Pharmaceutical Industry Steps Up for Kurt Schrader As Primary Battle Nears End

A river of money is flowing into the Democratic primary race in Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District. 

Who’s buying Congress this week?”, Primary School, a site that follows the financing of primary races, asked on May 5.

It answered its own question, revealing independent expenditures made by outside groups in congressional races using data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). 

A standout is the activity of dark-money political action committee (PAC) Center Forward in support of Congressman Kurt Schrader.

“America is neither right nor left. Republican nor Democrat. Red nor blue.,” the PAC says in its Our Mission statement. “The mainstream values and principles that will move us forward come from where they always have – the center. The center is where we leave our political labels and baggage at the door, to find commonsense solutions to America’s great challenges.”


Center Forward put $650,000 into television ads attacking Jamie McLeod-Skinner, bringing the PAC’s total spending on pro-Schrader/anti McLeod-Skinner efforts to $1.04M.

Critics says Center Forward is heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry and concentrates on obstructing efforts to rein in the pharmaceutical industry.

According to The American Prospect, an online and print magazine “dedicated to American liberalism and progressivism,” not long ago the PAC “…kicked off an ad blitz championing six Democratic House members, nearly all of whom went on to lead the charge to undermine Democrats’ flagship drug pricing reform bill,… while also jeopardizing the Biden agenda bill being considered under budget reconciliation.” One of those six House members was Kurt Schrader.

Center Forward, as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, doesn’t have to publicly disclose its donors. However, a  review by Sludge, which investigates money in politics, concluded that a significant portion of its funding in recent years has come from a drug company lobbying group the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). 

Schrader’s close ties to the industry are a primary attack point for McLeod-Skinner. “Kurt Schrader claims he’s fighting to get big money out of politics. I’m calling on Schrader to stand by his word and tell his Big Pharma donors to take these ads down,” Jamie McLeod-Skinner told Sludge

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.”

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.

Much ado about nothing: Joaquin Castro and Trump campaign contributors

Well, cry me a river.


This past Tuesday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D – TX), brother of Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro, posted on Twitter the names of 44 San Antonio, TX residents who have contributed the maximum allowed under federal law to President Trump’s reelection campaign.

“Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,’ “ the tweet said.

From the firestorm of criticism that erupted, you’d think Castro paid a group of Antifa thugs to attack conservative journalist Andy Ngo.

“Democrats want to talk about inciting violence? This naming of private citizens and their employers is reckless and irresponsible,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. “He is endangering the safety of people he is supposed to be representing.”

“People should not be personally targeted for their political views, period,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot and during a Congressional baseball game two years ago, posted on Twitter.  “This isn’t a game. It’s dangerous, and lives are at stake. I know this firsthand.”

Seven Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus, which includes many of the more conservative House Republicans, have even called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Castro for his Twitter post.

“Posting a target list of private citizens simply for supporting his political opponent is antithetical to our principles and serves to suppress the free speech and free association rights of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to the Ethics panel Friday.

“Joaquin Castro shared personal info on Trump donors. Despicable!,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a text message to the president’s supporters.

Cry me a river!

The fact is all the information Castro tweeted is readily available to the public.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) guidelines provide that individuals can contribute up to $2,800 to federal candidates per election, with a primary and general election counting as separate elections. That means a donor can give $5,600 combined. Cash contributions of $50 or less can be anonymous.

Once contributions add up to more than $200 during a two-year cycle to a particular candidate, campaigns are required to report the donations to the FEC. Reports must include the amount donated, the date of receipt, and the contributor’s name, address, occupation, and employer.

All that data is then posted on the FEC’s website, which can be easily accessed by me, you, Tim Murtaugh, Steve Scalise, the House Freedom Caucus,  Donald Trump Jr. and anybody else, even the Russians.

The non-partisan non-profit Center for Responsive Politics also aggregates the FEC data in multiple formats on the website Open Secrets.

So, if you want fake political news, here it is.

Despite pledges, politicians fail to shed tainted donations. Surprise!

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he’ll offset $7,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein by donating an equivalent amount to anti-sex trafficking and anti-violence against women groups.

Don’t count on it.

In 2017, when multiple women went public with accusations that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed them, Democratic politicians, including Schumer, leaped to disassociate themselves from him. In particular, they promised to donate Weinstein’s now-tainted campaign contributions to charity.


Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer was prominent among numerous politicians scurrying to say they would make amends. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Weinstein donated $20,700 to the Friends of Schumer campaign finance committee during 2013-2017.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the (Weinstein) contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Schumer, told the Washington Post in October 2017.

weinstein 4

Harvey Weinstein

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel praised Schumer  for doing the right thing.

