Lovers of irony will adore this news: Carol Russell, the treasurer of a Political Action Committee (PAC) formed to support the City of Salem's $82 million police facility bond measure on the November ballot, was accused of bankruptcy fraud in 2015.
[UPDATE: after writing this post, I asked Banner Bank for the current status of their lawsuit against Russell. I heard back: "Banner Bank voluntarily dismissed defendants Allen J. Russell and Carol A. Russell, on July 7, 2015. Today, there’s no pending suit."]
So reported the Portland Oregonian in "Longtime Coos County cranberry growers accused of filing bankruptcy to avoid paying off $700,000 in loans."
Banner Bank is accusing a Coos County family of creating a shell company to keep selling cranberries while declaring personal bankruptcy in order to get out of paying $743,844 in loans.
The bank filed a lawsuit Jan. 6, saying Allen and Carol Russell, the third generation of a Bandon cranberry-farming family, defaulted on two loans and filed bankruptcy under the Russell Cranberry Company name, without ever mentioning they had created Bandon Cranberry Company LLC to continue selling cranberries.
The lawsuit said the Russells did so "as part of a shell game to hinder, delay and defraud the bank."
Carol Russell is treasurer of the Keep Salem Safe PAC. It's purpose is to be "In favor of Measure M24-399," the $82 million police facility bond measure that is being opposed by a PAC I've formed, Salem Can Do Better.
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The Oregon Outpost blog put up a post that revealed Carol Russell's connections with many mostly-Republican/conservative PACs. Here's an excerpt from "Prominent Republican campaign treasurer accused of bankruptcy fraud." Note: I counted up the current number of PAC's Russell is treasurer of. She's gone from 97 in 2015 to 119 today, including the Keep Salem Safe PAC.
Why this is a political story is because Carol Russell is also one of the most prolific Treasurers for Republican political campaigns and PAC’s and Ballot measures. In Oregon, all political committees and campaigns must designate a Treasurer who is required to keep the records for contributions and expenditures (C&E’s) for the committee, and to file the reports with the Secretary of State. These reports are posted on ORESTAR, the state reporting website.
A search of ORESTAR by Treasurer shows that as of today, there are 97 campaigns and committeesthat list Carol Russell as their Treasurer. Some of those committees and PAC’s are most likely inactive currently, but many are still active, and Ms. Russell is still their Treasurer.
While many people face the prospect of bankruptcy, sometimes through no fault of their own sometimes because they become overextended in business or personally, very few then proceed to conceal major assets. And even fewer attempt as the Russels did to conceal virtually their entire business, in order to avoid paying their lawful debts.
The Candidates and Boards to whom campaign Treasurer Russell reports may want to consider how to evaluate Ms. Russell’s role in their organizations.
It seems strange that supporters of City of Salem ballot measure 24-399 felt they needed to have a woman from Bandon, about 200 miles away, be the treasurer of the PAC.
Hey, I'm the treasurer of the Salem Can Do Better PAC that's opposing 24-399.
When I've testified at Salem City Council meetings against the wasteful, poorly-thought-out $83 million police facility plan ($1 million in road improvements would be paid out of urban renewal funds, so the bond measure asks for $82 million), a couple of councilors have questioned how I can oppose the bond measure when I don't live in the Salem city limits.
Well, I have a Salem address. I've lived in the Salem area for 39 years, 13 years within the city limits, 26 years a few miles outside. My wife and I likely will move back into town when our ten acres get to be too much for us retired folks to handle. Almost all of our local connections are with Salem: friends, shopping, civic activism, entertainment, dining, exercising, etc.
So I'm pleased that supporters of the police facility bond measure who formed the Keep Salem Safe PAC chose an out-of-town (way out-of-town) person to be the Treasurer. I'm hugely more connected with Salem than Carol Russell is. Plus, I've never been accused of bankruptcy fraud, which seems like a good quality for someone who handles money other people contribute to a cause.
Today the Statesman Journal reported "Salem Chamber endorses police facility bond." Almost certainly, the Keep Salem Safe PAC led by Bandon resident Carol Russell will be the vehicle for collecting contributions for the vote yes campaign.
The endorsement was announced on the chamber's public policy blog. The blog post, written by operations director Nick Williams, said the business group's board of directors "overwhelmingly approved" an endorsement of the bond measure at its July meeting.
Williams wrote that the chamber will assemble "a broad coalition" to campaign in favor of the bond.
Well, that broad coalition seems to have a lock on the category of Oregon coast cranberry farmers moonlighting as Republican PAC operatives who have been accused of bankruptcy fraud.
But I and others involved with Salem Can Do Better never intended to target this demographic in our VOTE NO campaign. So I'll cede it to the Chamber of Commerce folks.
For five good reasons to vote No on Measure 24-399, and one bonus reason, check out our web page. (click below)