Hypocrisy Lives:  Shemia Fagan’s embrace of union money


State Sen. Shemia Fagan announcing her entry into the Democratic primary race for Oregon Secretary of State

Rabid liberal Democrats like Secretary of State candidate Shemia Fagan rail against the power of corporations and their donations to political campaigns.

In that vein, she’s a critic of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that the government cannot restrict corporations, associations, and labor unions from making independent expenditures in support of or opposition to candidates.

But in a display of raw hypocrisy, Fagan is a big fan of political donations by labor unions, apparently considering union money more virtuous. In fact, union donations  were the lifeblood of her 2020 primary campaign, even though unions represent just 14.4% of Oregon workers.

A late entrant to the Democratic primary for Secretary of State, after Rep. Jennifer Williamson dropped out, Fagan quickly gained the support of unions and amassed a substantial campaign war chest. Public employee unions, in particular, backed Fagan because she voted against Senate Bill 1049, which limited PERS benefits

According to the Oregon Secretary of State, reported union contributions to Fagan’s campaign from when Williamson dropped out on Feb. 10, 2020 to May 15, 2020 totaled at least $796,775.68.

I guess Fagan’s worries about undue influence don’t apply to unions, only to businesses.


Union contributors to Committee to Elect Shemia Fagan

      Feb. 10 – May 15, 2020

  • SEIU – Citizen Action for Political Education – $239,389.86
  • Oregon AFL-CIO – $35,696.16
  • SEIU/American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – Oregonians for Ballot Access – $47,500.00
  • AFSCME Local #328 – $200.00
  • International Assoc. of Firefighters – $25,000.00
  • SEIU Local 503, OPEU – $3,825.91
  • Oregon Education Association – OEA PAC – $115,275.00
  • Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest – $1,000.00
  • Oregon Laborers Political Action Committee – $11,000.00
  • Lane Professional Firefighters Assoc – $1,000.00
  • Local 48 Electricians PAC – $7,500.00
  • Sheet Metal Contractors National Association (SMACNA) PAC – $1,000.00
  • American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – $75,000.00
  • Portland Metro Fire Fighters PAC – $5,000.00
  • National Education Association – NEA Fund for Children and Public Education PAC – $25,000.00
  • Oregon State Firefighters Council – $5,000.00
  • Oregon AFSCME Council 75 – $91,638.75
  • Oregon School Employees Association – Voice of Involved Classified Employees – $25,000.00
  • Plumbers & Steamfitters PAC – $15,000.00
  • Local #1159 FirePAC – $1,000.00
  • SEIU Local 49 COPE Fund – $5000.00
  • Professional Firefighters PAC – $750.00
  • Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters -$2,500.00
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 16 -SMART Local 16 PAC – $5,000.00
  • Service Employees International Union Local 503/ American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 75 – Oregonians for Ballot Access – $47,500.00
  • Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council – Building Trades PAC – $5,000.00

*All organizations noted above are as identified in campaign finance information provided by the Oregon Secretary of State.






















Brad Avakian and his party are worried

With polls showing Republican Dennis Richardson leading Democrat Brad Avakian in the Oregon Secretary of State race, it looks like Avakian’s supporters are worried.


Why isn’t this man smiling?

Just in the first three days of this month they pumped $398,915 into his campaign, according to state filings.

Although union members account for just 14.8 percent of wage and salary workers in Oregon, they play a big role in Avakian’s campaign. Union donations in the first three days of November included:

  • The NEA Fund for Children and Public Education – $50,000
  • AFSCME – $30,000
  • Local 48 Electricians PAC (4572) – $15,000
  • American Federation of Teachers-Oregon Candidate PAC (113) – $10,000
  • Ironworkers Political Action League Muti Candidate Committee – $5,000
  • Our Oregon – $5,000
  • Oregon AFSCME Council 75 – $4,000

Some donors to other Democratic candidates may be surprised to learn that another significant source of recent donations to Avakian is the campaign committees of fellow Democratic candidates. In a move that should be prohibited, those committees simply took contributions to them and, in effect, passed them on to Avakian.

