Public Financing and the Power of Incumbency

Eastside Guy, featured in Brainstorm Magazine

During my recent run for the Portland City Council I learned an important lesson on the power of incumbency and public financing. Portland’s “Voter Owned Elections” system, in which participating candidates receive taxpayer money to run their campaigns, it is virtually impossible to beat an incumbent because they cannot be outspent. In both commissioner races the incumbent was considered vulnerable and in both races they retained their seats without a run-off.

Watching the T.V. news this morning, I was alerted to another incumbent-supporting scheme which is being bankrolled by the taxpayers. Not a city race, this time, but rather the Oregon governor’s race.

Incumbent governor Ted Kulongoski, under the guise of a “public service announcement”, is running an advertisement which can only be considered a campaign ad, and he’s doing it on our dime!

The ad, which is a DHS public service announcement, features a full sixty seconds of an on camera Kulongoski touting the excellent job DHS has done for the elderly. The scene is a nursing home and in the background are a collection of the home’s residents.

The governor, who has taken pains to avoid cameras for his entire four year term, is now blatently pandering to Oregon’s seniors and doing it with DHS funds!

I can only imagine what we will see next. An ODOT “public service announcement” featuring the governor touting his road building achievements perhaps?

I thought using public office for electioneering was against the law.

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Posted by at 07:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 6 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Justin Withers

    It is rather intriguing, but expected to find Gov. Kulongoski in front of a camera at so convenient a time. Whether of his own volition or at the encouragement of advisors Ted understands – as well as the rest of us – that appeal to a broad voter base is a key to his re-election. The best campaigning isn’t asking for a vote, it is putting out that image of “Hey, I am a friend of the people.” In this case, “I am a friend of the elderly.” And what better way to finance that heart warming message than the hard earned tax dollars of those very individuals he is he is “pandering.” Illegal is such a relative term these days. The use of public office for electioneering only seems to be illegal if it can’t be disguised as otherwise.

  • Bill Sherman

    The Governor already gets lots of free public notices just for spouting things as a governor. Consider in the last 20 days he got free press for saying cars oughtta have better gas mileage (Associated Press 6/6), fishermen need protection (Oregonian 6/3) and migrants need help (Statesman Journal 5/25).

    Add this up all year long and you have a big press imbalance.

  • Ironic isn’t it… We have a state that has a bad habit of ignoring what seems to be blatant abuses of power or the public trust by elected officials. Ads like this one only work with an uneducated and inattentive base, but the collective effect of seeing Gov. Kulongoski’s face all over the TV has the effect of reminding the people of the state that he “is in fact” our current Governor. Many average voters have to be reminded of that.

    In an election that may have a lower turn-out than last time, there are a lot of people who will sadly base their vote on either the incumbency label, or vote for whomever they have seen on TV or heard on radio the most. Thus, this use of public tax dollars to campaign for a current Governor is troubling for sure.

    Our only saving grace is that the people of our state are not stupid. They can see that they have a real alternative for our Executive with Ron Saxton, and that his message of substantive reform to the state carries with it the hope of a better tomorrow.

    Kulongoski and his reputation evokes images of “business as usual” government in Oregon, and this presents a tremendous opportunity for Ron Saxton to capitalize on and present a positive, optimistic alternative vision for the state.

    Incumbency is a problem, and the preservation of power by the government elites is always a problem, but if there is anyone who can overcome this, it is Ron Saxton. He is not our typical Republican candidate, and he has promised to fundamentally change how our “state” runs.

    So, for a positiive, pro-active solution, sign the “term limits” petition and vote “yes” on it in November, and get out there and remind everyone in your sphere of influence to vote for Ron Saxton. He presents us with the hope of a better tomorrow.


  • Jeff Rempfer

    Hey Dave, Good effort during the campaign. Sorry you came up short. buy hey, you’re just an eastside guy!

    • Thanks Jeff. Don Quixote was an “Eastside Guy” too.

  • Ramon

    Now I get it. This Gubernatioral re-election campaign is kinda like the HBO series Entourage. It’s on, nothing really good or really bad ever happens but you can’t take your eye off it.

    You’ve got the star, Ted K. He’s like Vince Chase, you know, Aquaman. Being AG was like starring in “Head On”. Being Supreme Court Justice was like starring in “Queens Blvd.”

    Cameron Johnson, of course, is like James Cameron, playing himself as Vince’s director in Aquaman.

    The manager, like E, that would be Tim Nesbitt. You have Neil Goldschmidt, like Vince’s older brother and former face, Johnny Drama. And Lisa Grove is like Turtle; she gets him all the good stuff and has all the latest dish.

    Jim Hill and Peter Sorensen made brief appearances, like Bob Saget and Paulie Shore – in walk-on cameos for has-beens seeking some glam-of-the-moment.

    Then you’ve got the Gov.’s tax-funded staff, like Vince’s agent Ari Gold and publicist Shana, and their assistants; the revolving-door / campaign-donor lobbyists, like Josh Weinstein angling for action and movie execs jockeying for the next deal; and fawning MSM editorialists, like Variety’s lead story writers and that reviewer they took real good care of in Season 2.

    Yes, now I understand. Gov. K.’s coronation is like a celebrity event. It takes village to raise a child but it takes an Entourage to be re-elected Governor.

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