Depending on who and what you read this morning, last night's result in Oregon is either a warning to America's wealthy and corporate elite that a class war is coming, or a sign that average voters are willing to take charge of their own affairs, sort through the facts to make tough decisions, and engage en masse in the electoral process.
By now, everyone knows -- no thanks to most of the mainstream media, yet -- that Oregon voters passed by wide margins two ballot measures designed to slightly raise taxes on Oregon's wealthiest residents and corporations. This morning, the meanings and messages of those victories are being defined.
From the left, the Rev. Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ minister in Oregon, declares that Oregon is sending a message to the nation.
Measures 66 and 67 - backed by a broad coalition of small businesses, educators, public safety advocates, unions, and religious groups - have passed, according to The Oregonian (a paper which campaigned vigorously and unethically against the measures in league with big banks and other defenders of the status quo). Other media outlets are also calling the race in favor of the measures. This is a victory for Oregon! We've shown the nation tonight that progressive policies that benefit small business, schools, public safety and social services can earn the respect and the votes of the people! The White House and Congress should take note.
In a poignant note titled "Suck It, Serfdomworks," The Chinuk at Preemptive Karma cast Oregon's 'yes' votes for the measures as 'no' votes to an unfair economic system.
For the past several months, cynical groups of people have taken an issue that the Oregon Legislative Assembly, in a display of courage, and referred it to the voters and, just as cynically, proceeded to lie and lie and lie about it. Tonight, a majority of Oregonians were wise and sane enough to say no to you.
We said yes to having those who are thriving and surviving in this economic climate pay just a little more of their own freight, and no to having most of us carry you. We said no to melodramatic commercials lensed in bakeries that weren't even in Oregon. We said no – for the moment – to the tea party mentality that gave low-information voters the sway over people who had to make the hard choices.
Naming Oregonians the winners in the night's outcome, TorridJoe at Loaded Orygun listed right-wing ideologues among the big losers.
The big losers? Gotta be Bob Tiernan and the Oregon Republican Party. Their miasma has not particularly ebbed in the face of the great tea baggers surge as perhaps elsewhere in the country, and so they faced the special election hopeful, but somewhat unusually undermanned financially -- -- especially on an issue of supposedly direct concern to the business community. They took the lead on the No effort, hyped it, put their name on it, worked it, staked their philosophy on it....and took it in the shorts yet again. I wouldn't let them run my sons pine wood derby.
Also coming out on the wrong end would be the Oregon bankers and Oregon grocers, at least their associations. The biggest financial backers of the No campaign, they shame the multitude of Oregon businesses -- likely even some of their member companies -- who honorably and caringly supported measures 66/67 and the idea of fairness and the social contract.
My favorite loser would have to be the Oregonian, however. Going from a tepid endorsement of the bills as passed by the Legislature last summer, to the scathing and virulent opposition of this past 6 to 8 weeks must really be a coincidence marked by the arrival of new publisher N. Christian Andersen. formerly of the Orange County Register, a rag that represents a town that makes Lake Oswego look like Sellwood.
They ranted, they raved, they over wrapped and bent their ad rules, stamped their feet, proposed implausible if not illogical alternatives... and got the cleat. To be fair, a number of other larger newspapers supported repeal, but almost none so stridently as the Big Orange--er, O. By the way, its primary market voted almost 3 to 1 against their advice. Yes, it's the Internet that killing the newspaper business.
Speaking of The Orangeonian, I found it interesting to compare the opening paragraphs of its story on the measures' passage with the opening paragraphs from the Salem newspaper.
Here's The Orangeonian's take:
Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.
Midway into the article, it highlights Pat McCormick, one-half of Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes:
Supporters spent at least $6.9 million, most of it coming from teacher and public employee unions. Opponents, led by a coalition of business organizations, spent at least $4.6 million, donated by wealthy entrepreneurs such as Nike's Phil Knight and Columbia Sportswear's Tim Boyle. Opponents who gathered at the Grand Hotel in Salem were optimistic early, but as the results came in, the mood quickly darkened.
"It's disappointing and discouraging," said Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. "The tone and tenor was often venomous, trying to pit the haves against the have-nots."
He said the business community now must figure out "how to participate in a system that's largely disconnected from us."
(SALEM, Ore.) - Oregon voters have spoken up in defense of state programs and schools, and they will soon see a larger portion of the state's revenue coming from both individuals who earn higher than average incomes, and Oregon corporations.
See the difference in tone? In one case, those doggone Oregon voters "bucked" -- as an unruly horse might "buck" -- the long-established equilibrium that protected a certain system of taxation. In the other case, Oregon voters "spoke up in defense of" -- or, put another way, exercised their constitutional rights to exert themselves for -- "state programs and schools." Sounds like two different elections, doesn't it?
