What did Wayne Scott Learn from 2006? Nothing.

Jon Isaacs

I have a strange respect for the ongoing display of audacity by Wayne Scott. Only Wayne Scott would hatch a plan on the first day of the 2007 session to kill badly needed and, frankly, historic ethics reform by trying to make it too ethical. Now there's audacity for audacity's sake and then there's intelligent, calculated displays of audacity. Wayne Scott's failed attempt yesterday to blow up the house rules vote adds to his impressive credentials as a hyper partisan bully who hasn't learned anything from his caucus' loss of the majority in 2006. However, the fact that only four of his fellow Republicans were willing to follow his lead suggests that several House Republican caucus members have learned a thing or two.

First, lets be clear about what happened yesterday because it’s a really big deal. The House - through the adoption of rules - essentially banned their ability to accept gifts of value and travel in an overwhelming display of bipartisan agreement. And despite the State's largest newspaper's typically lazy description of the adoption of new house rules as a partisan squabble, the 56-4 vote was a powerful display of bipartisan agreement on the need for ethics reform. It was a clear, decisive and quick response to demands from Oregon citizens to clean things up in Salem. The significance of this being done in the rules is huge. Essentially, the House decided to police them selves immediately rather than wait for a bill to pass putting the gift and travel ban into law. That's a big deal. Just two sessions ago, the House Republicans pushed through a bill that made it legal for lobbyists to pay for trips for Legislators' family members. Now that's what I call change!

Now back to the lessons from 2006. There's been a ton of debate and discussion here and on other blogs about why Democrats won this time around. Basically, what does it all mean? I'm sure Wayne Scott believes - and his actions yesterday surely demonstrate this - that 2006 was an anomaly. He thinks it’s just a bump in the road on the road to complete right wing domination of our State. Well, I'm hear to tell you that he's quite wrong and if the House and Senate Democrats continue with the strong leadership they demonstrated yesterday we are in for a sustained period of Democratic leadership in Oregon.

2006 was a partisan Republican's worst nightmare for many reasons. But one big part of the Democrats sweeping victory that's gone mostly unnoticed was the public's complete rejection of what previously had been successful Republican campaign tactics. The Republicans have been winning elections for years essentially by scaring undecided voters away from Democrats. Here's a quick synopsis of what the R's would say about the D's: Democrats are going to empty your pockets with tax increases; take all that money and blow it on wasteful bureaucracy (or my favorite - spend it all in Portland); let the most violent criminals back on the street; run every business out of the state; and ban people from going to church (or something of that nature). Sound familiar?

Here's the little secret from the 2006 campaigns - polls showed that voters essentially didn't believe these things about Democrats anymore. Imagine your the playground bully and for a few years you've been able to get your way by pushing every kid who doesn't do what you say into the mud. Well, one day the kids don't care if you push them in the mud and just ignore you. What would you do? That was life for the Republicans during the 2006 elections.

Just ask new Democrats in the legislature like Tobias Read or David Edwards. Or ask State Senator Rick Metsger. They will tell you that after initially having some worry about the expected onslaught of Republican cheap shots, in the end, they could campaign this cycle knowing that the voters weren't buying what the Republicans were selling. The question is why? Why all of the sudden have voters had enough of the Republican attack machine? I'll give you two reasons -

1. Voters are smarter than the Wayne Scotts of the world give them credit for. With so much evidence to prove that the promises made by the right wing were either broken or just plain wrong, a big chunk of voters - especially independents - just stopped listening to the Republicans. Combined with the complete rejection of TABOR, term limits and parental notification this must have partisan Republicans completely at a loss. The right wing Republican movement is completely built on slick marketing slogans that have absolutely no basis in the way the world really works. The modern Republican Party exists completely to win elections, nothing else. The handling of major world events the past two years are all the evidence you need to get this. Voters figured that out in 2006. Like my good friend Lisa Grove said to me sometime early in 2006, "this is a no BS electorate."

2. Voters wanted specific ideas. I was invited the weekend after the election to go on the Jeff Kropf radio show to talk about why Democrats won in 2006 where I made only this simple point. While Republicans were out delivering the same old one-liners they've been talking about for years, Democrats were out talking about specific ideas and plans. Democrats were proposing plans on ethics reform, health care, schools and government accountability. Policy wonks like Suzanne Bonamici and Brian Clem had a great time in 2006. Voters were craving candidates who were interested in getting things done and were willing to say what they were going to do.

