior to the election, does this mean that the system worked? Or should we expect campaign finance systems to be immune to bad behavior from scam artists?

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Talk about push polling. I have a question: Since he was acquitted in the Boyles case, where the city actually paid the money out, does that mean that the fraud that cost the taxpayers the $100,000 went unpunished?

  • (Show?)

    Hmmm... when Al Capone went down for tax fraud, did that mean that his murders went unpunished?

  • (Show?)

    Jack B, on whose behalf are you presuming to speak? The original blog post asks a perfectly legitimate question. The bigger issue here is clearly whether or not the system is a good one, including whether or not it is overly susceptible to fraudulent abuse.

    Regardless of whether or not one feels justice was served on behalf of the individual, those of us pondering the future of Portland elections need to keep our eye on the ball. $100,000 is certainly significant, but not to the point of trumping all other concerns.

    Speaking for myself, I think this entire exercise has been a healthy one. A good system was abused; the perpetrator was caught. The event played out in the public view. In the future those who care about the electoral process - including elected officials, journalists, activists, even law professors - will have a better idea what to watch out for.

    I'd say that's a good thing, but that's just me. I know that only a tiny fraction of that $100,000 was mine.

  • (Show?)

    A good system was abused; the perpetrator was caught.

    And Emilie Boyles is behind bars.

    Oh, she's not?

  • M.H. Wilson (unverified)
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    How is it that this guy is a right winger? MW

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    M.H. Wilson:

    Several years ago, Golovan began collecting signatures at these churches for political battles against gay marriage and abortion.

    That's a pretty good indication he's a right-winger. Also, he collected signatures for Bruce Broussard who ran against Blumenauer as a Republican.

  • (Show?)

    While it's obvious that Emilie Boyles did things that were monumentally stupid, it's not entirely clear to me that she was a "perpetrator." Broussard may have been, it will be interesting to watch that play out.

    But my point is, none of that matters much to me. In this issue, the thing that matters to me is the Clean Money system, and whether or not it will be safe from abuse in the future. The question of whether or not certain individuals were punished appropriately is a completely separate issue in my mind.

    Not to say that justice isn't important, just that the one has no connection to the other in my mind. The real danger is that people would "buy" their way into office; that didn't come close to happening here. $100,000 is a very small price to pay in comparison to that possibility.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    Having been in that race, I have some pretty strong feelings about this matter. While I was struggling to get any recognition in the media at all, Boyles was prominently featured in every publication because she had "qualified" for public financing.

    The irony was that all she had to do was open her mouth and folks realized she had zero credibility as a candidate.

    I called on Boyles publicly at the League of Women Voter's forum, after Anna Griffin broke the story, to pay the money back. She never showed up at any forums after that.

    All the players in this saga seem slimy, but I would still like to hear an explanation from Gary Blackmer as to how those clearly fraudulent signatures passed muster in his office. What exactly was the dynamic in his office, or the back and forth between he and Susan Francois, the elections officer at the time, that allowed Boyles to be given the money. From what I've heard, they randomly sampled a few signatures and checked a Portland phone book to make sure they were in residence. Based on what I saw on KATU's website, a ten year old would have spotted the fraud.

    You have to wonder if Blackmer's zeal to see the system he co-authored succeed clouded his judgement in making the grant.

    One thousand signatures is not very many. I hope the public campaign finance commission has insisted that each and every one of them be verified, rather than some kind of random sampling.

  • (Show?)

    I think they need to ensure the city works together with the county elections office to verify all the signatures on the petitions. Having verified signatures before, it doesn't take that long. Yes, it'll take a bit longer for these petitions than it does ballots, since the people have to be looked up in the computer.

    But even that doesn't take too long. They may even want to do it in a two step process where there is a person who looks up each voter on the sheet and then creates a "batch file" for that page or a small stack of pages. Then it's extremely easy for the signature checkers to run down the sheet and verify signatures.

    It's similar to how they do ballots, except there don't have to look the voter up since scanning the envelope's barcode does that.

  • workingmom (unverified)
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    I don't know if the guy is a crook or not, but I do think the program had a fatal flaw right from the beginning. The concept of giving folks a big hunk of cash to mount a campaign is laudable, even visionary. But giving a big hunk of cash to folks who have never had more than than a three-digit bank account in their lives, who have little or no experience in managing a business, running an office or executing contracts, then sending them out the door with nothing more than a vague list of "do's and don'ts" is foolhardy. The program was (is) bound to attract both opportunistic hooligans (Golovan?) and well-intentioned incompetents (Boyles?).

    How about restructuring the program more like a trust fund, and provide each qualifying candidate with a mentor. The mentor could advise the candidate with day-to-day financial management and dole out the money as needed. This approach would help inexperienced community folks develop business savvy and protect the taxpayers from fraud and incompetence.

