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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Voter-Owned Democracy, part 4a (Power to the People: the Magic of ORESTAR)

Portland, Oregon--Oregon voters have many new tools with which to evaluate candidates for public office in this election cycle, and one of the most important is ORESTAR.

ORESTAR is accessible online through the Secretary of State’s Office here:

To gain information about where, when, how and from whom a candidate receives cash and in-kind support, all you need is their committee ID number, as registered with the Secretary of State.

To examine the books of the candidates for Senate District 23, for example, you enter either of the candidate committee ID numbers and “search transactions” (the numbers also indicate how long one candidate has been at it, compared to the other).

12548 Sean Cruz

4090 Jackie Dingfelder

The ORESTAR data doesn’t give you the “why” of the contribution, but if you look, you can learn some amazing things, all in the interest of getting a good look at the wizard(s) behind the curtain(s) (to borrow a metaphor), and broadening public access to the political process.

Some of this will take a little explaining. I’ve extracted data from ORESTAR to illustrate several points:

1. Transaction date: This is the date recorded with ORESTAR. The date the contribution was received could have been 30 days prior to the entry, and the deal could have been struck at any time before that.
2. Source of the contribution
3. Type of contribution, cash or in-kind
4. Amount or value of the contribution

Amazing Facts regarding the Dingfelder campaign for Senate District 23

I have learned many amazing facts with just a few hours of scrutiny (which is why this post is titled “4a”).

1. It appears that my opponent’s campaign headquarters is located outside of the Senate District she seeks to represent and that most of her campaign funds are both raised and spent outside of the district.

2. West Hills-dweller and Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler was one of the first contributors to the Dingfelder campaign for Senate District 23, way back last summer when she was the only candidate:

08/31/2007 Ted Wheeler Cash Contribution $1000

3. A staggering amount of free wine and scrumptious delicacies are flowing through the Dingfelder campaign (triggering a future post, to be titled “Democracy by the Glass”); looks like at least a couple of thousand dollars of free wine, beer and rare comestibles so far (can’t be certain):

09/29/2007 Ponzi Vineyards In-Kind Contribution $240 wine for kick-off event
10/04/2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards In-Kind Contribution $468
10/04/2007 Laurelwood Brewing Co. In-Kind Contribution $128
10/04/2007 Provvista Specialty Foods, Inc. In-Kind Contribution $404.08
03/11/2008 Lemelson Winery In-Kind Contribution $264 Wine for event
03/27/2008 Provvista Specialty Foods, Inc. In-Kind Contribution $112.46 Refreshments
04/09/2008 Pour Cash Expenditure $562

4. If this contributor is a member of the Coe family that operates Retriever Towing and other patrol towing-related enterprises in Portland, then I imagine this contribution was given with great enthusiasm, as I led the workgroup that hammered the predatory patrol towing “industry” in Oregon during the 2007 legislative session with Senate Bill 116 and Senate Bill 431, under Senator Gordly’s sponsorship. If this contributor is not associated with patrol towing, then my profound apologies:

10/09/2007 Michael Coe In-Kind Contribution $450 set-up and use of office equipment

5. The single largest contributor to the Dingfelder campaign is AFSCME with FIVE THOUSAND BIG ONES! (Where did they get that kind of money?) Hats off to the rainmaker, the candidate’s own husband, Tom Dingfelder, who is an AFSCME official (bringing home the salted bacon):

04/03/2008 Oregon AFSCME Council 75 Cash Contribution $$$5000

It would have been gracious of the AFSCME group who interviewed me in January to disclose the obvious conflict of interest.

It is absolutely in the best interest of voters to be aware of such conflicts of interest.

Parenthetically, I learned of the AFSCME conflict a week earlier on January 19 during the SEIU interview.

The SEIU process began with each candidate having two minutes to state their qualifications in front of everyone, before breaking up for interviews in small groups.

Speaking before me, my opponent declared that her qualifications to represent Senate District 23 included the fact that her husband was “an AFSCME official.”

That statement certainly explained a lot about what else was going on with the PACs.

I said nothing about the conflict a week later when I appeared before the AFSCME panel, because I felt it was their duty to disclose (which they did not!). Other than that, I believe the interview went all right. No hard feelings on my part!

