Oregon Realtors Association: Getting fleas

Carla Axtman

There's an old saying that goes something like "When you lie down with dogs, you get fleas." Well, the Oregon Realtors Association is starting to look really itchy.

About two months ago, Oregonian political reporter Jeff Mapes wrote a piece about a ballot initiative sought by the Oregon Association of Realtors:

The Oregon Association of Realtors, looking at the state's dismal budget outlook and voter passage of the targeted tax hikes in Measures 66 and 67, has decided to take its own preemptive action to halt any tax increase affecting the housing industry.

The association is pursuing a ballot initiative that would amend the state Constitution to ban new real estate transfer taxes in Oregon, by either state or local government.

These sorts of taxes are common elsewhere, but not in Oregon. In fact, the legislature passed a bill a few years ago prohibiting these taxes. But apparently OAR wants it out of the lands of the legislature.

Not terribly shocking.

What is odd, however, are some the expenditures for the Protect Oregon Homes PAC, the funding arm of the Oregon Realtors Association's effort.

First, there's just over $26k to Madison Communications of Bothell, Washington. As it turns out, Madison Communications is owned by a guy named Brett Bader, a Republican political operative. In 2008, Bader was associated with a corruption scandal in Alaska. Bader wasn't convicted of wrongdoing, but at the very least his dealings in this situation appear shady, at best. Bader's Madison Communications firm has also been in trouble with King County for failing to appear on a defamation case against them. A lawsuit was also filed against Bader for failure to repay most of a $44,500 loan from a business associate (where he also failed to appear) where he faced a default judgement.

Swell guy.

Protect Oregon Homes PAC has also paid just over $4k Lincoln Strategy Group from Tempe Arizona. Lincoln isn't squeaky clean either:

The Fired Up Missouri political website reports that Better Courts for Missouri retained Lincoln Strategy Group of Tempe, Arizona, formerly known as Sproul and Associates, to help gather signatures. The firm has done millions of dollars of work for the Republican National Committee and Republican presidential campaigns.

The firm has been investigated for allegedly destroying Democratic voter registration forms in multiple states. In Arizona, Lincoln Strategy Group employed deceptive tactics – including systematically lying about the bill – to push a ballot initiative, according to Salon.

Lisa Bragg, who worked for the company in West Virginia, told Salon, “They were asking me to be deceptive and to go behind people’s back. I thought that was wrong and sneaky.” The firm denied that and numerous similar claims by other former employees.

Nathan Sproul, of Sproul and Associates/Lincoln Strategy Group, has a nasty little reputation in his own right when it comes to nefarious activity with initiative petitions and voter registration.

As far as I can tell, this initiative hasn't even made it out to circulate for signatures yet, which gives them just over a month to collect the 110,358 needed to make the ballot. That's a pretty tall order, frankly. But Oregon's initiative signature gathering process has already been through the Sizemore ringer. And these associations by the Oregon Realtors Association come awfully close to not passing the smell test.

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    I'm pretty sure it's out; I was canvassed for it a couple weeks ago. Oh wait, I'm thinking of the "home is a castle" initiative. Nevermind.

    But the Realtors batting down a social good because it might make houses cost more? Shocking!

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