Allen Alley: a very bad idea

By David Brecha of Portland, Oregon. David describes himself as "a software engineer with more than a passing interest in music and beer."

At least one local rag (the WW) has come out and endorsed Allen Alley for State Treasurer. This would seem to be an exceptionally bad idea.

He was a complete failure at overseeing the finances of Pixelworks, a relatively small tech company, and yet the WW passes this over with "even though Pixelworks flamed out..." Who bears the blame for that if not Alley, the President, CEO, and Chairman?

And the "decades of experience in evaluating complicated financial propositions" presumably is also referencing his time at Pixelworks. Unfortunately for Oregon voters (assuming they follow the WW recommendations) in large measure the reason for the failure of Pixelworks was incredibly bad analysis of prospective acquisitions, to the point of the most basic technical questions not being asked.

Furthermore, the financial arrangement Alley created to raise cash (which was subsequently entirely wasted on this same failed technology purchase) would've led to Pixelworks most likely facing bankruptcy. This was only recently undone so the company could continue.

Alley's assertion:

"That's one view of a company that sold $1 billion worth of product over the last 11 years and paid out over $150 million in compensation to Oregon workers. The only regret is that there isn't 10 more of them."

So he can't analyze technology projects, he can't manage finances, and he doesn't listen to those around him, but he does want the opportunity to drive 10 companies into the ground, I suppose he will have to be satisfied with the State of Oregon.

Finally, note Alley does not mention in his response that he was responsible for outsourcing every one of those Oregon jobs to China. I suppose that can scale up to a statewide plan too.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    I just saw the most rancid and slimey attack ad I have seen this season against Ben Westlund. This will definitely hurt Allen Alley. It's reminiscent of the attacks on David Wu that gave him a landslide two elections ago.

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    The Merc endorsed Alley, too. As did the O, making it a trifecta. I repeat my question: isn't he a serious candidate to upset Westlund?

  • JHL (unverified)

    Jeff, Westlund has more newspaper endorsements than Alley does, including the Tribune, the Gresham Outlook, and all manner of papers up and down the state.

    I think that once voters are introduced to Alley's actual business practices (as opposed to his vague claim of "experience"), they'll leave him in droves.

    Looks like there are some YouTube videos posted to help understand Alley's M.O:

    Mini-documentary about Alley's long history of ruining things. (about 2 minutes)

    30-second rebuttal of Alley's various claims... very entertaining! (is this a TV ad? there's no disclaimer.)

  • Blue Comedy (unverified)

    Ben is a great and funny guy but does that mean that our State Treasurer needs to be one big dick & fart joke?

  • JHL (unverified)

    I'd rather have a gregarious Treasurer than Alley, who seems to be a walking, talking business-ruiner. :)

    Everything Alley touches turns to dust.

  • Bill Hall (unverified)


    I have a slightly uneasy feeling about this one too. Alley did roll out his TV spots a lot sooner than Ben. On the other hand...having an "R" next to your name in this election might as well stand for Radioactive to a lot of folks. I don't think Alley can count on any McCain or Smith coattails. On the other hand, the Obama/Merkley coattails might be enough to pull Ben across the line. I hope so. I really think the state will be better served by his energy and vision.

  • Steve S. (unverified)

    The Corvallis Gossip-Times endorsed Ally too. Not sure what that paper is trying for this election season. Maybe the chamber of commerce is in control of the editorial department.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    How's this for a theme:

    Allen Alley - He's so bad that Kulongoski hired him to be a senior adviser for the Governor's Office.

  • PanchoAlso (unverified)

    Yes... and we are better served by a career politicion, with no financial experience, who went from an R to an I to a D only because he aspired to high office.

  • JHL (unverified)

    I don't think it speaks to Alley's credibility that after working closely with Kulongoski for a year, Kulongoski decided that he was so lame he was just going to have to endorse Alley's opponent.

    And not just a tacit endorsement, either! Kulongoski was there at the announcement speech and has done multiple fundraisers for Westlund. That's not merely a politically-motivated endorsement; that's a strong show of support.

    As for the credibility of Alley's candidacy, the Portland Tribune has Westlund waaaay in the lead.