These donors include:

  • Friends of Tobias Read – $5,000
  • Sara Gelser for State Senate (4680) – $1,000
  • Blumenauer for Congress – $2,000
  • Friends of Mark Hass (11487) – $1,000
  • Rosenbaum for Senate (Diane) (1430) – $1,000
  • Friends of Lee Beyer (14049) – $5,000
  • Friends of Tina Kotek (4792) – $5,000
  • Reardon for Oregon (15621) – $3,000
  • Kurt Schrader for Congress – $5,000
  • Elect Ellen Rosenblum for Attorney General (15406) – $5,000
  • Friends of Jeff Barker (4270) – $2,000
  • Friends of Jennifer Williamson (15145) – $2,500

Other large contributors to Avakian’s campaign in early November included the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians ($10,000) , the Oregon Health Care Association PAC (275), $5,000) , Cain Petroleum ($5,000) and James D. Fuiten, President of Metro West Ambulance ($5,000).

These recent contributions brought Avakian’s campaign committee total to $2,216,482.79 as of Nov. 3, 2016, substantially more than the $1,490,837.52 raised by Richardson, as of Nov. 4.

We’ll see whether all this loot can pull Avakian ahead.


Gov. Brown & campaign finance reform: time to silence the megaphone

Governor Kate Brown says she wants campaign finance reform.

“No one should be able to buy a megaphone so big it drowns out every other voice,” Brown said last year. “It’s time to reopen conversations about reasonable campaign limits in Oregon.”


But Brown can safely advocate campaign finance reform now because if it is imposed it won’t be until after her next race and all the usual suspects of unions, attorneys, and hangers-on have already contributed to her re-election campaign, some in jaw-dropping amounts.

A review of the records of the Kate Brown Committee during 2015-2016 (below) reveals dozens of $10,000 and up contributors, so there’s obviously no shortage of people and organizations willing to shovel out cash to ensure Brown has a big megaphone.

The Kate Brown Committee has already received contributions during 2015-2016 totaling $1,646,337 and has a current balance of $1,123,196.

Some of those contributions look like payback, such as the $100,000 contribution from the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) following the state’s generous contract agreement with the labor union in 2015 and Governor Brown’s support for big increases in the minimum wage.

Other union contributions are undoubtedly intended to keep Brown on the straight and narrow in terms of supporting union agendas.

Another $10,000-and-over contribution that looks like payback is one from the Motor Vehicle Software Corporation, a California-based creator of DMVdesk electronic vehicle registration (EVR) software. The company began a phased introduction of its title and registration solutions, as well as training program, in Oregon last year. This is part of the company’s plan to automate registration nationwide.

I don’t doubt that there are more questionable contributions.

If Brown sincerely believes no one should be able to buy a megaphone, she could start by limiting her own contributions now.


Gov. Kate Brown’s $10,000-and-over contributors, listed on the Secretary of State’s website, are noted below:

Contributor/Payee Amount Aggregate Amount
Laborers’ Political League 75000 75000
Democratic Governors Association 10544.83 10544.83
James Summerton 10000 10000
Nike Inc. and Affiliates 10000 10000
Deloitte Services LP 10000 10000
AllCare Management Services, LLC 10000 10000
Stoll, Stoll, Berne, Lokting &Shlachter, PC 10000 10000
AFSCME 100000 100000
Jon Stryker 25000 25000
Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon (4327) 10000 10000
DaVita Total Renal Care Inc 10000 10000
The Corson and Johnson Law Firm PC 10000 10000
Democratic Governors Association 10624.47 64920.75
John Koza 10000 10000
Oregon School Employees Assoc. – Voice of Involved Classified Employees (2307) 10000 10000
Global Companies LLC 10000 10000
Josh Kardon 10000 10000
Joshua Steiner 10000 10000
Motor Vehicle Software Corporation 10000 10000
Local 48 Electricians PAC (4572) 10000 35000
Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton 10000 10000
Steve Silberstein 10000 10000
Pfizer, Inc. 10000 10000
Timothy Quenelle 10000 10000
Kafoury & McDougal 10000 10000
Rosenthal Greene & Devlin PC 10000 10000
The Barton Law Firm, P.C. 10000 10000
jeffrey Bowersox 10000 10000
Johnson, Johnson & Schaller, PC 10000 10000
Erin Olson 10000 12500
D’Amore Law Group, PC 10000 10000
Tichenor & Dziuba LLP 10000 10000
Miller & Wagner LLP 10000 10000
Piucci Law 10000 10000
Mark Bocci 10000 10000
James Kelly 10000 10000
Linda Eyerman 10000 10000
Katherine Keane 10000 10000
Joseph Hawes 10000 12500
Charles Paulson 10000 10000
Stan Amy 20000 20000
Jane Paulson 10000 12000
Teevin Brothers Land & Timber 10000 10000
John Coletii 10000 10000
Democratic Governors Association 40000 54296.28
James Fuiten 10000 10000
Willamette Dental Management Corp. 10000 10000
Junki Yoshida 10000 10000
Democratic Governors Association 14296.28 14296.28
Robert Ball 10000 10000
Oregon State Fire Fighters Council 10000 10000
Barbara Lee 10000 10000
Local 48 Electricians PAC (4572) 25000 25000







Who owns Chuck Riley?

