Forgiving Student Loan Debt: Just Don’t Do It

A lot of progressive Democrats seem to think an aggressive cancellation of federal student loans by President Biden will generate a big bump in support for their party in the upcoming midterms.

They’re dreaming.

The most outspoken progressives are pushing for cancellation of $50,000 per borrower.  Biden has said “No way” to that amount, but appears to be amenable to cancelling $10,000.

“…finding ways to provide relief to students to make sure that these working-class, working families are getting relief is more important than tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

Forgiveness of up to $10,000 per person would cost the federal government about $373 billion. according to the Brookings Institute, while forgiveness of up to $50,000 per borrower would cost an estimated $1 trillion.

Biden has already been taking action to eat away at student loan debt in a kind of stealth program by doing it piece by piece. CNN recently reported that the Biden administration has expanded existing loan forgiveness programs for borrowers who work in the public sector, were defrauded by for-profit colleges and are permanently disabled. These measures, CNN said, brought relief totaling more than $17 billion.

On May 5, Biden’s Education Department said it would cancel the loans of 28,000 student borrowers who attended the Marinello Schools of Beauty, a now-defunct for-profit chain of cosmetology schools, between 2009 and its closure in 2016. The relief, which will even go to those who haven’t applied for relief, could cost the federal government $238 million.

Biden has also been pausing student loan payments, the most recent extension moving the expiration date to August 31, 2022. Lest you think these pauses are free, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says they are costing the government about $4 billion a month, 

According to the Oregon Department of Justice:

  • The average Oregon student loan borrower owes over $38,000 by the time they graduate 
  • Oregonians have more than $20.5 billion dollars in student loan debt
  • An estimated 85,000 Oregonians are currently behind on their loans.

So what are the downsides to helping out all these folks? Don’t people love free money?

People who made tremendous sacrifices by working their way through college, rather than taking on student loan debt, and students who have sacrificed to repay their student loans, aren’t likely to take kindly to loan forgiveness by the Biden administration now. More likely, they will resent such action and take it out on Democrats.

A lot of student loan debt is also held by people who are in a position to pay it off because they are in high-paying positions, sometimes because they borrowed money to attend graduate school. Low and middle-income Americans aren’t likely to appreciate these folks getting off the hook.

Student loan forgiveness would also be likely to tick off a lot of Americans who never went to college at all, particularly those who skipped college because of the cost. Aren’t many of these folks supposed to be  part of the Democrats’ base.

David Bahnsen, the author of Crisis of Responsibilityhas argued convincingly in The Dispatch that the government created the problem in the first place when it decided to subsidize student debt. “The injustice is the runaway inflation in the cost of higher education disproportionate to the benefits it provides,” he wrote. “That dynamic is a direct result of the very existence of the loan market college administrators have so exploited. That subsidy has facilitated a reckless allocation of resources to the absurd and the indoctrinating—dormitory amenities for recruitment purposes, exorbitant “diversity” departments—but it has not facilitated a greater experience for college students.” 

Left-leaning Brookings has asserted that that if the government really wants to spend a ton of money on something to advance the progressive agenda, there are a lot of better things to do than forgive student loans. “Increasing spending on more targeted policies would benefit families that are poorer, more disadvantaged, and more likely to be Black and Hispanic, compared to those who stand to benefit from broad student loan forgiveness,” Brookings said.  “Indeed, shoring up spending on other safety net programs would be a far more effective way to help low-income people and people of color.”

And then, of course, there’s the question of what to do about students who take on college debt after the loan forgiveness cohort? Talk about a conundrum.

High Interest Rent-A-Banks Are Abusing Oregon Borrowers

I still remember a conversation I had a number of years ago with a Starbucks barista in Hillsboro who told me she was paying 28% interest on a loan for a car she’d just bought from a local dealer. I was appalled.

Some Oregonians are being victimized much worse than that today.

Oregon is one of eight states that allow payday loans and have banks that charge as much as or more than state-licensed payday lenders, according to an analysis just-released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent non-profit that aims to serve the public interest by improving public policy, informing the public, and invigorating civic life.