But I never heard from them again, and have just learned about the size of the bundle of cash by referring to ORESTAR. FIVE GRAND!!!

In their defense, they were not the only PAC that failed to disclose conflicts of interest.

Senate District 23: Priorities, Priorities, Priorities!

An obvious contrast between the candidates in this race is their connection to the senate district they seek to represent.

Everyone I know is worried about health care, the economy, housing, hunger and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (not necessarily in that order), but then I am focusing my time, my campaigning and my public service on those who actually live and work in Senate District 23.

You can bet that everyone who attended this Dingfelder event is secure in their access to health care ($75 minimum to sip the free wine, engorge oneself with salivary-gland-stimulating exotica, plot the future of Senate District 23, without actually being in the district):

Here’s the invitation:

Posted by: Jackie Dingfelder Mar 10, 2008 1:58:47 PM

Josh, and anyone else interested,

Yes, Governor Kitzhaber is hosting an event "Greens for Jackie" for me next week. We are expecting a large turnout from the environmental/sustainability community. Evan, thank you for canvassing with me! Jason, I will be knocking on your door soon!

Here are the details.Please join special guest Governor Kitzhaber, and other 'Greens' in support of Jackie Dingfelder for State Senate.

Enjoy delicious wine from Lemelson Vineyards and mouthwatering appetizers from POUR and Provvista Foods.

Where: POUR Wine Bar and Bistro
2755 NE Broadway St. Portland, OR 97232

When: March 19, 5-7pm

Suggested minimum donation $75

Hope to see you there,

Co-hosts: Governor Kitzhaber, Jonathan Poisner, Sybil Ackerman, Stephan Kafoury, Jeremiah Bauman, Nicole Cordan, Lindsey Capps, Mary Scurlock, Randy Tucker, Katy Daily, Meryl Redisch, Kevin Gorman, Louise Tippens, Tom Wolf, Wendy Novick, Gayle Killam, Bob Stacey, Scott Pratt, Regna Merritt, Jeff Bissonnette

P.S. Oregon taxpayers can receive a $50 tax credit, $100 per couple - for political contributions every year.

I stand corrected. The wine was "delicious" and the appetizers "mouthwatering." --SC


Where the Dingfelder campaign money comes from

(I didn’t know some of these PACS existed until I saw this report!)

Important points to note:

As of today's date, April 10, 2008, there has been NO public forum or debate in this race.

Some of the contributors made their endorsement decisions without holding candidate interviews.

Many made their decisions when there was only one candidate in the race, long before the candidate filing deadline.

Early endorsements serve to deter potential candidates from emerging, narrowing the field.

These decisions were all made by small groups or individuals meeting privately, with no opportunity for the public to participate, often without even a pretense of impartiality.

No conflict of interest disclosures were made by any interviewing body.

All of the interviewers save one were white. No racial or ethnic minorities or immigrant populations were present in the interviews, although Senate District 23 is the most diverse Senate district in the state.

All of these PACs and wealthy donors added up together do not represent the makeup and character of Senate District 23 or the priorities of its constituents.

The questions remain:

Who will serve on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, taking the seat being vacated by Avel Gordly?

Who will stand for our veterans and their families in a new Senate Veterans Affairs Committee?

Who will speak for the underserved when Avel Gordly leaves the Senate?

Who will focus on health care, on services for seniors and people with disabilities? opposed to promising to vote for someone else's work.

Who will focus on the work we as a state need to do to reduce the stigma of mental illness, to replace the Oregon State Hospital and build the statewide network of community-based care so badly needed?

This contest to succeed Senator Avel Gordly deserves far more than the superficial look it has received so far, particularly from these folks, already ordering the curtains for the Senator's new offices:

