Love may be ineffable when it comes to personal relationships. But love is quantifiable when we're talking about political campaign contributions.
Individuals and organizations give the most money to candidates they love the most.
So even though browsing through records of political campaign contributions isn't all that fun, tonight I kind of enjoyed exploring the love-fest between Salem Mayor candidate Chuck Bennett and several homebuilder PACs (Political Action Committees).
I also looked into Carole Smith's campaign finances, but this wasn't nearly as interesting. A brief discussion of Smith's contributions follows my report on Bennett's.
ORESTAR is where the Oregon Secretary of State makes campaign finance reports publicly available. At first it was a bit confusing to find my way around, but I soon got my bearings. As you'll see, tracing the linkages between contributions can be intriguing for political junkies like me.
Here's the Chuck Bennett for Mayor summary page. Bennett has gotten $34,090 in cash contributions. I then looked to see who the biggest contributors to his 2016 Mayoral campaign are. (click to enlarge the photos)
The Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee gave Bennett $5,000. That was topped only by the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, which gave Bennett $7,500.
Hmmmm. I was surprised by the $7,500 contribution, because at first I naively thought that a group with "affordable housing" in its name was concerned with homelessness, low-income housing, and such.
And I wasn't aware that groups like this had $7,500 to throw at Mayor candidates -- especially Bennett, who isn't known as an avid advocate in this area. Thus my next step was to click on the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition name in the ORESTAR report.
I learned that the people associated with the committee share the address of the Homebuilders Association of Marion and Polk Counties.
In fact, the treasurer of the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, Mike Erdmann, is the CEO of the Marion/Polk Homebuilders Association.
So that cleared up the mystery of the Affordable Housing Coalition. It is the political arm of the Marion/Polk Homebuilders Association.
Given all the concern about homelessness and affordable housing these days, I suspect the homebuilders folks thought Affordable Housing Coalition would sound better than Pave the Planet and Enrich Already Rich Builders PAC.
Looking through the records of the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, I noticed a big $14,525 contribution to the Coalition from a similarly-named group, Oregonians for Affordable Housing. Also, that the Affordable Housing Coalition had given $5,000 to Salem City Councilor Warren Bednarz' re-election campaign against challenger Sally Cook.
So my next question was, who the heck is Oregonians for Affordable Housing? The name sounded like a big-hearted liberal group dedicated to helping low-income people. Of course, the reality was way different.
Oregonians for Affordable Housing hangs out at an address next door to the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition.
Which turns out to be the address of the Oregon Home Builders Association. So all these cozy political action committee relationships got me making up lyrics to an updated sort of old Beatles song.
"I am Chuck Bennett, who am supported by the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, who am the Homebuilders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, who am supported by Oregonians for Affordable Housing, who am the Oregon Home Builders Association, and we are all one... in Political Action Committee'ness; also, we are the walrus."
Oh, but wait, I'm not quite done, because I'd noticed that the Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, a.k.a. the Homebuilders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, had given $7,500 to the Salem Chamber of Commerce's Build Jobs PAC in October 2015.
Naturally I had to click on over to the Build Jobs PAC to see what was happening there. This caught my eye: a $5,000 contribution from Mountain West Investment (the Tokarski company which is building the South Block Apartments on the old Boise Cascade property, a beneficiary of generous tax breaks from the City of Salem).
On the same day the $5,000 Mountain West contribution came in, April 12, the Build Jobs PAC donated the same amount to the three candidates endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce: Chuck Bennett, Mayor ($3,000); Jan Kailuweit, Ward 1 City Councilor ($1,000); Warren Bednarz, Ward 7 City Councilor ($1,000).
So, yeah, Chuck Bennett is tied into a weird and wacky complicated campaign finance world of homebuilding political action committees who are supporting Chamber of Commerce candidates. There's more, of course -- such as another $5,000 Mountain West contribution to the Build Jobs PAC -- but my brain couldn't handle any more digging into ORESTAR reports.
Now... what about Carole Smith?
Well, her summary report was pretty boring. Smith has gotten just $3,649 in cash contributions. Mostly her campaign is being financed by $21,000 in loans -- all from herself, I believe.
But she does have a fairly significant $1,000 contribution from an individual who lives in Salem. His name is the same as mine. Because, he's ME!
Damn, great investigative reporting, dude. I found my own campaign contribution.
Which I made because I know Carole Smith well, have worked with her on numerous citizen activism efforts to make Salem a better place, and feel that she would be a way better Mayor than Chuck Bennett.
Bennett, as I've shown in this post, is the Dearly Beloved of special interest groups like homebuilder associations. Chuck is an insider lobbyist who currently is the Ward 1 city councilor. During his nine years on the Salem City Council, he's obviously convinced the Chamber of Commerce PAC and other special interests that he'll look out for them as Mayor.
And that's a big reason why I don't think Bennett should be Mayor.
Great post Brian! You have dissected the oligarchy with some precision here. Hopefully we can begin to break their backs in this election. All you can buy with all that money is a bunch of signs that you have to put in the public right of way because you don't have any real supporters, and a bunch of boring mailers that go straight into the trash can.
Posted by: Jim Scheppke | May 03, 2016 at 10:49 AM
I enjoyed this one. Take another look at Carole Smith's contributions then look at Donald Trump's. Notice something. It's an old political trick. You give yourself a big loan so you don't have to disclose who's paying for the campaign til after the vote. Carole and I attended the same meetings with the groups you decry and she worked as hard as anyone to get their endorsement. I wonder how you would have played this if she'd gotten them. Different I would guess.
Posted by: Chuck Bennett | May 05, 2016 at 10:23 AM