Oregon GOP: Serving the Koch Bro$

T.A. Barnhart

This is the money the Koch Brothers are investing in Oregon politics this year. So far:

candidate committee Koch $
Friends of Ted Ferrioli $7,000
Committee to Elect Jason Conger $1,000
Tim Knopp for State Senate $7,000
Boquist Leadership Fund $5,000
Friends of Vic Gilliam $1,000
Friends of Bill Kennemer $1,000
Friends of Bruce Hanna $5,000
Friends of Andy Olson $5,000
Friends of Mark Johnson $1,000
Kevin Cameron for Oregon $3,000
Citizens for Jim Thompson $1,000
Committee to Elect Doug Whitsett $1,500
Committee to Elect Mike McLane $5,000
Friends of Julie Parrish $1,000

(The contribution to Parrish was originally entered as a contribution from the Koch Industries, which is how the Bros send out their money. She has since amended it as a contribution from Georgia Pacific Financial Management LLC, which, of course, the Koch Brothers own. In fact, the amended transaction (ID 1344321) includes, in the description field, “aka Koch Industries”. To date, this is the only contribution made by GPFM in 2012.)

The thing to note about these contributions: Apart from Parrish, they are not going to contested races. They are going to safe seats and GOP leaders. In other words, guys that don't need money from outside of Oregon. Here’s a look at how much they’ve raised just in 2012, how much they’ve spent and how much cash they have on-hand (as of noon-ish, Oct 2, when I last checked ORESTAR):

candidate committee 2012
Friends of Ted Ferrioli $125,961 $104,658 $52,619
Committee to Elect Jason Conger $264,534 $206,272 $88,877
Tim Knopp for State Senate $317,320 $253,896 $63,448
Boquist Leadership Fund $105,605 $53,803 $81,922
Friends of Vic Gilliam $65,290 $55,029 $33,440
Friends of Bill Kennemer $93,543 $56,749 $81,185
Friends of Bruce Hanna $446,845 $355,276 $228,302
Friends of Andy Olson $169,768 $133,435 $107,889
Friends of Mark Johnson $119,439 $105,827 $32,123
Kevin Cameron for Oregon $136,587 $160,103 $54,427
Citizens for Jim Thompson $72,060 $50,943 $59,297
Committee to Elect Doug Whitsett $92,778 $129,573 $15,694
Committee to Elect Mike McLane $152,435 $117,253 $48,692
Friends of Julie Parrish $224,477 $181,967 $67,739
totals $2,386,642 $1,964,784 $1,015,654

Remember: Apart from Parrish, none of these guys (and apart from Parrish, they are all guys) are in a contested race. Far from it. Like most state legislators, like most incumbents who’ve not been found hiking the Appalachian Trail or ready to become lobbyists and score the big bucks, these guys are in seats that, to call them “safe”, is to also note that stars are way, way up there in the sky.

So why give them thousands? Two reasons. One, so they can launder the donations for the Koch Brothers. Pure and simple. Along with the scam of third-party “in-kind donations,” this is how big money is funneled into Oregon politics. This is how GOP leaders are attempting to isolate their vulnerable candidates from the slime of Koch money — as many voters might characterize it.

(And yes, the Democrats move money around and use in-kind. I’ll be looking at the overall picture later on; campaign finance reform is vital, and the Dems have to move it forward.)

Not merely a rabbit hole, but a warren

The above tables only show a few of the players. Here’s the broad outline of who is involved in campaign expenditures:

That may seem straight-forward, but we’re talking about 2 party committees, 4 caucus committees, at least 180 candidate committees (assuming 1 each, incumbent and challneger), goddess-knows how many PACs, and as many donors as want to play, both in Oregon and out-of-state. And here’s what we’re talking about when we talk about “finances”:

Again, that may seem clear, but then we get to this:

Ok, so where does this leave us? Let’s get back to the recipients of Koch Brothers’ down-payment on services to be rendered by Republican minions.

Andy Olson doesn't need $5000 for his campaign; he just needs to file the paperwork to get re-elected in that district. As it is, he’s raised $170k in 2012 and has most of that left in the bank. But he’s also the new House Republican Leader. All caucus leaders are responsible for doing serious fundraising, and, since he needs to spend very little of his funds on his own race, he will be able to dole out his campaign funds to other candidates, to PACs, and to the GOP (which it appears few people, including Olson, are doing; Allen Alley’s only raised $50k this year). So when someone in Olson’s House District 15 writes a check to him expecting that contribution will fund Olson’s campaign, what it’s really doing is filling a campaign “war chest” that can be used however Olson wants.

And let’s be crystal clear: This is a fault with Oregon law, not with particular individuals or parties. So far, Oregon legislators (and citizen activists) have failed to find a formula that meets constitutional muster and are less likely to do so in the wake of Citizens United. The true ethical flaw in this under current law would be to solicit campaign funds “for me” knowing full well the donations are going all over the state. My representative, Lew Frederick, a member of the House Dems leadership, has informed donors of this when I’ve heard him speak. This is the proper behavior for candidates.

Citizens have to hold them accountable.

But back to the Koch Brothers.

David and Charles Koch are the 4th richest Americans, at $31B each (combined, they’d be #2 behind Bill Gates’ $66B). Along with other billionaire right-wing ideologues, they are attempting to buy the 2012 election. They are the major funding source behind the Tea Party, and they are pouring money into races across the country the way McDonalds is pouring fatty, salty calories down American gullets. They are not funding a broad-based, grassroots, citizen-led movement; they are two rich individuals paying candidates and activists to do as they are instructed.

