Right-Wing Activists Invade Oregon Politics

The contribution and expenditure reports filed with the Secretary of State yesterday told an interesting story. Based on the list of contributors, there is no local support for a variety of measures being pushed by right-wing groups like the Taxpayer Association of “Oregon,” and the “Oregon” branch of FreedomWorks.

Also interesting is that Grover Norquist, close friend of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, gave $40,000 each to two ballot measures through his group Americans for Tax Reform. One was a term limits measure. The other is a Colorado-style TABOR constitutional amendment being pushed by the so-called Taxpayer Association of Oregon. This petition would amend the Oregon Constitution to insert an arbitrary and rigid spending cap that does not allow the state to budget adequately for basic services. Last November, voters in Colorado suspended a similar cap.

The addition to Norquist’s contribution, the TABOR petition received $60,000 from Americans for Limited Government and a token $100 from the Taxpayer Association of Oregon. The term limits petition received $60,000 from U.S. Term Limits. Both groups are based in Glenview, Illinois and have close ties. There were no Oregon contributors to either campaign.

“It is a scandal that these outside groups are coming into Oregon to rewrite our state constitution,” says Chris Coughlin, executive director of Our Oregon.

The TABOR constitutional amendment, in particular, is a play from the right-wing group’s strategy book, says Coughlin. She says it is telling that the national groups couldn’t drum up local support as they launch their campaigns. Under TABOR, Colorado lost ground on nearly every important measurement of a state’s well being. Its schools suffered. College tuition skyrocketed. Roads and bridges went un-repaired.

“The TABOR constitutional amendment was a failure in Colorado,” Coughlin says. “That’s why the Republican governor joined Republican lawmakers and the business community to suspend it last November. Now the national groups are trying to send the same failure to Oregon.”

Another measure funded by someone outside of Oregon is Petition #14, which is being paid for mostly by Nevada sexual hypnotist Loren Parks. Parks contributed $112,500 to the measure. The Washington, D.C. office of FreedomWorks contributed $2,000. There were no contributions from Oregon residents to the campaign.

Coughlin points out that the expenditure report for this campaign lists $20,000 paid to Democracy Direct, a company run by a consultant to Speaker of the House Karen Minnis and currently under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for violating state election law.

Under Park’s proposal, funding for schools, seniors, health care and public safety would lose $835 million on the promise that voters would receive a “big tax cut.” In truth, the average Oregonian would receive $11.17 per month. The measure is being circulated by FreedomWorks in Oregon.

“Oregonians are finished with powerful out-of-state groups and eccentrics forcing their agenda upon us,” Coughlin says. “This is our Oregon. These are our families. These are our schools. We are going to stand together to protect them.”

She urges Oregon voters to decline to sign these petitions when approached by paid signature gatherers.