Shemia Fagan: Another Oregon Democrat Takes A Fall

By William MAcKenzie

What is it about some politicians who just can’t behave?

I remember a saying I was told growing up in New England, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your parents to read about the next morning in the paper.”

Former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who resigned under pressure today, should have followed that advice.

If she had, she certainly wouldn’t have signed up for a $10,000 a month consulting contract with the owners of the La Mota chain of cannabis dispensaries at the same time her office audited state regulations on cannabis businesses. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) has pointed out that the cannabis entrepreneurs are also high-profile Democratic donors.

According to OPB, Fagan, a single mother with two children, justified taking the consulting job by saying she simply could not pay her bills on her $77,000-a-year state salary.

Some of this behavior, unfortunately, has a precedent among Oregon Democrats.

In 1993, I wrote a story for The Oregonian spelling out how John Kitzhaber, when he was State Senate President, pulled in about $90,000 in speaking fees around the country during his last three years as a legislator.

Kitzhaber had earned approximately $35,000 in honoraria in 1990, about $20,000 in 1991 and about $35,000 in 1992, with payments ranging from $100 to $3,000 per speech, plus expenses. As Senate president, Kitzhaber also was paid a monthly salary of about $1,976 during those years.

Kitzhaber ‘s draw was his advocacy of the Oregon Health Plan, a proposal to reform Oregon’s Medicaid program to broaden the number of people covered by limiting the types of procedures eligible for reimbursement. Kitzhaber authored the plan and shepherded it through the Legislature in 1989.

Fagan’s behavior is also reminiscent of the sudden downfall of Jennifer Williamson, a former House majority leader and a leading contender to be Oregon’s next secretary of state in 2020. Williamson suddenly dropped out of the race, attributing her action to a forthcoming story in Willamette Week about questionable expenditures of campaign funds when she served in the House.

When will politicians learn?