Democrats were big money winners from Oregonians in 2020 elections

If you have any doubts about Oregon’s political leanings, contributions in elections should clear things up. In the 2020 elections, political contributors in Oregon overwhelmingly supported Democrats.

That’s according to federal election data collected by OpenSecrets.com, a website from the nonpartisan nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics.

As the table below shows, about three-quarters of all contributions went to Democrats; just 22% to Republicans, based on Federal Election Commission data released electronically on October 22, 2020..


Category
TotalRank
Total Itemized Contributions **$79,294,02224
Total to Candidates and Parties$77,290,392N/A
Total to Democrats$58,142,17818
Percent to Democrats75.2%9
Total to Republicans$17,004,66432
Percent to Republicans22.0%43
Individual donations ($200+)*$91,112,33722
Soft money donations$4,128,81731
PAC donations$2,145,80527

The “rank” column above shows how Oregon compares to all 50 states. A rank of 9 in the “Percent to Democrats” category, for example, means that state’s percentage of contributions to Democrats was the 9th highest in the nation.

** This figure includes PAC contributions to candidates, individual contributions ($200+) to candidates and parties, and Levin fund contributions to parties. To avoid double-counting, it does not include individual (hard money) contributions to PACs, but does include individual (soft money) contributions to outside spending groups, including super PACs.

* This figure includes individual contributions to candidates, PACs, outside spending groups (including super PACs) and party committees.

† Percents to Democrats and Republicans calculated out of Total to Parties and Candidates only.

The chart below shows how much individual donors from Oregon gave in the 2019-2020 election cycle. Only itemized contributions of more than $200 are included.

Individual Donation TypeTotalDemsRepubsDem %Repub %
To Candidates$24,676,479$18,853,986$5,430,22776.4%22.0%
To PACs$7,401
To Political Parties$2,030,350$22,950$2,007,4001.1%98.9%
To Outside Spending Groups$2,520

The total cost of the 2020 election nearly reached an unprecedented $14 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, making it the most expensive election in history and twice as expensive as the 2016 presidential election cycle. 

Small donors giving $200 or less — and self-funding from wealthy individuals — accounted for a larger share of fundraising than in the 2016 election. The Center theorized that the pandemic forced candidates to forgo in-person fundraisers with wealthy donors. pushing campaigns to increasingly rely on virtual fundraising using texts and emails, a strategy that works better when Americans are more engaged in politics. They first had to build lists of supporters to solicit donations from, an area where online ads on Facebook and Google proved to be immensely successful.

Outside money is undermining local political control

In an effort to portray herself as the down-home candidate in her contest against Democrat Sarah Gideon, Republican Senator Susan Collins sent out a text message on Oct. 21 saying Gideon has more donors from Portland, OR than Portland, ME. As of mid-October 2020, Gideon’s out-of-state contributions, $41.8 million, represented 92.3% of her total contributions.

Collins neglected to mention that 91.80 % ($11.9 million) of the donations she’s received during 2019-20 have come from outside Maine, according to OpenSecrets.org, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics. That made her one of the top 10 senate recipients of contributions outside of their state during that period.

Think about that. The winner of a critical Maine Senate race that could determine which party controls the Senate may well be determined by people who don’t even live in Maine.

Political races across the country are increasingly being funded by people from other places.

In today’s contentious political campaigns, out-of-state contributions overwhelmingly dominate the higher end of fundraising for Democrats and Republicans. It’s part of the nationalization of all politics in the United States.

In Oregon, the strongest evidence of out-of-state influence on a campaign is in the race between incumbent Democrat Congressman Peter DeFazio and Republican Alek Skarlatos. Out-of-state residents have contributed 41.9% of the money raised by DeFazio; for Skarlatos, the out-of-state share is 68.6%, according to OpenSecrets.org.

DeFazio (L) vs. Skarlatos

Out-of-state money is also playing an increasingly important role in ballot measure battles.

