20th Annual Taxpayer Awards: 2020’s worst scandals, politicians

Taxpayers Association of Oregon

For twenty years the Taxpayer Association of Oregon family has honored Oregon’s worst scandals, lies, waste and political figures.  Official ballots have been sent to nearly 20,000 homes statewide.

Please see our 2020 nominees below.


• Taxing poor people to subsidize the state’s richest shopping mall.   Tigard’s Bridgeport Village is among the nation’s top 5% most profitable shopping malls.  Despite receiving generous property tax subsidies (not available to smaller malls), the politicians promoted a wage tax that hit people in poor communities to fund a billion-dollar light rail train in order to bring the mall even more customers.  The train route would have demolished more than 400 homes and small businesses in the process.  Fortunately, the Taxpayer Association and many others defeated this wage tax (Measure 26-218) in 2020.

• Computer crash robs 270,000 jobless of help.  The state Employment Department was warned that its ancient computer system using 1980s technology would crash.  To prevent the pending crash, the Feds gave Oregon $86 million in 2009 for an upgrade, but the state just sat on the money and never bothered to get around to upgrading the system.   The rush of jobless claims from COVID-19 caused the system to crash exactly as experts predicted, stranding 270,000 Oregonians and delayed their payments for months. DMV also had a widespread computer crash. (KGW-TV 4/15/20).

• During crisis, workers told to lie to the public.  To handle the Employment Department computer crash, state bureaucrats found ways to ignore the angry jobless Oregonians who called.  State employees were told that problem cases would be sent to a special department that never existed.  State employees were told to limit the calls to ten minutes, regardless of how serious or whether the problem could have been resolved by working a few minutes longer.  Managers who had the ability to fix minor problems were never available.  A cumbersome evaluation process caused widespread delays, causing employees to be idled for as long as six hours.  It was common for employees to play video games all day long due to the delay.
(KGW 6/29/20, Portland Mercury 6/25/20)

• $145,000 of your tax dollars to rioter food fund group.  Oregon granted $145,000 of U.S. CARES Act COVID relief Federal Funds to a charity called Portland Snack Bloc which provides loads of free snacks and drinks to rioters while they are rioting.  Their moto is “supporting the resistance one snack at a time”. They also perform other services. (Oregon Health Authority Equity grants 9/25)

• Wildfire Department looted before historic wildfires. In February, the state Forestry Department made headlines for being broke and woefully underfunded by $136 million, yet politicians still had enough money to give $200 million to state employees through 15% bonuses, $28 million to Hollywood film companies, and $30 million for public art projects.  They failed to foresee the record-breaking wildfires merely 200 days away. (The Oregonian 2/20/2020)


(Government sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong)

• State dispatches Child Services against salon owner who reopened early.   Lindsey Graham, owner of Salem’s Glamour Salon, made headlines for opening her business before the spring lockdown ended. The state responded by dispatching Child Protective Services into her home to investigate whether she was an unfit parent. (Oregonian 5/15/20)

• Forcing restaurants to close at 10 p.m.  Gov. Kate Brown issued a completely arbitrary, unscientific ban on restaurants operating after 10 p.m., which blocked businesses (already hampered by capacity mandates) from spacing out customers during the night which would ironically have made their business safer.

• 30-day jail for breaking six person Thanksgiving cap.  Gov. Brown’s 6-person limit for in-home holiday gatherings came with a 30-day jail penalty and a nod to call the police on their over-limit neighbors.   Although limiting gatherings can be helpful, the jail time and police snooping idea was wildly excessive. It lost the public’s trust and made Oregon lampooned around the nation which directly work against the effectiveness of the government’s efforts.



