The $7 million poor boy

The race for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Oregon's new Sixth District sure is interesting. You'll recall that under the Tina Kotek Memorial Gerrymander, also known as the "Portland Pinwheel," the Sixth District runs from the Raleigh Hills area in Portland down through Salem and all the way out west to Sheridan. None of the incumbent congresspeople are going for it, and that leaves a field of newbies jostling for the cushy position. I counted nine candidates' names on the list when last I looked.

Two of them are bobbleheads from the state Legislature, and also included in the mix is Loretta Smith, who's carpetbagging into the district fresh off bombing out as a Multnomah County commissioner. But the guy who's getting all the publicity and campaign exposure is a youthful relative unknown named Carrick Ronan Morgan Flynn.

Flynn's story is that he was a poor boy from Vernonia, flooded out and homeless at one point, but he eventually made his way through the U of O undergrad and Yale Law School. He looks as though he's in his mid-30s. As far as I can tell, he is a member of the New York bar, but not the Oregon bar. Since law school, he has been busy doing grand things, although his website sure is vague about it:

He directed a billion dollars to health programs to save children’s lives and removed a legal barrier that may have cost several thousand more lives.... 

Carrick began to look at the potential of new technologies to help others. He focused on artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and preventing pandemics. Believing we need greater understanding, he went to Oxford University and co-founded the Center for the Governance of AI. Wanting to apply this knowledge to U.S. national security, he took up a Research Faculty position at Georgetown University. He advised and shaped the government’s approach to new technologies, shifting the allocation of billions of dollars’ worth of equipment and improving the security of the U.S. He worked closely with Congress, including consulting on legislation which should create thousands of new jobs in our district by reshoring the manufacturing of computer chips.

It sounds kind of impressive, but I would rather know exactly where he worked, what his job titles were, and who signed the paychecks. 

And between the lines, it doesn't sound like he's ever held down a real job.

So anyway, why are this wonky dude and his detail-free spiel suddenly the talk of the town? The answer is moolah. Big-shot political action committees from out of state have reportedly spent nearly $7 million on advertising that supports Flynn. Among the PACs buying him his campaign is the House Majority PAC, which often gets tied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And the biggest dump of dough, something like $5 million, has come from something called Protect Our Future PAC, which has future pandemic prevention as its cause but most of whose money comes from a cryptocurrency billionaire with strong ties to Silicon Valley.

The other candidates are understandably not happy about running against a steamroller of out-of-state money. And they're quick to point out that Flynn has only been back living in Oregon (a rented house in McMinnville) since the fall of 2020. He's been registered to vote in Oregon since forever, but they say he's actually voted here only a couple of times since he left for Yale in 2008. No wonder, as his website says he has been off on his world-saving missions in Kenya, Liberia, Timor-Leste, India, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and England. The mail in some of those places is kinda slow.

Unlike Nick Kristof, Flynn isn't going to be disqualified by legal problems with his residency. But given that Flynn is to the local political racket what Uber was to the taxi commission, you can bet the state's establishment will be throwing haymakers at him over the next few weeks as the primary election draws ever nearer.

I couldn't help but notice that Willamette Weed & Mushroom recently sent out both its best hit people, its Jack Ruby and Al Neri if you will, for questions and aspersions. They came on pretty hard about the crypto guy's money:

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that through April 6, the [Protect Our Future] PAC has spent $5.8 million to support Flynn, a first-time candidate who grew up in Vernonia before graduating from the University of Oregon and Yale Law School and embarking on a career in artificial intelligence and disaster relief.

It is the latter interest, Flynn’s campaign told WW earlier, that may have attracted Sam Bankman-Fried, the cryptocurrency investor behind the Protect Our Future PAC, to Flynn...

Traditionally, the PAC supports Democrats against Republicans in the general election, so the [House Majority] committee is now under fire from U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and the Hispanic Caucus campaign arm, Bold PAC, as well as six of the other Democrats running for the seat, including three women of color.

“I haven’t endorsed in this race,” Merkley wrote on Twitter, “but it’s flat-out wrong for House Majority PAC to be weighing in when we have multiple strong candidates vying for the nomination.”

But it’s not the only extraordinary expenditure in the race: Earlier this week, WW reported that super PACs had spent nearly $6 million to support Flynn. Protect Our Future (funded by cryptocurrency’s richest billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried) is the group responsible for most of that spending.

The congressional Democrats’ decision for their PAC to bankroll Flynn also set off speculation that Bankman-Fried or Protect Our Future has agreed to bankroll the Democrats’ campaign nationally.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I read the name Sam Bankman-Fried. I met that guy once, although he probably doesn't remember. His parents had me over for dinner. He was eight months old at the time.

Anyway, while all the flap about Flynn and his backers is interesting, it really only matters to the extent it sways the voters of the new district one way or the other. And given the crazy boundaries of the Sixth District, I have no idea how it will play out. 

I can't say I'm rooting for Flynn at this point. I don't trust political hacks, but I don't trust mystery wunderkinder, either. We've seen this movie before, back when it was called "The Erik Sten Story."


  1. Somebody could do a great political cartoon of this guy and the Cody guy trying to out-poorhouse each other. Cody claims his parents abandoned him at something like nine years old with twelve young mouths to feed. Flynn's ads would have you think he grew up in a cardboard box in Dignity Village. Jack Ohman, are you listening??

  2. Never heard of the guy until recently. And now, I can’t turn on my TV or watch a YouTube video without being bombarded by his ad’s. I thought the same thing too. Where is he getting the money for all of these advertisements?

  3. Is it just me, or does he maybe look a little like an unacknowledged Merkley?


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