Did Andy Erwin dupe Washington County?

Carla Axtman

Out in my little corner of Washington County, I noticed last Spring a cropping up of yard signs for a judicial race. Normally those kinds of things don't hit my radar. But there were oodles of these little blue and white signs littering the landscape.

The signs in question were for Andy Erwin, running for Circuit Court judge. There were signs for opponent Keith Rogers, too. But Erwin's signs were everywhere, even plopped in multiples at public right-of-ways (which I thought was illegal).

I generally know little or nothing about judicial candidates and this race was no exception. But this was the first time I really noticed what appeared to be a very targeted campaign to the voters. I usually rely on the voter's pamphlet for races like these, following the endorsements carefully. But this one was tough. There were good people on both sides (PDF-see page 42), as far as I could tell. In the end, I voted for Rogers because I felt his experience was better. It was really a difficult call.

In the end, Erwin won.

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a tip about looking into Erwin's campaign finances. Since this was a race on my own ballot, it intrigued me enough to surf over to Orestar and check it out. A look at Erwin's campaign finances via Orestar does show some rather unsavory connections.

Its pretty clear this wasn't one of your run-of-the-mill races. Erwin ran this like a legislative race. He even had a campaign website . None of the other circuit judge candidates had them, that I can find.

On Erwin's website is a rather odd letter that Rogers apparently sent out to criminal defense attorneys in March. The letter accuses Steve Doell and Crime Victims United of "weighing in" on the race with a huge donation to Erwin (which Erwin denies). It further accuses Doell and Kevin Mannix of asserting themselves into these sorts of races, a charge that Erwin further denies.

On 5/13/08 (one week before the election), Erwin's campaign received $10,000 from Loren Parks. For those still unaware, Parks has a penchant for bizarre, right-wing campaigns and candidates (not to mention Parks' fantabulous claims about how he can cure female frigidity by hypnosis warning: NOT family-friendly). Parks dropped $175k to Mannix in July . In fact, Parks is one of Mannix's most generous benefactors. Why would Parks be dumping that much cash into a nonpartisan, judical race? And why right before the election?

Another weird piece of the puzzle is a $1000 payout to Greg Clapper. Clapper is a media guy for right wing stuff and has been the treasurer for Crime Victims United, as I understand it. What was Clapper doing involved in this contest?

Steve Doell and Crime Victims United were obviously involved in this race in some capacity. Steve's name (as well as Crime Victims United) is on the voter's pamphlet as an endorser of Erwin. (PDF, page 42).

When I checked Orestar to find out how much, if any, Crime Victims United PAC had given to Erwin, I came up bupkis. But not bupkis meaning that CVU hadn't given money. I mean bupkis in that CVU's PAC doesn't exist anymore. When I couldn't find it in Orestar I called the Secretary of State's office to see if I was doing the search incorrectly. They say CVU PAC went defunct in 2004. Which is also odd, given that CVU is still soliciting donations for the PAC on their website.

One last bizarre piece of this also came from Orestar. Erwin's campaign appears to have paid out almost $30,000 to a company called Pacific Consulting at 7360 SW Fir in Tigard, which turned out to be an empty lot when I drove past it. But it also turns out that Tom Brian's campaign for Washington County Commissioner had also used Pacific Consulting. The address for Tom Brian's campaign is 7630 SW Fir in Tigard. So...is Tom Brian also Pacific Consulting? And was Brian paying himself to consult to his own campaign...?

And why is there no Pacific Consulting for that address listed with the Secretary of State's corporate division?

Tangled mess, isn't it?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Carla, thanks for the story, very interesting. I wonder if the SOS will investigate or forward to law enforcement any of the issues you raised to see if campaign laws were violated etc. I was very concerned about Erwin during the campaign and election, as he really tried to put the smear on Judge Rogers, whom I have met and supported for reelection. Erwin's repeated claims that as a criminal defense attorney Judge Rogers was soft on crime were quite inflammatory, as if defending the accused in court was a bad thing. I thought it was a guaranteed Constitutional right. He posts Judge Rogers' affiliations with Pubic Defenders and Criminal Defense Associations. Big deal. And yes it is illegal to post political signs on the public right of way. And he had them on the parkways all over 185th, Murray and many major WC thoroughfares. Anybody heard about how Erwin is doing as judge now, or maybe been before him in court?

