With the temp, it's complicated

Watching Sushi Jayapal bolt from the Multnomah County commission to run for Earl the Pearl's seat in Congress has been quite amusing. Earl's retirement was formally announced on a Monday, Sushi resigned first thing Wednesday morning, by Thursday night there was a Jayapal lawn sign on my neighbor's parking strip, and by the following Tuesday there were new web pages and new bar mitzvah pictures of her successor, Jesse Beason, posted on the county website.

Dang, that was quick! The whole thing was clearly wired ahead of time.

It happened so fast that it may have slipped past the public that Beason is now working at least two full-time jobs. He's apparently pulling in something like $200,000 a year as the executive director of a "nonprofit" called Northwest Health Foundation, and I believe he's now going to rake in another $125,000 a year at the county. Beason says he's not quitting the nonprofit gig while he fills in for Jayapal. 

Beason said he shares many of Jayapal’s goals and looks forward to helping continue the work she began — like advocating for better staff wages within nonprofits that contract with the county.

Beason’s role as commissioner for District 2 begins Wednesday. He said he will keep his job at Northwest Health Foundation while serving on the board.

Beason’s tenure expires in May, when the county will hold a special election to fill Jayapal’s seat for the duration of her term. He said he has “zero interest” in joining that race to make his role permanent.

Under county ordinances, he was appointed by Jayapal to succeed her on the county board, and he will remain in office until another successor is elected. Despite what the OPB story just quoted says, I believe that likely means for more than a year, because after a primary in May, there will probably have to be a runoff in November. (At last report, "rank-choice" voting for county offices won't kick in until 2026.)

So what is this Northwest Health Foundation that this Beason guy is running? I got confused when I first looked at it last week, because, well, it's complicated. There are actually two corporations called Northwest Health Foundation, but one of them has "Fund II" tacked onto the end of its name. "Fund II" is a section 501(c)(3) organization, which is not allowed to be involved in politics; the other one is a section 501(c)(4) entity, which if you don't like it you call a "dark money" organization. Of course, the Portland media save that phrase for right-wing groups, and Northwest Health Foundation, gleeful cheerleader of "equity," is anything but that.

I wrote about the section 501(c)(4) corporation here; it's highly political. Since then, I've looked a little at the latest IRS report for the section 501(c)(3) organization, which is here. It covers 2021. 

"Fund II" is a lot smaller than its "dark money" sister corporation, but the former has a few interesting features. 

Beason's salary was paid entirely by the "dark money" outfit. But the section 501(c)(3) company, like the 501(c)(4), paid six figures to a political consultant in Ashland named Esperanza Tervalon-Garrett, who runs something called Dancing Hearts Consulting. The 501(c)(3) reported that it paid Dancing Hearts $112,000, which is apparently on top of the $328,000 reportedly paid to it by the 501(c)(4) in the same year. 

The 501(c)(3) also paid $300,000 to a New Mexico firm called Center for Civic Action. The way that firm describes itself here, it appears to be a "dark money" group as well:

The Center for Civic Action (CCA), based in Albuquerque, NM, is 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to educate, engage, and mobilize historically underrepresented communities in important elections and policy campaigns in New Mexico.  

We lead legislative advocacy campaigns at the state and local levels to advance progressive policies, and drive leadership development programs to help build the pipeline of future leaders.

It would be interesting to know what the 501(c)(3) organization was paying for in those two contracts. Its IRS form says they were for "program consulting." Huh.

"Fund II" gets its tax-deductible donations from a small number of sources. For 2021, it showed total grants and contributions received of $1,015,702, and a schedule shows that all but about $10,000 of that came from just eight sources.

As for Beason, well, it seems obvious that he's got his sights set on some sort of elective office. He cut his teeth as a political operative in the City Hall office of Sam Adams, he checks a number of boxes, and he gives a pretty good speech, as evidenced by this Ted talk. He reminds me a little of Jefferson Smith, who was headed for big things until his dark past caught up with him.

Anyway, I still can't believe that Beason can be a county commissioner while he holds a full-time job running a "dark money" political organization and a second nonprofit to boot. The conflicts of interest are absolutely obscene.

What's just as appalling is the fact that when a Multnomah County commissioner resigns, their successor is someone that they have hand-picked. I've never heard of any organization, public or private, that does things that way. It's ridiculous.


  1. Arrogance, contempt and corruption are often in the same package.

  2. More proof the Multnomah County government is absolutely broken.

    1. We really do need to merge the county and the city, and reduce the number of unqualified people running things.

  3. Most Sheriff's Offices work that way. Same with Lincoln County Commissioners, but with a bit more discretion...


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