Oregon laws limit payday loan charges, but PEW reports that some payday lenders are partnering with several state-chartered banks supervised by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) under so-called “rent-a-bank” arrangements to issue loans with prices that exceed these limits. The banks originate the loans on the lenders’ behalf.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. supervises the six banks known to  be having these arrangements, some of which have annual percentage rates that typically range from the 90%s to the low 200%s. —rates that are much higher than what banks usually charge or that the laws of many borrowers’ states permit. 

The PEW analysis cited a situation in Virginia where a car title lender makes loans that it contends do not have to comply with Virginia law because they are originated by a Utah-based bank. This lender issued a three-year, $2,272 loan with an annual percentage rate (APR) of 98.7%, and $4,867 in finance charges. That meant the borrower repaid $7,139 on a $2,272 loan.

According to the National Consumer Law Center, cited by PEW, a business called OppLoans  (aka OppFi) uses FDIC-supervised FinWise Bank (Utah), Capital Community Bank (CC Bank) (Utah), and First Electronic Bank, a Utah industrial bank, to make installment loans in Oregon of $500 to $4,000 at 160% APR.  

Here’s what an Oregonian taking out a $4000 five-year car loan from OppLoans with an annual APR) of 160% would pay back:

Monthly Payment: $533.63

Total Paid: $32,017.80

Total Interest: $28,017.80

Figuring out what a loan will cost each payment period and over time can be complicated.

NetCredit (“We’re committed to helping our customers find success in their financial journeys.”), a subsidiary of Chicago-based Enova International, Inc. (NYSE: ENVA), offers a maximum loan of $5000.

Its website says 10% of each Cash Advance is deducted from the amount requested before the advance proceeds are delivered to the borrower.

Each billing cycle, the borrower’s minimum payment includes 5% (if payments are made monthly) or 2.5% (if payments are made bi-weekly or semi-monthly) of the cash balance, plus a Statement Balance Fee based on the cash advance balance. A fee table spells out how the Statement Balance Fee is assessed and the corresponding amounts.

If a statement shows a Cash Advance Balance of $1,000.01 – $1,100.00, the fee is $55.00 if the borrower pays bi-weekly or semi monthly and $110 if the borrower pays monthly. If the statement shows a Cash Advance Balance of $4,800.01 – $4,900.00, the fee is $245 if the borrower pays bi-weekly or semi monthly and $490 if the borrower pays monthly.

Each Billing Cycle, the minimum payment will include a portion of the Cash Advance Balance plus a Statement Balance Fee based on the Cash Advance Balance.

You try to figure it all out.

“Competition in markets, including credit markets, typically drives down costs,” the Pew analysis says. “However, Pew’s prior research has found that people seeking payday loans focus on how quickly they can borrow, how likely they are to be approved, and the ease of borrowing. Payday lenders therefore tend to compete on these factors rather than price because their customers are in dire financial straits. Borrowers’ low sensitivity to cost when they are in distress explains the lack of price competition in payday lending.”

The aggressive loan practices of rent-a-banks has, logically, led to high default rates.In June 2022, The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed the public filings of three large, publicly traded payday lenders that issue a high share of rent-a-bank loans and found that they had annual loss rates in 2019 averaging 50%. That is not unusual for a payday lender, but it is a startling figure for a bank. The same three lenders’ filings released in the fall of 2022 show that their  annual loss rates are now averaging 55%, despite other bank-issued loans averaging 2% or lower over the same time.

PEW is adamant that action is needed to shut down these abusive loans.

“As the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), FDIC, and other federal banking regulators consider new guidance for how banks can better manage third-party risk, they should take this opportunity to scrutinize the high-cost lending partnerships among a few of the banks regulated by the FDIC,” Alex Horowitz and Gabe Kravitz with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ consumer finance project said in a Feb. 2022 Opinion piece in the Hill.

They’re right on the money. These exploitative high-cost rent-a-bank loans need to end.

Outrageous! Our New Political Showboats

A menagerie of malicious and misleading malcontents is undermining our democracy.

Italy’s fashion house, Valentino, has a “Director of Branding and Entertainment”.  Of course it does. 