  • Dylan (unverified)
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    People shouldn't rush to feel too sorry for Rogers simply because the despicable Loren Parks gave his opponent money. I have a lot of friends who work out in Washington County and from all accounts I have heard, Rogers was way over his head in the courtroom.

  • (Show?)

    People shouldn't rush to feel too sorry for Rogers simply because the despicable Loren Parks gave his opponent money. I have a lot of friends who work out in Washington County and from all accounts I have heard, Rogers was way over his head in the courtroom.

    Dylan:

    That characterization is very different from what I've heard about Rogers. In fact, a large number of judges and even a couple of former Wash Co DA's supported him. I've heard from at least two attorneys who call Rogers "talented" and "smart".

    Its apparent to me that this particular race had little to do with Rogers ability in the courtroom--other than he's not ideologically a hard-right conservative.

    That said, I think Erwin's connections are possibly problematic. If the folks in my neighborhood who voted on this race knew of them, I'd be willing to wager they'd have voted for Rogers (if they weren't already).

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    Loren Parks lives in Nevada. Why is he so intersted in what is happeneing in Oregon? Doesn't he realize that he should mind his own business and leave Oregon alone? It's not any of his business to interfere with another states' dealings when Nevada has enough to worry about on it's own.

    What happenes in oregon, and who runs in oregon, does not concern him.

  • Gabe (unverified)
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    Dylan,

    You don't know anything. I have worked with Judge Rogers and there are very few people in this state who are more capable in the courtroom. That is why over 80% of his fellow attorneys supported Judge Rogers. He is a great attorney and judge and an even better human being.

  • Lady (unverified)
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    I'll second Gabe on that comment. There is a big difference in hearing things second hand and being involved first hand that makes one capable of an informed decision. To address Glen. Mr. Erwin has not yet taken the bench as Judge Rogers is still currently sitting on it. Mr. Erwin will be sworn in sometime in January or Feb. of 09. Not sure which. Thank you Carla for writting this article.

  • (Show?)

    Loren Parks also created and markets the penile plethysmograph, allegedly designed for the treatment of male sex offenders. The treatment center is in Washington County.

    The tool Tool in question is about as accurate as the so called lie-detector, but has not yet gained the total science free buy in that the lie dector enjoys among law enforcement personnel.

    Maybe this all has something to do with Parks' latest judicial favorite......

  • Joe Smith (unverified)
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    I hope someone with more computer/e-mail smarts than mine is seeing to it that Carla's story is sent to not just the Secretary of State, but the Washington County District Attorney and maybe even Hardy Myers. Especially the part about CVU continuing to solicit donations to their PAC. And wouldn't it be nice if the MSM -- or even the Tribune -- picked up on this one!

  • Joe Jackson (unverified)
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    I haven't been a registered voter in Oregon/Washington County since 1979 but the Voter's Pamphlet endorsements told you all you needed to know on this vote: do whatever Mitch Greenlick sez, end of story. The 10K from that ass Loren Parks (so bent for so long...) was therefore no surprise to me and I've been gone nearly 30 years. So brace thyselves, all you folks in Urban Sprawlsville, Oregon.

  • Joe Jackson (unverified)
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    I haven't been a registered voter in Oregon/Washington County since 1979 but the Voter's Pamphlet endorsements told you all you needed to know on this vote: do whatever Mitch Greenlick sez, end of story. The 10K from that ass Loren Parks (so bent for so long...) was therefore no surprise to me and I've been gone nearly 30 years. So brace thyselves, all you folks in Urban Sprawlsville, Oregon.

  • Joe Jackson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I haven't been a registered voter in Oregon/Washington County since 1979 but the Voter's Pamphlet endorsements told you all you needed to know on this vote: do whatever Mitch Greenlick sez, end of story. The 10K from that ass Loren Parks (so bent for so long...) was therefore no surprise to me and I've been gone nearly 30 years. So brace thyselves, all you folks in Urban Sprawlsville, Oregon.

  • Lauren Paulson (unverified)
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    Washington County and judges -- Please note my blog -- bulletinsfromaloha.org and the article dated 4/23/08 on judicial elections and the Erwin-Rogers judicial contest.

    What is really going on -- The largest law firm in Washington County is the District Attorney's office. The conservative power base in Washington County always challenges any 'criminal defense attorney' to get deputy district attorneys in the judicial ranks. Note highly-rated Judge LeTourneau, from the defense ranks had to suffer two contested elections by deputy district attorneys in an organized effort to secure judicial positions for the law and order crowd, of which I count myself. This is what happened to Mr. Rogers, a good man.

