Interesting reactions to the “Second Thoughts” posting regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision allowing unlimited corporate and union spending in political campaigns has prompted a second chapter on a more Oregon note.

Nearly all responders agreed with dangers I cited i.e. undue influence, support for unqualified candidates while blocking good ones, etc. Even the minority, citing free speech, said there’s already too much money in politics and too much corporate and union involvement.

Well, my friends, let’s take a last look at Measures 66 and 67 in the rear view mirror and (1) see who paid to get them on the ballot, (2) who paid to get you to vote yes, (3) who paid to get you to vote no and (4) how much. All info has been compiled by the public interest group Common Cause from campaign report filings with the Oregon Elections Division in ORESTAR.

Two political action committees (PACs) were the heavy hitters just to get “66” on the ballot putting in $960,196: Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes (64%) and Taxpayer Defense Fund (20%).

To know who those groups represent, you’ve got to look deeper. Oregon Bankers Association was the largest contributor to “Oregonians Against” with $100,000. Associated Oregon Industries and its PAC put in $125,300 combined. Roseburg Forest Products $45,000. There were many more large member checks.

As for “67,” again “Oregonians Against” put up $330,036 (68.7%) and “Taxpayer Defense” 97,140 (20%). Members of this group: Oregon Bankers, Weyerhauser, Roseburg Timber, Oregon Forest Industries, Stimson Lumber, Seneca Jones Lumber, Assoc. Oregon Loggers, Cascade Timber Consulting and Lone Rock Timber Mgt. And more. Total for both measures just to get to the ballot: $1,803,830.

Once there, supporting the “yes” campaign: Oregon Education Assoc. and the National Education Assoc. $2,093,120; Local 503 Service Employees International Union, national SEIU and the SEIU State Council $1,870,728; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) $1,145,009, American Federation of Teachers $500,000 and even Planned Parenthood kicked in $5,742. Total from the “yes” folks: $6,849,579.

To urge your “no” vote: Oregon Local Grocery PAC and NW Grocery Assoc. $356,700; Assoc. General Contractors $294,917; Assoc. Oregon Industries and PAC $241,280; Oregon Car Dealers $152,900; Phil Knight at NIKE $112,221 and many, many more. Even the Portland Trailblazers lobbed in $5,000. “Oregon Against…” put up $3,419,430. The total “no” funding came to $3,940,000 after the group paid out $610,072 to people to gather your signatures on their petitions.

So, you’ve got more than $12,000,000 to get the issues on the ballot and influence your vote; $12 Million+!

Now, I’m just an old guy from a small Oregon town. But it seems to me that $12 Million could have gone to far better uses than expensive … often misleading … advertising; especially considering the people’s overwhelming “yes” vote. For less than $75,000, you could have done a good statewide poll and learned citizen sentiment on the subject. The issue apparently had already been settled.

As for paying more than $600,000 to people to stop folks on the street and get them to sign their names on petitions with explanations no more detailed or consistent than any one signature gather may have had … well … that puts a lot of steam under my old collar, too.

In terms of population and national political influence, Oregon is one of the smaller states. And, to be fair, the SCOTUS decision did not impact the 66 and 67 campaigns. Still, at least in my mind, there are two issues here that tie them together: money in politics; too damned much of it. Undue, outsized corporate and union influence; too damned much of it.

Suppose this whole 66 and 67 issue had been fought out in California or New York or Pennsylvania. We’d be talking hundreds of millions of dollars per state! And we haven’t even come up with examples of campaigns by individuals for office. Hundreds of millions more!

Wherever you fall in the political spectrum, these kinds of dollars and these kinds of influences should concern you about the future of our democracy. Even scare you.

The federal government is three distinct branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Each has a defined role. But when one of them makes a bad decision …undeclared war or open season for destroying our political system … it is incumbent on the other two to take corrective action.

The president has already said the SCOTUS decision must not be allowed to stand. Some in congress have mumbled something similar. If you consider yourself to be a political activist … or even if you don’t … this is one national wrong that must be righted.

You want to defend the Constitution? Now’s your time!

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