"Night of the Junto" - in Willy Week

Karol Collymore

When I read my Willamette Week this morning, I didn't know I was going to find out about a group of men "of a certain age" who meet to "discuss" Oregon politics:

The three-year-old group, a cross between Yale’s fabled Skull and Bones secret society and the Elks, has 42 members. All of them are men and most are Democrats. It is the brainchild of Jim Zehren, a partner at the city’s largest law firm, Stoel Rives. But its sphere of influence is far wider.

Ok, that's cool. I sit around with my ladies and talk politics but if I invite candidates to my coffee clatch, they don't actually show up:

Last year, the group invited then-mayoral candidates Sho Dozono and Sam Adams to address the club’s gatherings, which take place on the first Thursday of every other month at Mama Mia’s.

Nor do elected officials:

In January 2009, just before the legislative session began, House Majority Leader Mary Nolan (D-Portland), Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin (D-Tigard) and Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s chief of staff Chip Terhune met with Junto members. Two Junto members—Macpherson and Steve Griffith, a former Portland School Board member who ran unsuccessfully for Macpherson’s legislative seat in 2008—prepared a series of 10 highly detailed questions for legislative leaders, touching on land use, tax policy, the environment and Democratic consolidation of power.

It's a conversation starter, that's for sure. Read it here. I guess my worries about just a few people planning world domination isn't worth fretting about, right?

*The complete list is at the bottom of the article. Blue Oregon contributor Steve Novick is on the list.

Comments

  • Roey Thorpe (unverified)
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    Umm... wow. No women, not one. I'm surprised that I'm surprised, but you'd think times would change. Are there any people of color on that list?

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    "I guess my worries about just a few people planning world domination isn't worth fretting about, right? "

    Depends on how likely they are to actually do much towards that goal. My sense is, they're about as likely to take over anything as Dogbert is to be Supreme Ruler of Earth.

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    @Admiral Naismith Hee hee :)

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    While I'm glad to see that they sat down with Mary Nolan, I'd be interested to know their specific rationale for not including any women....

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    Ummmm... Carol?

    If you go to local county Democratic party gatherings, candidates and elected officials show up all the time. These are also somewhat like "coffee claches", in that coffee is served, people talk about the issues, and at least among Democrats, people are very knowledgeable and liberal.

    Many officials would love to have the time to talk to every single constituent. But they don't. So they need pick. I've generally noticed that the way they pick is by first: A] Getting an invitation from someone is actually interested, B] Deciding if the people generally are persuadable, C] Seeing if their support will aid the policy they are trying to get into law (or their candidacy) or not.

    Judging by the way that our state representatives positively beg people to show up at their town halls, my guess is that for your coffee clach, you never even got to A.

    You would be overwhelmingly surprised at how accessible our state leaders are. But before you work yourself up about this group of old rich Democratic lawyers, who got local candidates to come to their shindig via the nefarious method of "politely inviting them", I remind you that 90% of all success is just deciding to show up.

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    Jeez, it can't be THAT much of a world-domination conspiracy. After all, I've never even heard of it - much less been invited.

    And as every BlueOregon comment-thread conspiracy-theorist knows, I'm the guy who pulls the strings with every politicians in Oregon! BWAH HA HA HA...

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    Well said, Steve. I was amazed when I was a college student in Eugene at how willing leaders like Vicki Walker and Pete Sorenson were to just, well, show up.

    In the College Democrats there, we constantly had opportunities to talk with folks like John Kroger, Floyd Prozanski, Steve Novick, Rick Metsger and many more in a room full of fewer than 20 students. What an opportunity! ...for those that showed up.

    And in the spirit of not blowing smoke, I admit that I dropped off from that group pretty quickly after the 2008 elections.

  • Karynn Fish (unverified)
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    What Roey said. It's not conspiracy that concerns me as much as the suggestion of good old banal elitism.

    There is a difference, right?

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    Full disclosure: Kari built the super-secret, password-protected Web site and private, invite-only Google Group for the Junto, but speaks only for himself.

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    I think they should invite Karol to join. That way when we sit down for girlfriend political chat, she can give me all the good dish.

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    Steve, It's Karol - not with a C. I'm the messenger, not the writer of the article. It's curious and wanted to have a broader conversation. Of course electeds show at Dem meetings and Young Dem meetings - those are usually populated with various people; not an apparent group of power players (men), deliberately selected.

    I'm more with Roey's line of interest - no women and no apparent people of color. It's interesting, that's all.

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    I'd say it's more than interesting that no women have been invited,it's downright creepy. What is this, the promise keepers of progressive oregon politics?

