The Phil Stanford Watch

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Phil StanfordWell, the debate over the Clean Money campaign finance proposal continues over at my original post: A Wager for Phil Stanford.

To date, Phil Stanford still hasn't accepted my wager - and lots of folks have noticed that he's not been in the Tribune lately. So, where in the world is Phil? Turns out, he's not hiding from the Blue Oregonians... rather, he's just on vacation.

His next column will appear in the Tribune on January 7th. Meanwhile, Phil, if you're listening -- just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you can't accept my little wager. After all, if you're really the running-for-mayor sort, you don't get time off. The March 15th deadline still holds.

Personally, I'd recommend the New York strip at Morton's, but I'm good for whatever you want.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Speaking of "...still hasn't accepted my wager - and lots of folks have noticed ..." how about it, Kari? Your fin against my sawbuck says Phil, my drinking buddy, has so much good material that his hecklers can only take a number and hang fire until after Patriots' Day, or Rose Festival, or ... when Johnny comes marching home again hu!ra! Besides, edict from Dr. P. added 'thou shalt not take the bit of wagons hitched to stars' to be the 42nd Commandment, which keeps out the wise guys' camels-in-the-manger. But, yeah, I can leave my nickel - dime deal on your table through March Ides if you got solstice issues freezing the calendar 'til then.

    I didn't get why you burned bandwidth over a pique in the first place, but hey, I figured it's five easy bucks to snatch, 1499 to go.

    As to the prognosis for Clean Money laundry-by-sundry ... well, an oxymoron in the ballot title ain't likely to wash with half of the people one of the times. Nevermind what spin cycle it goes into.

    Solving the campaign finance whodunnit might take more clues on the Expenditures side than on the Contributions side of the campaign ledger. Who cares where politics gets it, (and it's never 'clean,' that's why kids are told 'don't put that in your mouth'). The credo is not Anticipate the Money, it's Follow the Money. Legislate where it goes and how it's spent.

    Which is the convention. Most durable legislation is proscriptive, not prescriptive. (What's the Commandments, 2 thou-shall's and 8 thou-shall-not's? Get Jack Peeve on it and we'll have that answer right away.) In (conventional) law, we tried stopping people from selling booze, and that didn't work. So now we stop some of them from buying it -- under age, over drunk, the feeble, halt, and insane. In general, good ol' time-tested experience -- The Wisdom of the Ages -- shows you can't make human nature, but sometimes you can make it not. Or fine the fun funds out of it.

    And commercial code, that hoorah of Hammurabi, has ever since held caveat emptor, (buyer beware) not caveat vendor, (seller beware). And what's to beware is that you can't always get what you want, legally. But you can always sell what you're sitting on. For example in controlled substances: If the dealer is holding your dollar and you are holding the bag when the law shows up, you got a problem, the dealer don't. Because it's found that enforcement is more equitable by the rule that says 'you can't buy it' than by rules that say 'you can't sell it, but if you do, it has to be about this long, and about this wide, and about what we're talking about; and what's it all about, Mr. and Mrs. America, Anytown, USA? It's about that man knock-knock-knocking at your door" ... no, wait. Sorry. I thought I saw a sign in the fire.

    Not just to criticize, also to construct. Here's a ready made campaign finance reform proposal, simply add signatures. This certain language has been focus-grouped and survey-said with hundreds and hundreds of participants, personally, in the last fifteen years, and it still reigns as the only consumer good ever to score 100% support from every voter and 100% opposition from every politician. (Or wannabe voter and wannabe politician.)

    Prohibit the purchase of paid political advertising in broadcast. Precedented in existing law which prohibits the purchase of paid cigarette advertising in broadcast. Sustained by identical arguments: The item is addictive, and the item is harmful to public health.

    Cigarettes can still buy paid advertising every other way, (newspapers, magazines, etc.), and so could politicos. Cigarettes still appear on TV, and so could politicos -- they just can't pay for the time slot.

    (Poll it yourself: I'm asking you, you ask a friend: Would you vote for a ban on all political ads interrupting your favorite TV show? Every time the answer is yes, unless the queried is a politician and then every time the answer is no, I think because they don't have a favorite TV show -- they're it.)

    Engross this.

    73rd OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2005 Regular Session NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .

    A BILL FOR ENACTMENT Relating to purchase of advertising or payment for editorial advocacy or opposition prohibited; and amending ORS 260.605.

    Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon: 260.605 No person shall purchase or arrange for the purchase of any advertising from, or pay the owner, editor, manager, publisher or agent { - of any newspaper or other periodical or - } of any radio or television station, to { - induce that person to editorially - } support or oppose any candidate or measure. No such owner, editor, manager, publisher or agent shall solicit or receive such payment or purchase of advertising.

