Freedomworks’ Little Frankenstein Lab: Oregon

A scary, spooky Halloween story…

The “initiative” process, pioneered by Oregon in 1904, as a means of stopping corrupt and bribed legislators stalling needed reforms has been co-opted by the corrupters and bribers to STOP the Oregon legislature from making needed reforms.

Part The First

I haven’t written so much as an e-mail since October 14. Much needed vacation, although, in this case, it was more or less a “stay-cation.” Just the Oregon back country between here and Boise, Idaho (business convention).

So, I’ll intersperse this with Oregon pix, which turns out to be appropriate. This is the state that the [mystery benefactors]’ little organization, Freedomworks* wants to buy with their stealth cash.

vac01

(* Founded as Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984, after David Koch’s LITERAL purchase of the Vice Presidential slot on the Libertarian ticket in 1980 and walkout from the Libertarian Party Convention in 1984. The parallel Citizens for a Sound Economy FOUNDATION is now Americans for Prosperity. These are the two[?] main groups promoting the “Tea Party” movement.)

In part i, we’ll look ONLY at the state of Oregon, so that you can watch the dynamic, which is replayed in many other states. Had this been a picture book, this would be fig. 1. But, I PROMISE you, it will pay off in the end if you will take a moment to wade through this little explanatory opening:

Let’s start with a sticky wicket that all of our stealth political groups use as a specific kind of tax dodge. In IRS-ese it’s called a 501(c)(3), which is the portion of the tax code that deals with tax-deductible charities, like, say, the Red Cross or the Girl Scouts. They’re NOT supposed to politick on charitable organizations, since that would mean that your political contributions could be tax-deductible.

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Sunrise over Boise, Idaho

So, they walk right up to the line as “non-partisan” public “education” organizations, like, say, the Heritage Foundation, or Freedomworks, or the Cato Institute. And the C3 contributions are fully tax-deductible. Like, say, the Red Cross or the ASPCA.

Got that? Good.

Now: very often, they have a twin organization called a 501(c)(4), which is a slightly different entity that CAN play politics. C4 contributions aren’t tax-deductible like C3’s, yes, but they DON’T have to reveal WHERE those contributions came from. Anonymous donations are OK, in other words.

If you want to promote, say, dolphin extermination, you might have a Yummy Dolphin Foundation, which is a C3, to “educate the public on the nutritive value of dolphins” AND you would have a C4 to engage in political campaigns to overturn bans on dolphin “harvesting,” which would have the same offices and the same board members, and probably the same employees as the “charity.”

Some groups have twins, which twin again, as in the Citizens for a Sound Economy, which becomes Freedomworks and Freedomworks Foundation, and the Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, which becomes the Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

And so on and so forth, like political paramecia. In this case, the political petrie dish is Oregon. It isn’t just Oregon, or just Freedomworks. But here, out West, we’re just a little state, and these things show up in much sharper relief with a little daylight. Back East, the background noise tends to hide the outlines I’m about to limn here.

vac00We begin: Outside of Springfield, Oregon

Who are we talking about?

Back in 2006, after the whole Howie Rich ballot initiative scheme played out, and tens of millions of dollars were spent, and local media in state after state (Arizona, Washington, California, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Maine, etc. etc.) asked WHO the stealth funders of their TABOR and eminent public domain and “rainy day” funds and term limits propositions, measures, questions and initiatives finally were, the trail stopped at Howie Rich, and an incurious media stopped right there.

But, as the Center for Public Integrity’s “Takings” project found at the end, virtually all of the funds came from three entities, but they COULD NOT FIND OUT WHO THOSE ENTITIES WERE! They weren’t Howie Rich, though. Rich turned his attentions to South Carolina and his compatriots formed NEW astroturf groups (which is a story for another day), supposedly not associated with Howie.

That 501(c)(4) trick works quite nicely to anonymously slush funds into political campaigns. Only here, we’re talking about an anonymous government.

And that, my friends, is the issue: Is the initiative process a check on corrupt and bribed politicians, or do their shadowy masters now USE that selfsame system AGAINST state legislatures?

