Freedom Foundation

Never Stop Following the Money

The Oregon Secretary of State race this year provides an object lesson in how government unions impact politics and how government union money flows to serve that end.

To set the stage, you need to remember that this is a decennial re-districting year, which means Congressional and Legislative districts are redrawn to reflect changes in population — and perhaps preferences of the party in power.  In Oregon, re-districting is done by the Legislature. But if that process fails to come up with a map, the job falls to the Secretary of State.

And rest assured, the state’s government employee unions care passionately about the Secretary of State — because they fully understand what’s at stake.

You’ll also remember that during the 2019 Oregon legislative session, lawmakers passed a Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) reform bill that many observers believed would have a modest impact on the unfunded liability.

Naturally, labor leaders strongly opposed the legislation in SB 1049 and regarded it as a litmus test for loyalty to government unions.

Reporter Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week wrote an illuminating article revealing how upset Oregon State Representative Alyssa Keny-Guyer is with her (former?) friend, Oregon state senator — and now candidate for Secretary of State — Shemia Fagan.

The article is more focused on the tiff between the two legislators, but I think that the movement of money is more interesting because it speaks volumes about how big government unions play the game.

Remember, the government unions’ first choice to fill the open Secretary of State seat was former Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson. But that was before she got caught up in a messy scandal involving her use of campaign funds.

She was replaced by Fagan who voted against the PERS reform.

What has Keny-Guyer upset is Fagan’s raising an “obscene amount of money from so few sources,” which Jaquiss calls “a reference to Fagan’s concentrated support from public employee unions.”

This money was used for the creation of a shell, money-laundering (perfectly legal under Oregon law) organization called Oregonians for Ballot Access, which contracted with an organization called Winning Mark  to build a website worth a cool $20,000.

It’s not a bad looking site, and it does a good job of subtly promoting the candidacy of Sen. Fagan while appearing to be just unbiased information about the Secretary of State race.

Winning Mark’s website describes the organization thusly: “We combine wicked-smart strategy with battle-tested experience, and we hate to lose. So we do it all with a tenacious commitment to winning.”

That sounds like an organization that laps up government union money with lots of zeros after it —  and one you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

They also have an extensive client list of organizations that aren’t really friends of the Freedom Foundation.

So, the cycle continues.  The party in power expands government, which means more government workers, which means more union dues, which means more contributions to politicians currently in power and expanding government.

And every one of those dollars at one time was in the wallet of individuals and businesses in the private sector.

Ironically, Fagan’s defense of her actions contains the seed of what’s really wrong with all this government employee union money sloshing about in politics.  She’s quoted as saying, “I’m proud of the support I have received from member-funded labor organizations.”

That term “member-funded” shouldn’t really be used to describe government unions that enforce opt-out windows, have government automatically make deductions from paychecks and basically stack the deck against “members” who don’t care to fund these type of operations.

At a time when many Oregon elected officials — especially from the party in power — are investing quite a bit of wind into the need for campaign finance reform, it’s amazing how they ‘re the ones playing the same old money games.