    You can't (but 200,000 signatures could) get it through Legislative Counsel and onto the floor, but (and) if it happened, the D's wouldn't read it and the R's couldn't and it'd pass. By acclaim.

    Gasp! You mean electing and being elected to author laws might depend on a person's having to be able to read and write, and prose their throes? And spelling is going to count?! Yikes! That kinda lets ol' Rush-"Shut it down. Shut it down. Nothing'll happen, just shut it down."-Lamebrain out of the legislative loop.

    Kari, five on Stanford to show? I got ten says he'll hold on to win.


    Speaking of Hammurabi, as we follow along and learn three new words in Turkish. Towel. Border. Passport; uh, may I see your passport, please? Oh. Sorry, it was those fire signs again. Hammurabi and his codiciliators ruled the Golden Age of Babylon, (and that's saying something), 1792 to 1750 B.C., (so long ago they didn't have negative numbers, they just counted backwards). Laws descended from Sumerian and Akkadian civilizations, covering such matters as false accusation, witchcraft, military service, land and business regulations, family affairs, tariffs, wages, trade, loans, and debts, were incised in a stone discovered CIII years ago up the Karkeh tributary of the Euphrates, 49 E, 32 N, on the other flank of the Zagros Mountains from where the Predators pulverize the sands and its treasures today. (Taken substantially from World Book Encyclopedia, the basic known limits of rightwing worldliness.) (Speaking of oxymorons. Or tongue-stunned morons. 'Tongue-stunned' -- get it? Tungsten. W.)

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Okay, for a homework exercise at the end of the chapter, handicap this: Mom Sues Wal-Mart Over Daughter's Suicide

    Bet the ruling -- for the buyer (plaintiff)? or for the seller (defendant)?

    I wager the ruling comes for the seller. Hammurabi says buyer beware.

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    Turns out, he's not hiding from the Blue Oregonians... rather, he's just on vacation.

    Scoping out potential campaign HQs in Maui, no doubt.

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    Tensk, I have no interest in betting any money on Phil's willingness or not to earn a steak dinner at Morton's.

    My wager is in the tradition of great physicists who make silly wagers in order to add discipline to their scientific endeavors. See here about Stephen Hawking's great black hole wager.

    Basically, if Stanford can prove that it's easy -- by collecting 1500 $5 checks himself -- then I've lost, and will buy him dinner at Morton's.

    If he proves that it's not easy -- by failing -- then I win, and it costs him nothing. Except a little egg-on-face. And the proof that the 1500-check threshold works.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Is there possible legislation to reform the financial ground rules of political campaigns that is agreeable, doable, and effective in shaping new political sensibility in a new political arena? We need ideas and considerations and respect.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    The most elegant campaign reform that is agreeable, doable, and effective in shaping new political sensibility in a new political arena is to limit the number of re-elections that an official may have to that office.

    When an incumbent seeks re-election, there is no hope for any challenger. Why bother when the rules, written and unwritten, are so stacked against change.

    Regular open seats are normal when only one re-election is allowed. The norm, not the exception, is competitive elections among a more diverse group of qualified candidates. That's what happens.

    Where there is no re-election limit, you may as well cancel all elections except in the cases of death or retirement because the outcome is pre-ordained.

    This proposal is a practice that is generally-accepted from President to MultCo to many localities in every state including Oregon. It regularly receives public approval (repeal in MultCo was defeated in '04) and costs zero to administer.

    The main impediment to adopting this rule is incumbents themselves, many of whom want to hold power more than anything else, and their handmaidens in the media and among lobbyists who will say and do anything.

    However, as Panchopdx pointed out in a post earlier, even The Oregonian's review of the Katz years said: "Three terms as Mayor is one term too many." Ever the handmaidens of Oregon's power-elite, that line alone is reflects how obvious it is that the post-Goldschmidt era needs to be very different if the political spirit here is to ever revive.

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    I'm not a believer in term limits for one very important reason... often I want someone to stay and continue their good work in office. Term limit supporters effectively tell me whom I can and cannot vote for, which I tend to rebel against. I concede that the re-election rates for incumbents are sky-high, but I have never felt that having new and often inexperienced office holders take an entire term for on-the-job training as a helpful solution over a non-term limited system.

    Although I'm in the minority amongst my fellow progressives, I have trouble supporting campaign finance laws that limit speech for the sake of plugging percieved loopholes (McCain-Feingold/BCRA is the latest one). I'm intrigued at the public financing options out there... it's worth a shot.