And who are these self-anointed masters? Who are our shadowy rulers, who hire the likes of Howie Rich and his sleazy political operatives to write their own laws in states that they do not live in? Imposing their “philosophy” on “We The People” when they don’t even LIVE in the states in question?

Is this “democracy”? Is this “self-governance”?

Here’s how rule by the Shadow Masters works:

The state legislature either passes something that the shadowy benefactors don’t like, or else, they want a law pressing their agenda, and a well-oiled operation springs into being.

vac12 heading to MacKenzie Pass from near sea level

Polling is done. A campaign of how to sell it is mapped out.

A “chief petitioner” is found. A “proposition” is minted and filed with the state. (Increasingly, the “chief petitioner” is a front person, to make it appear “grass roots.”)

A new committee is founded. And funded. A C3 and a C4 are incorporated.

C3 is the “charity.” When you give them money, you can write it off your federal income tax, like it was the Red Cross, or Goodwill Industries.

C4 is the “Inc.” and does the politicking. You can give them as much money as you want anonymously, and nobody can ever find out where it came from. Just ask the investigative reporters at the Center for Public Integrity.

vac13the pass into Eastern Oregon

And a website goes up.

An army of “petition gatherers” is hired, generally paid PER signature. A certain number above the required number is gathered, using statistical analysis from prior modeling, etc. Very sophisticated stuff.

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the road to the Painted Hills in John Day National Monument

Media companies are hired and the proposal goes on the ballot, with media buys, radio and TV production, printing and mass mailing, and even, with the Howie Rich stuff, audio-visual stunts (the Pig and before that, the “Trojan Horse”, guaranteed to get cheesy puns from the Yokel … er, LOCAL media)*.

[* Gee, that last one sure SOUNDS like the Tea Party FREEDOM bus tours going on at present. Don’t worry. It’s not an accident, or copycat: Howie Rich’s Americans for Limited Government is a co-sponsor. See “By Their Pigs Ye Shall Know Them” for details.]

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Painted Hills in John Day National Monument

This whole ball of snakes is like a baobob tree’s branches on an invisible trunk.

So, let’s keep it easy and Oregon:

A “new” set of twins was formed in Oregon in the spring of this year, called “Common Sense for Oregon.”

When you check the registration of their website, this is what comes back:

Domain ID:D155196414-LROR

Domain Name:COMMONSENSEFOROREGON.ORG

Created On:26-Jan-2009 22:29:37 UTC

Last Updated On:28-Mar-2009 03:56:24 UTC

Expiration Date:26-Jan-2011 22:29:37 UTC

Sponsoring Registrar:GoDaddy.com, Inc. (R91-LROR)

Registrant ID:GODA-058633060

Registrant Name:Ross Day

Registrant Organization:Chemeketa Community College

Registrant Street1:7831 St Charles St NE

Registrant City:Keizer

Registrant State/Province:Oregon

Registrant Postal Code:97303

Registrant Country:US

Registrant Phone:+1.5033041893

Registrant Email:ross@oia.org

Hmm. That OIA in the email address stands for “Oregonians in Action,” which makes sense, since Ross Day has been a paid employee of Oregonians in Action for many years now.

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John Day National Monument sign

Indeed, Ross Day is credited with being “the author of measure 37” — on which a big chunk of the Howie Rich 2006 campaign was predicated on.*

[* Please note: the error that the Center for Public Integrity made in their investigation was HUGE — cluelessly, or arrogantly or just plain sloppily, the CPI decided to investigate “takings” — thus, the “Takings Project” — and missed the related term limits, TABOR, and other initiatives that the SAME GROUP was pushing. While their investigation was good, they fatally hamstrung it by DEFINING IN ADVANCE what they were looking for (“takings”), rather than following where the trail actually led. CPI has never corrected this error, and their reports invariably exclude as much vital information as they include. This is much like the ill-fated declaration of a “War on Terror” which ultimately is as futile as a war against sand. How you define your goals is of vital importance in determining what goals you actually achieve, or, NEVER LET YOUR WEBSITE DESIGN PREDETERMINE AND DICTATE YOUR CONTENT.]

