No snow in Salem, but there is slush

Campaign finance is an ugly subject. The system we have in most jurisdictions is simple: Money talks. You can force a campaign contribution to be publicly disclosed, but it's "free speech," and it's hard to regulate. As a result, rich people buy up most of the access to the politicians by making their supposedly detached, disinterested, generous "contributions."

In a few places, like crazy Portland, the burden is largely shifted to the taxpayers. Candidates for mayor and the City Council raise small amounts from Moms and Pops, and when they hit a certain threshold, they get a huge subsidy from the local government. As a result, at least in theory, nobody gets special access because of money. It looks nice on paper, but it's produced a real stinker of a council that doesn't seem to answer to anyone. Our destroyed downtown is the result. That and millions of tax dollars down the drain.

I guess I need to look harder to find the humor in these absurdities. One potentially funny thing is how the politicians get to pile up huge war chests even when they aren't running for anything. Take Kate Brown, for example. She's term-limited out. She can't run for governor again. She'll be 62 years old when her current term ends, I believe. Will she be running for some other office?  I don't know, but at the moment her "campaign" has got $435,401 in the bank.

Then there's the state attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum. She was just re-elected to a four-year term, with no serious opposition. And according to Wikipedia, she just turned 70. As I understand it, she's not subject to term limits, but is she really going to go for it again at age 74? I don't know, but at the moment her "campaign" has got $226,594 in the bank.

And it's not like those are just leftover funds lying around after an old election or two. The checks keep pouring in. On the 15th of this month, good old Comcast shot $2,000 Brown's way, and they gave $2,500 to Rosenblum. Since her cakewalk election in November, Rosenblum has also picked up $2,500 from the Dentists of Oregon PAC, $1,000 from the 3M PAC (as in the manufacturing company), $1,000 from the San Francisco-based Orrick Herrington law firm, and $6,000 total from three face-card lawyers in a law firm called Pomerantz.

What are the A.G. and the guv going to do with all that dough? Play power brokers, I guess, funding other candidates and caucuses. Do these "contributors" even care what they spend it on? Or do the check-writers just care that they get their access now?

Even a couple of my old law firm partners have shot Rosenblum $450 in the past month or so. And here's comedy: Her husband, the publisher of Willamette Week, contributed $250 to her "campaign" on the 10th. I assume he's not taking the state tax credit for that.

Anyway, it's all perfectly legal, I have no doubt. But it's all perfectly stinky, too.


  1. Might not be news necessarily but word is Rosenblum is considering a run Governor. Not sure how much stock to put in the murmurs, but it wouldn't be surprising.


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