Groups still critical of Oregon’s signature gathering process

SALEM – Things are heating up in the campaign to stop an income tax increase in Oregon. Those running the effort say they will have enough signatures by the deadline in November.

Buying and selling signatures has been something of a seedy business in years past, some thought reforms would take care of some of it, but critics say some problems still exist.

Organizers of the Voter Education Project, the union backed group critical of the referendum effort, says one man has no business trying to get your signature.

Portland police records show an officer was concerned about the away Brian Kirk Baker was recruiting runaways to gather signatures.

The report indicates Baker had hired a 14-year old to help him collect signatures. Additionally, some runaways sharing a motel room with him were high on drugs. In the officer’s mind, there was a suspicion of labor violations or petition fraud.

Baker was arrested last week on an unrelated charge, and did not return KATU’s phone calls about the police report or a previous theft conviction.

Those at the top of the campaign were unaware of baker’s background.

Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy says most of the effort to get signatures is from volunteers; only about 20 percent of signatures come from paid petition gatherers.

Another problem: Critics say campaign organizers are skirting election laws by paying more per hour to those who get more signatures, in essence paying by the signature.

Campaign officials say there’s nothing wrong with making incentives for good workers.