The company, with its $3750 hunting jacket in waxed cotton, $5200 silk cady jumpsuit and $16,500 leather trench coat, understands that entertaining your current and prospective audience is a critical element in fortifying your brand and maintaining your trendiness.

It’s long been the case that building a brand requires that you entertain people, that your public persona be out there. And entertaining has long meant being outrageous in behavior, dress and comments, particularly in the arts. 

The  flamboyant pianist Liberace knew that.

So did Paul Stanley of Kiss:

Other entertainers who have traded on their outrageous behavior to bolster their knownness include Kim Kardashian, who thrives on pushing boundaries (Remember, her illustrious “career” began with a sex tape), rapper Lil Kim and Dennis Rodman.

Bad Boy Dennis Rodman

Others try similar tactics to build their brands, such as the grammy-winning singer, Lizzo

Lizzo boarding a private plane

and Miley Cyrus:

OK, I get it.

It’s one thing for celebrities and celebrity wannabes to be outrageous. Now, however, too many of our politicians are mimicking them, playing to the cheap seats and figuring they can translate outrageous behavior into political power by hoovering up media attention. Politicians are, after all, frequently referred to as “political actors” in a vast drama.

And they are getting the attention they want through their outrageous behavior because, as David A. Hopkins, a professor of political science at Boston College, has observed, “American voters generally aren’t attentive; you really do have to grab their attention, which is hard to do.”

Outrageous politicians also tend to get a lot of coverage because, unlike in the print days, there are no space constraints on the Internet and controversy breeds attention.

As a 2013 New York magazine article noted, “Originally, BuzzFeed employed no writers or editors, just an algorithm to cull stories from around the web that were showing stirrings of virality.”  Jonah Peretti, a founder of BuzzFeed, which went public through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in Dec. 2021 (NASDAQ: BZFD), didn’t really care whether a post was produced by a journalist or sponsored by a brand, so long as it travelled. “He’s a semiotic Darwinist: He believes in messages that reproduce,” the article noted.

Outrageous politicians also tend to get a lot of coverage because, unlike in the print days, there are no space constraints on the Internet and controversy breeds attention.  As a 2013 New York magazine article noted early on, “Originally, BuzzFeed employed no writers or editors, just an algorithm to cull stories from around the web that were showing stirrings of virality.”

Also, there’s a lot of pressure on opinion writers to churn stuff out and the comments and actions of showboats are fertile territory for comment, which generates even more attention.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently reported on how Merrill Brown, the founder of a business-of-journalism startup called the News Project, described the pressure that opinion purveyors feel: “Everybody wants to get today’s take right,” he said. “But ‘thoughtful commentary’ on the day’s news is almost an oxymoron.” The result, he added, “is more about being clever than necessarily doing your homework.

As Lonesome Rhodes (played so powerfully by Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd)  said of himself, before his contemptible behavior led to his downfall, “I’m not just an entertainer. I’m an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force… a force!”

A menagerie of malicious and misleading malcontents is undermining our democracy.

The toxic, hyperventilating blowhards include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Madison Cawthorne  (R-NC), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). 

Reps. Greene and Boebert heckle President Biden during State of the Union address, March 1, 2022

In a recent article about the re-emergence of Sarah Palin, who now wants to represent Alaska in the House, Politico’s Joanna Weiss observed that the script has flipped in terms of the visibility of freshman members of Congress. 

“…there are plenty of politicians who have used Palin’s playbook to build fame out of political office, rather than the other way around.,” Weiss wrote. “Republican House members like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, and Lauren Boebert have learned that freshmen members of Congress can command outsized attention — and that outrageous statements are a ticket, if not to policy success, then at least to the kind of attention and fundraising prowess that keeps a career alive.”

Lest you think all the blowhards committed to grandstanding rather than governing are Republicans, the behavior of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), has led to some outrageous viral moments, too. And as far as I’m concerned,  Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) went off the deep end in his allegations regarding the discredited Steele Dossier, which contained allegations of misconduct, conspiracy, and cooperation between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia prior to and during the 2016 election campaign.