The fact that Ross Day lists “Chemeketa Community College” as the organization is probably just a clerical error on his part, since it is unlawful for a state educational institution to engage in political activity, which is what “Common Sense for Oregon” does.

But let’s follow the trail, shall we?

From the Portland Oregonian [emphasis added]:

Ross Day, Russ Walker, Kevin Mannix by Oregonian

photo: Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

Meeting in Salem, (from left) Ross Day, anti-tax activist Russ Walker and former gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix discuss a cluster of new groups they’ve created to serve as a one-stop operation for conservative initiative drives.

Oregon conservatives launch nonprofits to push initiatives

By Dee Lane, The Oregonian

August 01, 2009, 10:00AM

Ross Day is a boyish, earnest lawyer who says his mission is to rescue the most powerful political tool that conservatives have in Democratic-controlled Oregon: the ballot initiative.

Day has joined forces with two of the state’s top conservative political activists — former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix and anti-tax crusader Russ Walker — to form a petitioning firm and an accompanying think tank aimed at providing a steady supply of credible ballot measures.

“I want people to feel good about the system again,” said Day. “I want to make sure it’s done right.

[…]

Day, previously an attorney for the property rights group Oregonians in Action, said he has long thought that the conservative movement needed to take a more sophisticated approach to ballot measures.

Last year, Day approached Mannix, who agreed to help him get the organizations off the ground. They set up three inter-related organizations — two non-profits and a political action committee — under the shared name of Common Sense for Oregon. By having the different entities, they can engage in a wide variety of political and policy work.

In addition, the trio formed a for-profit petitioning firm called Voice of the Electorate, which they also refer to as Vote Oregon. Day, working out of office space donated by Mannix next to his law firm in Salem, is the chief executive of both nonprofits and the petitioning company.

[…]

Common Sense for Oregon has already filed 14 initiatives and has another three in the works, although Day said the group won’t try to qualify all of them for the ballot.

Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense … Common Sense has also been running radio advertising and promoting a new “Golden Fleece Award” attacking what it regards as examples of wasteful government spending.

Earlier this month, Voice of the Electorate won the contract to gather signatures aimed at forcing a referendum on two tax hikes passed by the Legislature.

So far, the firm has received at least $200,000 from the business coalition seeking the referendum….

Yeah.

But let’s look at the Freedomworks connection here, because that’s the easiest thread to follow.

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West of Mitchell, Oregon, East of the Ochoco Mtns.

This year, they started out in June, by gladhanding Teabaggers:

Two-days-until-Liberty-Summit-Sign-up-today!.html

by In the news

Thursday, June 4. 2009

Oregon Liberty Summit

Saturday, June 6

Salem, Red Lion

Sponsored by: FreedomWorks, Oregon Citizens For A Sound Economy PAC, Taxpayer Defense Fund, Taxpayers Association of Oregon, Cascade Policy Institute, Common Sense For Oregon, Contractors Association of Oregon, Oregon Patriots of Resistnet.com, 9-12 Project- Salem, Campaign For Liberty, Concerned Oregonians

Guest Speakers:

Russ Walker– FreedomWorks, Taxpayer Defense Fund, Oregon Citizens For A Sound Economy, Northwest Director

Ted Abram, American Institute for Full Employment, President; State Policy Network, FreedomWorks Foundation, Board of Directors

Ross Day, Common Sense for Oregon, Executive Director

Kevin Mannix, Common Sense for Oregon, Oregon Crime Coalition, President

Gee. Freedomworks in Oregon = Mannix, Walker and Day. Some of my long-standing readers might recall that I broke the story that Kevin Mannix (f0rmer state GOP chairman, GOP Gubernatorial and Attorney General candidate) was NATIONAL C3 Freedomworks’ highest paid subcontractor — you know, the one in Washington, D.C. where Dick Armey “runs” the organization? [See: “7 March 2008, and Thursday, 8 March 2007: “Kevin Mannix FreedomWorks’ Highest Paid Subcontractor“.]

“Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense”

And remember who Freedomworks says they are. From their mission statement [emphasis added]:

Background Statement

Our values are deeply rooted in the philosophy of freedom found in the works of Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman … Our commitment to overcome all obstacles is inspired by the leadership of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan [?].

The bold red are pretty hard-core libertarian — although, perhaps tellingly, there is no mention of the (Robert) Heinleinian strain of that philosophy of unfettered individualism, a/k/a “The virtue of selfishness,” as Rand once assayed in her essay. And, oddly, why all the secrecy and subterfuge? Why the mystery? At any event, for Oregon, our Ayn Rand Supermen representatives are presently Mannix, Walker and Day.

“Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense”

More than that, Day would not say.

From the 2006 tax return (a 990 Charitable return, which is a public record):

The Oregonian dug up another tax return (2005) and found that Mannix had received over half-a-million dollars, which they noted in their story about Mannix paying off all his late campaign debts in one day with about half a million dollars to run for last year’s open congressional seat. Mannix’s funky finances torpedoed his campaign, but he still ran some ballot measures (all of which lost).

“Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense”

Well, the 2008 tax returns have now become available for public inspection, and guess what? Kevin Mannix remains Freedomworks’ TOP C3 contractor for 2008 with $171,000. (Up from $85,000 in 2007).

2008 mannix $171K

Freedomworks’ 2008 501(c)(3) 990 click to download

But aren’t there 49 other states in the USA? you ask. Evidently not to Freedomworks. When not organizing Tea Parties, they’re up to their eyeballs in Oregon affairs. Take a look at who ELSE is on the Freedomworks gravy train (same tax return – FreedomWorks Oregon Director is Russ Walker, not Richard Walker. Clerical error by tax preparer):

2008 Oregon Director

Click for 2008 page facsimile (and note Dick Armey’s salary)

Yup. $131,032.00. Freedomworks’ Oregon State Director (the only state director listed) got more cash from Freedomworks’ C3, C4 and “other” than the Governor of Oregon for the same period — which was, according to multiple sources, $93,600.

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Vail, Oregon (Near the Idaho Border)

That’s $37,432 worth of difference between privately legislating for Freedomworks and legislating as the highest ranking public servant in the state of Oregon.

“Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense”

(Of course, one supposes that Freedomworks expects Russ Walker to do MORE legislating than the Oregon governor. And, seemingly, he does.)

commonsense abstract

(no more information available)

One of the nice things about starting new C3’s and C4’s is that it hides your paper trail. Given that the standard practice is to delay filing the tax return until the last possible extension deadline (usually November 15 of the following year), don’t expect to see ANY hard financial data from a tax return on Common Sense for Oregon until (at the earliest) December of 2011. Convenient for the 2010 elections, don’t you think?

commonsenseor

note the Orwellian “green” motif

of the logo; does anyone believe that

this color choice was an “accident”?

(Just in case you wondered why anyone would want to keep creating new C3 and C4 entities.)

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On the Idaho border @ Ontario, Oregon

That’s two of the three principals of the “new” “Common Sense” group, Mannix and Walker. What about the third? Ross Day?

Glad you asked.

Well, aside from working for the evil state government as adjunct faculty at Chemeketa Community College (formerly the Salem Technical-Vocational School, until 1969) — as Day lists on the CommonSenseforOregonDOTorg website registration above, implying that the Community College is somehow involved or ENDORSES “Common Sense for Oregon,” inappropriately, as the lawyer who WROTE Measure 37 OUGHT to know — conservative/libertarian blog Oregon Catalyst tells us (note the date):

Ross Day leaves OIA. Begins private practice.

by In the news

Thursday, February 5. 2009

After many years of fighting to protect property rights with Oregonians In Action, the esteemed attorney Ross Day is heading to Salem to begin private practice including working for the Common Sense Committee. This also brings him closer to his family where he lives in Marion County. Ross has been a valuable partner to OIA and a dear friend to landowners across Oregon.