  • Dylan Amo (unverified)

    Hey Jeff...

    Thought I would provide a Republican "troll" perspective.

    Obviously I like Allen a lot. I've written about him and Westlund on numerous occasions at OregonCatalyst. And while I continue to hope that the overwhelming large number of undecided voters in this race break from him … it will be a tough year for that to happen. Not impossible … just tough. Thankfully, if anyone can do it ... it would be Allen.

    I was very fortunate to have one of my progressive friends (please don't tell my conservative friends that I talk to y'all) introduce me to Allen. While I had several personal friends run for office this cycle, few races made me prouder to associate myself with than Allen’s.

    As a Portland conservative, Allen's fearlessness always makes me proud. Whether the audience agreed with his perspective (or his business record) didn’t matter to him. He would take his message into ANY enclave. Nearly every debate that happened for this race was held on Ben's turf but again … that didn't matter to Allen. Even when the Candidate's Gone Wild team came knocking ... Allen was proud to participate.

    I don't doubt that we'll have many substantive debates in the future. But I hope that Democrats will appreciate (maybe even vote for :) ) Republicans like Allen. Good things can happen when everyone is willing to sit at the same table and talk.

    Speaking of … I do hope that when this election is over … we can all sit down for a drink. Btw, this Oregonian doesn’t like tthe taste of beer, something is clearly wrong with me. ;)

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    It's really a head scratcher, that with Greenspan repudiating the enitre self-regulation trope on the Senate floor, with Bernake endorsing Obama, and with the whole Friedman/Rand monetary ideology in ruins, papers around Oregon still see these guys as the only Serious People(TM David Broder).

    Allen Alley, who by his own admission understands nothing about even the concept of "small business", and who ran Pixelworks off the cliff, offshoring hundreds of jobs, while parachuting gently into a huge pile of Greenbacks, should be considered as the Serious Person in this race.

    I don't know Westlund that well, but everything I know about Alley is negative when it comes to money, so even though he may be a Teddy Bear of a man who loves his wife and kids, his record is crystal clear, and it ain't good.

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    Via Mapes, from Hibbitts:


    Westlund...............39% Alley..................28% Michael Marsh (CP).....3% Undecided..............29%

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    Dylan, I'd be happy to do it. Chris Lowe and I are thinking of hatching some kind of plan for deeper discussions about policy (forums ... ummm?), so maybe some cross-aisle stuff could be interesting, too.

    I now have a mission to convert you to beer. This is constituency you must be a part of.

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    Come on guys. This is a very untruthful look at a decent candidate. Mr. Brecha's analysis is very simplistic and not reflective of Allen's accomplishments before, during, or after Pixelworks. Unless you have tried to start a serious technology business from scratch, be careful of criticising those who do. Very few are truly successful, but that does not make those who take the risks terrible people or terrible businessmen.

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    Thought I would provide a Republican "troll" perspective.

    Nah, Dylan, you're no troll. You've come here and posted over your real name and made reasoned arguments.

    A troll isn't someone who disagrees. A troll is someone who seeks simply to provoke a fight.

  • Dylan Amo (unverified)

    Opps ...Sorry Kari. As a regular poster on a different blog I should have know that my sarcasm would be lost in the written word. I do know (and appreciate) that I am welcome to post here from time to time. But please … next time refer to my arguments as persuasive rather than “reasoned.” I'd like to think that I am converting you. ;)

    Jeff … I’ve passed on my contact info to Kari's listed Mandate Media account. Feel free to drop me a line. But know that you’ve gotta a better shot at making this partisan R a Democrat than a beer connoisseur. But maybe you can make a "reasoned" argument too as I know this is a field you're passionate about.

  • hit pieces are bull semen (unverified)

    I voted for Westlund, but can't say I'm at all comfortable with this hit piece on Alley released by Westlund's campaign today. Say it isn't so, Ben!

  • Miss Conduct (unverified)

    ...which are far more viable than human semen. Good comparison; hit ads. are more effective than debate.

    Blame the electorate! If it didn't work, it wouldn't happen.

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    Allen Alley is the new Gordon Smith.