    Campaigns are messy... the laws that govern them are rarely going to be a perfect fit.

  • Steve Schopp (unverified)

    Kari, """And the proof that the 1500-check threshold works."""

    Boy you sure have a low threshold for "proof".

    Conducted outside the context and dynamics of a real campaign it would be meaningless.

    I can't imagine why Phil would want to spend any of his time taking up your challenge. Or even talking about it for that matter.

    Is he suppose to pile onto his daily life the task to get 1500 dollar checks so he can get a free dinner and ??????? some superficial one-up on you?????

    My impression is he hasn't the slightest interest in either. I could be wrong though.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    I just didn't take Stanford's point the way other's here have. As I read it he was almost being PC, using himself as an example instead of, oh say, the honerable Rev. Moon, "Anyone" from Oregonians in Action, ditto the Defense of Marriage coalition, etc.

    This seems to me a valid concern. It would be less concerning if we weren't talking about hitting up the general fund. But we are. So it's possible to envision a scenario where we are cutting funding to established, responsible (IMO) organizations such as Elders in Action while pumping those dollars into resurrecting the corpse of Bill Sizemore.

    It could happen - why, even Kissinger, that creepy undead of the right, came back...

    That's the kind of thing the Phil Stanford's of the writing world make their bread and butter off of.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    I'll acknowledge that the trade off with limiting city council terms is that sometimes you lose a good public official.

    But this is offset by lot of good things. Primarily the recognition that after eight years, a lot of (once) good public officials aren't so good anymore. They make too many compromises to stay in office because it has become their career. Also, you don't have to wait 12-16 years for a competitive race to debate important city issues.

    Do you think that Potter would be Mayor right now if Vera wanted to hang on for another term?

    Limiting amount of time a citizen can serve in important public processes has worked in the justice system. I'm sure that, from time to time, a great many judges secretly wish that they could keep a certain set of extremely sharp and fair jurors in place to better serve justice. But we all recognize that one of the values of the jury system is that many citizens flow through it to administer justice (we don't elect professional jurors) because it helps instill trust in the system.

    I'm not saying that we should pick commissioners by lot (although I'd trust my mailman's judgment over Erik Sten's on most issues), but I do think that the public will be better served if the people running for city commissioner look at it like taking a turn to help run the city for four years rather than as a career opportunity.

  • the prof (unverified)

    There is no evidence that term limits makes political systems more representative, races more competitive, or produces better public policy outcomes.

    And there is some evidence that forcing experienced public officials to leave office empowers precisely those "permanent" members of the political class -- interest groups, bureaucrats, and lobbyists -- that the reformers think they are attacking.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Although I disagree with your take on the (very few) studies of term limits on state legislatures, I should remind you that I only proposed term limits on Portland's city council. You may believe the jury is still out on term limits for state legislators (although California seems to finally be turning its fiscal mess around), but that is somewhat inapposite.

    It would be more pertinent for me to point out that term limits have worked fairly well at the presidential level. Afterall, the city council is only 5 people while most legislatures number more than 80. Term limits on a president (one person wielding executive power) are closer by analogy to a city council (a small group wielding executive and legislative powers) than a very large body legislature wielding only legislative power.

    Comparing Portland's City Council to another state's legislature is apples and oranges.

    Of course if you have a study on the effectiveness of term limits in small cities, by all means please share it.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Commenting here a few weeks back, an inspiration that came to me and I wrote was to enstate the draft extended to all public employments, not merely public military employment.

    I saw two results of this. One, a wider recognition of teacher duty and cop duty and ODOT highway work duty and bureaucrat duty and jury duty and military duty, etc. -- are all equivalent, in one sense of it and all are public employment. Two, enacted with the universal scope of a conscription 'draft' means everyone has to do it, and in time the effects of this instill a common respect for public service -- wider respect than there is today in this land. Respect from having had the experience, albeit forced.

    I wasn't sure how a universal draft into public employment or public service should be structured; the probable opening bid would be something in terms similar to the well-know military draft: two years when you're a teenager. President Kennedy's Peace Corps had two year postings, I believe. And Johnson/Nixon's VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), disparaged as 'a domestic Peace Corps, for Appalachia.' And Clinton's AmeriCorps. But jury duty was always only two weeks, but not universal, and elsewise fickle.

    And I wasn't sure about elected public employment. It was intriguing to think of drafting someone to be a senator or governor or judge -- there's not many openings; most people are more likely to find themselves drafted onto the school board or the water district audit bureau or neighborhood watch welcome wagon security aquaintance engineer or ... jury duty. And my imp liked the image of what I imagine as the average American (Oregonian, Portlander) being absolutely revulsed, 'the very idea, of soiling my hands, sweating my labor, raking leaves from street storm grates.' My imp has a sadistic streak. Besides, I enjoy raking leaves. Maybe because I can succeed at it.