  • Old Ducker (unverified)
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    What, no Cremation of Care ceremony? I'd like to see their logo or any flags or literature, be interesting to see if it includes any occult symbolism.

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    Of course, the Junto, for their own purposes, should be more diverse in its membership.

    I note with historical amusement the affirmations required of new members of Franklin's Junto (here):

    "Any person to be qualified as a member was to stand up, lay his hand upon his breast, and be asked the following questions, viz.

    "1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not. "2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do. "3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Answer. No. "4. Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you endeavor impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes."

    Maybe, just maybe, anyone commenting on BlueOregon should make similar affirmations.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
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    More evidence that C. Wright Mills was correct. As if we needed more evidence. Still, it's sad when it trickles down to these levels.

  • pacnwjay (unverified)
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    Nobody likes to feel excluded. But let's be realistic. If I was to run through my rolodex for this purpose, it would end up a group of 30-something gay guys (mostly white, with a smattering of African American and Asian). And there shouldn't be anything wrong with that!

    In matters of law, public policy, etc I would affirm anyone's right to not be excluded because of gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc, etc, etc.... but in an organization based on a few guys' rolodex, I'm not going to be bothered.

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    The makeup of this Democratic group tilts toward business and corporations. What ever..now that they have been outed will they go futher underground? They'd better be careful they just might tunnel into the Republican's underground hole where they practice their influence peddling. Reminds me of the movie The Dirty Dozen.

  • KJ (unverified)
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    It seems to be the quintessential "old boys club." So old school. When will they ever move into the 21st century?

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    1 guy = a loner 2 guys = a man date 8 guys = a bachelor party 42 guys = a super secret, all powerful elite organization seeking to change the very fabric of American society.

    Slow news day anyone?

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    I'm sorry for misspelling your name, Karol. I type very fast and sometimes I end up spelling things as I think of them.

    Plus, my mother's name is "Carol" with a "C". So there's some familiarity with that alternate spelling.

    But as for your broader point that you're just passing along this information, not it's originator, it sure seems to me that these are your words:

    "if I invite candidates to my coffee clatch, they don't actually show up"

    My question is this: is this something born of actual experience? Or something you merely suppose to be true?

    I strongly suspect it is the latter. And please remember: supposing something to be true that is actually utterly false, and reporting it in the media without any supporting fact (and then trying to BS your way out of it when you get caught), is the hallmark of modern day Republicans. I don't want us to start getting into that habit.

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    Sigh...Steven. I work for an elected and I've worked in politics almost exclusively since I moved here. Would it be easier for me to have coffee with an elected? Probably. My link between quotes was intended to say that these folks are unlikely - outside of party related meetings or functions - to meet with indiviuals in "book club" style meeting. And I know that to be true because there just simply isn't enough time in anyone's schedule for that. Not BS because I know this after enough years of working these elected.

    These men are not a just having a book club. They are power players in town (and know it) and have convened a group to work in politics without having to go through the usual channels. They have money and influence; more than say, the Young Democrats at PSU. To assume it's the same is naive.

  • Anon (unverified)
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    I would have thought Jim Zehren, being a social justice minded Unitarian and all, would eschew male-only social gatherings. Then again, Unitarians have never been very good at practicing what they preach when it comes to diversity.

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    Who's the grand strategist behind this move? Because I want to slap him for what he's done to the image of white guys working in Portland politics.

    Unsolicited advice: if you included more voices in your development plans, you wouldn't need to form a special group of guys to launch successful plans. There's a huge need for family housing in the central city for large low income families. Perhaps those of you who want to make money building this housing could be troubled to partner with organizations who represent the people who most need the housing.

    I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.

  • Val (unverified)
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    They couldn't find one woman in all of the greater Portland area that had the requisite intellect, charm and wit to be seen as a valued addition to the group? Really?

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    They couldn't find one woman in all of the greater Portland area that had the requisite intellect, charm and wit to be seen as a valued addition to the group? Really?

    More likely they couldn't find a woman with those qualities willing to spend time with them.

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    Steve wrote "If you go to local county Democratic party gatherings, candidates and elected officials show up all the time. These are also somewhat like "coffee claches" ... "

    What is different is that any registered Democrat can show up to a Democratic party meeting, and even become a voting member (PCP) on the spot, if they choose.

    I could be wrong, but I doubt The Junto would be so open and welcoming to folks popping into the Ballaboosta Room.

    All this being said, SCOTUS affirmed several years ago (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000)) that, absent a compelling state interest to the contrary, the First Amendment allows groups to gather in a manner which excludes other based on a common characteristic, such as gender, etc.