In Oregon, the key backer of Measure 110 on the 2020 ballot is Drug Policy Action, a New York City-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group that supports marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sale.

The group is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit that was also behind Oregon’s 2014 measure legalizing recreational cannabis.

The Drug Policy Alliance has received major funding from billionaire investor George Soros, has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs.

The next largest contributor is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative of Palo Alto, CA, which has contributed $500,000. The Initiative is a charity established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Out-of-state political contributions come from companies with local interests, networks of politically aligned people scattered across the country, and liberal and conservative national groups mobilizing to influence state-level elections.

Oregon tried to limit out-of-district political contributions in 1994 through Ballot Measure 6, which amended the state constitution to allow candidates to ”use or direct only contributions which originate from individuals who at the time of their donation were residents of the electoral district of the public office sought by the candidate.” (Oregon Constitution Art. II, § 22). The measure imposed a 10 percent cap on the total amount of money a candidate could accept from contributors residing outside the district.

When the measure went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the state  asserted two interests, preventing the appearance of corruption and ensuring a republican form of government, as justifications for the out-of-district ban. The state could restrict out-of-district residents’ right to vote in the district, the court held, but could not restrict such residents’ right to express themselves about the election, including by contributing money.

In August 1998, the court struck down the Oregon ballot initiative in a 2-1 decision (VanNatta v. Keisling, 151 F.3d 1215 9th Cir.1998).

“Who should really have a say in how each state is run?”, asks Dan Weiner, senior counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.  “It used to be that, at least at the state level, the interests of constituents vastly outweighed any interests coming from elsewhere around the country. But that’s no longer true to some extent because of the proliferation of the campaign finance free-for-all.”

Republican Beutler outraising Democrat Long in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District Race

Please, make them stop! 

That’s my reaction to the blizzard of television ads running for Democrat Carolyn Long and Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in their race for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. They’ve been pounding my brain for weeks, often one after the other, and I don’t even live in Washington.

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by both candidates show they’ve been raising and spending money like drunken sailors. Together they’ve raised $7,461,992.01 and spent $5,547,062.56.

Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler / Democrat Carolyn Long

These are their individual numbers as of Sept. 30, 2020:

$ Raised$ Spent$ Cash on hand
Beutler3,916,946.212,229,341.641,736,571.30
Long3,545,045.803,317,720.92 257,476.51

And this doesn’t even count the money spent by supportive committees, such as the Republican’s Congressional Leadership Fund, or by dark money groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors.

Beutler can take some satisfaction in knowing she has a lot more cash on hand to spend in the closing days of the campaign and that she’s outraising Long, going against the national trend of Democrats bringing in more total cash in House races.

But Beutler and Long are still a small part of the political spending this election. Open Secrets, the data website of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group tracking money in U.S. politics, is predicting that the 2020 election will near $11 billion in total spending, smashing records.

“The 2018 election smashed fundraising records for midterms, and 2020 is going to absolutely crush anything we’ve ever seen — or imagined — before” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Top Contributors in Beutler/Long Race

Top Contributors to Jaime Herrera BeutlerTotal
Winning for Women$21,800
Blue Cross/Blue Shield$17,807
Emergent Biosolutions$15,600
Fisher Investments$13,200
Pro-israel America PAC$12,200
Boeing Co$12,009
L&E Bottling Co$11,800
Blackstone Group $11,217
Crow Holdings$11,206
Clearpath Foundation$11,200
Source: OpenSecrets.org
Top Contributors to Carolyn LongTotal
Emily’s List$47,165
Democracy Engine$32,075
Amazon.com$20,200
Microsoft Corp$20,013
End Citizens United $18,700
University of Washington$18,491
United for A Strong America$16,200
Tableau Software$12,300
Vancouver Public Schools$11,840
Barr Foundation$11,200
Source: OpenSecrets.org

These tables list the top donors to candidates in the 2019-2020 House election cycle The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Outside Groups Spending Money in this Race