    Oregon's equal-opportunity Democratic voters will always have a soft spot for moderate Republicans. They'll abandon the party line to support a Mark Hatfield or a Tom McCall or a Gordon Smith.

    Smith's not an option this election. So these voters are looking around and playing with the idea that....

    Allen Alley is the new Gordon Smith

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    John, your point it well taken, but Alley seems to be basing his campaign primarily on his stint at Pixelworks -- without mentioning what happened to the company.

  • Dylan Amo (unverified)


    Before I get started, I don’t know that I’ve even been able to say this in a public format. Much like I said about Allen’s willingness to visit NON TRADITIONAL enclaves. I think you also represent that ethic too. When I approached you about doing a short filming for the Dorchester Conference’s tent show. You made time. And while the scene ended up on the editor’s floor, you certainly gained significant respect from the Dorchester team for this effort. Again ... thank you for taking the time out of your schedule for the filming.

    But obviously we disagree when it comes to Allen on the stump. I don’t disagree. Allen’s campaign is largely based on the economic record/history that Allen would bring to the Treasurer’s office. But we disagree on the second part … I do believe that Allen “mentioning what happened to the company.” I am not sure which time you heard Allen, but nearly every presentation/stump speech that I’ve heard does talk about the successful history of InFocus and Pixelworks. From an idea … Allen and his investor friends (and more importantly the employees of these companies) have created 100s of millions in profit. With significant taxable income … and significant charitable contributions resulting. Oregon would much better off if we had hundreds of investors like Allen creating a product (and jobs) from a dream.

  • LT (unverified)

    Having met Alley and not been impressed, I did chuckle at the wonderful animated anti-Alley commercial by the Westlund campaign. Whoever did the animation is a genius.

  • Mike in Milwaukie (unverified)

    Dylan, I have heard Alley speak several times, most recently I heard the City Club Debate. Alley ONLY talks about the INITIAL successes of his companies. SUre, created millions of dollars in sales, etc, etc...

    But he doesn't really talk about what happens AFTER THE INITIAL CAPITAL INVESTMENT RUNS OUT!!! Anyone can take a big chunk of venture funds and add tens of millions of dollars in borrowed money (Pixelworks still owes over $60 million) and say "Oh look, we made a bunch of products and produced a payroll."

    But the State Treasurer needs to manage a fund that lasts longer than a few years. Allen Alley has not shown that he can take venture funds and turn them into anything sustainable.

    Alley treats capital like fireworks: There's a lot of impressive noise and lights, but afterwards you're just left with a pile of ash. It's all well and good to say that "Alley created such-and-such payroll..." but none of his ventures LASTED.

    Allen Alley would be the absolute riskiest State Treasurer Oregon has ever seen.

  • Derrick Kitts (unverified)

    Bill R. Just a tiny clarification, I ran against Dvid Wu two years ago and never once mentioned anything personal or negative about the congressman.

    Not my point in writing today, just happened to see your posting.

    I am supporting Ben Westlund this election cycle. I have sent Ben money and have offered my support. Before any of you Democrats jump ship, let me explain!!

    Ben is a man for whom I have known many years, as a Republican, Independent and now as a Democrat. Ben has remained a solid person of character and integrity, a person we can all be proud to call an Oregonian and in 6 days our statewide elected official. We have all made mistakes in life, look at Alan Alley's record as a failed point is more specific, the attack ad's that have been launched against Ben are nothing short of sleazy...I wish I could think of a word that truly is representitive of these ad's, but it would surely be held against me.

    I am nothing but a former member of the Oregon Legislature, I don't claim to have any swaying ability, but we must say no to these sleazy campaign tactics.

    Ben and his family are dedicated Oregonians and have given this State plenty to be proud of, Ben you are going to win and you will have 2 votes in my household.

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    Derrick -- that's why Bill R said "two elections ago". That would be 2004.

  • Thom Hartmann (unverified)

    Ben Westlund is one of the finest people in Oregon politics... We all need to keep focused on that...


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    But know that you’ve gotta a better shot at making this partisan R a Democrat than a beer connoisseur.

    My guess is that you haven't tried the full spectrum of beer, like a Flanders Red from Belgium. This is my secret weapon against all who say they don't like beer. There's one brand, Duchesse de Bourgogne, which I regard as the "universal beer," so widespread has been its appreciation among people I've forced to drink it. As to converting you to a Dem, consider that already in the works.