Now has Wayne Scott accepted these new political realities? Obviously not. Here's a guy who spends all of his time in the Legislature looking for ways to make Democrats look bad. Remember the attempted punishment of now Deputy Majority Whip Arnie Roblan or the appointment of the three most vulnerable Freshman Democrats to serve on the Revenue committee? Clearly, while most house members - including 25 Republicans - have moved on to their new political reality, Wayne Scott is already fighting the next election using the now obsolete Republican playbook. For those with the job of planning for a long term Democratic majority Wayne Scott is the gift that keeps on giving. For Oregonians with hope that the 2007 Legislature will actually get some things done, they can be thankful that most House members appear to have decided to just stop paying attention to the playground bully.

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    Jon, was there a Dem who voted against the rule, or is that a typo that Scott was joined by four other Reps? "However, the fact that only four of his fellow Republicans were willing to follow his lead..." Four plus Scott makes five.

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    Should say only 3 other Republicans. Four total votes against. All 31 D's voted for the new rules. Thanks for catching that.

  • A Rogue from the Valley (unverified)

    Here's an article from the Medford Mail Tribune...Check the headline - a little misleading?


    No where in the entire article does the "journalist" mention that the Repubs were in power for SIXTEEN years without introducing any ethics reform packages.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    "And despite the State's largest newspaper's typically lazy description of the adoption of new house rules as a partisan squabble..."

    Great description of that Big O. piece!

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    I'm looking forward to more of your thoughts here at blueoregon. The Wayne Scott's of the world are fast becoming endangered species. Keep us updated on more of Wayne's moves. This could be fun.

  • Patty (unverified)

    I think the good citizens of Central Point should be asking some hard questions of Rep. Dennis Richardson, too. Last Friday he spoke out in favor of the original ethics proposal, as seen here:

    Friday's Ethics Rules News Release

    Then he had an entirely new position on Monday. I'm sad the Oregonian bit on his improbable explanation that "the caucus hadn't met until Monday." They seemed to be just fine with the ban on Friday.

    I wish it had been in the paper that he'd publicly lent his name to the majority proposal on Friday then flip-flopped. Maybe the reporters thought that was clear from the story, but I don't think it was. Regardless, Rep. Richardson does not seem to be a man of honor.

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    Great post, Jon--someone needed to call Wayne out!

  • Emil (unverified)

    Scott was a "Yes" vote on the House Rules, and a "Yes" vote on an amendment to ban all gifts.

  • LT (unverified)

    The answer I got when I emailed a reporter asking for the names of the 4 was Jenson, Olson, Krummel and Lim.

    I suspect Richardson and Scott could see the mailer now, "House leaders vote against House Rules" or "Republican leaders flip flop on ethics rules".

  • Peter Ferris (unverified)


    i appreciate your good anaylsis and think you're right on about the new democrats. i would add brian clem and nancy nathanson to your group.

    ive just spent the day lobbying at the capitol on the mobile home park closure issue. see our website for op-ed pieces i've written and our proposed legislation. i plan to be a regular this session.

    thanks again for your insights.



  • mike (unverified)

    ahh it is nice to see Wayne melping my 2008 campaign on the first days of the 2007 session!

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    Congratulations on your new gig and thanks for being the Cold Equations guy for FuturePAC. It's my opinion that your leadership was absolutely key to regaining control of the legislature. They'll have a tough time filling your shoes.

    As for Wayne Scott and the Dems, I'm reminded of the Blind men and the Elephant. The Dems are happy that the new laws require lawmakers to buy their lunch with funds received from lobbyists as contributions rather than having the lobbyist buy their lunch with money currently in their pockets.

    So while the Dems are caressing various parts of the pachyderm anatomy and Mr. Scott seems to be stuck back by the tail, I'm underwhelmed in the extreme by their bold ethical reforms.

    Should make some good rhetorical points with the voters though, even though that won't matter to the Dems, who as we know are about substance over symbolic gestures.

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    <h2>Pat, the rules are among the very toughest of any legislature in the United States. What do you want, a vow of chastity?</h2>

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