Democrat Chuck Riley’s defeat of Republican Bruce Starr on Nov. 4 for Oregon’s 15th District Senate seat cost a ton of money. Now, like a company that’s gone public, his key supporters are going to expect a return on their investments.


As of Dec. 8, 2014, Riley’s campaign committee, Friends of Chuck Riley, had raised $913,372.33 and spent $889,757.01, according to records on file with the Oregon Secretary of State. The onslaught of campaign cash was so great that the contest ended up being the most expensive state Senate race in Oregon history.

But it was also a very tight race, with Riley finally coming in ahead by just 287 votes out of 39,734 cast. Likely costing Starr the race was the Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchel-Markley, who captured 3,593 votes.

That suggests the next race will be hard fought as well, particularly if no 3rd party candidate runs, and that it will again require a substantial war chest. To create that war chest Riley will have to placate some big givers. After all, it was the big givers who filled his coffers, not the little people.
So who does Chuck Riley owe for his victory?

The biggest cash/in-kind contributors to Friends of Chuck Riley were Riley’s own Democratic Party, unions, a climate change activist, trial lawyers, and two national gun control groups.

The money from the Democratic Party came from two groups, the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund ($174,585.50)
and the Democratic Party of Oregon ($107,577.56), which received significant contributions from some of the same characters as Riley’s committee.

For example, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, donated $75,000 directly to Friends of Chuck Riley and $50,000 to the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg

Riley’s committee also pulled in $10,000 from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Other big contributors to Riley’s Committee included:

• Service Employees International Union (SEIU) $204,460.39

This includes: $193,661.96 from Citizen Action for Political Education of SEIU Local 503; $10,798.43 from Committee on Political Education of SEIU Local 49.


• Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC $191,120.02

OLCV made an in-kind contribution of $127,498.50 in the form of a TV ad. The balance was in the form of: cash; in-kind field work, postage, preparation and production of advertising and a phone program. The TV ad money came out of a $130,000.00 contribution to OLCV from NextGen Climate Action Committee, established by billionaire Tom Steyer to help candidates who support the need to deal with climate change.


• Oregon Trial Lawyers Association PAC $38,477.87


• Oregon American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 75
Political Soft $17,500.00


• Oregon Education Association – People for
Improvement of Education $8,342.00


• Other unions $10,500.00

Joint Council of Teamsters No. 37 Political Fund

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local

Oregon School Employees Association – Voice of
Involved Classified Employees

International Union of Operating Engineers, Local
701 Misc PAC

American Federation of Teachers-Oregon Candidate

All of the above contributions totaled $752,563.34. That’s 85 percent of total expenditures by Riley’s committee.

Compare that with the amount that came in from contributors of $100 or less, about $8000. That’s less than 1 percent of total expenditures by Riley’s committee. Even if all the small contributors had bundled their money in an effort to enhance their potential influence, they would have been a small player. They might as well have spent their money on a nice dinner out.

So, how are we going to know the influence of the big donors on Riley? It’s not going to be easy.

First of all, it’s not clear that the size of Riley’s war chest was the key determinant in his victory. There’s no hard evidence of a constant linear linkage between campaign money and victory, although a candidate does need enough money to deliver key messages to critical audiences.

But now that Riley has been elected, the major donors are likely to influence positions Riley takes.Equally important, large donations to Riley are likely to give certain interests better access to him to influence public policy in general.

Big donors will also probably have an ability to influence the shape and specifics of legislation that’s before Riley much earlier in the legislative process, when it’s harder for the public to detect.

Large donations may also carry the day on critical votes where Riley’s one vote for or against can determine the fate of a bill. “These low salience critical votes present the most likely circumstances for members to repay groups for their financial support,” according to Lynda Powell at the University of Rochester in a paper on The Influence of Campaign Contributions on Legislative Policy.

One thing is clear – the big donors are going to be keeping an eye on Riley, just like big investors keep an eye on the stock market. All investments carry some risk, but the reward for risk can be a great return.