  • (Show?)
    Having been in that race, I have some pretty strong feelings about this matter. While I was struggling to get any recognition in the media at all, Boyles was prominently featured in every publication because she had "qualified" for public financing. The irony was that all she had to do was open her mouth and folks realized she had zero credibility as a candidate.

    Hurrah! The system works! Dave, you've succinctly described how a) money = electability in the press' eyes, and b) money can't help after that if you're a lousy candidate.

    Public financing gives anyone (who can at least organize a signature campaign on their behalf) the opportunity to compete fairly for the office. What they do with that opportunity is up to them.

    I knew Erik Sten and Amanda Fritz were as clean as a whistle with their campaign funds. I knew Boyles and Tate were not. With Saltzman, Burdick and you Dave, I had to guess. I wouldn't necessarily have voted for you had you taken the money, but at least I would have known that you were a serious candidate, and had enough on the ball to handle money properly.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Who came up with the questions in this post? Apparently that person thinks we're divided into two camps, those who think the system worked, and those who hold unrealistic assumptions about public financing.

    How about these questions: Were the safeguards in the system effective in preventing and/or deterring fraud? If not, have those safeguards been improved so that something like this cannot happen again? Did the City manage the program effectively the first time around? If not, has it added the necessary resources to make sure that it will be effectively managed in the future? Is paying out a lump sum at the beginning of the process wise, or should the City require some proof of expenditures before doling out the money? Most importantly, should the auditor be overseeing a program that can be used to fund his electoral opponent?

    As a supporter of public financing, I'm pretty dismayed at how this was handled because it has tainted the program in the eyes of the public -- who will be voting on it in the not-too-distant future.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    Miles,

    As I've said before, a vote on public financing in the not too distant future is by no means assured. The council that enacted VOE cannot bind a future council to bring it to a vote. At best the future vote is a recommendation.

  • Tom in SE PDX (unverified)
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    Can we put all the anti-gay activists in jail?

  • M.H. Wilson (unverified)
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    Bert quotes: "Several years ago, Golovan began collecting signatures at these churches for political battles against gay marriage and abortion."

    Sorry Bert I don't buy it. Being against abortion or gay mariage doesn't necessarily make someone right wing. Last time I heard the Catholic Church was against those two items as well as the death penalty, which is decidely a left wing issue if you wish to label it such. Maybe I should just have pointed out that such label adds little or nothing to the discussion. It just polarizes it, but then I am against paying taxes to help some moron tell me how I have to live.

    Guess I am really off the planet! MW

  • Becky (unverified)
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    I would still like to hear an explanation from Gary Blackmer as to how those clearly fraudulent signatures passed muster in his office.

    I personally have seen county elections offices pass entire sheets that were forged, gone over the signatures one by one and seen that they did not match, and still had them not thrown out. I've even seen an expert certify a signature for court that I knew for a fact was not valid. On the other hand, I've seen elections officials throw out valid signatures even though the chief petitioner presented notarized affidavits from the signers stating that the signatures were theirs. So long as human beings are involved, the system is open to both errors and cheating.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)
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    MH:

    The anti-abortion, anti-gay political battles (which he collected signatures for) were right-wing campaigns. I don't believe the Catholic Church was involved in either of them. They tend not to officially work for ballot measures in Oregon. And the fact that the Catholic Church agrees with the right-wing about one issue and the left-wing about another issue does not make right-wingers into left-wingers. It just means the Catholic Church bases it's views on non-political factors.

    Golovan fits any reasonable definition of right-wing. He supported right-wing ballot measures and Republican candidates whose campaigns were run by right-wing organizations. I've seen no indication he participated in any campaign for left-wing candidates or issues.

  • M.H. Wilson (unverified)
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    Maybe I should just have pointed out that such label adds little or nothing to the discussion. It just polarizes it...

  • (Show?)

    No, M.H., it clarifies it.

    There were many progressives here at BlueOregon and elsewhere that were baffled by Emilie Boyles. She talked of helping the poor, and civil liberties, etc.

    But to discover, at this late date, that this whole scandal was rooted in the homophobic hatred that seems to welling up in some of the Russian immigrant communities in our city -- well, it suddenly all makes sense.

    [And no, I don't believe all Russians are homophobic. It's a particular community - one in which Golovan is a "leader".]

  • M.H. Wilson (unverified)
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    So what are you going to do when someone who is homophobic qualifies for the funds, or racist, or whatever crude ideas they may have? How is that going to be handled? Are they to be denied the funds because their ideas don't mesh with those on this list? MW

  • (Show?)

    Don't be stupid, M.H.

    First, you should note that BlueOregon doesn't run the city's Clean Money system. This is a blog, not the government.

    Second, it's perfectly acceptable to support a set of election rules - and still oppose some candidates who run under those rules.

    <h2>Third, I'll tell you what I'd do: Work my ass off to defeat them. Duh.</h2>
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