Being “political” today means seeing politics as a mode of self-expression, producing attention-getting images airing one’s views and publicly taking sides, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her “Tax the Rich” Met Gala dress, Blake Smith observed in a City Journal article, The Narcissism of Hyper-Politicization. “Achieving real political goals through coordination and cooperation would, in contrast, “require individuals to discipline themselves, to moderate their insistence on their own uniqueness, and to subordinate their own desires to a greater good,” he wrote. 

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Jon Allsop told of  a French student journalist who was thrilled he secured a  30-second interview with Emmanuel Macron ahead of the 2017 presidential election, only to later discover he’d forgotten to turn on his microphone.

Today’s journalists in the United States might want to do the same when they cover the narcissistic politicians who have adopted a “outrageous behavior-is-the ticket” attitude.

Here’s a Tip For Oregon Businesses: Stop Demanding Tips

The consumer-price index rose 8.5% in March from a year earlier, the fastest annual pace since December 1981, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 20. That’s the figure most consumers think of when they worry about rising prices.  But there’s another number too often ignored – the cost of tips and the insidious spread of tip expectations.

In a recent stop at a local Burgerville, I encountered a Uniden digital payment device with tip options: 15%, 18% 20%, custom and no tip.

The evil digital tip trap

At another burger place, their digital payment device presented me with tip options of 15%, 20% and 25%.

A 20% or 25% tip, where there used to be no tip expectation at all, is equivalent to a 20-25% price increase on top of any inflationary increase in the price of the food itself. 

Tip requests on electronic devices are becoming so pervasive that they are starting to feel like demands, particularly when the transactions are occurring under the watchful eyes of employees. 

As consumers are becoming more price sensitive over a host of goods and services, the reality that tips are increasingly becoming part of the price is raising concerns.

“Seems like anyone doing anything for you these days, even if it is in the scope of their responsibilities/expectations, has their hand out,” a recent commenter on a Tripadvisor Forum complained. “You don’t tip at a fast food restaurant,” another commenter said emphatically.

Consumer concerns are growing, particularly in states like Oregon where workers, such as servers, must be paid the state’s minimum wage ($14 in the Portland Metro Area, one of the highest in the United States according to the National Conference of State Legislatures) even if the worker also receives tips.

Regular minimum wage laws often don’t apply to restaurant workers, such as servers, who earn a lot of their income from tips. Federal law stipulates that employers can pay tipped workers as little as $2.13 an hour (an amount unchanged since 1991), so long as their tips bring them up to at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25. 

Shoppers are generally sympathetic to the plight of low-wage workers, but public resentment seems to be growing when tips are expected in food service and other situations where a worker is also guaranteed earning an elevated minimum wage or in situations where tip expectations are new. We don’t generally tip retail workers in a mall who are also guaranteed a respectable minimum wage in Oregon, for example.

A recent New York Times article about tipping generated a lot of comments, many of which lamented the seeming spread of tipping expectations to multiple businesses and regardless of the amount of actual service by an employee:

“Travelling to the USA each year from Europe I notice this just getting more extreme and expensive with zero additional benefits to the consumer. The next screen flip I get, I would like to flip my own card with discount options for the proprietor that is forcing us to shoulder his staffing costs.”

“I hate the companies that use payment systems like Square, and I particularly hate the companies, like Square, that have brought this new dystopian world upon us. Down with tipping!”

“Collectively, we cringe when the iPad is swiveled into our face at the coffee counter or deli; we know it is extortion rather than appreciation for services rendered.” 


The Oregon Governor Race: Will the Republicans Blow It Again?

First impressions can be deceiving.

Washington, D.C. residents were baffled Wednesday when they saw people appearing to parachute into the city. Alarmed police ordered staff at the U.S. Capitol complex to evacuate due to a “probable threat” from a nearby aircraft. Turns out it was a pregame Army parachute-demonstration team performing for a Washington Nationals baseball game.

Rising public dissatisfaction with Oregon’s direction, delivering the impression that the Oregon governor’s race is going to be a win for Republicans this time around, could be a false alarm for Democrats, too. 