CommitteeTypeAll 2020 Total
RED – ClearPath ActionSuperPAC$65,000
RED – Congressional Leadership FundSuperPAC$406,125
RED – Defending Main StreetSuperPAC$78,222
BLUE – Democratic Congressional Campaign CmtePAC$468,404
BLUE – Fuse Washington501c$54,761
RED – Governing Majority FundSuperPAC$103,674
RED – National Republican Congressional CmtePAC$491,052
BLUE – Oneamerica Votes 501c$4,748
BLUE – Sierra Club Independent ActionSuperPAC$10
RED – WFW Action FundCarey$2
RED – Winning for WomenPAC$218
RED – Conservative group; BLUE – Liberal group
Source: OpenSecrets.org

Bloomberg’s money: now what?

bloombergmoney2

Democrats, eager to position themselves as the good guys in the campaign finance debate, weren’t real happy about all that Bloomberg money flowing into the primary campaign.

Bloomberg spent an estimated $500 million in just 100 days on slick TV ads, mailers, about 2400 staff spread around the country and for political-data and polling. Critics, including his Democratic primary opponents, accused him of trying to buy the nomination.

But now that Bloomberg has abandoned his campaign, will the Democrats become more accepting of his pledge to keep spending millions to help Democrats win the presidency and other races in the general election?

Bernie Sanders has said he wants to win with small dollar individual contributions. He’s also said he wouldn’t welcome Bloomberg’s big money help. Joe Biden, who has a history of decrying the role of wealthy people and special interests in elections, has been considerably more flexible in practice.

According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Open Secrets, a nonpartisan website by the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy, Sanders has raised $134,069,993, about one-third of that in large contributions.

In contrast, the Biden for President committee has raised $68,281,49, about two-thirds of that in large contributions:

A pro-Biden SuperPAC, Unite the Country, has raised an additional $7,919,417 from just 163 donors, with employees of the top three donors (Masimo Corp; Blum Capital Partners; Marcus & Millichap) giving $1 million each. A Leadership PAC, American Possibilities, has donated $432,948 more.

If Bloomberg decides to follow through on his pledge to spend millions to defeat Trump, there are no limits on what he can spend. Since he’s worth an estimated $60 billion, he could be a very big player.

He would be prohibited from coordinating his spending decisions with the eventual Democratic nominee, but that is honored more in the breach than the observance. .

Biden says on his presidential campaign website that he will “reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

“Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections,” his website says. “Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds, regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.”

So much for empty rhetoric.

If Biden wins the Democratic nomination, neither he nor the Democratic Party will try to stop Bloomberg from pouring his money into the campaign to defeat Trump. You can bet on it.

Political appointees as U.S ambassadors: a recipe for failure

President Trump clearly doesn’t believe the European Union  and its 28 member countries are important enough to have a trained career diplomat serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the large and complex organization.

Instead, Trump’s man in Brussels is Portland businessman Gordon Sondland, the Founder and CEO of Portland-based Provenance Hotels, which owns and/or operates 19 hotels in seven U.S. states and has another six hotels currently under development.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 16, 2019, “Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was a potential national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job, an ex-White House adviser said privately to impeachment investigators.”

Fiona Hill, one of Trump’s former top foreign policy advisers who testified earlier this week, told lawmakers that she considered Sondland to be a national security risk because of his inexperience, a naiveté that she thought foreign bad actors could easily exploit.

sondland

Gordon Sondland

According to OpenSecrets, which tracks money in politics, Sondland is a major Republican donor and bundler. He has given more than $446,000 to federal candidates and groups, 94 percent of which went to Republican causes. After Trump won, he funneled $1 million into Trump’s inaugural committee through four different LLCs.