    And all these ideas seemed close enough they should somehow connect to another of my longer-standing statist enforcer fantasies: I want to force all city kids to spend two years on the farm, say at the ages 8 to 12, and force all farm kids to spend two years in the city, but I'm not sure about that duration, or at what ages. I just know nothing works as the gulf widens between those dipoles of childhood's formative experiences. Even if it wasn't universal, maybe a compromise 'cultural exchange student' program, better civility should come of it. And all these notions -- a universal draft into manifest public employments, a conscription of 'elected' public representatives, public 'kidnappings' that shanghai our Harry Potters and Tom Sawyers, our Sunnybrook Farm Rebeccas and Plaza Hotel Eloises, out of their comfort zone (and parents' arms) into adventure and travel where travel is broadening -- shades of the practice seen more in New England and old England/Europe, after elementary grades, for kids to board away from home at prep school. All these notions imply programs that take a lot of discussion to implement and then -- then, this is the big part: leave them in place for a couple of generations, twenty years or so, just to see if they work!. Fantastic impossible impracticable quixotic dreamer notions.

    Closer to coming into being, now, than ever before. And probably won't be this close, again, for a long time to come. Fantastic: yes. Inconceivable: no. Just look around us at what we got to work with. This internet, for one. Unprecedented in the history of humankind.

    Well, anyway, then I read the pro and con here on term limits for elected offices, an idea I had been mostly opposed to, and suddenly, (thanks also to George Lakoff) by framing 'term limits' as a 'draft hitch' I warmed to thinking there might be a way I could support term limits. Depending a lot on the terms used to define the 'term' that's being limited. (For example, if it's a 'term' in the National Guard, I damn sure think it should be limited, and the contract 'term' legally kept. Not illegally 'extended' like the Guards in Iraq, and not illegally 'derelict' like Dubya in Texas.)

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Touching on a couple points in my prior comment, in the day's news:

    Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 by Knight-Ridder Departing Lawmakers Cash in Years of Service for Big Bucks by Matt Stearns WASHINGTON - For many congressmen and senators, Congress is something like the Eagles' song "Hotel California": Members check out, but they never really leave. [...] Former members of Congress decide to stick around for many reasons beyond money: They've made friends here. Their kids are in school here. And for many, it's hard to let go of the heady Washington life. [...] Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said such a revolving door led to a system in which members of Congress could be making policy decisions not on what they see as the public good, but on self-interest. [...] Public service should be its own reward," Boyle said. "Not the idea of cashing in on the relationships they build while in government service."


    Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 by the Seattle Times "Left Coast" Musings from the Northern Outpost by Floyd J. McKay

    ... due to tolerance, a bedrock value of classic liberalism. One finds much the same in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. The necessity of living with diverse neighbors, going to work and school with people of other religions, colors and histories, opens one's eyes to a world beyond that of our own kith and kin.

    We are products of our families, our education and religion, but also of our geographic surroundings.

  • the prof (unverified)


    I don't know what you think is a few studies, but in a few minutes of searching I was able to find over a dozen articles and two books.

    I'd take a study of term limits in state legislatures over what you have, which is nothing other than positive thoughts. You compare city councils to juries, and you tell me I'm comparing apples to oranges?

    You don't have any evidence on the effectiveness of presidential term limits because you are comparing it to nothing. G Washington voluntarily term limited himself and every successor honored this until FDR. Since then we have had constitutionally presidencies, but basically we had them since the founding.

    What I'm asking for is specific things wrong with the election process in Portland or in Oregon and how term limits would fix them. Above it's claimed that we only debate major city issues every 12-16 years; or that city council members make "compromises" (with whom? presumably contrary to the public good?) in order to stay in office; or that elections in Portland are non-competitive. Is there evidence on any of this?

    I'm sorry, but I can't support public financing of elections, or term limits, or open primaries (Phil Keisling's pet proposal) without someone identifying what is wrong with the current system. Running the old Progressive banner up the flagpole (parties=bad! citizen/amateur legislators=good!) ain't gonna cut it for me. As I've written before, elections in Portland are marked by high citizen participation, active and engaged press coverage, lots of interest group involvement, high turnout, and lots of candidates for the major offices. It it ain't broke ...

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    As I've written before, elections in Portland are marked by high citizen participation, active and engaged press coverage, lots of interest group involvement, high turnout, and lots of candidates for the major offices.

