Owning the Secretary of State

For the public employees unions, this election is about locking down Oregon for the next decade. No, I don’t mean that they are looking to retain Democrats in every statewide elective office as they have done for the past decade or so; nor do I mean that they will seek to retain Democrat control of both houses of the legislature as they have done for the past several years. I am not even referring to their goal to attain Democrat “super majorities” in both houses of the legislature so that they can pass tax increases unfettered by referrals to the public.

No, I am talking about their unflagging goal to install someone in the Secretary of State’s office who is beholden to the public employees unions for their election and who will do the bidding of the public employees unions in all aspects of the job.

Following are the three major duties of the Secretary of State which directly effect the public employees unions and over which they (the unions) seek domination:

1. At the conclusion of each national census, the state must reapportion the districts from which the state legislators are drawn and from which the members of Congress are elected. That census will occur in 2010 — midway through the next secretary of state’s term. If the legislature is unable to agree to a reapportionment plan —either between the two houses or with the governor — the reapportionment process defaults to the secretary of state.

The legislature failed to reach agreement during the last two reapportionment cycles and the process defaulted to the secretary of state. In the 2001 reapportionment process, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (D) threw out virtually every rule regarding community, geographical or existing political subdivision boundaries and created a grossly gerrymandered reapportionment plan that heavily favored Portland and Multnomah County — Oregon’s Democrat stronghold.

Let’s do the math. Controlling interest in the legislature requires 50 percent of the members plus one. Thus, in the Oregon Senate, composed of 30 members, control requires 16 members (50 percent — 15 plus 1). Control of the majority caucus again requires 50 percent plus one, or 9 members (50 percent of 16 or 8 plus 1). Thus nine members from the controlling party can exercise control of the Senate, appointment of the committees and committee chairs and the flow of the legislation.

But here’s the rub. Portland/Multnomah County had a 2004 population of 685,950 people. That represents a mere 17.8 percent of Oregon’s 2004 population of 3,852,600. Under the constitutional principles of one man, one vote, you would assume that Portland/Multnomah County would have 17.8 percent of the senators or 5.34 senators “¦oh, what the heck, let’s make it six senators. Now six senators aren’t enough to control the caucus that controls the Senate.

In the last legislature, Democrats had 18 members — basically a super majority. Of the 18 Democrat Senators, 11 of them represent portions of Portland/Multnomah County. So Portland/Multnomah County Democrats control the Democrat Senate caucus and thus the State Senate.

How, you ask, can a county with only 17.8 percent of the population, entitled to six senators, wind up with 11 senators?

The term is gerrymander. You see, there are four Senate seats that are 100 percent within the boundaries of Portland/Multnomah County and seven additional seats include only small portions of surrounding counties. Look at a map of legislative districts””seven Senate districts include portions of adjacent counties like spokes on a wheel. And each spoke is selected carefully to ensure, first, that Democrats are in the majority and, second, that Portland/Multnomah Democrats are the majority of that majority.

The public employee unions are intent on continuing this disproportional representation out of their Democrat strongholds and the control of the Secretary of State is the key to accomplishing that. A Secretary of State beholden to the unions for his/her election will gerrymander to continue and increase Democrat control of the legislature.

2. The Secretary of State has the authority to conduct audits — financial and performance — on all agencies of the state. Such audits will determine whether there is waste, fraud or corruption in the management of taxpayer provided funds. It will determine whether employees show up on time, work the prescribed number of hours, do not abuse sick leave and vacation, and follow the prescribed procedures of the agency. It will determine whether recipients of state benefits are, in fact, eligible, that the payments are correct, and that there is sufficient documentation to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs. And finally, the audits will determine whether contracts with vendors, including the public employee unions, are lawful, properly administered and payments are made for goods or services actually delivered.

It is highly unlikely that a Secretary of State whose campaign is fueled largely by public employee unions will undertake the critical audits that can reveal any of the above. If you don’t look for corruption, you will never find it.

3. The Secretary of State oversees the initiative and referendum process. Over the past several years we have witnessed the current secretary of state impose greater and greater barriers to the free exercise of the initiative process — primarily through rules relating to the testing of signatures, the process for gathering them and the utilization of signature gatherers. At the same time, the current secretary of state turned a blind eye to the abuses of the legislature in which it (the legislature) exempted itself from the ballot title process and judicial review. The public employee unions had a substantial role in crafting the ballot language and the process by which the legislature exempted itself.

The legislature is set to repeat the abusive process this election with regard to misleading language surrounding the “double majority” required for local property tax increases. The primary beneficiaries of the elimination of the double majority requirement are the public employee unions who dominate special elections. Having twice succeeded in perverting the process with the acquiescence of the current secretary of state, one can be sure that a secretary of state beholden to the pubic employee unions for his/her election will continue these practices.

And who is it that the public employee unions have selected as their candidate for Secretary of State? Why Kate Brown (D-Portland). The unions were the dominant source of funds for her primary campaign (where the public employee union candidates prevailed for every statewide office). And while the reports are not yet to be filed for the general election you can rest assured that the public employee unions will continue to be the dominant force in her general election campaign both through direct contributions, independent attack ads and an army of union “volunteers.”

Kate Brown, in her years as minority and majority leader in the state senate, has demonstrated repeatedly that she is highly partisan, ruthless and focused singularly on the special interests that compose the Democrat party — the public employees unions, gay activists, radical environmentalists and the Portland and Multnomah County local governments. She is dismissive of the public will (she sponsored the legislation to bypass Oregon’s ban on same sex marriage) and helped lead the attack on Measure 37. Her election will continue the highly partisan administration of the one office in Oregon that should be near politically neutral.

2008 could be the year in which Oregon will learn to just bend over and grab its socks.