A February 17-23 , 2022 OPB Primary Election Survey by DHM Research asked, “All things considered, do you think that things in Oregon are headed in the right direction, or do you feel that they are off on the wrong track?” An overwhelming 73% of respondents said Oregon is on the wrong track. 

This should bode well for Republicans, out of the governor’s chair since 1987.  But, based on the campaigns currently being waged by candidates in the Republican primary, they could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

An April 13, 2022, poll of likely Republican voters by Nelson Research showed that the leaders were Bud Pierce at 6.5%, Christine Drazan with 6.3%, Stan Pulliam with 4.2% and Bob Tiernan at 3.5%. None of the other Republican contenders garnered even 3%. 

The lack of real Republican enthusiasm for any of the candidates is evident, however, by the fact that with just two weeks from mail ballots going to voters and four weeks until the May 17, 2022 primary, almost 68 percent of respondents were still undecided.

Even counting the undecided who were leaning toward each candidate, Pierce was only at 10.7%, Drazan 8.2% and Pulliam, Tiernan and Bill Sizemore at 5.2% each. 

Pierce, who lost to Democrat Kate Brown in 2016, is pitching himself as “a true outsider” who is “sane, secure, stable”.  But already a one-time loser, Pierce, 65, comes across, to put it mildly, as old hat. He’s the Adlai Stevenson of the 2022 Republican primary.

Christine Drazan, 49, is promising “A new direction. for Oregon,” but she is also embracing some Republican views on abortion that turn off a lot of Oregon voters. “Christine received Oregon Right to Life’s endorsement in her previous two runs for office and is honored to have their support once again in the race for governor,” said Trey Rosser, Drazen’s campaign manager. Most Oregonians, on the other hand, have consistently opposed more restrictions on abortion.

Tiernan, in his current ad, comes across not as a hard-driving man of the people, but as a mean-spirited scold. “I’ve got what it takes,” he says, but his forced smile is insincere and off-putting.

Pulliam isn’t doing himself any favors with his outreach efforts, either.

In one television ad, he complains about critical race theory, a trendy topic that argues racism is racism is systemic in America’s institutions. In another ad, he promises not to “allow transgender athletes to compete in girls sports…Because my girls shouldn’t have to play against boys, and neither should yours.” Despite both of these issues being hot items for the right on the national stage, neither shows up on a list of hot-button issues for Oregon voters and could pigeonhole Pulliam in a general election.

Part of the problem for all the Republican candidates was revealed in a Nov. 2021 poll by  conducted by Republican pollster Fallon Research & Communications.

In the poll of 600 likely Oregon Republican primary voters, 75% viewed Donald Trump favorably, about 58% believed the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump and about 60% said Republican candidates for statewide office should be “more like Trump.” In 2020, Joe Biden defeated Trump 56.5% – 40.4%. Those Biden voters aren’t likely to vote for a conservative Republican candidate for governor the general election.

Sure, a lot of Oregonians are pissed, but do any of the leading Republicans have an answer? Not so far. And as much as many Oregonians are frustrated with things as they are, that doesn’t make them all Republicans. As a politics junkie recently observed on twitter, “More and more I am convinced that the average voter is driven by repulsion, not attachment. They don’t vote for a party because they like it. They vote for a party because it isn’t the OTHER party, which they really despise.”

This may be a weak year for Democrats generally, but to win the governorship the Oregon Republican candidate will need to present a savvy, appealing, inspiring alternative.

So far, they’re all missing the boat.

A Tangled Web: Carrick Flynn and the Justice Unites Us PAC

Why has the Justice Unites Us PAC, which says it’s all about mobilizing Asian voters, pumped $846,000 in independent expenditures into boosting the Democratic primary campaign of a white guy, Carrick Flynn, in Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District. 

Not only that, but who has been plowing money into the PAC and how much?

Who knows.

Justice Unites Us identifies itself online as “A project of the Family Friendly Action Fund, a section 50©4) social welfare organization.”

As for why it’s embraced Carrick Flynn’s primary race, that’s a tough one. 

Is the 6th District heavily Asian? Nope.