    FWIW, that "active and engaged press coverage" is bunk. There was next to no coverage of the Adams/Fish race for Council outside of the Oregonian and Tribune. As far as anyone I asked was able to tell me, the Adams/Fish race may never have been mentioned on the local TV news at all.

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    Not only that, but part of my advice to legislative and local candidates (except Portland City Council) always includes this line... "Remember, the only print coverage you're going to get is on the day you announce and on election day."

    It's true. Sometimes, if something really exciting happens there will be a third story (usually campaign finance or something scandalous), but that's about it for County Commission, Metro, legislative races, suburban local races, etc.

    Press coverage of politics around here sucks. Oh, but there's always room for the latest on Britney Spears.

  • Marshall Runkel (unverified)

    Quickly, because I'm off to don an elf hat and hand out holiday thanks to people for paying their taxes...why the current system is broken:

    Over the course of the last 20 years, about 25% of races for City Council, Mayor and Auditor have produced a competitive general election campaign. There have been many primary candidates, but 75% of the time they are overwhelmed by a big spender.

    Related, 97 of the 108 city races were won by the highest spending candidate. Why not just cancel elections and have fund raising contests?

    Under the current system, if you can't raise 200k and take six months to a year off work, you have no chance to be elected.

    Happy Holidays everyone, and thanks for all the smart words.

  • a (unverified)

    B!X - when you say "As far as anyone I asked was able to tell me, the Adams/Fish race may never have been mentioned on the local TV news at all."

    Am I mistaken, do you really mean to imply that this would be different if we had term limits, or "clean money?"

    The abysmal, teensy-minded, bimbo-coifed TV coverage of local politics will never change unless you institute shoot-outs on Broadway to qualify for the “clean-money” dough....

    Fish vs Adams, guns out at noon... Now THAT would get play on the 6 o-clock news. All channels, all the time...

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    B!X - when you say "As far as anyone I asked was able to tell me, the Adams/Fish race may never have been mentioned on the local TV news at all."

    Am I mistaken, do you really mean to imply that this would be different if we had term limits, or "clean money?"

    I was just correcting the record on coverage, unrelated to the matter at hand.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    Marshall, the problem with your stats is that they point to a problem we have no solution to.

    Your stats say the big spender will almost always win. And if that's true, (and an institutional problem with root causes far more complex than what editorial decisions the O makes on election coverage) then it will remain true no matter how high you raise the floor from the current entry fee.

    And the stats will continue to show, as they've shown in the federal races where we've been trying this for a lot longer, that the candidate with the most money will usually have an edge.

    And, everyone wants an edge.

  • Marshall Runkel (unverified)

    Again, quickly, results of implementing new campaign finance systems in Arizona and Maine have been dramatically more competitive races, and more diverse, in every sense of the word (economically, ideologically, ethnicly, etc...), candidates.

    The proposal would guarantee qualified candidates the ability to run a credible city wide campaign. Four out of five state wide elected officials in Arizona used its system. Significant proportions of both Arizona and Maine's legislatures were elected using public campaign funds.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    Just what I figured, there are no studies of the effects of term limits on city councils in small cities (or any cities).

    I'm with you on the "if it ain't broke don't fix it approach" in politics, way too much waste and mischief is launched as a result of trying to fix nonproblems.

    But there seems to be a common theme (among many perceived problems) identified by the commenters on this site: city council wasting public money on projects that favor big (developer) donors but never pencil out.

    Just because we can't give you evidence (in the form of a confession, I suppose) that a commissioner's judgment was compromised by the desire to be re-elected, doesn't mean that it never happened. (Some people might even surmise that the support of this public financing plan is an implicit admission by commissioners that such compromises of integrity do occur).

    The public financing proponents hope to limit the effectiveness of the big donors so that the "honorable nature" of the commissioners remains unsullied. This view considers those seeking a career in politics as good people who tragically succumb to the corrupting influence of money.

    I question whether creating another (potentially) wasteful government program will curb the wastefulness of council members. This is because I am not so confident in the "honorable nature" of those who would want to spend an entire career as a politician.

    Sten and Co. think that the corrupting influence is having to raise the money necessary to be re-elected. While I think that corrupting influences abound (fame, power, cronyism, etc.) whenever someone desires re-election to sustain a political career.

    On Prof's apples/oranges observation: although it may be difficult to study and quantify in a method that pleases him, but a great many people believe that by opening opportunities for government service to a broader array of people, we are enriched by having more educated and knowledgable citizens.

    I used the public jury system as an example of how increased participation in a public process is healthy for society. It doesn't matter that we might be able to come up with a professional jury pool that would prove to be more somewhat more effective factfinders than common law jury pools, because there are values to increased public participation in the justice system that go beyond adjudicating each case (e.g., increasing trust in the system, educating people on its operation, etc.).

