The Corruption of Campaign Contributions

The December 26, 2008, edition of the Oregonian carried a guest editorial by Jim Gilbert, an unsuccessful Democrat candidate for the legislature in this past general election. The guest editorial was headlined “MONEY, POWER AND CORRUPTION: Don’t think Oregon couldn’t be next.” In the editorial, Gilbert noted the following:

“Could Oregon be the next state to make national news in a corruption scandal? Many people don’t realize that Oregon has no limits on political contributions. One person or group can contribute a million dollars or more to any candidate. Can any rational person think that large contributions are given for free, with no strings attached?”

Gilbert then goes on to list a number of issues involving corporations (gas companies, tobacco companies, developers, timber companies, grocers and beverage companies) that he believes are at risk because of campaign contributions.
Missing, however, from the mix is the group that spends the most money on campaigns and walks off year after year with the most benefits from the public treasury — the public employees unions. No individual, no corporation, no group of individuals or group of corporations contributed more money in the 2008 election cycle than did the public employees unions.

The result of the public employees unions campaign contributions and other campaign expenditures (whether reported or not) resulted in the following:

ï‚· The candidates supported by the public employee unions won each of the Democrat primaries for statewide office and for the United States Senate
ï‚· The candidates (all Democrats) supported by the public employee unions won all statewide elections, including the United State Senator.
ï‚· The Democrats won super majorities in both houses of the state legislature, which now permits them to raise taxes without referral to voters.
ï‚· All ballot measures opposed by the public employee unions lost.

And the Democrats are not shy about returning the favor — you know, the cash contributions favors, the unlimited supply of “volunteers” favors, the polling favors, the constant stream of public propaganda disguised as “educational initiatives favors — all of those favors designed singularly and universally to maintain a Democrat majority in the legislature and the statewide elective offices. And the favors returned are not insubstantial:

ï‚· Gov. Kulongoski appointed former union officials to the top three positions in his second administration. Nothing moves through the governor’s office without the personal oversight of the former state union head, Tim Nesbitt.
ï‚· Gov. Kulongoski granted the public employee union members an additional raise of five percent — in addition to the amounts previously bargained for.
ï‚· Gov. Kulongoski declared consideration of additional reforms to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) off limits and the Democrat legislature willing complied. The current PERS system currently has an unfunded future liability of several billion dollars. It is the system that allows public employees in their 50’s to retire with benefits in excess of their last salary and a guarantee of cost of living increases annually.
ï‚· Subsequently, according to the Oregonian, the Kulongoski administration during collective bargaining allowed members of the public employee unions a 12.5 percent salary increase while non-union members were restricted to 3.5 percent. The legislature appropriated money to fund these raises. Oregonians in private employment averaged less than 4 percent during the same period.
ï‚· The legislature repealed the right of employees to have a secret ballot to determine whether they should be required to join the union. This allows the public employee unions to use threats, intimidation and workplace ridicule to extort signature cards from employees.

Next up in the payback for the public employees are the following:

ï‚· The new Attorney General, John Kroger, who was backed by the public employee unions in the primary and general elections, has appointed a former SEIU attorney to oversee elections further compromising the initiative process — the public employee unions hate the initiative process because it interferes with their dominance of the legislative process.
ï‚· The new Secretary of State, Kate Brown, has publicly acknowledged her intention to work with Kroger to ensure further limitations on the citizens’ right to utilize the initiative process.
ï‚· As the budget deficit for the next biennium closes on $2 billion, the Kulongoski administration has announced the intent to reduce benefits to Oregonians in order to maintain and increase the number of public employees, their handsome salaries and their exorbitant healthcare and retirement benefits.
ï‚· Should the legislature, currently dominated by Democrats with super majorities in both houses, be unable to agree on a new reapportionment following the 2010 census, the new Secretary of State, Kate Brown, will ensure that the state is gerrymandered to favor continuing Democrat majorities and dominance by the Portland are Democrats.

All of these have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of excess taxes to Oregon’s working men and women. When a company lands a sweetheart contract with the government because of its campaign contributions, it is considered corruption and a form of bribery. So too should the same be true of the abuses of the public employee unions as taxpayers’ expense.

The public employees unions raise about $60 million each biennium through the payroll checkoff system. Because there is virtually no organizing activities by these unions and because they are bargaining with the people they helped elect, little if any of the money raised is required for anything but political purposes.

There is no counterbalance for the influence of the public employees unions. While it is possible for a group to raise a significant amount of money for a particular candidate or ballot issue, there is no group or amalgamation of groups who can routinely raise and expend sum comparable to those of the public employee unions. And just as importantly, no group or amalgamation of groups can count on state and local government to collect those funds for them using the payroll checkoff system.

So, the answer to Gilbert’s question as to whether Oregon could be next is “NO.” It has already happened and continues to happen in each succeeding election. Oregon’s once vaunted “clean election” system has been corrupted by an excessive amount of money expended directly and indirectly by the public employees unions.