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Aug-09-2007 05:35printcomments

Op Ed:
Congress Calls Bribe By Its Right Name
Now, Will Oregon Act?

Lobbyists fear law recognizing true potential of their "contributions" to politicians

handcuffed to money
Art courtesy:

(BEND, Ore.) - Congress for the first time has put real fear into the lives of lavish-handed lobbyists laying out "contributions" as corporate "political speech" at the national level.

The strong and historic new legislation awaits the remarkably revealing action of President Bush, who has remained strangely silent on his decision to sign-or-veto this one --in the midst of multitudinous similar troubles.

It remains to be seen if Oregon's own "elected representative assembly" -long familiar with the wit, wisdom and will of Oregonians on this issue-- will now take brutal Congressional action on a long-festering problem area as their own strong motivation to begin the long-overdue similar clean-up so obviously demanded right here at home.

K-Street enclaves in D.C. were deeply and immediately concerned about the overwhelming-vote passage of the new procedures.

Rightly so, since they now face "penalties up to $200,000 and five years in prison" for lobbyists continuing out-of-line with "the usual freebies" of past decades in D.C.

In addition --and for the first time!---"federal prosecutors are taking a newly aggressive approach to corruption cases, including treating campaign contributions as potential bribes."

We're long-time too-familiar with the similar patterns in Oregon, surely significant in shaping and manipulating major Legislative decisions.

The Congressional action was prompted by recent and repeated disclosures of deeply troubling "scandals that have tarnished the image of Congress". Even more significantly, the swift bipartisan agreement represents "a cultural shift in the traditions of Capital Hill".

That shift refers directly to control and monitor closely -- even to disclose and identify-- the developers of "earmarks"; always a matter for silent cooperation before, including efforts to clear legislation bearing that burden and well-known to all members buddying-up for the purpose.

"Earmarks" are pet bill "adjustments or additions" providing lavish public funding for usually-localized and often controversial projects or programs whose often-sole and always-sure virtue was building more political strength for the proposer, right in his home territory.

They win through to funding via close and determined joint voting action on the basis of "you okay mine and I'll do likewise."

Recent backroom dealings devoted to developing "sure-thing passage" of such projects led to scandals that have now sent four lawmakers to jail, and are seen to have contributed directly to GOP defeats leading to loss of Congressional control last year.

Even the most blasé of Congressional observers were "amazed at the surprising strength and determination of both Dems and GOPs to take cooperative action"; against the growing harassment and strong manipulation definitely on display by the overwhelming crowds of corporate-connected lobbyists and "observers".

Both the tough new restrictions "on lobbyist freebies for legislator manipulation" and the development of "strong control on earmarking protocol" have long been sought by many citizen groups.

They represent long-sought Congressional policing of relationships between "lobbyists-with-dollars and/or gifts, trips and free meals", all seeking access and influence on shaping legislative bills; and lawmakers whose easily-hidden "law-shaping actions can build in or keep out" precisely what the lobbyists seek to procure.

For decades that continuing situation has been termed "a cancer eating away at our democracy". The practice has long been recognized by many, if not most, elected representatives as among major problems with which they were forced to cope, including the growing and inevitable cost of campaigning.

That final, if inevitable, trend has been driving often-desperately-sought receipts from corporate hands, more and more intensely, more and more frequently, across the whole nation.

Again, it is only fair-and-obvious to point out the precise necessity and long-felt absolute essential-actions in our own State of Oregon.

With many examples easy to find, perhaps the most painful-two are the SEVENTY-year history of our Oregon "$10 minimum corporate tax", now nationally notorious; and the continued failure to find the legislative will and wisdom to fund failing child-healthcare by seemingly sensible and reasonable additional tax on cigarette sales.

The first demands full and forceful explanation when it is reality that many THOUSANDS of Oregon PROFIT-producing corporations pay only $10 as "their share" of Oregon corporate tax-revenue; in a state where corporate share has dropped precipitously in recent years, thus shifting much more of the total tax burden directly to individual Oregonians.

The second (ANY cig-tax!), when remarked-upon by insiders in Salem, always draws a wink-and-smile, followed by something like: "Well, you know, Big Tobacco has long gotten its way here."

All too true, and it affects YOU; via clean-air necessity in far too many public and private places; and for many thousands of us also through the direct health-tragedies of our loved ones.