    Tom Brian -- Google his name, ethics and the Lincoln Center where he had to return $2 million dollars in ill-gotten gains. He is the fox in the chicken coup. Nothing he did for a dollar would surprise me. Lauren Paulson

  • Judicial Independence (unverified)
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    The Parks contribution is troubling.

    In this judicial race each candidate raised and spent about $50,000. And its very hard for a judicial candidate to raise money since there are prohibitions on fund raising (Judicial ethics rules). So a $10,000 donation was extremely meaningful in this race. And in a smaller county, I could even see that sort of a donation creating a scenario where no one would challenge the "Parks" candidate.

    Is this the start of Parks/Crime Victims United / Oregonians in action not only molding the trial courts to suit their philosophies, but also creating a farm team for Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court positions? I hope not. I hope it's just a case of how democracy is supposed to work.

    There's another race being waged in Columbia County right now between a sitting Judge (Judge Grant), who while in private practice handled indigent defense cases (Just like Keith Rogers), and a former Dep DA challenger (Mr. Herr).

    While I have no idea about the philosophies of these two candidates, if you look at the endorsements, and compare Judge Grant's website and Mr. Herr's website, it appears eerily similar to the contest we had in Washington County. And In Columbia County a $10,000 last minute donation would have even greater impact than in Washington County.

    People who support an independent judiciary should be very vigilant about this troubling development. ORESTAR is a great tool.

  • Dumbo (unverified)
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    As for who or what is Pacific CONSULTING, the address attributed to that entity, 7630 SW Fir, is a residence owned by Tom Brian and his wife. Per Orestar, that's also the address for Pacific CONSULTANTS who were paid $15,025.03 by the campaign to re-elect Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake. And nothing listed with the Secretary of State's corporate division for Pacific Consultants at that address either. Hmmmm.

  • ConcernedWashCOCitizen (unverified)
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    Make no mistake. Andy Erwin will be scrutinized with every case he presides over in Washington County and the truth will prevail. If Andy thinks that he has garnered the support of this county he is poorly mistaken and he will be challenged at every turn. He will NEVER sit on the bench uncontested. The citizens of Washington County will be soon see the truth behind the deceptions that Andy Erwin has used in his race for his seat. The battle may have been lost but the war is not over. Fairness over politics shall in the end prevail.

  • (Show?)

    Carla, this is a fine piece of investigative journalism. I hope that you follow it to its conclusion.

  • Judicial Independence (unverified)
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    Under ORS 648.007 its a violation of the law to fail to file an assumed business name. Here's the penalty section.

      <i>648.990 Penalties. (1) Violation of any of the provisions of this chapter is punishable by a civil penalty not exceeding $100.</i>
    

    And if anyone wants to sue Pacific consulting, then there is an additional mandatory penalty, and in addition the plaintiff can get its attorney fees.

    648.135 Effect of violation of ORS 648.007; damages and attorney fees; effect on other laws.

      (2) In any action or suit in which the cause of action arises out of business that the defendant carried on, conducted or transacted in violation of ORS 648.007, the plaintiff shall be entitled to recover $500 or the actual costs that the court determines that the plaintiff reasonably incurred to ascertain the real and true name of the defendant, whichever is greater. The court may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in an action under this subsection.</i>
    

    So either Mr. Brian doesn't know the law (unlikely as he's been in the business world for years and considers himself pretty savy) or he's determined that the small cost of paying a civil fine is acceptable as long as he can hide his consulting business from public scrutiny.

    Its sort of like the illegal placement of signs in a campaign. Low risk, high return.

    I have a friend who played pro football tell me once that..."if you ain't cheatin', you ain't competin'"

    I guess the same goes for politics. but....ick, ick, ick

  • ConcernedWashCOCitizen (unverified)
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    While I am in no way a supporter of Andy Erwin I wanted to comment on the issue with some of his signs. I believe that some of his signs were placed in areas that were not legal (like the watershed area along Baseline right before Brookwood). However, if you are referring to the signs at SW 185th and Walker Road, those signs were on private land of someone who is a supporter of Erwin's and were there legally.

  • (Show?)

    The signs on 185th and Walker? I don't even remember those.

    What I remember specifically are the ones that ran along the road on Bronson by the light posts, the ones at Bronson/174th plopped in front of the road sign.

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