Posted by In the news at 07:30

That represents, as we shall see, a significant loss of revenue for Ross Day. From Oregonians In Action’s latest C4 tax return for 2006* (as is normal, the “extension” went to November 15, 2007, and OIA’s president signed it on November 15, 2007, as late as it’s possible to hold off on filing):

paycheck06

click to download the full tax return

[* NOTE: OIA comprises FOUR separate tax entities:

  • Oregonians in Action, Inc. (501(c)(4) political entity)
  • Oregonians in Action Legal Center (501(c)(3) charity)
  • Oregonians in Action Education Center (501(c)(3) charity)
  • Oregonians in Action Fund (501(c)(3) charity)

So that you can give to three of ’em and take a deduction from your federal tax return as a “charity.” The rest of us then subsidize the activity by making up the shortfall in taxes. I continue to be AGAINST this scam by ALL parties. Politick on your OWN money, please. Not mine.]

Gee. Before the “perks” and add-ons, Day was making slightly LESS than the Oregon Governor. But with them, he made more, $108,822 — appropriate for the “author” of Measure 37, the “develop it all” initiative of 2004.

Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense

Now, there’s a lot more. I’ve followed Freedomworks’ money into the triumvirate of Kevin Mannix, Russell Walker and Ross Day. Tomorrow, we’ll see how that money moves back out. Or, perhaps, IN.

What’s important to note here is that:

  1. “Common Sense for Oregon” was formed as a C4 and C3 organization this spring by two of Freedomworks’ highest paid employees, in the ONLY state that Freedomworks is channeling significant cash into.
  2. That the third member of the triumvirate, Ross Day, is a long time well-compensated employee of an ideologically affiliated organization “Oregonians in Action” and a longtime “initiative” player.
  3. That “Common Sense for Oregon” (typically) refuses to tell WHO is backing it, and
  4. Oh yeah ….

“Common Sense for Oregon” has literally stolen the late Senator William Proxmire’s (D, Wisc.) well-known “Golden Fleece Award,” revived in2000 by the actually non-partisan and well-regarded Taxpayers for Common Sense, and, following this blatant act of intellectual (while legal) theft, are presenting themselves as ‘champions against government “waste” ‘ and big-time ethical operators.

Yeah. Right. Sure. Some kind of ethics.

National Audience: This is the drama being played out nationally and, for me, locally.

Oregon Audience: Regarding what you’re reading: Sins of Omissi0n? Yes.

Oregon’s “secret legislature” uses several groups and we have had several “professional” initiative filers through the years, but I am paring it down to keep things as simple as possible. That the complexity in design is intentional, cannot be in doubt, most likely to KEEP reporters from tracking these endlessly politically incestuous relationships, as noted in the “Our Oreg0n” blog in May of 2006:

IP24 Judges by District and IP57 Eminent Domain – All tangled up with Oregonians in Action, Oregon Family Farm Association ($100,000 from Loren Parks this cycle), Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, timber interests, FreedomWorks and Democracy Direct. Loans every which way.

and, further down (just to give you a flavor):

Crazy PAC Coincidences

OIA PAC is making in-kind contributions of phone calls to the following cozy friends:

IP6 TABOR campaign

Larry George for State Senate

Ross Day

IP90 Jessica’s Law

PO Box 1304 in Silverton is soooooo popular. It is shared by:

Friends of Karen Minnis PAC

Oregon Financial Services Association (a PAC representing payday lenders)

The Speaker’s PAC

Friends of Gary George

Keep Our Daughters Safe Committee (IP51: Parental Notification)

The Leadership Fund (for Republican candidates for the Oregon Senate)

Majority 2006

Healthpac & Healthpac II (for IP112)

And so on and so forth.