• Multnomah District Attorney Mike Schmidt for breaking rioters out of jail.  Schmidt dropped 666 of the 974 criminal charges against rioters, including arson, vandalism, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer.  Schmidt created the tear-gas defense, meaning that being tear-gassed in a violent riot makes people very upset and no longer responsible for their following violent actions.  Schmidt also said police officers need to prove that a rioter’s intent was criminal and not just accidental as they punched cops resisting their arrest for arson.
(Oregonian 8/11/20, OPB 8/11/20)

• Governor Kate Brown for her legacy of heavy-handed rules made in secret.    During the initial COVID-19 outbreak, the Taxpayer Association chronicled nine different ways that Gov. Brown hid critical facts from the public, media, and lawmakers—including facts people could have used to protect themselves.   Days after declaring COVID-19 a statewide emergency, Brown issued a ‘Climate Emergency’ and signed an Executive Order re-routing state funds and expanding state regulations (including one that would cause gas prices to increase).  Brown faced a second resignation of a public records advocate in just under one year due as a result inter-political conflict.  Gov. Brown, the Senate President and House Speaker held Emergency Special Sessions that the public and media were blocked from attending (even from safe distances).  Legislation was rushed at record speed leaving citizens not enough time to participate. (For the record, we are not against COVID rules or lockdowns, we are however against abusing emergency powers and making critical decisions in secret.)

• Portland City Commissioner Joann Hardesty, Oregon’s top cop-basher:  When leftist rioters began burning and looting Portland, she first blamed secretive white supremacists.  After a backlash, she changed her story to blame riots on the Portland police officers for intentionally and secretly setting fires to make it appear rioters had done so.  She successfully defunded police by $12 million, causing a 100-staff layoff and closing of the Gun Response Task Force (gun shootings rose 300% afterward).  She then tried to cut police by another $12 million.  (KATU-2 6/22/20)



• Oops … City ignores retired manager who kept drawing pay of $26,000.  The City of Portland continued to pay John Zoller, former head of Portland’s municipal city-owned golf courses, even after his job ended.  No one knew because he worked from home. (Oregonian 2/19/20)

• Oops … rape victims ignored yet again by police bureaucracy:  A 2015 public scandal revealed Portland Police never bothered to process nearly 2,000 rape kits which resulted in dozens of rapists remaining on the streets.  The police received a $1.4 million grant to fix the problem.  Five years later, a new scandal emerged showing the rape kit funds paid for unrelated projects to employees who never showed up to work. The department let grant reimbursement funds go unclaimed because it failed to fill out the necessary paperwork. (Oregonian 3/11/20)



• “There are no cops that are anti-fascists.  Our Constitution is not anti-fascist.  It can’t be antifascist because of who wrote it and where it came from.”
Juan Chavez
Oregon Justice Resource Center,
Spoken at Portland Protest 9/26/20


• “I still want to hear from you. I want to know what is driving it. I want to know how I can understand your anger.”
Ted Wheeler,
Portland Mayor
– Spoken at an August 26 press conference after seventy days of rioting.  Five days after his public plea to hear the concerns of rioters, they responded by setting fire to his residential apartment building while nearly a hundred people slept inside.


• “Feds, right-wing media paint Portland as ‘city under siege.’ A tour of town shows otherwise”
The Oregonian front-page headline
This article came after 40 days of nonstop Portland rioting, attacks on local neighborhood police precincts, breaching barriers, setting fires inside the federal courthouse, and more than 100 acts of arson spanning several neighborhoods, making it the worst riots in the state’s history.  (The Oregonian 7/18/20)



• Governor Kate Brown. Brown and her bodyguards were spotted hiking without masks, which violated her own statewide mask outdoor hiking rule at the time. (Law Enforcement Today, 8/9/20)

• Washington County Commissioners Dick Schouten and Jerry Wiley, and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran.  They vacationed in Mexico and Hawaii despite Governor Brown’s advisory against citizens traveling out of state. (KGW 11/24/20)

•Portland City Commissioner Joann Hardesty.  She made headlines for defunding the Portland police by $12 million and criticizing people who abuse 911 for non-urgent reasons.  In November she engaged in a heated dispute with a Lyft driver after traveling out of state (against COVID travel advisory) from a casino.  She demanded the driver roll up the windows, which were cracked according to company COVID policy to allow ventilation.  The driver said she verbally abused him over it so he dropped her off at a gas station.  Refusing to exit the car, Hardesty called 911 in hopes of getting the police to force the driver to take her back to the pick-up location or call a new Lyft car (which only the passenger could do).  The driver lost his fare on the canceled trip. (The Oregonian 11/10/20)


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If you want to vote in the 2020 Taxpayer Awards, you can mail your responses to the address below.

Oregon Taxpayers Association of Oregon
and Taxpayer Association Foundation
(503) 603-9009
PO Box 23573, Tigard, OR, 97281