Tran Date Contributor/Payee Amount
08/15/2007 Northwest Strategies, Inc. $500
08/15/2007 Veterinarians Organized to Elect $500
08/20/2007 Witham & Dickey, Inc. $500
08/31/2007 Ted Wheeler $1000
08/31/2007 Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation $500
08/31/2007 Women's Investment Network PAC $500
08/31/2007 M. Albin Jubitz, Jr. $1000
09/07/2007 Oregon Optometric Public Affairs Council $500
09/07/2007 John Emrick $1000
09/24/2007 William Lazar $2000
09/24/2007 John Russell $1000
09/29/2007 Ponzi Vineyards $ 240
10/04/2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards $468
10/04/2007 Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association PAC $500
10/04/2007 Lisa Naito $150
10/04/2007 Laurelwood Brewing Co. $128
10/04/2007 Provvista Specialty Foods, Inc. $404.08
10/04/2007 Portland General Electric Employee Candidate Assistance Fund $1500
10/09/2007 Betsy Johnson $500
10/09/2007 Michael Coe $450
10/09/2007 Pour $450
10/14/2007 Christine Vernier $500
10/28/2007 Susheela Jayapal $500
10/30/2007 PPM Energy, Inc. $2000
10/30/2007 Mark Edlen $500
11/01/2007 Pour $450
11/07/2007 Cascade Grain Products LLC $1000
11/13/2007 Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association PAC $500
11/13/2007 William Blosser $150
11/13/2007 American Federation of Teachers PAC $1000
11/13/2007 Waste Management Service Center $1000
11/21/2007 Gun Denhart $ 750
11/23/2007 Pour $450
11/23/2007 WinningMark $2930.4
12/05/2007 Holding Onto Oregon's Priorities (HOOPS) PAC $500
12/07/2007 Foresight Ophthalmology PAC $500
12/07/2007 Oregon Medical PAC $500
12/07/2007 Container Recovery Inc. $250
12/07/2007 Container Recovery Inc. $750
12/07/2007 Cable Operators PAC $250
12/07/2007 Conkling Fiskum & Mccormick PAC $500
12/07/2007 American Institute of Architects Oregon PAC $500
12/07/2007 Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. $1000
12/07/2007 Oregonians for Affordable Housing $1000
12/11/2007 Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde $2000
12/11/2007 Pacific Ethanol Inc. $1000
12/12/2007 WinningMark $2500
12/15/2007 Pour $400
01/02/2008 Kenneth Lewis $1000
01/11/2008 Kenneth Hayes $500
01/17/2008 Brian Houle $1000
01/17/2008 Robert Doneker $500
01/17/2008 GlaxoSmithKline $500
01/17/2008 Credit Union Legislative Action Fund $1000
01/25/2008 James Winkler $500
01/25/2008 Rob Miller $500
01/28/2008 John Miller $500
01/31/2008 Pacific Seafood $1000
01/31/2008 Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs $1000
01/31/2008 American Council of Engineering Companies PAC $500
01/31/2008 David Evans and Associates $500
02/01/2008 Edmund Hayes, Jr. $500
02/01/2008 Neil Kelly $500
02/01/2008 Oregon WheatPAC $250
02/01/2008 Debi Coleman $500
02/01/2008 Oregon State Fire Fighters Council $1000
02/27/2008 Scott Lewis $500
03/04/2008 Mark Rosenbaum $500
03/11/2008 Lemelson Winery $264
03/14/2008 Oregon State Fire Fighters Council $1950
03/16/2008 Sarah Baker $500
03/16/2008 Natural Gas PAC $1000
03/20/2008 Teamsters No. 37 Political Fund $300
03/20/2008 United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 555 $1000
03/20/2008 Fisherman's Marine Supply, Inc $150
03/20/2008 Cable Operators PAC $500
03/20/2008 Oregon Nurse PAC $250
03/20/2008 Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association PAC $750
03/20/2008 Ice PAC $500
03/27/2008 Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association PAC $250
03/27/2008 Credit Union Legislative Action Fund $500
03/27/2008 Holding Onto Oregon's Priorities (HOOPS) PAC $500
03/27/2008 Provvista Specialty Foods, Inc. $112.46
03/27/2008 Teachers Voice in Politics $1000
03/27/2008 Citizen Action for Political Education $500
03/27/2008 Oregon Business Association PAC $1250
04/03/2008 Oregon Climate PAC $2000
04/03/2008 Oregon AFSCME Council 75 $$$5000
04/09/2008 Pour $562
04/09/2008 Qwest Oregon Employees' PAC $500
04/09/2008 Citizen Action for Political Education $2500
04/09/2008 Oregon AFLabor-CIO Committee on Political Education $250
04/09/2008 Boora Architects, inc $250

An equal opportunity candidate

The foregoing information is provided as a public service. I invite the public to give the same scrutiny to the Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 campaign.

