Local school board elections: local no more.

Statewide political action committees (PACs) getting involved in local school board elections?

Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right.

On March 15, 2019, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon’s PAC announced its endorsement of 15 school board candidates in the state. One was John Wallin who’s running for re-election to the School Board of Lake Oswego, where I live.


NARAL says it “works to advance the most progressive pro-choice policies in the nation.” All 15 of the candidates it endorsed “…have affirmed their commitment to advancing reproductive health equity for students in their school districts,” the PAC said.

“I’m very excited to have this endorsement,” Wallin said at an April 29 school board candidate forum. “This is a group that supports prevention of sexual violence and comprehensive health education. I sought it out, I met with them and talked about my beliefs. They stand for things I believe in.”


John Wallin

According to NARAL, it makes contributions to local elections such as for the Lake Oswego School Board because “Pro-choice school board members have the unique opportunity to protect and expand access to comprehensive healthcare, including access to contraceptives and evidence-based sexuality education for Oregon’s students.”

Wallin’s campaign website , however, says nothing about his views on NARAL’s positions. The only thing it says on student health and safety is:

 School should always be a place for learning and not fear and anxiety from concerns about physical safety, bullying, and schoolwork. We should work to strengthen the physical security of our buildings, mental health services, and student nutrition.”

Wallin’s submission to the Voter’s Pamphlet says nothing about his support for NARAL positions either.

Wallin didn’t say at the forum whether he also sought out the support of:

  • The United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 555, which has made an in-kind donation of $1390.40 for literature, brochures and printing, or
  • The Oregon School Employees Association (represents the school district’s classified employees) which made a $6,500 cash contribution to his campaign. or
  • State Senator Robert Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, who made multiple in-kind contributions totaling $2,395.22 for postage, plus a $1,000 cash contribution.

Taken together, the contributions above total $11,285.62, almost half of the $22,637.16 received by the Friends of John Wallin campaign committee as of  April 25, 2019.

What’s next, local school board races supported entirely by national unions and the Democratic National Committee?

Who owns Brad Avakian? Unions.



I’m tired of all these wealthy donors thinking that because I’ve been bought and paid for, they own me.                                                                                                                      (With thanks to the New Yorker) 

Brad Avakian, a Democrat running for Oregon’s Secretary of State, insists that one of his highest priorities is campaign finance reform.

“Everyone’s voice should be heard in our democracy – but that’s not happening right now,” Avakian says. “The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a terrible mistake. It’s allowing big corporate donors to drown out the voice of everyday voters…But what can we do about it? Here’s what: Oregon can lead the way. As Secretary of State, I’ll fight to reform Oregon’s campaign finance system.”


Mr. Avakian conveniently leaves out that the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen United Ruling not only removed virtually any restriction on corporate money in politics. It also removed virtually any restriction on union money.

So how does Mr. Avakian feel about jumbo contributions to candidates from unions? He seems to be OK with those, based on the union contributions he’s received to date, including:

Oregon Education Association –People for Improvement of Education (142)                                         $95,000

Oregon School Employees Association –Voice of Involved Classified Employees (2307)                                    $65,000

Citizen Action for Political Education (33)                                     $60,000

United Food & Commercial Workers                                                $50,000

Oregon AFSCME Council 75                                                                 $30,000

Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters, SSF                           $30,000

Laborers’ Political League                                                                     $25,000

Oregon, South Idaho District Council of Laborers                         $15,000

Local 48 Electricians PAC (4572)                                                          $11,000

Oregon AFL-CIO                                                                                        $10,364

Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union 598                                        $10,000

DRIVE Committee (Teamsters’ political action committee)      $10,000

American Federation of Teachers-OR Candidate PAC (113)        $  7,500

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees PAC         $  6,000

Working America (Political organizing arm of the AFL-CIO)      $  6,668

Portland Association of Teachers PAC                                                 $  5,000

IUPAT Political Action Together Political Committee                     $  5,000


Talk is cheap Brad.

What’s particularly striking is that union members accounted for just 14.8 percent of wage and salary workers in Oregon in 2015, but union contributions represent almost 40 percent of the total Avakian has raised in 2016.

So who do you think Avakian is going to represent if he’s elected?


With Oregon school finances tight, Democrats and unions push to raise costs

Oregon Democrats talk out of both sides of their mouth when addressing school finances.

While arguing that our schools desperately need more money and advocating for Measure 97, which would impose huge business tax increases to cover the bill, they’ve been working to increase school costs.

It all has to do with unemployment insurance.


School districts, not their employees, pay for unemployment insurance benefits. Under ordinary circumstances, school employees released for summer break, customary vacation periods or holiday recesses aren’t considered unemployed and aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.

But leave it to the Democrats, allied with their union supporters, to try to chip away at these restrictions and pass along the added costs to Oregon schools.