The U.S. Department off State doesn’t even bother to emphasize Sondland’s experience in international diplomacy in his biography, choosing, instead, to start off with a description of his background that reads more like a promotional brochure for Provenance Hotels:

Ambassador Sondland is the Founder and CEO of Provenance Hotels, a national owner and operator of full-service boutique “lifestyle” hotels.  Provenance and its affiliates (founded in 1985), currently own and/or operate 19 hotels in seven states and have another six hotels currently under development.  Provenance creates unique, independent full-service, urban hotels, each with their own design, story and closely associated art collection.  The Company employs over 1,000 associates between its hotels and its Portland headquarters.  The Company has received critical acclaim for its hotels from such varied publications as The New York Times, Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, and many other national and international publications.

You almost expect the bio to end with a link to Sondland’s hotels so you can book a room.

I spent part of my professional career working with the talented people of the U.S. Department of State on international treaties. I assure you there is no substitute for education and training in international affairs and diplomacy. Just as it is a mistake to believe that a businessperson is most qualified to be president because “the country should be run like a business,”  businesspeople are not necessarily naturals in the world of diplomacy.

Sondland’s involvement in sensitive discussions with Ukraine and the chaos that has ensued illustrates the point.

As Edward L. Peck, a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department oi State, wrote in The Foreign Service Journal.,“Without a doubt, the ability to raise millions of dollars for a presidential campaign is a valuable skill. But rewarding a fundraiser or “bundler” with the job of heading a U.S. embassy reveals total ignorance of what the job entails. Almost unknown outside diplomatic circles, an ambassador’s responsibilities are numerous, complex and important—sometimes critical. And, as with any and all top management positions, they cannot be effectively carried out by beginner.”

But that is who President Trump has been appointing ambassadors in far too many cases – diplomatic beginners.

As of Sept. 26, 2019, there had been 166 ambassadorial appointments under President Trump. Of those, 92 (55.4%) were career and 74 (44.6%) were political appointees. Among Trump’s political appointees are:

  • Jamie D. McCourt, Ambassador to the French Republic and Principality of Monaco: A former Owner, President, and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers

mccourt

Jamie D. McCourt (center) being sworn in on November 2, 2017, as the U.S. Ambassador to the French Republic and Principality of Monaco.

  • Robert Wood Johnson, Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland/Court of St. James’s: Chairman and CEO of The Johnson Company, New York, NY, a private asset management firm, and Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets football team;
  • Sharon Day, Ambassador to Costa Rica: Worked for more than 20 years for the Republican Party at the local, state, and national level, and most recently in leadership roles as Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and RNC Secretary.
  • Ronald J. Gidwitz, Ambassador to Belgium: Former President and CEO of Helene Curtis, a toiletry and cosmetic manufacturer and marketer.

Many of the political appointees may be accomplished people, but that does not always translate into diplomatic skill.

“The United States has enjoyed a position of unprecedented global leadership in our lifetimes,“ said Barbara J. Stephenson, former President of The American Foreign Service Association. “This leadership was built on a foundation of military might, economic primacy, good governance, tremendous cultural appeal–and diplomatic prowess to channel all that power, hard and soft, into global leadership that has kept us safe and prosperous at home.”

Going forward, the interests of the United States in our troubled world will be best served by ambassadors with diplomatic prowess instead of political connections.

The Path to Riches: Ron Wyden’s Journey

SenatorRonWyden

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), an outspoken critic of the Republican tax reform plan for including gifts to the wealthy, is one of the wealthy himself. A review of his finances shows he has done darn well in his 36-year Congressional career.

When he first ran for the House of Representatives in 1980 at the age of 31, he had been earning a modest living teaching gerontology and serving as co-director of the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers, a senior advocacy group.

He served in the House from 1981 to 1996, then won a seat in the Senate, where he has served since 1996. In other words, he has spent almost his entire his adult life in Congress.

By 2005, Wyden’s net worth was estimated at $4,929,507 by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a non-profit, nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C., that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy.

That same year, he married Nancy Bass, a wealthy co-owner of the well-known Strand Book Store in New York City.

