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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Oregon Politics: Multnomah County Elections, Marijuana, Shell Oil

Friday, July 31, 2015


Every Friday, GoLocalPDX breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Oregon politics. Check out who made the lists this week.


Multnomah County Elections

The Multnomah County Elections Division got more efficient and saved a little taxpayer coin at the same time this week when it introduced the ballot counting ClearVote system. Upgrading the current system would have cost the County $500k to replace the five scanners and this did not include any software upgrades. New scanners, same old speed. With the new system, the five scanners came with better, faster software and four years of tech support and still saved the county about $100k. New scanners, new speed. This system will be able to count 4000 ballots/hour as opposed to the current 1000 ballots/hour. Not only was this new system cheaper to purchase, it will decrease the man hours necessary to count the ballots. Before they go spend all their money, somebody needs to tell Clackamas County Elections that these machines are only designed to read the ballots. They will still have to fill in the ballots themselves by hand.

District 47 Revisited

Yes, District 47 is still deserving of the 'Hot Column'. You would think I lived in this district I have been writing about it so much. Anywho, the race to replace Representative Jessica Vega Pederson in District 47 may have just got a bit more crowded. Chief Policy Advisor to Senator Michael Dembrow and recipient of the 2015 Barbara Roberts Young Democrat Award, Logan Gilles recently moved into the district and rumor has it that he did this with the intention of running for the open seat. With his campaign experience and connections within the Democratic Party, Mr. Gilles would easily be the frontrunner in this race.

Meanwhile, current Reynolds School Board member Diego Hernandez sent out an email to his friends/colleagues this week to gauge interest in his running for the position. The political equivalent of the "Do you like me, check the yes or no box" note you sent in middle school. The email also asked how much help the friend/colleague would provide throughout the course of the election. No word yet on the results of his informal poll. I guess we will all find out soon enough.

Recreational Marijuana Users

Friends of the wacky tobacky got a nice little high this week when Governor Kate Brown signed a bill allowing existing medicinal marijuana dispensaries to sell to recreational users beginning October 1st. Currently you can grow, possess and give away marijuana, but you can't legally buy it. And state regulators are still about a year away from allowing retail outlets to open. This bill allows people to purchase the drug legally until that time. So if you were struggling to find that perfect Christmas gift for that pothead relative of yours, you will now have a few more options.



Generally when a group raises nearly 170k in 3 months, that earns a spot in the Hot Column. Then why does this newbie PAC find itself a little lower on the page? Because as of this Wednesday they are about $30k in the hole. How does this happen? Who is in charge of this thing? How much does it cost to churn out a couple press releases and an op-ed piece in The O?

The one question I can answer is where most of this money went: The Sonoran Policy Group. Since the beginning of this venture in April, MonicaPAC has funneled sent these guys nearly $94k. You can find out more about this group here (Dr. Wehby even makes an appearance on the homepage).  

Is it because they blew through all their money like a drunken sailor? Is it because they are taking in big donations from this state and sending them to a company located in Washington DC (according to the company's website) or Arizona (according to the SOS website)? Is it because I am just not a fan of Dr. Wehby? Who knows, but something about this just doesn't pass the smell test.

Shell Oil

The icebreaker, MSV Fennica, pulled into port last week to have some quick repairs done on its hull. It was scheduled to depart this Wednesday and head back up to the Arctic to resume its activities assisting the ships that drill for oil. Ah, the best laid plans. This visit has been a circus from the start. As the ship was being repaired, protesters (I refuse to call them 'kayaktivists') paddled their kayaks around the boat. Hoping to accomplish what, I have no idea. But that was just the beginning. Early Wednesday morning, to prevent the ship from leaving, Greenpeace activists lowered themselves from the St. Johns Bridge. Some used slings and others used climbing platforms to dangle about 100 feet above the water. This is some next level protesting. The protesters hung from the bridge until Thursday afternoon, when they were forcibly removed by Portland Fire & Rescue. Meanwhile Shell Oil lost millions because of the delay. This protesting might not be such a bad idea after all. If On Deadly Ground taught me anything, it's that drilling for oil up north is a bad thing.