It consists of Polk and Yamhill Counties, plus portions of Marion, Clackamas and Washington Counties. Most of the district is in Yamhill and Polk counties in terms of land area, but most of the population is in Washington and Marion counties. If the district had existed during  the 2020 presidential election, it would have gone 55.2% for Biden and 42.1% for Trump, according to Daily Kos. So, the new district probably leans Democratic.

But Asians are far from a prominent force in Oregon at large or in the new district. According to the most recent American Community Survey, the Asian population in all of Oregon is just 185,221, 4.4% of the total population. And they are far from a unified group, with multiple subgroups. Chinese, Filipino, and Indian are the largest. Furthermore, In the 2020 census, just 2.5% of Marion County’s population and -11.7% of Washington County’s population was “Asian alone”.

OK, then who’s behind the Justice Unites Us PAC? We don’t know. 

Like pop-up stores that show up during the Christmas holidays, the PAC only popped up recently. having been formed on March 22, 2022 (FEC Committee ID #: C00810606). In its report to the FEC for the first quarter of 2022, the PAC reported raising and spending zero dollars. 

After the end of the quarter, it disclosed it had disbursed $846,581.14 on April 5, 2022 for “canvassing” in support of Flynn.

Then, on April 15, 2022, the PAC filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so it could delay filing its next report , and identifying its donors, until after the May 17 primary:

“Justice Unites Us PAC has filed its April 15th quarterly report.  This is to notify you that Justice Unites Us PAC intends to assume a monthly filing schedule for calendar year 2022.  It is therefore our understanding that the next report will be due May 20, 2022. “ 

Is this runaround of disclosure rules new? “No, it isn’t.,” Politico wrote recently. “Pop-up super PACs have become increasingly prominent over the last several election cycles, and have become a way for sophisticated political operations to bypass rules that shed light on campaign finance until after elections — when it’s too late to matter.”

Chasing The Money: The Democratic Primary in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District

Are direct campaign contributions going to be the determining factor in the Democratic primary for U.S. House Oregon District 6 on May 17, 2022? How about money from Oregonians? Will it be critical?

The campaign committees of the nine ambitious people running in the primary had raised a total of $4,821,322.84 according to reports just filed with the Federal Election Commission covering up to March 31, 2022. Reports were due on April 15, 2022.

If you just look at the campaign finance reports for the official campaign committees, Steven Cody Reynolds is far and away the strongest candidate.

The reported totals for each candidate are as follows:

Ricky Barajas: No data available

Carrick Flynn:  $830,185.45

Greg Goodwin: No data available

Kathleen Harder:  $137,259.28

Teresa Alonso Leon:  $67,704.00

Steven Cody Reynolds: $2,506,917.65 (Includes $2,000,006.00 in loans and $502,186.65 in contributions from the candidate)

Andrea Salinas: $178,195.00

Loretta Smith: $297,478.00

(Includes $60,000 in loans from the candidate)

Matt West: $803,583.46 (Includes $400,000.00 in loans and $47,878.16 in contributions from the candidate)

But this is far from the whole story. All this data obscures millions of dollars of so-called independent expenditures in support of individual candidates.  

An independent expenditure is a political campaign expenditure that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a particular candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee  or the candidate’s party.

The Democrat’s House Majority PAC, the largest super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, has already stepped up to support Carrick Flynn with a $1 million independent expenditure.

House Majority PAC television ad for Flynn

On top of that, Protect Our Future PAC, funded largely by Bahamas-based crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has thrown its weight behind Flynn with about $6 million in expenditures on a wide range of activities, including radio, television and digital ad production and time purchases, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls.

Flynn is also benefiting from other independent expenditures. An independent expenditure of about $800,000 was just committed by the Justice Unites Us super PAC, which says it wants to engage and mobilize progressive Asian-American voters.

“In Congress, Carrick Flynn will be the ally AAPI voters in his district deserve,” said Minh Nguyen, Executive Director of Justice Unites Us PAC. “He knows what it’s like to grow up poor and has spent his career helping others escape poverty, an experience that is sadly shared by too many AAPI families across America. We know his perspective will lead him to advocate for a government that looks out for our most vulnerable, and we are excited to support his candidacy with this historic investment.”