She was too quick in her praise.

FEC records reveal that Schumer’s campaign committee didn’t donate one thin dime to charities supporting women in 2017 or 2018.

During that same period, Schumer’s committee also received contributions from the DNC Services Corp (Democratic National Committee), to which Weinstein had donated $203,458.

There’s no evidence that Schumer’s committee re-distributed any of that money to women’s groups either.

To its apparent credit, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said it would donate $30,000 of the funds it had received from Weinstein to three non-profits:

  • Emily’s List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office.
  • Emerge America, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network to Democratic women who want to run for office, and
  • Higher Heights, a national organization working to elect Black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies.

FEC records of the DNC’s expenditures in 2017-2018 reveal that it lived up to its promise.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the DNC sent Emily’s List $10,290.15.  (The DNC also sent $5,000 to Emily’s List on May 25, 2017, but that was before the Weinstein scandal erupted.)

The DNC also sent $10,290.15 to both Emerge America and Higher Heights on Oct. 30, 2017. It sent $1250 to Higher Heights on Sept. 29.

But there was a hitch. The DNC collected $300,000 in donations from Weinstein, not $30,000. It kept the other $270,000.

Other Democratic politicians, including some who are now running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, also had received funds from Weinstein and also made a lot of promises to send the money to deserving non-profits. The announced recipients, however, were largely organizations that would launder the money right back to Democrats and their causes.

Even then, not all the politicians followed through on their commitments.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) said she’d donate $5,000 she received from Weinstein to Casa Myrna, a nonprofit group in Massachusetts. The FEC’s records on expenditures of the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund during 2017-2018 don’t show any payments to Casa Myrna.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she would donate $10,000 received from Weinstein to RAAIN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization. No such donation is reported in FEC records of expenditures by Gillibrand’s 2017-2018 campaign finance committees.
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he’d send Weinstein’s donations to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. According to, Weinstein donated a total of $17,300 to Franken and his Midwest Values PAC. None of Franken’s campaign finance committees recorded on show a donation to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center during 2017-2018.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she would give $5,000 she received from Weinstein to a women’s rights nonprofit, Equal Rights Advocates. FEC records on Harris’ campaign finance committees do not show such a donation during 2017-2018.
  • Bob Casey (D-PA) said he’d give $2,190 he received from Weinstein to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. FEC records on Casey’s campaign finance committees do not show such a donation.
  • The Clinton Foundation’s website says Weinstein has donated between $100,001 – $250,000 to the Foundation. In Oct. 2017, the Foundation announced it had no plans to return Weinstein’s contributions, saying they had already been spent on charitable programs. According to the Foundation’s Form 990 report to the IRS, it had net assets of $323,470,879 at the end of 2017.

Looks like a lot of politicians’ promises are no more than empty public relations gestures.  Surprise!









What Trump-Related Business Do I Boycott Now?



Decisions. Decisions.

It used to be that if the presidential candidate you favored lost the election you sulked a bit, regretfully tore your candidate’s sticker off your car bumper and moved on.

Now you’re expected to scream in dismay, post diatribes on every possible social media channel and boycott a mind boggling array of businesses that have even the slightest connection with the winner and his or her family.

So here we are, politics intruding in every aspect of our lives. All this foolishness, this symbolic act of frustration, is really getting out of hand.

Shannon Cuoulter, the 45-year-old owner of a small marketing firm in the San Francisco Bay area, is a key instigator in all this. In October 2016, she found herself increasingly upset with Donald Trump’s comments about, and behavior toward, women. Deciding to take action, she first created a #fashionnotfascism hashtag and urged people via Twitter to avoid stores that carried Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories.

Later changing her campaign hashtag to #GrabYourWallet, she created a website with a spreadsheet people could use to avoid transgressing businesses. The spreadsheet starts with a short list of the “Top 10 Companies We’re Boycotting.”

The list includes 9 retailers that sell Trump family products (Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Dillards, Zappos, Amazon, Hudson Bay, TJ Maxx, Lord & Taylor and Bed, Bath & Beyond) and one retailer where a board member contributed to the Trump campaign (LL Bean). “LL Bean: official winter clothing of the New Reich,” one critic tweeted.

But Cuoulter doesn’t stop there.

The spreadsheet goes on to list 46 more companies to boycott, including:

  • Trump-owned, branded, or operated businesses, including Trump hotels and Trump golf courses
  • More retailers that sell Trump family products, including, Ross, and Walmart
  • Companies that advertise on Celebrity Apprentice (Donald Trump is Executive Producer)
  • Companies with CEOs who raised funds for Trump and or a Trump PAC, including LendingTree and New Balance.
  • And Yuengling Beer. GrabYourWallet says Yuengling should be boycotted because its founder donated to Trump’s campaign. But the founder, David G. Yuengling, died in 1877. Presumably, the donor was the company’s current president, Richard Yuengling.

