Who Controls Salem?

Do the Republicans run the show in Salem? No. Are the Democrats in charge now? Not really, if you read today's Oregonian. They have two stories today today about the role of lobbyists and their influence over the legislative process. While many lobbyists are named (or pictured), one article focuses on RJ Reynolds lobbyist Mark Nelson and the other on Oregon Trial Lawyers lobbyist Alan Tresidder.

From the first article, primarily focusing on Nelson:

A veteran of 25 years of lobbying in Salem, Nelson has more than 30 clients who together paid him more than $1 million last year. Those clients -- a spicy mix that includes R.J. Reynolds, Fantasy Adult Video, state judges and university professors -- put him in the center of nearly everything this session. They say he is worth the big money because of his combination of clout, deep knowledge and long-term relationships to lawmakers.

And most important of all: his track record.

His biggest win so far this session: Nelson helped derail a big increase in cigarette taxes to insure poor children -- one of the top priorities of Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Democrats. The battle isn't over, and the Healthy Kids Plan may end up before voters this fall.

From the second article on Alan Tresidder

Tresidder is 62 years old, a Vietnam veteran, recovering alcoholic and father of three, ages 5 to 32. He's also one of the most well-connected lobbyists at the Capitol.

With a staff of three, he handles nearly two dozen clients, including Verizon, the American Lung Association, private colleges and the deep-pocketed Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

He carries no briefcase, handles no files: "I don't need stuff. If you can't have conversations with people, you can't have them."

Instead, Tresidder relaxes outside hearing rooms or strolls hallways, gleaning the latest from legislators, staff and other lobbyists.

As the articles suggest, both are met with some defeat, but overall great success, both legislatively and financially for themselves and their clients. Read the full articles and come back here to discuss.

  • alice (unverified)

    If big business lobbyists ultimately control the state and federal govt, then lets just start saving tax money now and eliminate all legislator positions, the president, mayor's, commissioners and governor's along with everybody in between, above and below.
    Clearly, they are useless in representing the people, no? evidently all we need is a few "Mark Nelson's" to dictate everything in America. yes, I'm being sarcastic, or am I?

  • anonymous (unverified)

    I wonder how many folks like Kari, who besmirch the progressive cause and undermine the quality of life and safety with their mindless advocacy for regressive PDX-style controlled society measures, and yet who pontificate against the power of money in politics, have a problem with the fact that legislature's vote to remove the limits on red light cameras are a prime example of lobbyists working with scamming companies and with scamming public officials to pass laws privatizing law enforcement for private profit?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Lobbyists play a major role because this nation, as Ralph Nader so cogently noted, is a corporatocracy with the mainstream media brainwashing the sheep to be more concerned with the well-being of corporations than people. If the people hadn't failed to live up to their responsibilities as citizens, the United States might still be a republic.

  • HiddenFromTheBlacklist (unverified)

    Assuming that passing laws == control...which is does not...

    Someone passed a law that says contractors are limited to 6 month engagements, to limit high hourly contractor rates. DHS IT asked to be exempted many times but were denied. They decided to go ahead anyway, and the three highest paid DHS contractors have now been in their position from 5-7 years. They are allowed to write the handoff plan, which determines when their engagement will end, evaluate other contractors, and supervise limited duration employees. All the provisioning estimates, and evaluations are viciously circular.

    A co-worker retired and moved to Michigan and felt it was safe to bring some of this to the attention of the committee appointed to look into DHS, about two years ago now. She carefully documented everything, was very conservative in her estimates. After she sent her concerns to the chair, he actually contacted the department director, asking her, "what's this", ahead of the meeting where her concerns would be addressed. She responded- I was there- , "Oh, she's just a disgruntled employee. Anyone that has a complaint is a disgruntled employee, and your mandate is about our normal operations, not the complaints of disgruntled employees". YOUR elected representative (with an office in North Portland) responded, "Oh, got it."

    You tell me, "Who Controls Salem"? Better yet, what 'ya gonna do about it? Instead you're debating who passed the law that isn't being followed.

  • Red Cloud (unverified)

    If you had all political campaigns funded with public dollars, how would that affect the influence of the lobbyist? The public interest lobbyists I associate with have little or no money and use the threat of their memberships remembering how a legislator voted.

    How much clout would Mark Nelson have if he had to use the clout of the vote and had no money with which to contribute to electorial campaigns?

  • (Show?)

    Mark Nelson and other lobbyists are particularly effective in Oregon, because Oregon is only of only 3 states with no limits on the amount of money their clients can contribute to candidates for the Legislature.

    Also, that money can be used for trips to Hawaii or any other purpose that can be tied either to official business or candidate fundraising. In other words, a candidate can use a political contribution to take a trip to Hawaii for the purpose of meeting with . . . political contributors in order to get . . . more contributions. The various proposed limits on "gifts from lobbying" will be completely ineffective, because it leaves open the opportunity for unlimited campaign contributions that can be used for the same purposes as the "gifts."

    . In contests for the Oregon Senate, the candidate spending the most money won 87% of the races in 2002 and 94% of the races in 2004 and 2006. The two exceptions in 2002 and the only exception in 2004 were former legislators who still spent an average of $195,000 each. The only exception in 2006 was an incumbent Senator who nevertheless spent over $450,000 and was outspent by only $21,000. Results in contests for the Oregon House of Representatives are similar.

    In 2006, 4 state Senate candidates each spent over $400,000 on their campaigns, while 10 House candidates each spent over $300,000. Compared to 2004, in 2006 the average amount spent by a Senate candidate more than doubled, and the average amount spent by a House candidate increased by 45%. I would expect 2008 to be even more expensive, with Republicans redoubling their efforts to take back the House.

    It is unfortunate that the Oregonian would glorify the big bucks lobbyists instead of dedicated public interest lobbyists, like the OSPIRG crew.

  • Intercaust (unverified)

    Hell, let's hire them!

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Nelson worked for Democrat Judge and former AG and treas. Jim Redden, and was an active supporter of Democrats like Kulongoskia and Mike Kopetski in the 80's. Like Goldschmidt and others, he sold out and works for anyone. Unlike lobbyists like Dave Barrows, Nelson would seem to have little personality and I've always wondered how he got ahead. Part of it has been luck and timing. He worked for veteran lobbyist, the late Bob Davis, whose clients include the Rajneeshes cult (Remember them?, they broke immigration and land use laws and tried to kill a lot of people). Nelson took over Davis' client list after his death.

    This recent Oregonian article did not mention what Steve Duin did a few months ago; that Nelson's long time lobby partner Bill Linden died of lung cancer from smoking. Still, Nelson continues to lobby for tobacco.

    I'm thrilled that the beer tax for state cops is still on the table , and hope that the people can prevail over lobbyists like Nelson. In fact, I'm going to write a letter to the editor today.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    If there were ever an article that made the case about the need for citizen-led, service-driven democracy, this was it. The problem is not the lobbyist, of course -- indeed, many are good people. The problem is that there isn't enough power in the hands of citizens advocating for the common good. And for that, I blame not only the rules but also the citizens (and the collective action problem facing democracy).

    We need to organize. We need to buid. We need to encourage power centers that exist not for the benefit of those power centers, but for the benefit of the common interest. Not using the people as tools to build power, but using power as a tool to help people. Not might makes right, but might FOR right.

    Democracy might be broken, but Democracy can also be fixed. From my perspective, this is the challenge of this generation. And we will get precisely the government that we deserve.

    <h2>Wow...that was earnest.</h2>
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