The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund also announced several days ago it was investing in Flynn and already has an ad running on television. “We need more champions for wildlife and #climate action in Congress, which is why we’re significantly investing in Carrick’s race to underscore his leadership and what’s at stake for people and wildlife alike,” it said on Facebook.

By the way, the Salem Statesman Journal reported on April 15 that Flynn’s  campaign committee filings show just 2.5% of his direct campaign committee support has come from Oregonians. That makes the independent expenditures coming from outside Oregon crucial to his campaign, a clear demonstration of how money can undermine faith in our democratic institutions…and an insult to Oregonians.

It also raises a legitimate question. If Flynn wins the primary and then the election, to whom will he owe his fealty? We’re deluded if we think that fealty will be to the common people of Oregon.

Carrick Flynn’s Conundrum: With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Carrick Ronan Morgan Flynn, who came out of nowhere in Oregon politics, hopes to outrun a primary field of Democrats seeking election to Oregon’s new Congressional District 6 seat created as a result of the 2020 census.

His television radio and digital ads, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls have been ubiquitous, helping propel him to high name recognition. Most of that activity has been paid for with multimillion donations from his presumed friends, a crypto currencies pacesetter, Sam Bankman-Fried, and the national Democrat’s House Majority PAC, which recently made a $1 million donation. 

“The independent expenditure campaign gives Flynn an outsized advantage in the race to be the Democratic nominee in the new district, which draws most of its voters from Marion County,” observed Willamette Week on April 10. 

The problem is the independent expenditure campaign has also majorly pissed off Flynn’s primary opponents, many with much stronger Oregon ties, exposed him to rebukes by multiple Democratic-associated interest groups and raised questions about backdoor dealings at the national level.

The House Majority PAC’s intervention is particularly mad because it was so unnecessary. Protect Our Future, backed by a man with an almost bottomless pot of money, has already shown it is willing to invest vast sums in Carrick’s race. 

Six of the nine Democrats seeking to win the Democratic primary rapidly issued a statement denouncing the House Majority PAC’s donation to Flynn. “We strongly condemn House Majority PAC’s unprecedented and inappropriate decision…” the joint statement said. “We call on House Majority PAC to actually stand by our party’s values and let the voters of Oregon decide who their Democratic nominee will be.”

The PAC’s endorsement of Flynn probably didn’t help the party with Black Oregonians either. 

Loretta Smith, a Black woman and one of the primary candidates, has said she feels betrayed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the PAC’s support for Flynn,. “I think it’s disrespectful and it’s wrong,” Smith said.

Adding to the pique of the other primary candidates, some of the Democrats’ most dependable constituencies objected to the House Majority PAC’s support for Flynn.

On April 11, CHC Bold PAC , a Democratic-aligned political action committee supporting the election of Hispanic Democrats to Congress, condemned the House Majority PAC’s donation to Flynn with a reminder that Latina women have been critical to Democratic victories and the PAC’s support for Flynn ignored the fact a highly qualified Latina, Andrea Salinas, was in the primary battle. 

“HMP is tasked with defending the House Majority by boosting Democrats and holding Republicans accountable, not with spending critical resources against a woman who has spent decades fighting for progressive causes and who will excite Democratic voters in November,” the statement said. 

Withering criticism also came from Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29 ). “At a time when reproductive rights are at stake, Democrats should be moving mountains to ensure that there are more women at the table – especially women of color – instead of actively trying to tip the scales against an exceptionally experienced Latina. That is precisely what House Majority PAC has done,” Garcia said. 

So much for friends who are just trying to help.


I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights!

Warren G. Harding

Carrick Flynn: Oregon’s Crypto Candidate

Top executives at FTX, a major digital currency trading platform, are financing a high-priced communications war on behalf of Carrick Flynn, who hopes to outrun a primary field of Democrats seeking election to Oregon’s new Congressional District 6 seat. The primary will be held on May 17, 2022.

Carrick Flynn
Source: Northwest Observer

If Flynn wins the primary he will owe his win lock, stock, and barrel to wealthy crypto supporters.