I look forward to the discussions that will ensue.—Sean Cruz


Anonymous said...

C'mon Sean - Check your facts before you slam the folks who are likely to support your agenda. I am not a Republican and I wonder what makes you feel the need to say so. Yes, I do live in the West Hills - but I am also the County Chair and was elected in your district to serve your district (along with all of those in MC). As far as I can tell, I have as much claim to serving the district as anyone else. As County Chair, I want someone in that seat who is likely to support the agenda of the County in the legislature - not throw mud. I have worked closely with your former boss on a number of important issues including mental health issues in the community. I am inspired by her efforts in the legislature, and you would be wise to follow her example of honorable leadership. I'd be happy to talk to you at some point about what we are doing to help disenfranchised members of the community - the Health Equity Initiative, Vital Aging Task Force, efforts to eliminate the overrepresentation of minority youth in our juvenile corrections system, enhanced efforts to find employment for formerly incarcerated, improving health outcomes for LGBTQ members of the community, efforts to open a facility where people suffereing from mental illness could be treated instead of jailed, etc., etc. Work with me if you want, but leave the bashing for others. It is beneath you. Regards, Ted Wheeler

sean cruz said...

Chair Wheeler: thank you for your comments. I apologize for the mischaracterization. It was the one fact I failed to check myself.

Everything else in the post is a public record on ORESYAR. There was no intent to deal in "mud."

One of the great benefits and blessings of my service under Senator Gordly is her non-partisan approach to politics.

I have five years of successful experience working across both sides of the aisle in the Oregon Senate.

The record is there for anyone to see.

I have friends and supporters among both Democrats and Republicans, including Senators from both parties.

I owe all of that to Avel Gordly.

And I am the only candidate in the race who can make this claim.

That ought to be of some interest to the County, at least to the point of having a public discussion before the ballots are cast.

The fact is that all of the County Commissioners except Lonnie Roberts, and the entire Portland City Council (with the exception of Mayor Tom Potter, God bless him!) jumped on this Senate District 23 bandwagon early, way back last summer.

You happened to be the only one of the Council and Commission members who contributed cash.

The essential point I am trying to make here is that each of you could have encouraged members of the public to get involved in public service by standing for office.

No one knows better than each of you the barriers to do so, and each of you employ throughout your organizations many talented, well-qualified would-be candidates, people who you work with every day.

Some of them should be ashamed of themselves for not being in one race or another in this election, but I can see how discouraging it would be, with the bosses coming out so early.

The public rarely sees campaign information like ORESTAR provides, and not often in any meaningful context, just a list of names of people and organizations, as if they all walked in the door together, devoid of the contexts of time and influence, of power, position and privilege.

But that is not how the system works in real life. In real life, everything happens in chronological order, and there is real meaning in that.

The people have a right to know the chronology of events.

This very discussion is a real-time example of how technology is changing the mechanics of electoral politics.

It is impossible to control either the content or transmission of information any more.

As for your desire to support the candidate who would be most likely to support the county agenda for the 2008 legislative session, I was not aware of any public discussion of what that agenda might be.

I hope that some of that Multmomah County agenda addresses the example set when leaders with Equal Opportunity commitments use their official position in a way that hinders equal opportunity in elections.

Getting involved in a campaign six months before the candidate filing deadline is too early, in my opinion.

And the public has a right to an open, public discussion as to what qualities and strengths they want in Avel Gordly's successor.

Immigration. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the people we are about to send over there, the veterans of other wars and their families. Mental illness.

I have coordinated Senator Gordly's statewide, nonpartisan Mental Health Caucus for several years now. That experience may be of interest to the County.

Way out here in Parkrose, there are some 200 homeless students, trying to get an education with no place to live.

I can tell you that Senator Gordly has placed a high priority on finding a solution for them by the end of the month.

Having experienced homelessness myself, I believe I am uniquely qualifed to work with the County on the issue.

That's what we're working on out here.

I meant you no personal insult, Mr. Chair. I hope you realize that.

I'm very appreciative that you read my post.

--Sean Cruz