By John Springer of Portland, Oregon. John is a longtime political activist and retired technology manager active with the Occupy Portland movement.
On May Day, “Solutions” -- a spoke of Occupy Portland -- protested a questionable relationship between Attorney General candidate Dwight Holton and the downtown Portland law firm Lane Powell.
Lane Powell is a major law firm with more than 200 attorneys in offices located throughout Washington, Oregon, Alaska and London, England. According to their website, they engage in a wide range of business litigation, including a “White Collar Criminal Defense” division, which proudly defends dozens of large corporations against charges of price-fixing, tax evasion, water pollution, health care fraud, internet fraud, and other business practices that cheat and harm the 99%. On January 9, two days before he announced his race for AG, Lane Powell issued a press release announcing that Holton had joined Lane Powell as an “addition to our rapidly growing White Collar Criminal Defense Practice”. I wonder why defending corporate criminals while running for office is a great quality in an Attorney General.
According to a Portland Mercury article on April 26, Lane Powell also provides Mr. Holton with office space and phone service. There are certainly other business benefits. He has admitted that he is using the Lane Powell offices for campaign purposes, but none of the value given by Lane Powell to the campaign has been reported to the Oregon campaign finance reporting system. The law requires that every “in-kind” contribution be reported within 30 days of receipt and that every in-kind contribution since April 3, 2012, be reported within 7 days of its receipt. The Holton campaign has reported zero in-kind contributions from the Lane Powell firm.
Another unanswered question is whether the Lane Powell firm has been paying Dwight Holton a salary or other compensation since he joined the firm. If so, then what clients has Mr. Holton been working to assist? Since he works in the White Collar Criminal Defense division of the firm, I assume his work has been to defend corporations charged with criminal activities. If he has not been actually working at Lane Powell, then his salary or other compensation is would be a large, and unreported, campaign contribution from the Lane Powell firm.
Finally, Lane Powell proudly touts that (pdf) “Our attorneys are actively involved in legislative committees, bar and trade associations, and similar organizations where they play key roles in formulating proposed laws and help shape how existing laws are defined, implemented and enforced.” That would include Lane Powell attorney Shawn Lindsay, who is a member of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which provided the model for Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, but has since been disbanded under pressure from corporations dissociating from ALEC. Why would we want the next Attorney General working for a firm that writes ALEC legislation?
Protesters attempted to deliver a letter to Mr. Holton on May Day, demanding that he disclose these contributions from Lane Powell, explain his activities, and denounce ALEC, but they were blocked by security and told to leave the building. The letter is posted publicly here.
BethAnne Darby of the Oregon Education Association asked the Holton campaign to respond to the questions, and reported in an email to OEA representatives that the campaign told her:
"Dwight has never represented any corporation – to the contrary, he is the one candidate in this race who has put CEOs in prison for failing to play by the rules."
If Mr. Holton has never represented any corporation, that would appear to mean that he has been doing no work at Lane Powell. If that is the case, why is he shown on the Lane Powell attorney list for the White Collar Criminal Defense group? If he is being paid by Lane Powell, that money comes from somewhere, and the clients of that group are almost entirely corporations and wealthy individuals charged with crimes against the public.
"In regards to the office space, Lane Powell has invoiced the campaign, in accordance with the law. The “time” amounts to making the occasional campaign phone call or reviewing materials; hardly a matter of undue influence or grave public concern."
According to the Holton spokeswoman last week, quoted in the Portland Mercury, Lane Powell had NOT invoiced them and would not do so until the election is over, and there are no entries on ORESTAR (the Oregon campaign reporting system) for any in-kind contributions from Lane Powell. There is also no evidence of what use Holton is making of the office, phones, meeting rooms, parking, and reception facilities, except that Holton has admitted he has been using the office for campaign purposes.
Portland attorney Dan Meek has sent an inquiry (pdf) to the Secretary of State’s Election office asking them to publicly clarify that in-kind contributions must be reported at the time they are known by the campaign, not after the election. The Holton campaign surely knows about the in-kind contributions from the Lane Powell firm; the candidate’s use of the offices for campaign purposes is known by the candidate.
Every criminal deserves an attorney, but not every attorney deserves to be Oregon’s Attorney General. The public deserves to know the relationship between Dwight Holton and Lane Powell and why he chose to work to defend white collar criminals (and apparently to be paid for doing so) while campaigning on a platform to protect ordinary Oregonians from the fraud and abuse of Wall St. and the 1%.