Auditor Demands Cash Back from Boyles

Late yesterday, the city auditor notified the Emilie Boyles for Portland City Council campaign that she must repay the $145,000 in public money she received from the Voter Owned Elections system - along with some hefty fines.

The repayment was not related to the earlier allegations about the validity of her signatures and $5 contributions. Rather, she violated the system's rules by making an advance payment on a year-long lease for her campaign office. From the Oregonian:

Candidates who qualify for taxpayer campaign help can spend the money only in the election for which they've qualified. In other words, Boyles should have only spent money she received for the primary in the primary.

Instead, she rented a former Brazilian restaurant at Southeast Powell Boulevard and 122nd Avenue for a year. In her report to the auditor, Boyles said she planned to use the space for a food bank she runs after the election, Blackmer said. That's not allowed either.

"She signed an agreement with us that she would abide by the rules," Blackmer said. "We think she broke the rules. She needs to give the money back."

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Steve (unverified)

    So judging by Mr Blackmer's actions, if she had not slipped up and signed a year's lease, all of the other money is hers? This is just too precious, good thing we had a stupid person get caught.

    I am sure when the system gets better, then we'll catch the people who outsmart Erik and Blackmer. This VoE is getting laughed at across the country, I just got called from NY, it hit the news there.

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    I don't think that is what he is saying. It's just that it only takes one violation of the rules for the money to be given back. As soon as one violation is proven, then they have a case. They don't have to wait for the entire investigation to be done before they ask for the money back.

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    Remember, there's still an attorney general's investigation underway.

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    Blackmer says in the letter that this is enough to take the money back, but it's not necessarily the only fine they'll levy. He took the clearest one and stopped the bleeding ASAP to recover the most unspent money possible.

  • Norm! (unverified)

    Also from The Oregonian article:

    "Boyles' financial history is shaky: She owes the state of Alaska more than $21,000 in student loans, although state regulators eventually declared the debt uncollectable after they could not find Boyles to demand repayment. As of last week, she owed $175 in property taxes and fines to Multnomah County. In an e-mail sent to numerous newsgroups this weekend seeking legal help, Boyles' daughter said her mother earns $600 a month."

    It's pretty obvious that the City's taxpayers can say goodbye to the money the Council gave away to Boyles. Even if she returns half of the $150K, she probably could not afford to pay the 12% penalty interest on the remaining $75K.

    The more I learn about Portland's VoE (a.k.a. "Erik Sten's re-election fund"), the more I realize what a horribly bad program this is. Check out the Auditor's PDF about the program (with stupid clipart).

    • VoE Discourages Candidates from Raising Too Much Seed Money and Qualifying Contributions. Any amounts raised in excess of $15K or $20K are deducted from the City's initial giveaway.
    • VoE Penalizes Unopposed Candidates. If a candidate is unlucky enough to have all of their opponents withdraw, s/he has to pay back all of the funds regardless if the money is spent.
    • VoE Encourages Candidates to Spend The Entire Jackpot. If you win or lose, you better plan on spending the entire jackpot or else you have to write a check to the City and give back the excess (assuming you haven't left town).

    For a program that will probably end up costing taxpayers millions in a few election cycles, it seems like Sten and Co. could have thought it a through better.

  • geno (unverified)

    After reviewing the expenditures by Ms. Boyles, it seems more appropo to denominate the creative campaign funding scheme "Voter Boned Elections"! Hope that isn't too salty?

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    VoE Discourages Candidates from Raising Too Much Seed Money and Qualifying Contributions. Any amounts raised in excess of $15K or $20K are deducted from the City's initial giveaway.

    That is not a correct analysis. The qualifying contributions and seed money contributions are also deducted from the amount of public funds provided. The candidates' calculation around raising seed money is more about the timing of when they have access to the funds. It does not affect the total funding they will have.

    Indeed, if you raised about $15K of seed money contributions, you would be in violation and would be disqualified from receiving public funds.

    I would point out that two candidates seem to be having no problem following the rules. Ms. Boyles experience is going to both teach the Citizens Campaign Commission how to tighten up the system AND teach future candidates how not to use the system.

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    Oops... That should have been "if you raised above $15,000".

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    Maybe Portland could get a kickback from Alaska for telling them where she is...

  • ron ledbury (unverified)

    That 15,000 limit is itself odd.

    Change it to 150,000. Also allow someone to continue to appeal to folks to donate to the city on behalf of their campaign so as to defray some or all of the public cost.

    Now, what would happen to any opportunity for the Auditor to impose a civil penalty for misuse of public funds if the city suffers no loss because of subsequent donations before the date of an election? (The time has not yet run out for Ms. Boyles to obtain such cover of her debt.)

    This ability to continue to make such later appeals for money is on my list of issues. But I would have only been able to address it hypothetically, and challenge it by overtly asking folks to cover the city's cost during any campaign.

    Without such a limit on both seed money and the ability to repay from new contributions before the close of a campaign then it might just look like the Mannix funding dilemma caused by debt from a prior campaign. Except here the city would be the lender.

    I want a change in election funding laws generally so as to recognize campaign debt that is not paid off by the time of an election as a donation.

    Now . . . if rich-boy-joe-bloe received public campaign funds and could escape any civil penalty merely by covering the city's cost with a single immediate check while poor-candidate-sally gets hit with a demand for return plus a penalty is the penalty solely then for being poor?

    You guys are evil . . . to the poor. If Mannix owed 400,000 to someone he was even poorer than Ms. Boyles, and perhaps even more susceptible to manipulation.

    Could someone "loan" Ms. Boyles the money today to repay the monies she received . . . so as to save her from a civil penalty?

    Could Sam Adams retroactively ratify illegally distributed funds (illegal at the time of their delivery) for the tram so as to escape personal criminal action? Could the Auditor be demanded to be consistent? (Think -- "on behalf of another" in the words found in the ORICO laws; with an eye toward Keiwit and Jim Francisconi as beneficiaries.)

    Could Mr. Sten push today for a retroactive change in the VOE ordinance so as to eliminate the prospect of the Auditor's demand for an civil penalty against Ms. Boyles beyond just a simple demand for return of the money? Dan Saltzman found a way for the tram, and got his name in highlights in the Oregonian for his courageous action.

    The pro-tram folks ought to find a better adviser than they have in the anti-Boyles anti-VOE folks. This could just get too tempting to resist going to court for a play date.

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    This is really too bad. Emily Boyles has done a lot of great work in her community, and that's all been overshadowed by how she's used the VOE funds. I would love to see one article talking about all the good she's done. And I seem to remember that VOE had quite a number of public hearings before it was voted for by our City Council. I'm looking forward to its improvement and further spreading around the region and nation.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    One wonders whether the Auditor is going to apply this same standard to the May rent for Fritz and Sten. If they pay their entire May rent up front, including the portion after the primary, out of their city funds, then they are in violation and have to return all the money they received?

    If this were the only problem with Emily Boyles - her petitions were all legit and she wasn't paying her daughter at what appears to be an exhorbitant rate - this would look like the auditor was trying to find an excuse to take the money away from her.

    What about literature - if they don't use all of it, can they give it out after the primary? Or would that violate the ordinance? And what about web sites, polling and media work done for the primary, can they be reused in the general election? And what about those computers? It seems to me the idea that there will be a wall between primary and general election expenses is a fiction.

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    <h2>Ross, the way the code defines the 'primary period' it includes 20 days after the election itself, so paying the rent for the full month should not be an issue.</h2>
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