Democrats made a run at changing the law in 2015 when State Senator Michael Dembrow (D-District 23), who receives substantial campaign contributions from unions, introduced SB 470.


Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow

At the time, school employees who performed services other than instruction, research or administration did not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits during school breaks. A committee amendment which replaced the original language of SB 470 would have changed that, permitting school employees who left their jobs for good cause to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

The bill was still in committee upon adjournment, so it died.

But the Democrats persisted.

Earlier this year, Senator Dembrow introduced SB 1534, which again proposed permitting school employees who leave their jobs for good cause to receive unemployment insurance benefits during summer and school breaks.

Tricia Smith of the Oregon School Employees Association testified before the Senate Committee on Workforce and General Government that school employees who could be eligible for benefits under the bill are in non-instructional positions such as secretaries, food service workers, custodians, school bus drivers and others.


Like the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, the law was likely the first salvo in a long-range union attempt to make teachers eligible for unemployment compensation during summer and school breaks, too.

I was curious how much this expanded unemployment compensation allowance had cost school districts so far. So I asked the Oregon Employment Department to tell me how many people had collected unemployment insurance benefits under the new standards, their job categories and the amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid out to them.

Fortunately, I learned that the Democrat’s misguided attempt to burden Oregon schools with higher unemployment compensation costs has been crushed.

After passage of the legislation, the Employment Department received notice from the U. S. Department of Labor that SB 1534 does not conform with federal guidelines to administer the Unemployment Insurance program.

According to Craig Spivey, a Public Information Officer with the Oregon Employment Department, “SB 1534 included a provision that if the changes to Oregon statute fail to conform to federal guidelines, they would not go into effect. Therefore SB 1534 is not in effect at this time and no unemployment claims have been filed” under the more expansive criteria in the legislation.”

Whew! Oregon school districts dodged a bullet on this one.


Why is Val Hoyle smiling?


Like Hillary Clinton, Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, who’s running for Secretary of State,  wants to get the obscene amounts of money out of politics…..later.


That way, she can rake in bundles of money now while running for Oregon Secretary of State as a champion of fundraising reform.


Val Hoyle (D-Eugene)

In the past, Hoyle has said she supports enacting a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions, so long as the limits aren’t “unreasonably low”.

She has also blamed Democratic losses outside Oregon on “fear and cynicism” among voters fostered by large political contributions “from a small handful of special interests”.

So much for worrying about special interests.

According to state records, Hoyle has raised $587,000 to date, putting her at the top of the fundraising pile among the Secretary of State candidates.

Val Hoyle (D)……………………..$592,728

Brad Avakian (D)…………………$387,482

Dennis Richardson (R)………….$297,413

Richard Devlin (D)……………. ..$172,315

Sid Leiken (R)……………………..$ 45,104

Hoyle’s biggest contributor is Michael Bloomberg, a New York businessman who supports aggressive gun control measures. On April 29, he gave Hoyle $250,000 in appreciation for her support of legislation that passed in the last session expanding background checks to almost all private firearm transfers.

“Mike is supporting Val Hoyle because her leadership in passing Oregon’s background check bill is truly notable,” Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Bloomberg, told Willamette Week in an email. “No one in the country has worked harder —or more successfully—to take on the NRA than she has.”

Hoyle has also received $105,000 in contributions from Emily’s List, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee that supports female candidates.

Without those two large contributions, both from out-of-state, Hoyle would have raised just $237,728, which would have put her behind both Brad Avakian and Dennis Richardson in fundraising totals.


P.S.: The other candidates aren’t exactly pure in their fundraising either, although they’re collecting nothing comparable to Hoyle from individual donors.

Brad Avakian’s larger contributions

  • $40,000 from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555
  • $30,000 from Oregon School Employees Association – Voice of Involved Classified Employees (2307)
  • $10,000 from Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters, SSF
  • $10,000 from Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC (2352)
  • $7,500 from Peter Goldman, a Seattle attorney
  • $6,000 from Naral Pro-Choice Oregon PAC (172)
  • $2,500 from Mt. & M Gaming, operator of The Last Frontier Casino in La Center, WA


Dennis Richardson’s larger contributions 

  • $25,000 from Sherman and Wanda Olsrud of Medford, OR
  • $15,000 from Larry Keith of Salem, OR
  • $15,000 from James Young of Lebanon, OR
  • $15,000 from Freres Timber, Inc. of Lyons, OR
  • $10,000 from Stephen M Greenleaf of Medford, OR
  • $10,000 from Richard E Uihlein of Lake Forest, IL
  • $10,000 from Murphy Co. of Eugene, OR
  • $5,000 from Zidelle Collin s of Shady Grove, OR
  • $5,000 from David A deVilleneuve of Central Point, OR

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.