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    Karol: These men are not a just having a book club. They are power players in town (and know it) and have convened a group to work in politics without having to go through the usual channels.

    I guess you missed my point. The "usual channels" are so open that they gain no privilege.

    Given the way candidates beg to be met, saying "candidates meet them when they're invited", is somewhat akin to saying: "when this elite group goes into a Starbucks and plunks down money, a personal server behind the counter makes one of dozen different coffee-related beverages for them, to their exact specifications".

    They're takin' over the world, I tell ya. Takin' over the world!

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    There is nothing wrong with like-minded folks joining together to work toward a common goal. There is no suggestion that anything illegal or unethical is going on, and from the list of participants, I certainly would not expect that anything inappropriate would occur.

    The men involved have or control or influence significant amounts of money and they can likely direct money toward people or candidates or parties or issues that they wish to support. I sense a bit of jealousy on the part of the OP that she and her like-minded friends and contacts don't control the same amount of wealth and therefore - under our current system of campaign contribution laws - she and her like-minded friends probably don't have the same "clout" as these men. On that point I strongly agree that money poisons politics, but under the current system and in light of various court decisions, there is nothing we can do about that.

    There are some incredibly wealthy women in Portland. Find a dozen who are interested in Dem. / Progressive causes and get a club going. I guaranty that if they control the same amount of potential donations, they will get the same "special treatment" as Jim Zehren and his friends. It is not about sex, race, creed, etc. It's about the money!

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
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    For some reason, the Star Chamber comes to mind....

  • Nancy (unverified)
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    They aren't ALL power players- by any means! It looks like a list of "guys" that's all.

  • fred friendly (unverified)
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    I'll give it about 30 seconds before Jack Bogdanski "exposes" these guys as all being part of the nefarious Neil Goldschmidt Axis of Evil.

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    dudes, there are all kinds of places where people show up when invited. for example, at the Bus Project & Mercury's BrewHaHa last night we had 2 private citizens, Brad Avakian, Sam Adams & Steve Novick on the panel. they not only played the evening's game (won by Brad) but were available to chat with whoever showed up.

    over the past few years, i've had chats with virtually every elected official in the state, in some part because of posting here & also because they know i walk the walk by doing the donkey work of going door-to-door for candidates & campaigns. this is Oregon, the state equivalent of a small town. not every group will have the pull of this Junto (btw, did you notice they listed the entire membership? not exactly hiding who they are) but a bit of involvement in the process, and you will have access to most elected officials, their staffs and others. it's one of the very cool things i love about my home state.

    Karol, time to start a women's equivalent. i'm pretty sure in the Metro area, the star power & clout might knock the boy's club ass-over-teakettle (though you'll never have a Novick of your own)

  • Anon (unverified)
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    I'll give it about 30 seconds before Jack Bogdanski "exposes" these guys as all being part of the nefarious Neil Goldschmidt Axis of Evil.

    Despite Randy Gragg being a member, too many of Jack's friends and colleagues from his days at Stoel Rives are involved for him to make a fuss. As much as Jack loves to play the role of outsider gadfly, he's pretty damn well connected to some Portland power channels himself.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    As a white guy of a certain age, I'm insulted that I was not invited to join this group. If they did, though, I would quote Marx (Groucho) to them" "I refuse to be a member of any group that would admit me."

  • Joe White (unverified)
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    Karol wrote:

    "have convened a group to work in politics without having to go through the usual channels"

    Maybe you weren't invited because they didnt want to hear you scream 'youre racist' 'youre sexist' if they didn't all agree with you.

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    Yes, Joe. You caught me. I can't wait to call people racist or sexist. Yay, let's spread the hate!

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I hear that Joe White has a gig all lined up with Glenn Beck, ferreting out racism in the White House and Islamocommunofascist propaganda in the schools, but first he has to provide an answer to the question we're all wondering about: Joe, do you still beat your wife?

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    The actual Groucho Marx quote per Wikipedia is:

    "I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER".

  • Isaac Laquedem (unverified)
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    Hmmm. They didn't invite me, but then, I didn't invite them either.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Klatsch. It's coffee klatsch. They DO make room for the slightly Americanized "klatch", but that's a bow in our direction as the most powerful people on earth....

    Karol's Klatsch. Hum. You think Hillary would come? Margaret Carter is a lovely woman.

    And we are lucky: our balls don't get prostate issues. They stay shiney till the end.

    We could make this go you know. Kick it off with Leanne Jashaway Wacky Woman Bryant. That way we could pretend it's just a book club.

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