The “initiative” process, pioneered by Oregon in 1904, as a means of stopping corrupt and bribed legislators stalling needed reforms has been co-opted by the corrupters and bribers to STOP the Oregon legislature from making needed reforms.

vac07

Oregon, just before the the Idaho border

This year, the shadowy masters of Freedomworks have decided to undo the entire state budget on a “no taxes!” basis, and guess what? That brand new company from brand new “Common Sense for Oregon” Mannix, Walker and Day “Voice of the Electorate, which they also refer to as Vote Oregon?

So far, they’ve raked in $550,000, hired ex-felons to petition and are being financed by a “new” campaign committee called The Stop Job Killing Taxes Committee.

WOW! Oregon tax referendum drive nets 125,000 signatures!

by In the news

Friday, September 25. 2009

Taxpayer Association of Oregon breaking news,

ross day-pyle- russ walker-over

Picture: Grassroots coordinator Paulette Pyle speaks in front of a massive stack of referendum petition boxes. Left is Ross Day of Common Sense for Oregon. On the right is Russ Walker (Freedomworks) and Andrew Over (State Director Oregon GOP).

The Stop Job Killing Taxes campaign turned in an incredible 129,500 signatures (petition 301) and 126,183 (petition 302) which is more than double the needed requirement.

The rally at the steps of the Secretary of State’s office was led by Paulette Pyle a veteran grassroots activists [sic] and agriculture-forestry advocate.... Jeff Kropf of Americans for Prosperity Oregon Chapter spoke and said “It is wrong to raise taxes in a recession which will cost jobs at the same time when the state has five billion in reserves and is hiring new employees.” A chart near Jeff Kropf showed how private sector jobs dropped by over 70,000 while government jobs grew.

Russ Walker spoke on how over 10,000 Freedomworks volunteers helped circulate petitions and created a flood of volunteer signatures.” […]

Oddly, Russ Walker didn’t seem to say anything about the petition gatherers that his brand new company was paid half a million dollars to hire for the petitions. But then, Freedomworks IS paying him $131,0oo per annum — maybe even so fast he can’t keep up with it — and he ought to put his employers’ interests ahead of his own pecuniary pursuits.

Unless, of course, they coincide.

vac05

Sunrise over Boise, Idaho. End of first leg of vacation.

And we still don’t know who the shadow masters actually are.

In 2006, using Howard Rich and his many front groups as a front themselves, three persons or entities attempted to act as a self-appointed legislature — a political star chamber — in dozens of states, from coast to coast, California to Maine. And they spent tens of millions of dollars to do so.

And we still have no idea who those three shadowy figures were. Right now, shadowy forces have decided to overturn the budget that the Oregon legislature painstakingly and painfully spent half of this year creating.

The special election is in January.

Perhaps it’s representative democracy, but I’d sure as hell like to know WHO it is that Mannix, Walker and Day are representing. Because that doesn’t seem like democracy at all.

More like oligarchy, or perhaps plutocracy, certainly a dubious sort of ‘representative’ democracy when you don’t know who’s being represented by slick ads, slick political operatives, and slick new companies, C4’s, C3’s and the rest of it.

Who elected the shadow government, please? And can I have MY vote back?

Mannix, Walker and Day: Freedomworks team for Oregon?

“Day refused to say who is giving money to Common Sense”

Day won’t say. No way, José. Say hey? No way. OK? OK. Day no se. Oy vey. Odelay.

(next: we follow the money some more)

Now, isn’t that a scary Halloween story?

Courage.

h/t to K.C. VanNatta

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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3 Responses to Freedomworks’ Little Frankenstein Lab: Oregon

  1. PEACE says:

    Need to read this again and be on top of Mitchell Oregon East of the Ochoco Mtns.

  2. PlacitasRoy says:

    Great article, but I found the beautiful pictures of Oregon to interfere with the flow.

    Thom Hartman and Carl Wolfson frequently talk about the flawed initiative system on Portland’s KPOJ http://www.620kpoj.com/main.html but I don’t think they have mentioned the Freedoms’ Work connection. I am forwarding this to them.

  3. A bit of Oregon history, commonly knowledge in state, but not out, is that in the 1920s, Oregon was the most Klan dominated state in the nation.