By 2010, CRP estimated Wyden’s net worth at $6,847,018.

By 2015, Wyden was the 18th wealthiest Senator, with an estimated net worth of $13,070,041, according to the CRP.

When members of Congress file their annual personal financial reports, they’re allowed to list the value of their assets and liabilities in broad ranges,” according to CRP. “In practical terms, that obscures exactly how much each member of Congress is worth. And the larger the value of the asset, the broader the allowable range.

To account for those ranges, CRP’s researchers establish a minimum and maximum net worth, and then use the average as an estimated net worth for each member of Congress.”

Other than his Strand assets, Wyden’s 10 largest assets held for investment or the production of income were:

Asset                                                                 Minimum Value           Maximum Value

   
Edith Wyden Trust FBO Ronald L Wyden Trust [Amended Report] Brokerage, IRA, 401k $500,001 $1,000,000
DFA US Large Company I [Amended Report] Mutual Fund $500,001 $1,000,000
Oregon College Savings Plan Age 5-8 Age Based Port [Amended Report] Brokerage, IRA, 401k $200,002 $500,000
Oregon College Savings Plan [Amended Report] Brokerage, IRA, 401k $200,002 $500,000
Merrill Lynch Deposit Program [Amended Report] Cash/Money Market/Savings/Checking $250,001 $500,000
Fidelity Investment Cash Brokerage Account [Amended Report] Brokerage, IRA, 401k $250,001 $500,000
American Funds Europacific Growth Fund [Amended Report] Mutual Fund $250,001 $500,000
US Senate FCU Money Market Account [Amended Report] Cash/Money Market/Savings/Checking $100,001 $250,000
US Savings Bond Series [Amended Report] Government Bond $100,001 $250,000
TIAA/CREF IRA Cash Accounts [Amended Report] Cash/Money Market/Savings/Checking $100,001 $250,000

 

Source: OpenSecrets.org

 

 

 

Hillary’s money grab (with help from a few Oregonians)

hillarycampaignmoney

Bill Clinton must have thought we all forgot his history when he began his 2016 Democratic Convention speech with the cringeworthy, “In the spring of 1971, I met a girl.” Oh my God, where’s he going, millions of viewers probably wondered.

But Bill didn’t continue about his sexual exploits. Instead, he went on to call his wife, a “change-maker”. Given the amount of money she’s raising for her presidential campaign, she’d be better named a “money-maker”.

This despite her proclamation, “Our democracy should work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

“There’s no question that we need to make Washington work much better than it does today,” Hillary said on June 22, 2016. “And that means, in particular, getting unaccountable money out of our politics. … That’s why I’m so passionate about this issue, and I will fight hard to end the stranglehold that the wealthy and special interests have on so much of our government.”

But Hillary Clinton and her supporters have been dogged in their pursuit of campaign money.

Clinton clearly likes the big givers the most and cultivates them assiduously. At an event at the Sag Harbor, N.Y. estate of hedge fund magnate Adam Sender a family photo with Clinton went for $10,000, according to attendees. For a $2,700 donation donors’ children under 16 could ask Clinton a question.

 More than 1,100 elite moneymen and women, called Hillblazers, have together raised better than $113 million for Clinton, operating as bundlers who collect checks from friends or associates, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Hillblazers are individuals who have contributed and/or raised $100,000 or more for Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund, and/or the Hillary Action Fund since the launch of Clinton’s campaign on April 12, 2015.

Among the list of high-profile Clinton bundlers, which includes actor Ben Affleck, filmmaker George Lucas, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and fashion designer Vera Wang, are a few (very few) people who list themselves as Oregonians:

  • Timothy Boyle, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear, and his wife, Mary Boyle.
  • Peter Bragdon, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and Secretary, Columbia Sportswear
  • Carol Butler, Principal, Carol Butler and Associates, Democratic campaign consultant
  • Dwight Holton, former U.S. Attorney for Oregon/ defeated by Ellen Rosenblum in 2012 Democratic primary for Oregon Attorney General, and his wife, Mary Ellen Glynn, chief of staff to Anne Holton, wife of Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine.
  • Jane Paulson, a Portland personal injury lawyer at the law firm of Paulson Coletti.