    Nearly everyone has been a juror or, at least, has a friend or family member who has served as one. I think that engenders trust in the system and helps to educate all citizens in the process.

    Contrast to elected office. I'll wager that most Portland voters don't personally know anyone who has ever run for public office at ANY level. There is simply a lot of distance between the common folk and the elected class - too much IMO.

    I'm all for increasing public participation, but I'm not willing to redistribute tax dollars to create a welfare system for aspiring politicians to get there.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Sam Adams took a pretty big donation from Gerding/Edlen. SHould I suspect him of corruption?

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    Uh, people, Portland's not always been such a lovely place with wonderfully un-corrupt people. Ironically, that evidence comes from Phil Stanford himself. See his Portland Confidential: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Rose City

    It may come as a shock to anyone who regards Portland as a haven for enlightened progressive thought, with light rail and lattes. But not too long ago — in fact, as recently as the 1950s — Portland was known throughout the country as a Mecca of vice and sin.
    From the wildly popular Portland Tribune columnist comes Portland Confidential: Sex Crime, and Corruption in the Rose City. For decades, Portland had been known as a wide-open town where prostitution, gambling, and drug running were common occurrences. By the 1950s, an opportunistic conman named Big Jim Elkins had taken over the vice industry in Portland and had most of the police brass and local politicos on his payroll.
    This entertaining and fascinating story includes characters such as Al Winter, former Portland mob boss who moved on to Las Vegas to open the Sahara Casino; Bill Langley, the Multnomah County district attorney who was caught on tape planning to divvy up payoffs with Seattle mobsters; “Diamond Jim” Purcell, chief of detectives in Portland who helped cover up many of Big Jim’s crimes; and Dorothy McCullough “No Sin” Lee who was elected Portland’s first woman mayor in 1949 and who vowed to clean up the city. Even a young Bobby Kennedy figures in the story when, in 1957, he gathered up Portland’s most notorious characters and brought them back to Washington, D.C., to appear live on television in front of the Senate Rackets committee.
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    You don't even have to go into Portland's mob history. For much of the City's political history, the monied interests controlled and ran the place through a patronage system.

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    For what it's worth, I've finally gotten responses from authorities in Arizona and Maine, who I emailed to ask about abuses of their respective "clean elections" systems.

    Autumn R. Southard, Voter Education Manager for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission in Arizona, after including the various sections of the Commission's rules which apply, said this:

    We monitor all campaign finance reports and conduct random audits. We also have an enforcement process that allows for outside complaints to be generated and potentially investigated. In instances where candidates have attempted to use campaign funds for something other than running a campaign, we have made them repay all of the funding they received or fined them up to $15,000. We have only had a few of these instances.

    Arizona's system has been in place since 2000, having been passed by voters in 1998.

    Jonathan Wayne, Executive Director of the Maine Ethics Commission, who included a rundown of the safeguards/rules in place regarding abuse, said this:

    Very few abuses have occurred in Maine.  There were a couple of cases in 2000 that turned into significant enforcement actions.  One candidate used the funds to start his own political consulting business and the other used the funds for significant personal expenses such as meals.  We are auditing the 2004 candidates now.

    Maine's system was adopted by voters in 1996.

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    Kari, pease don't recommend looking to Phil Stanford for "evidence" on that subject. It leaves me unsure whether to laugh hysterically or puke and they both interfere with my breathing.

    The corruption story Phil has been periodically "reporting" in the Tribune and writes about in his book is good enough for a Pulitzer. What Phil doesn't like to mention is that the Pulitzer for that story was awarded to The Oregonian--in 1957.

    Phil's making his living rehashing The Oregonian's prize winning stories and spinning conspiracy theories about the Francke murder. Why anyone takes him the least bit seriously is beyond me.

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    Well, I can't speak to its originality - but the facts remain true: we need to remain vigilant to corruption.

    The Clean Money Proposal is a good first step. Not by any means a perfect one, but a good one.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Janice thompson and others have been working on clean money cfr in Oregon for several years. Info here:

    Term limits is a nuke'em approach to getting rid of bad elected officials. Why not work for effective cfr [ya, I know it's not easy] and enhance, instead of decrease, democracy?

  • Ramon (unverified)

    Free Money ... or 1-2-3?

    Here's a sensible proposal that a) requires no public expenditure or enforcement, b) does not violate the First Amendment, and c) does not lend itself to an idiotic wager v. Phil Stanford:

    1. No mandatory limits on political donations.
    2. No mandatory limits on political spending.
    3. No mandatory campaign finance disclosure.