I noticed, too, that the Salem article didn't consult Pat McCormick for his sour analysis. McCormick had to settle for coverage in the Los Angeles Times, which gave him the platform to spell out precisely why his quixotic campaign to protect the status quo was defeated. Was it because Oregonians rose up to exercise their rights? Not according to McCormick. Was it because The Orangeonian failed to repeat his talking point often enough? No, McCormick gives no credit or blame to his compatriots at The Orangeonian. Was it, perhaps, because McCormick and his partner, Mark Nelson, just found themselves on the right side of the argument this time? Nope, not at all.
"The biggest issue is we were substantially outspent by the public employee unions. They were able to double, and more than that, the money we were spending on the broadcast media, and were able to get that much more of their message out," said Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes.
That's Pat. He may not be always truthful, or always accurate, or always ethical, but he's consistent.
After the Wall Street Journal published a call-to-arms over the weekend and sicced its analysts onto Oregon, I expected to read a full-throated lamentation of the outcome this morning, but the WSJ's coverage was surprisingly sterile. (I bet the lamentations will come later this week, once the gray gods have agreed upon and dispatched their collective verdict against the President's State of the Union Address tonight.) All it could muster for today's edition was this pin-striped sneer:
The twin ballot measures also served as a gauge of anti-business populism and highlighted a nationwide debate over whether to fix state budgets by targeting the affluent. But they also fueled resentment of "tax and spend" legislators, as well as public-employee unions whose members enjoy job security at a time when thousands here have lost jobs.
In other news, I have to say I was excited to read the Portland Mercury yesterday and find that Matt Davis's research had uncovered the connections I wrote about yesterday. Namely, The Orangeonian's general advertising manager, Debi Walery, is on the board of directors of the Northwest Grocery Association, the trade group that bought the controversial anti-ballot measure spadeas that new publisher N. Christian Anderson III changed the paper's policy to publish. Davis found the same IRS filing for the NWGA that shows the Walery-NWGA connection.
Davis took the initiative to call The Orangeonian and the NWGA's headquarters for confirmation of these facts and reported his findings:
Walery is also on a plane right now, according to her assistant, and so, we can't ask her personally whether our deep throat is full of it. So take this paragraph for what it's worth, and we'll get back to you with Walery's response as soon as we have it.
The Northwest Grocery Association, which just confirmed that Walery is still on its board, is also the top contributor to the "no" campaign, giving $356,700 so far, according to records tracked by Oregon Common Cause. We also have a call in to Oregonian publisher N.Christian Anderson III seeking comment. So, what do you think: Is the connection between Walery, the Oregonian, and the "no" campaign, ethical? Or not?
Well, I may be biased, but I'll go out on a limb and say: No, I don't think our newly-discovered connection is ethical. As an advertising manager, Walery may stand to profit materially from higher ad revenues at her workplace. As a member of a non-profit board of directors, she shares specific authority with other directors to spend the non-profit's money, and it's difficult to imagine that the decision by the NWGA to inquire about the purchase of spadeas was entirely coincidental. Counting the two 'No' spadeas and the one 'Yes' spadea that the Orangeonian published, the paper collected about $65,000 in ad revenues thanks to that yet-unexplained, amazing coincidence. If Walery gets commission or bonuses based on the ad revenue she brings to the paper, she's surely due enough to buy a pleasant vacation.
And no one would ever, ever have known about it.
I scoured this morning's edition of The Orangeonian for any comment on yesterday's discovery of Walery or Spadea-gate and found only a pouty, defiant repudiation of Oregon's lawmakers, apparently for adopting last year's budget. Sounds like someone got an early start on the sauce last night, and didn't quit until quite late.
Here and now Oregon's political leaders should vow to take steps so this state never again is compelled to raise taxes at the very moment businesses and taxpayers are suffering in a recession.
Yes, Oregonians voted by a large margin in Tuesday's election to raise taxes on businesses and upper-income taxpayers. And yes, the $727 million raised primarily on the backs of small business owners, professionals and other employers will enable the Legislature to close a budget gap threatening schools, universities and other essential services when it convenes Monday.
But no, the passage of Measures 66 and 67 will not move Oregon beyond the short-term tax policy and short-sighted politics that keep driving Oregon's public policy and its economy nowhere fast. Measure 66, in particular, only further unbalances the state's shaky tax system by pushing up one of the nation's highest income-tax rates.
Even in The Orangeonian's own editorial on the ballot measures, the 'yeses' outnumbered the 'noes'. That's telling. But it tells us nothing about role Walery played in Spadea-gate.
Will she keep her job? Will she keep her seat on the NWGA board of directors? Will she collect reward for shepherding ad revenue through The O's back door and into N. Christian Anderson III's controversial policy change?
Stay tuned. Meantime, if you're interested in advertising on The Orangeonian's front page -- the real front page itself, not a spadea -- Anderson and Walery have a deal for you:
The Oregonian now offers you a chance to promote your business on the newspaper's best real estate: the Front Page!
Your color 1 column x 2 1/2 inch ad will sit on the lower right-hand corner of Page One, which grabs the eyes of 860,600 readers on Sundays and 658,300 readers* every other day. All this for $2,000 Sundays and $1,500 other days!
The first Page One ad will appear on Feb. 1.
Clearly, change has come to Oregon.