The money has flowed into Hillary Clinton’s campaign organization, Democratic Party committees and so-called independent outside groups.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Clinton and her acolytes had raised a total of $698,169,981 as of the end of last month, and pushing for $1 billion.

Presidential fundraising through Aug. 31, 2016

Category Clinton  
Candidate $373,281,866
National Party $181,378,218
Outside Spending $143,509,897
Total $698,169,981

Most of this money has come from large donors.

Clinton’s campaign, for example, has raised nearly $300 million in large contributions, or donations bigger than $200, the threshold for detailed disclosure of donor information, according to OpenSecrets.

Only about 19 percent of her contributions (roughly $70.7 million) have come in smaller amounts. Obama, in contrast, received about 37 percent of his contributions in amounts of $200 or less through August in his 2012 campaign.

So much for ending the stranglehold that the wealthy have on our government.

Pay to Play: the Keystone XL pipeline

Jeff Koterba cartoon for February 5, 2014 "Obama Keystone Pipeline"

President Barack Obama announced today his administration’s denial of TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel used by both parties rather than a serious policy matter,” Obama said.

He ought to know. It was his administration that turned it into a dollar-driven political football.

TransCanada Corp submitted an initial application to build the project to the U.S. State Department on September 19, 2008, 2605 days ago.

TransCanada knew the review process might take some time, but expected it to be generally non-controversial and to end with approval.

But nothing in ideology-riven Washington, D.C. is fast and simple anymore. Thanks to politics and the shrieking of special interest groups, the project became a pipe dream.

It’s been a hard lesson for TransCanada – and an expensive one that illustrates how lobbying and political contributions have become such a growth industry.

When TransCanada submitted its application it didn’t even have a full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C. It took the company almost four years to open a Washington office in June 2012.

By that time environmentalist opponents had pounced, raising the issue to political and public prominence. In November 2011, for example, thousands of protestors encircled the White House and demanded that President Obama deny TransCanada’s application.

“…in just a few years, the political debate over Keystone has exploded into an entire sector of the Washington influence economy. Funded by multibillion-dollar oil companies, labor unions and ultrarich environmentalists, the fight has filtered into every crack and crevice of the nation’s capital,” Politico reported.

The Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets, says 163 clients reported lobbying on specific issues related to the Keystone XL pipeline in filings covering 2006 to the present.

Exactly how much was spent by both sides of the acrimonious conflict is unknown, but Politico guessed it was well into the tens of millions of dollars.

In 2008, TransCanada reported spending just $190,000 on lobbying, Open Secrets reported.. Since filing its application, TransCanada has spent a total of $7,160,000 just on lobbying.

That’s on top of all the political contributions to members of Congress by the oil and gas industry, much of which has been tied to the Keystone pipeline in recent years. According to Open Secrets, that totaled $23,891,355 in the 2010 election cycle, $36,756,574 in the 2012 cycle and $31,381,383 in the 2014 cycle, overwhelmingly to Republicans.

Even the Canadian government and the Clinton Foundation have gotten in on the action. In 2014, Canada’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency, a pipeline advocate, donated $480,000 to the Clinton Foundation in anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency.

What a waste. In the end, Obama did what he planned to do all along.

Grab them by the throat, Jeff, and don’t let go.

I’m standing with you, Jeff.

How could I not after getting your letters pleading for money and using every poll-tested word in the book to convince me to make my check payable to Jeff Merkley for Oregon.

merkleySenate

You tried to capture me with the first line, hitting me over the head by asking me if I’m “fed up with Koch-style special interests always getting their way in Washington.”