    Candidates who opt to limit and disclose will earn the support of voters to whom this is important.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    Oh ... one more item to the 1-2-3 proposal. Voluntary disclosure is subject to mandatory review by a nationally-accredited auditing firm; preferably one that never did work for Neil Goldschmidt or any of his clients. False reporting revokes the candidacy. False disclaimer by the auditing firm revokes their license to practice in Portland.

  • the prof (unverified)

    Marshall, I've asked before, perhaps you can deliver. In Maine and Arizona, there is evidence of more candidates but I have not heard any evidence of greater turnover. We can easily increase the number of candidates without improving competitiveness.
    Stating that four of five candidates were elected with clean money is irrelevant.

    Pancho, I think you and I are close on diagnoses, but I am a skeptical about your solutions. I believe that political money almost always finds a way--too many interests have too much investment in public activity. If we limit spending in one venue, it will find another avenue (current example: McCain/Feingold). Term limits is a solution without a problem. It is a product of a Ross Perot, anti politician, anti government spirit that I would hope the posters here would be resistant to.

    But I definitely agree with you both normatively and empirically that getting people involved in government and public service is an important part of restoring (and building) public trust in government. I simply disagree that the way to do this is via term limits or campaign finance: either would make a microscopic difference in the number of involved citizens.

    b!x: I still say that press coverage here is active and engaged. Using one race that many say featured two candidates without many policy differences and wasn't covered on local TV news (a complaint endemic to that outlet) isn't saying much. Were the competitive congressional races covered? The mayoral contest? Initiatives?
    We have at least four publications covering politics (Oregonian, Trib, Mercury, and WWeek); we have candidate debates and forums all over the city; we have KBOO and KPAM and KEX. We have BlueOregon. Folks, life here is good. I still don't see a problem that clean money is supposed to fix.

  • (Show?)

    We have at least four publications covering politics (Oregonian, Trib, Mercury, and WWeek); we have candidate debates and forums all over the city; we have KBOO and KPAM and KEX. We have BlueOregon.

    Granted. I suppose what we need now are the breakdowns of how many people get their news from these source, and how many from the local television newscasts, which generally offer crap for political coverage.

  • the prof (unverified)

    Pancho, one last comment I forgot in my previous (overly long) post: I don't think the bloated development projects are a product of campaign finance. In fact, all indications are that the deep pocket folks (businesses) have been very unhappy with the political folks (I could be wrong about this).

    I think these projects have more to do with grandiose designs on the part of the political leadership in the city and state, and an inability to adjust to the realities of the 2000s.

    I don't think clean money would fix that and could exacerbate it. I am a big fan of political expertise.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    Re. Prof: Too much politics is a problem seemingly without a solution. And Portland, Oregon is about as bad as it gets in the USA. Term limits, by demonstrating to politicians that NOT EVERYTHING has to be submitted through their personal power traps, offers a beginning to solving that problem. People who oppose an idea often claim "it won't solve the problem." We've gotten to this point by 1000 cuts and it may take more than one bandage to stop the bleeding and begin to restore the health of civil (non-political) society. Opposing the idea of rotation in office, or term limits, on Prof's grounds is professional sophistry. If unlimited gov't and politics is what you're after, we may as well remove all checks and balances, like combining executive and legislative branch functions. Oops. We already do that in Portland city gov't.

  • Marshall Runkel (unverified)


    Am including some empirical results from AZ, ME and NC below. Anecdotally, there are some good stories from AZ. Mostly concerning what were considered to be unchallengeable incumbents being upset by publicly funded challengers. Lack of real competition is one of the most pernicious forces in modern politics. Witness the excellent recent post here: Who Controls the Purse-strings??


    Participation cuts across party lines: in Maine 87% of the Democrats and 73% of the Republicans are running clean; in Arizona, 65% of the Democrats and 51% of the Republicans are running clean.

    Voter choices are being expanded, too: in Maine 92% of the house races and 91% of the senate races will include at least one Clean Elections participant. In Arizona, 83% of the house races and 50% of the senate races will include at least one Clean Elections participant.

    In Maine, the number of contested primaries rose to 39, up from 31 in 2002 and 25 in 2000. All but two of those included at least one Clean Elections candidate.

    In North Carolina, twelve of sixteen candidates for state Supreme Court and Appellate Court are currently running with public financing, taking advantage of the state’s new Judicial Campaign Reform Act, passed by the legislature in 2002.

  • (Show?)

    Marshall, you wrote Mostly concerning what were considered to be unchallengeable incumbents being upset by publicly funded challengers.