With such a wide net, GrabYour Wallet goes through some convoluted explanations for why the list isn’t even longer.

The website includes a lengthy explanation, for example, for why Facebook is not included on the boycott list:

“Given its massive international user base and high levels of daily engagement, the ways in which Facebook contributed to the distribution of propaganda / fake news during the election is of serious concern in our democracy and in the world. That Trump surrogate Peter Thiel is on the board of Facebook doesn’t help matters much. After extensive discussions w/ Grab Your Wallet participants, Facebook is NOT being placed on the boycott list at this time for several reasons: (1) it’s a vital tool for self-organizing, particularly Pantsuit Nation & its local chapters (2) Mark Zuckerberg has made formal statements acknowledging the problem of propaganda & fake news on the Facebook platform as well as a committment (sic) to addressing / fixing it, although these statements did not represent as strong a committment (sic) as we would have liked to have seen and (3) the media category (which is what FB is, a media outlet) is the one we are most conservative about adding new companies to the list b/c of the importance of free expression.”


Other sites urging shoppers not to buy Trump-related products include Boycott Trump (with little or no explanation of why particular companies are targeted), and the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, which offers an app that allows users to identify over 250 companies and people to boycott because they’re directly connected to Trump. “Make Trump and his allies pay, literally, for their hateful rhetoric and regressive policies,” the app promotion says.

Some companies have encountered boycott threats just for executives making positive statements about Trump. After Under Armour CEO and Chairman Kevin Plank made some favorable comments to CNBC about Trump’s impact on business, boycott threats popped up all over Twitter.   “Businesses who stand up for this madness will be starved out one by one. ,” said one tweet.

Then there are the calls to boycott the United States itself because of Trump’s actions.

The new target of the academic boycott movement is the United States. According to Inside Higher Ed, at least 3,000 academics from around the world have signed on to a call to to boycott international academic conferences held in the United States in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s executive order barring entry by nationals of seven countries.

Frankly, this whole exercise in condemnation is as arbitrary as can be.

The boycott of LL Bean, for example, is justified on the basis that Linda Bean, an heiress to the Bean fortune, a member of LL Bean’s board and one of 50 family members involved in the business, made donations to Trump’s campaign.

If mere donations to Trump’s campaign from some odd associates with a business are to be the justification for corporate boycotts,  potential targets are legion. Just review the Federal Election Commission’s data on campaign contributors and you will likely find that somebody at just about every major company in America contributed to Trump’s campaign or said something complimentary about him.

All this is poisoning and polarizing public debate, exacerbating division, undermining relationships, and inserting politics into daily life to an unsettling degree,

And if you think about it, the way things are going the boycott Trump folks are going to be insisting that you stop buying anything online or in brick-and-mortar stores, and that you make your own beer in the basement.

My thinking? This is all getting out of hand. It’s time to boycott boycotts.


Merkley loses

As of Oct. 15, 2014, Senator Jeff Merkley’s Leadership PAC had given out contributions to other Senate Democrats running for office in Nov. 2014. Based on the results of the election, he didn’t make very good investments. And now he’s going to be in the minority, too. Tough luck.


Total to Democrats: $91,000
Total to Republicans: $0

Recipient Total

Begich, Mark (D-AK) $10,000 LOST
Braley, Bruce (D-IA) $ 1,500 LOST
Coons, Chris (D-DE) $ 5,000 LOST
Franken, Al (D-MN) $ 5,000
Grimes, Alison (D-KY) $ 5,000 LOST
Hagan, Kay R (D-NC) $ 7,500 LOST
Landrieu, Mary L (D-LA) $ 7,500 WILL LOSE
Markey, Ed (D-MA $ 2,000
Nunn, Michelle (D-GA) $ 5,000 LOST
Peters, Gary (D-MI) $ 1,500
Pryor, Mark (D-AR) $ 7,500 LOST
Reed, Jack (D-RI) $ 5,000
Schatz, Brian (D-HI) $ 2,500
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH) $ 7,500
Udall, Mark (D-CO) $ 5,000 LOST
Udall, Tom (D-NM) $ 3,500
Walsh, John (D-MT) $ 5,000 WITHDREW
Warner, Mark (D-VA) $ 5,000

Based on data released by the FEC on October 25, 2014.
Center for Responsive Politics.