“Koch-style special interests.” Ah, yes. Always lead with a reference to the Koch brothers, the favorite bogeymen of the Democrats, denounced by MoveOn “for using your vast wealth — more than the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans — to corrupt our democracy” and assailed by Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid for being “un-American” and leading the way to a dystopian America run by moneyed interests.

Forget about the fact the Democrats have their own moneyed interests. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 1989 to 2014 rich donors gave Democrats $1.15 billion — $416 million more than the $736 million given to the GOP. Among the top 10 donors to both parties, Democrat supporters outspent Republican supporters 2-to-1.

 Then you asked if I’ve “…had it with the Republicans shilling for the wealthy and powerful.”

“Shilling.” What a great word. A shill supports something with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he’s being paid for his services. So I guess while the Republicans shill for their wealthy patrons, the Democrats shill for theirs. In your case, principal contributors to your campaign during 2009 -2014 have been:

 

Industry    Total raised       From Individuals From PACS
lawyers/law firms $337,313 $259,615 $77,698
Leadership PACs $166,500 0 $166,500
Real estate interests $146,868 $74,358 $72,510
Building trade unions $117,000 0 $117,000

Oh, and I just loved your appealing for my money “because the Republicans and their special interests cronies are hell bent on defeating me in 2014.”

“Cronies.” Another loaded word. The Republicans don’t have supporters, backers or enthusiasts. They have despicable, contemptible, loathsome “cronies”, part of a corrupt system of trading favors.

Then you said your race against Republican Monica Wehby is “going to be an uphill battle” because you “refuse to play ball with the Washington insiders…”

Ah yes, those dreaded “Washington insiders.” But wait a minute. You’ve been back there in D.C. for almost six years now. Aren’t you an “insider”, too. Or, with all the anti-Washington sentiment going on, are you trying to make voters forget that you’re an incumbent?

You also warned me that your record “…will be twisted into as many smears as special interest Super PACS can jam into a 30-second TV ad.”

So the TV ad you have up now asserting that Wehby will vote in favor of measures to “gut the middle class”, isn’t a smear? I mean, you know that the growth in Medicare costs, for example, jus unsustainable. And when a researcher hired by the Democratic Party of Oregon got ahold of a police report on Wehby’s alleged harassment of an ex-suitor and it somehow became public, wasn’t that a smear?

All candidates rely on catchphrases to define themselves and their opponents, as well as establish the framework of the campaign. Part of the reason is because, even though candidates sometimes talk about issues, “The unspoken reality…is that the vast majority of Americans don’t vote based on particular issues at all,” Dr. Frank Luntz wrote in Words that Work. “The fabled issue voter is a rare specimen indeed. ‘Agrees with me on the issues’ is inevitably one of the least important candidate attributes in determining public support.”

Instead, Americans decide who to vote for more on a candidate’s image or vibe, Luntz says.

You know that. You know most voters don’t really know that much about the substance behind issues and don’t deal well with complexity or intricacy. So you’re trying to poison the well with negative sounding buzzwords about the opposition. Smart.

 

 

Merkley’s money: what a difference a term makes

HandsOut

Things are different now.

When Democrat Jeff Merkley first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, he raised a total of $6,512,231.

Now that he’s a Senator, he’s already reported raising $6,286,013 for his reelection and the 2014 race, in theory, hasn’t even begun. The Republicans haven’t even chosen who will run against him.

That means Merkley’s total haul is likely to go much higher as individuals, special interests and Democratic Party funds ramp up their donations to keep him in office.

The two parties are in a no-holds-barred struggle for control of the Senate, where pollsters and analysts think the Republicans have a shot at taking control with a good showing in the November 2014 elections. Merkley isn’t often mentioned as being in a high-risk race, but then former Senator Gordon Smith wasn’t thought to be vulnerable early on either.