Is this how we want our political campaigns to be financed? Do Oregonians really want candidates to be captured by special interests, particularly so early in the political process? And in this case, are we OK with the capturers being major players in the controversial and risky business of cryptocurrencies? 

If you’ve paid attention to the plethora of television campaign ads already running in the Democratic primary race, you’ve noticed that the ones by the other candidates note at the end “paid for by” the candidates campaign committee. In Carrick Flynn’s case, most have said “Paid for by Protect Our Future PAC”.

The major backer of the PAC is FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old American “Master of the Universe” billionaire who lives in the Bahamas.

FTX is incorporated in Antigua and Barbuda and headquartered in the Bahamas. The company officially opened its doors for trading in May of 2019. It enables trades of a variety of digital assets, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana and Dogecoin. 

Sam Bankman-Fried
(Source: New York Magazine)

Super PACs cannot legally coordinate with candidates, but many candidates find creative ways to work in concert with them that stretch the legal boundaries.

According to data filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), as of April 11, 2022, Protect Our Future had made independent expenditures in support of Flynn totaling $4,932,464.73 in 2022. The expenditures have been devoted to a wide range of activities, including radio, television and digital ad production and time purchases, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls.

On April 12, 2022, OPB reported that a political action committee affiliated with national Democrats, the House Majority PAC, had also purchased roughly $1 million of ads to help Flynn. The PAC’s television ads are already appearing.

Six of the nine Democrats seeking to win the primary put out a statement denouncing the move. “We strongly condemn House Majority PAC’s unprecedented and inappropriate decision…” the joint statement said. “We call on House Majority PAC to actually stand by our party’s values and let the voters of Oregon decide who their Democratic nominee will be.”

Interestingly, some of the money Flynn received from the House Majority PAC could be considered as a pass-through from Bankman-Fried. According to OpenSecrets,a research and government transparency group tracking money in politics and its effect on elections and policy, Bankman-Fried has also made substantial donations to the House Majority PAC.

It’s not hard to decipher Flynn’s potential appeal. He’s a climber with a hard luck story about his youth and a touch-all-the-bases career of prestige academic success at Yale Law School and international social justice-oriented work.* But to really pop in Oregon’s political world, he needed money, and FTX has given him a jump start.

“…the company’s executives are quietly emerging as crypto kingmakers in the nation’s capital as they spend millions to launch super PACs, bankroll congressional campaigns and recruit former government officials with an inside track on looming crypto regulations,” Politico observed in February. In other words, the “Our” in Protect Our Future most likely means the crypto industry.

Down the road, FTX may also have other interests that could bring into play a need for political support. The Generalist, a tech-focused weekly online publication, has speculated that the company may try to grow its footprint in sports betting, banking and social media.   In this regard, Bankman-Fried has openly talked about his desire to build out a fully-fledged financial giant, a kind of monetary super-app handling payments, custody, and of course, investing across asset classes. 

If Flynn wins the primary** and the election, will he be indebted to FTX’s interests as much as to Oregon’s. It’s damn hard not to think otherwise. 


*Flynn’s efforts to position himself as a true Oregonian resemble Nicholas Kristoff’s efforts to do the same in his failed quest to become Oregon’s governor.  Flynn, 35, was born in Oregon, grew up here and graduated from the University of Oregon in 2008, but he has spent a substantial part of his adult life elsewhere, much of that overseas: 

·      2009: Legal Clerk, The Carter Center, Monrovia, Liberia

·      2010: Legal Consultant, The Asia Foundation, Dili, Timor-Leste

·      2011: Volunteer, Volunteer, Progressio UK, Dili, Timor-Leste

·      2011-2012: Program Associate / Legal Consultant, The Asia Foundation, Dili,    Timor-Leste

·      2013-14: Bernstein Human Rights Fellow, New Delhi Area, India

·      2014: Bernstein Human Rights Fellow, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

·      2015: Lecturer, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia

·      2015-2018: Assistant Director, Center for the Governance of AI (GovAI), Oxford, England, United Kingdom

·      2018-2022: Research Faculty, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.