    For others who wonder about my allegiance to Alley (including a concerned member of the Westlund campaign whom I believe may be trying to track me down), I have no real horse in this race. I will confess to wholesale ignorance about what a treasurer does, and so I understand the claims made for Alley on his experience, and against Westlund for lack of same, about as well as Sarah Palin understands macroeconomics. However! I am pleased to see this post and the subsequent discussion, which has been the best I've seen in print regarding the treasurer's race.

    To Thom, Bill G., and Steve N., I defer. The Merc is no doubt feeling a bit sheepish just about now.

  • Steve Rosenbaum (unverified)

    I am big Westlund supporter, and those of you who know me, know that I am a solid D.

    However, I am very displeased with these continued baseless, misinformed, partisan attacks on Allen Alley's record and his character.

    You can't judge a CEO by his company's stock price. Pixelworks faces crazy global competition, and I believe Allen has done a great job there given the hand he was dealt. If you were CEO of Pixelworks, what would you have done differently? If you can't answer this question, you have no standing to criticize his performance.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Allen's performance as CEO of Pixelworks is highly acclaimed by both D's and R's in the Oregon business community.

  • HowAboutThis? (unverified)

    Steve, I'm sure that Allen Alley is a nice guy. I'm sure he's a great friend and family man.

    I give him an 'A' for effort! But I'm looking for a Treasurer who got an 'A' for results. In my view, Westlund proved himself when he sucessfully navigated the State through the 2001-2002 budget crisis was Ways & Means Chair.

    As for what I would have done differently at Pixelworks:

    Used a budget for my company (Alley famously didn't) Trusted analysts who said I was misunderestimating workload and product deadlines (Pixelworks has a reputation for late product delivery) Run R&D models to ensure that the ROI would be sufficient (In 2006, Kennedy Capital Management was concerned that this wasn't being done) Shift strategy to fabless chip manufacturing to remain competitive

    I hope that those humble suggestions qualify me to criticize his performance (but not his character!).

  • Ron Buel (unverified)

    No comments about Mr. Alley's character.

    His ideas about public finance, proferred in public remarks before he ran for office, are decidedly Republican. Mr. Alley believes Oregon's economy is held back because our taxes on corporations are too high, our income tax too high.

    Ben Westlund has insight and leaderly qualities. We progressives should welcome him to our party with open arms and support him in this race without question. Novick is right. God I love to say that.

  • MRtrannyTEE (unverified)

    What about the cheesy Westlund cartoon ads?

  • ex-Pixie (unverified)

    [i]You can't judge a CEO by his company's stock price. Pixelworks faces crazy global competition, and I believe Allen has done a great job there given the hand he was dealt. If you were CEO of Pixelworks, what would you have done differently? If you can't answer this question, you have no standing to criticize his performance.[/i]

    The "crazy global competition" only makes it difficult to sustain the 40% annual growth rate that Allen was shooting for. So he gambled wildly hoping to hit a home run. Those of us inside the company could see mistake after mistake. Allen chose to acquire Equator, and plenty of folks inside the company with no experience in executive management knew better. Allen chose to bring in Richard Tobias to run the Engineering department. Very bad judgment that once again, most of us would never have done. I could go on and on, Allen killed Pixelworks with his poor decisions.

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    "His ideas about public finance, proferred in public remarks before he ran for office, are decidedly Republican. Mr. Alley believes Oregon's economy is held back because our taxes on corporations are too high, our income tax too high."

    Oregon's Treasurer has nothing to do with taxes or budgets (except his department's). The treasury is responsible for managing, disbursing, and receiving the state's cash (and that of local governments, which avail themselves of its services), investing state funds, and borrowing on the state's behalf. Is there really a Republican or Democratic approach to how these task should be performed?

    <h2>Oregon has had competent Treasurers and incompetent ones over the past 30 years. The good ones didn't make much difference, neither did the bad ones. Fortunately, the staff of the Treasury Department are first-rate and, given the legislatively mandated constraints under which they operate, they do a first-rate job.</h2>
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