With 5 years as a U.S. Senator now behind him, the sources of Merkley’s donations are shifting. A smaller share is coming from individual contributors and twice as much from political action committees (PACs). Also, more unions are stepping up as big contributors, his big donors have less of an Oregon focus and Merkley isn’t having to dig into his own pocket.

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According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2008 campaign and for his 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013 break down as follows:

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For his 2008 Senate race, Merkley’s largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to his campaign committee were:

JStreetPAC $78,180
Council for a Livable World $55,889
State of Oregon employees $35,050
Oregon Health & Science University $33,964
Moveon.org $26,731
Stoel, Rives et al $23,323
League of Conservation Voters $21,500
Intel Corporation $17,920
Newmark Knight Frank $17,300
Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $17,200

The largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Washington, D.C-based JStreetPAC, makes contributions to candidates who support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and robust American military aid to Israel. “I am and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Merkley said during his 2008 campaign.“I will always seek to ensure its strength and foster its growth.”

The second largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Council for a Livable World, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons. Merkley subsequently voted in 2010 for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and in February 2014, Merkley and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would cut $100 billion over the next decade from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

The bill, S. 2070, would shut down all U.S. missile defense activities, reduce from 12 to eight the number of SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines that are set to replace the retiring Ohio-class fleet and limit to eight the number of Ohio-class submarines that can currently be fielded. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services where its languishing.

The largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2014 race as of the end of 2013 are significantly different, with much less of an Oregon focus:

Votesane PAC $31,250
Thornton & Naumes $25,000
Intel Corporation $22,050
Honeywell Intl. $20,000
Operating Engineers Union $20,000
Intl. Association of Firefighters $18,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $17,100
League of Conservation Voters $15,314
American Crystal Sugar $15,000
Communications Workers of America $15,000

Votesane PAC, a non-partisan channel for political donations, has funneled $1.6 million to candidates in the 2014 election cycle, with almost all of it going to Democrats.

The only union showing up in Merkley’s list of top 10 contributors for his 2008 race was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at $17,200. Three unions show up as his biggest contributors for the 2014 race so far with a total of $53,500.

Also making their debut as major Merkley contributors are individuals from Thornton & Naumes, a Boston, Mass. law firm with class action expertise that has represented people claiming they were victims of asbestos and toxic exposure, defective products, financial fraud, and personal injury accidents.. Law firms and lawyers have been the top contributors to Merkley’s 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013, donating a total of $296,363.

This only reveals, of course, donations up the end of 2013. Expect a lot of shifts as the campaign progresses.

Merkley has already spent $3,045,241, or almost half, of the funds he’s raised since 2008. Recently, the largest single amount has gone to Mandate Media,a Portland-based internet strategy,services,and advertising firm specializing in progressive political candidates and advocacy organizations. Mandate is also associated with BlueOregon, a widely distributed progressive e-newsletter.

The top 5 recipients of the campaign’s recent expenditures were:

Mandate Media $200,485
CHS Mailing $141,305
Kauffman Group $125,163
Linemark Printing $ 71,639
Benenson Strategy Group $ 47,000

It’s important to recognize that much of the money now being spent on campaigns is so-called independent expenditures, spending by groups and individuals who claim they are not coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign committee.

In Merkley’s 2008 race, for example, according to FindTheBest, the following outside groups spent about $675,000 in support of his candidacy:

Committee Amount

Service Employees International
Union Committee on Political Education
(SEIU Cope) $430,238
League of Conservation Voters Inc. $145,317
Democratic Senatorial Committee $ 47,746
League of Conservation Voters
Action Fund $ 40,862
Moveon.org Political Action $ 7,026

It’s likely that similarly large amounts of independent expenditures will occur in the 2014 race.

Data sources: The Center for Responsive Politics (http://www.opensecrets.org), a non-profit, non-partisan research group based in Washington, D.C.; FindTheBest (www.findthebest.com; http://bit.ly/1nYKKSA),a network of for-profit websites connected to help consumers and businesses make informed decisions.

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