In 2012, voters approved the 'Arts Tax' to pay for arts and music teachers in elementary schools to make arts programs available in low income communities. Reports out this week from the City auditor's office show that collecting this tax has been...well...taxing. The City estimated that it would take in $12 million per year. Unfortunately it only got $7.8m in 2012, $7.2m in 2013 and $10.5m in 2014. Not only is the City not getting all they expected, it is costing more than projected to collect the tax. Why then do I make the Not Column? Because I am one of the scofflaws who hasn't paid. Not out of protest, but I just put it aside and forget about it. I get the bill and it goes in the pile...and then gets buried under my other bills. Or I get it the same day as my Entertainment Weekly and forget about it all together. So I promise to pay up because the arts are important and this was approved by the majority of the voters. And not because the City is going to start sending people to collections. Well, maybe for this reason too.


Related Slideshow: Slideshow: The Top 11 Political Scandals in Oregon History

GoLocalPDX lists some of the biggest and most shocking political scandals in Oregon history, from illegal sexual encounters to land fraud, over the last 100 years. 

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Neil Goldschmidt


Former Oregon governor, Portland mayor and secretary of the U.S. Transportation Department admits that in the 1970s he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. He said the “relationship” went on for 9 months. Goldschmidt was 35 and married at the time.

While Goldschmidt was not holding elective office at the time, he stepped down from his positions at the Oregon Board of Higher Education and Oregon Electric Utility Company. In 2000, he briefly reappeared on the public stage with a quixotic campaign to reconnect the North and South Park Blocks in downtown Portland. Goldschmidt retreated from public life. He was never charged with a crime.

Photo Credit: OrHi 102947 Courtesy Oregon Historical Society (image cropped) 

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Sam Adams


Former city commissioner and then-mayor of Portland, Sam Adams admitted to having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old male legislative intern after denying the charges and urging the boy to do the same. The two were together before Adams began campaigning for the office of mayor and before the young man was 18.

Adams eventually admitted to the relationship and agreed to cooperate with any investigation, but did not resign from office. The Department of Justice found no incriminating evidence in the investigation, so he was never charged. Adams chose not to run for re-election.

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Bob Packwood


US Republican Sen. Bob Packwood resigned from the Senate after 1995 when allegations of sexual harassment and abuse brought threats of expulsion. In a story in the Washington Post, 10 women claimed the senator had sexually abused and assaulted them.

Packwood’s diary, parts of which were turned over to the Senate Ethics Committee, allegedly documented his abusive behavior. It was later found out that he had removed some of the incriminating pages from the diary and allegedly made threats against other members of Congress. After resigning, Packwood spent time in an alcoholism clinic, blaming his actions on his drinking problem.

Photo Credit: [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (image cropped)

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Cover Oregon


Oregon’s attempt to create a new health insurance marketplace was passed by the Oregon Legislative in 2011. Issues with a failing website that cost over $160 million of state funds caused the enrollment to switch to paper forms. Contractor Oracle sued Cover Oregon for breach of contract, claiming they were never paid for their software. A month later, Oregon sued Oracle Corporation for a breach of contract as well.

Carolyn Lawson, the former chief information officer for the Oregon Health Authority who received the brunt of the blame in the fiasco, sued Oregon for wrongful discharge and defamation. The lawsuits are still ongoing. 

Photo Credit: iStock (image cropped)

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Mark Hatfield


As the Washington Post Reported in Mark Hatfield's Obit: 

In the 1980s, his wife accepted $55,000 in payments for real estate work from a business tycoon with a multibillion-dollar contract before Congress. Mr. Hatfield apologized for the appearance of wrongdoing and gave the money to charity.