One of my own sons is heavily affected, now suffering from continued health-damage, and unable to shake off the addiction. He was one of the victims of early-age advertising-exposure on which Big Tobacco still lavishes huge sums every day.

IF Congress, surely not a hotbed of Far Left action and still subject to crowds of lobbyists, can find the courage and the demonstrated strengths from both sides of the aisle to act on this cancerous growth on our democracy--

WHY cannot our OWN OREGON Legislature do likewise?

WHEN is any better time to START than with this next added-session, "trying out" for the inevitable annual affair we know must come soon?

WHO is DOING WHAT, NOW, to get ready for that essential action surely now seen as reflecting rational, reasonable realities?

WHAT BETTER WAY than to finish off weakly-done first-steps for the Legislature's own "ethic reforms" just-begun in the last session from which they just fled?

Reader's Note:
Even if Bush vetoes this courageous Congressional action, most recent count shows extremely close bipartisan vote to override veto --if enough citizens demand that result -- SO "Let Your Voice Be Heard!"

See OCPP details in-full on corporate shift of tax burden-share to individual Oregonians: www, Quotes are verbatim, shortened, or summarized; original sources on request. Some 30 authoritative sources were all consulted in preparation for this Op Ed. List available on request.

See also Op Eds previously:
"Ethics-Breakers Need Painful Consequences"; 2/9/07; and
"Corporate Contributions Now Open to Public View"; 4/24/07;
available in our Archives.

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Henry Ruark August 11, 2007 11:30 am (Pacific time)

Odot et al: Used-to-be a primary job of ANY and ALL dailies to force public attention on precisely this kind of issue...when story was worth detailed investigation, the daily often forced action by those truly accountable. Now overweening corporate control and guardianship of stock levels, even with profit margins 20%/30%, force out many, leaving fewer reporters capable of such solid, real community service. Note: OREGONIAN offers rich early-retirement to jrnlists to cut costs, today's big story. Gannett-SJ noted for penurious slashing already, while other leading dailies on market due to Wall Street's speculative pressures.

odotiscorrupt August 11, 2007 9:07 am (Pacific time)

Thank you Henry - I will continue to inform others and I appreciate the forum that you provide. I do hold onto what may be a naive faith that justice is possible and I will haunt those who are responsible until I am no longer able to do so - loudly, clearly, and continuously.

Henry Ruark August 11, 2007 7:07 am (Pacific time)

Odot-C: Yr experience parallels many more during years of like-story contacts. Can only point out painful parallel OR rather striking contrast with legislative and agency response when corporate lobbyists lavishing "campaign contributions" are involved. Hope you will keep on drive to demand remedy for yr proven experience --don't believe any time-limit on follow-up for this kind of action...and keep S-N informed for any help we can muster for you from our insightful, forceful readers. Wit, wisdom, will of people can always prevail -- but only when voices are heard loud and clear and continuously, too.

odotiscorrupt August 10, 2007 6:08 pm (Pacific time)

Yes, Henry, I did present my case to many media outlets and to a couple of the most respected land use lawyers in the city. All who reviewed the issue agreed that I had been royally screwed. The media did take some interest but the matter involves traffic issues - which are not sexy enough for an in depth media investigation - the lawyers told us outright that, if we had enough money, they never would have gotten away with what they did. Also, after presenting the facts to Representative Clem, he compelled top ODOT officials to meet with him (which they did reluctantly). At that meeting, Representative Clem tried to get some reasonable explanation for ODOT's actions. The response was that the ODOT officials basically told him "to go to hell". Being a freshman Representative, there was really nothing he could do about it.

Henry Ruark August 10, 2007 3:15 pm (Pacific time)

Odot-C: Did you then turn rapidly and unhesitatingly to Oregon's free major press and broadcast media, with details in depth and provable about such State agency actions ? That's the true test of all such statement, and if you did not yet do so, why not now ? Keep us informed...and we will watch for self-corrective action in legislative behavior in the session yet-to-come for this now-essential and surely demanded reform in corporate behavior, too. The State creates all such corporate creatures, and the State still controls them, too... OR does it still have both the courage and the power to do so ? We will surely see.

odotiscorrupt August 9, 2007 6:25 pm (Pacific time)

After being victimized by admittedly corrupt actions taken by ODOT, I contacted their internal investigative unit (Safe Haven) for assistance. After I described the outrageous and indefensible actions taken by ODOT, I was told by the investigator that the ability to do favors for your friends is the reward for the attainment of high office.

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