    Care to share who those were? I think this would go a long way to dispelling the notion that Clean Money just subsidizes an end result that would have occurred anyway.

    Of course, even if not a single race were to change outcomes, that would not prove that Clean Money was a failure.

    Even if outcomes don't change, the Clean Money initiative leads to 1) candidates that spend more time campaigning, less time fundraising; and 2) elected officials who don't have the appearance of being beholden; and 3) elected officials who spend more time governing and less time fundraising.

    I'll come back to this again and again. I'm not concerned about the quantity of money in politics. I'm not generally concerned about the quality of candidates who run and win. I'm not concerned, really, much with the source of money (though sometimes it looks bad.)

    I am primarily concerned with how much time our candidates and elected officials spend fundraising instead of meeting citizens, discussing issues, and governing.

  • Ramon (unverified)

    Re. Kari

    While fundraising, politicians ARE actually meeting citizens and discussing issues. Name the politicians who deny that.

    Re. "how much time ... governing" - Examine for a moment how quantity per se is a desireable end here. (I actually prefer quality.)

    If they kept at it long enough would they finally get it right? Take the recent & Oregon example of all the extended and special sessions in Salem - ever since they ripped legislative term limits out of the Constitution. Even in MultCo, Blue or Red, every pollster will tell you: the answer among 70% of the public is "no". The numbers on this look like the Water Billing fiasco.

    Oops. I forgot that elites don't care what the public thinks.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    Ramon hit the nail on the head when he called "Clean Money Elections" the latest liberal newspeak.

    I'm trying to imagine how an alien observer ("AO") would explain this to a second grader ("2G"):

    2G: What's this plan about?

    AO: Well, it takes a little money from a lot of the people who earned it (let's just call them the "Earners"), then it gives a lot of it to few dozen other people who did not (the "Spenders").

    2G: How do the Spenders get the money from the Earners?

    AO: Well, the Earners already willingly pay a lot of money for a lot of other things that they don't really know much about, so the Spenders would just skim some of that money away.

    2G: What if their isn't enough money left to skim?

    AO: The Spenders will just ask the Earners for more money, but they will say that it is for something else like police or schools. Earners like police and schools.

    2G: So what will the Spenders do with it?

    AO: They are supposed to spend it on telling the Earners about each Spender's good qualities.

    2G: Why is that a good thing?

    AO: Well, some other people like to promote socialist ideas (the "Dreamers"). These Dreamers believe that it is very important for a lot of different Spenders to inform all the Earners about themselves, and it takes a lot of money to do so.

    2G: Why don't the Dreamers just give their money to the Spenders?

    AO: Well, the Dreamers don't usually have a lot of money and most of the Earners are reluctant to give money to the Dreamers' favorite candidates. This plan makes it a lot easier for Dreamers.

    2G: Won't a lot of the Earners decide it might be more fun to become a Spender?

    AO: Probably. But the Dreamers say they won't, however if it does, the Dreamers can just proclaim it a success anyway because because they aren't really bothered by the additional Spenders.

    2G: How do the Dreamers hope to get the Earners to support this idea?

    AO: Well, they are going to name the plan "Clean Money Elections". Since most Earners aren't very partial to Dirty Money Elections, the Dreamers hope the Earners will just vote for the name without pausing to think about it.

    2G: Will this work?

    AO: Probably not.

    2G: Then why are they promoting this?

    AO: Aside from the fact that it is in the nature of Dreamers to dream and of Spenders to gamble on their dreams? Well, they are also considering just passing this without asking the Earners' permission.

    2G: Can they get away with this?

    AO: Well, yes. Unless the some of the Earners organize to gather enough signatures from other Earners to require the Spenders and Dreamers put it up for a vote.

  • allehseya (unverified)

    Re: further clarity for Pancho

    Pancho explains: Well, the Dreamers don't usually have a lot of money and most of the Earners are reluctant to give money to the Dreamers' favorite candidates. This plan makes it a lot easier for Dreamers.

    Don't forget Oregon's Motto, Pancho: We Love Dreamers

  • (Show?)

    Ramon says While fundraising, politicians ARE actually meeting citizens and discussing issues.

    Well, yeah, but a very limited class of citizens. That's the point.

    A competitive legislative race costs, say, $500,000. Since you can't raise it during session (say, 7 months), and you need it by, say, September of the election year... that gives you (starting on Election Day previous) exactly 14 months to raise it. Fundraising 20 days a month, that's $1786 per day. Every day.

    You telling that that's not going to impact both the quantity and quality of governance?

    (And yes, I know, this isn't a legislative measure, but those are numbers that are more predictable.)

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