Several years later, in 1992, he was formally rebuked by the Senate ethics committee for not disclosing more than $42,000 in gifts from friends and lobbyists — the result of a “careless” clerical error, he said at the time.

Photo Credit: Ground at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

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Oregon Land Fraud


In 1870, the Oregon and California Railroad was granted 3 million acres on which to build a rail line from Portland to California. The excess land was to be sold to settlers in small portions, yet the president of the railroad decided to sell the land to timber companies for a greater profit. He hired surveyor Stephen A. Douglas Puter to gather people from saloons to register for land that would be transferred to Puter and sold to the highest bidder for timber harvest.

With more than 1,000 initial indictments issued in the case, some U.S. senators and representatives were charged.  Of the four major politicians brought to trial, only two—Rep. John Hicklin Hall and Sen. John H. Mitchell—were found guilty for failing to investigate the case. Hall was later pardoned by President William Howard Taft and Mitchell died from a tooth-extraction complication while waiting for his appeal. 

By John_Hicklin_Hall.png: Republican Party [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (image cropped) 

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David Wu


The Oregon Democrat congressman from Portland, was asked to resign after a young woman alleged Wu forced her into an unwanted sexual encounter. An 18-year-old girl told the Oregonian she had an “aggressive” sexual encounter with Wu. Wu admitted to the encounter, but claimed it was consensual. He fought resigning, but finally gave in.  

It was not the first allegation of its kind against Wu. In 2004, a 1976 incident involving the alleged rape of his former girlfriend was looked into. Despite the attention, Wu won the election that year. Wu continues to live in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Photo credit: Official portrait

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Jeff Cogen


While chairman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, Jeff Cogen was investigated for using taxpayer money to pay for hotel rooms and trips for an extramarital affair with a county Health Department policy director. He was also accused of frequently smoking marijuana and using cocaine while in office.

Cogen refused to speak to state investigators and ignored calls to resign until a few months after the incident. No evidence was found to charge him with any crimes. This year he  worked with a petitioning firm that  gathered signatures for legalized marijuana. 

Photo Credit: public domain

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Jefferson Smith


The Willamette Week reported that Portland mayoral candidate Smith was cited for a 1993 for a misdemeanor assault on a women. The alleged assault took place when Smith was enrolled at the University of Oregon. Witnesses said that the victim woke up with Smith on top of her, and started hitting him. Smith claimed that "it was the worst night of his life" and that he tried to take responsibility for it immediately.

Smith said he agreed to 20 hours of community service, apologized to the woman, and paid her medical bills. He said the charge was dropped in exchange. 

Photo credit: public domain

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Multnomah Bridge Scandal


In 1924 three county commissioners were recalled for "graft, bribery, and malfeasance" after awarding a construction contract for the repair of the Burnside Bridge and the construction of the Sellwood and Ross Island bridges. They voted to select a bid offered as a joint effort by three local construction firms, who would each build a new bridge. It was $500,000 more than the only other bid that was entered in a rushed, 24-hour window. 

The public started a recall petition for the commissioners and the Oregon State Attorney started an investigation, charging the commissioners with soliciting, accepting bribes, and malfeasance for not picking the lowest bid. Although no charges stuck, the commissioners were kicked out of office by a large majority of voters. 


By Steve Morgan (Own work), via cc (image cropped) 

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Terry Schrunk (Bonus)


Schrunk was the mayor of Portland for 16 years, 1957-1973. His first year as mayor, allegations of bribery and perjury charges landed him before a special Senate committe. 

Schrunk was accused of raiding the rowdy 8212 club with fellow deputies in 1955 when he was a Multnomah County Sheriff, and accepting a $500 bribe from the manager to leave and look the other way. 

Schrunk denied having taken any bribe, but did admit that his deputies had raided the 8212 Club, seen illegal activity, and left without further action. Schrunk was tried on bribery and perjury charges and found not guilty. 

Photo Credit: Oreg. Hist. Soc. Research Lib., bb005787 (image cropped) 


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