And to date, in Oregon, that purchase price is $74,500. One-third of that has been handed to AOI, Associated Oregon Industries, the GOP’s most loyal and highest-yielding PAC. $1,000 of that was redirected by Parrish to look like a Georgia Pacific contribution, as noted above; it is, however, Koch money. Several GOP electeds got $1,000-$3,000 each. The leaders of the party in the House got five grand each. (Since I started drafting this post, Sen Ted Ferrioli, GOP Senate Leader, received $7,000.)

Thousands of dollars none of them need. But it’s money they can use to help win other races. The trick is, finding out where that money goes.

On September 18, Andy Olson made a contribution of $15,000 to the Promote Oregon Leadership PAC; that’s the Rs’ version of Future PAC. (The former is the House GOP caucus’ PAC; the latter is the House Dems.) This makes a total of $49K for 2012; in 2010, he gave $57K to the Promote PAC. As a member of Republican House caucus, and especially now as one of its leaders, this is part of his responsibilities — but not, of course, part of his job as State Representative for HD 15. This is bonus service he offers on his own dime.

Well, on 50,000 Koch dimes.

What is the Promote PAC spending its money on? (Or is that Olson’s? Kochs’? Linn County donors?)

And so on. Regular political/campaign expenditures, some of which benefits candidates who face tough fights. Candidates like Julie Parrish who has $67,739 cash on hand and whose opponent has $60,524 on-hand. But here’s part of the fun of playing “Share the Wealth” in GOP leadership circles. Here are some other contributions from Promote PAC:

(Disclosure: these numbers are changing daily. Tim Freeman reported $10,000 promote on the 10th. This post should not be taken as comprehensive or current. I am as accurate as I can be based on what’s in ORESTAR when I last checked it.)

Promote PAC has over $193K on-hand. They have to spend that money. They’ve raised it to win the House and the Senate, not to mention prepare for the 2014 gubernatorial defeat race. Giving non-incumbents a chunk of cash or making media buys for them makes sense. Giving Bruce Hanna ten grand? Whaaaaa?

Meanwhile, the Koch money simply disappears into the wash. Hanna’s $5K from the Kochs is a drop in his bucket of $405,005 raised in 2012. This is insignificant money; the $25,000 they gave to AOI is a tenth of the right-wing business association’s 2012 take and not really significant given how much cash these candidates, PACs and committees have on-hand.

Which brings us to the second reason that the leaders of the Oregon Republicans caucus are accepting Koch Brothers money they don’t need: They are telling the Kochs, and Oregon, that they are fully committed to the Kochs’ anti-democracy agenda. Every one of these Republicans who pocket the Koch money — and that includes Julie Parrish who repurposed her Koch dollars as Georgia Pacific and fooled no one — is stating that when it comes to a choice between Oregon or the machinations of a couple of silver-spoon corporatist democracy-haters, they are happy to take the money and run. Even before accepting the me-first money of the Kochs, this small group of Republicans already had over $1 million cash on-hand. When Bruce Hanna, Andy Olson, Julie Parrish and other Republicans accept checks from the Kochs, it’s not about fundraising.

It’s about right-wing Republicans putting a national anti-government, anti-democracy agenda in front of their duty to serve the people of Oregon.

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    T.A. Barnhart has been writing at Blue Oregon for nearly 6 years. He also writes (ir)regularly at tabarnhart.net. You’ll find more videos, including interviews and excerpts of local progressive events, at his Vimeo page. And he’s on Facebook a lot! In 2011, he spent most of the legislative session producing video reports, a project he plans to resume in 2013 (with the distinct of advantage of actually knowing what he’s doing this time).

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    Great rundown, TA. It's easy to get lost in all the numbers. But the bottom line is this: They wash this money by moving it from committee to committee.

    But make no mistake: the guys running in swing districts saying that they're not taking any Koch Bros money, well, they are.

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    Wow..thanks for doing all the digging and reporting!!

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    Excellent report. Sad you have to be the one providing the transparency. The major Oregon media, crickets...

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    Wow. Thanks for the digging and analysis t.a.

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    Not surprised. I'm in Kevin Cameron's district. He's also a member of ALEC. Sad. We've been moving to becoming a plutocracy for years and Citizens United just sealed the deal.

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    If only the Oregonian would have a reporter do real reporting like this.

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    If only OLCV, OR-ACLU, AFL-CIO, and most other liberal interest groups had supported instead of opposing Measure 46 & 47 campaign finance reform in 2006. Such pass-throughs would have been banned.

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    The other thing these numbers point out is that the money coming from the Koch Brothers is a tiny percentage of the total campaign money raised by Republicans.

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      and that's what makes it extra-skeezy: they don't need it, but they take it. a form of bowing their knee

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      Jack, candidly, that line is "malarkey." This is a lot of money from one well-heel source that expects specific "results" from its contributions -- witness the Koch's take over of the board of the Cato Institute because the "thinktank" was not producing "research" useful to Republicans. Now, as Kari points out, the Koch's money can be laundered throughout the political system and have quite a concentrated impact on the few contested races that will determine which party controls the House.

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        I'm sorry, Russell, but as I add up the numbers above, their total contributions seem to be less than $50,000. If they put all that money in one legislative race, it would be unlikely to affect the outcome.

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