Some REAL Astroturf in Oregon

News Flash: The Los Angeles Times SUCKS.

OK. Not so much news. But consider the arrogance, the clueless elitism of this first sentence of the report on Oregon’s election:

Voters in Oregon OK tax hikes for some

Corporations and wealthy families are targeted to help ease the state’s budget crisis.
By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times
January 27, 2010

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada – Facing a budget crunch that threatened to close schools early, lay off teachers and slash healthcare benefits, Oregon voters ended two decades of tax scrimping Tuesday by approving higher taxes on corporations and wealthy families …

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada“?

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada“?!??

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada“?!?!?!??

What’s the damned problem, LAT? Wasting all your cash on your scheissbloggers Andrew Malcolm and Johanna Neumann? Good ghod. Who would accept: MASSACHUSETTS ELECTS BROWN IN STUNNING UPSET … Reporting from Bangor,  Maine. Or, Reporting from Cleveland, Ohio (e.g. two states away)?

Two states?

What the f*** are we? Some far land that an LAT reporter can’t be spared to visit? Uzbekistan? Lower Volta? Botswanaland? East Los Angeles?

I mean, California shares our southern border. You mean that they didn’t have ANY L.A. Times stringers who could make the drive up  from, say, Redding?

OK. The Los Angeles Times sucks. We’ve established that. So, who does Dipstick McScribbler quote in his hoity toity story?

[Note: blogospheric reaction deftly chronicled here.]

“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.

“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. [emphasis added]

(Leaving aside the fact that this is the last election in American History in which Richie Riches can whine that workers outspent the millionaires …)

Yeah. No suspicious sounding title there. Nosiree.

Speaking of astroturf, here’s Michelle Malkin, tearing herself away from her bragging about her “Astroturf Nation” posting on Hannity (as noted yesterday):

My Shrill Merkin™

Oregon to businesses: Screw you

By Michelle Malkin  •  January 27, 2010 10:15 AM

Big Labor poured millions of rank-and-file members’ dues into a tax hike campaign in Oregon. It worked. The “wealthy” and the “evil corporations” will now be forced to bail out government schools and social services. Look for affected business owners to start Going Galt en masse.

The Oregonian reports on the gloating by public employee union brass and class warfare propagandists. You betcha the White House is paying attention. Paging Tea Party activists…


Time to find a more hospitable climate, gentlemen.

Yeah. Now Oregon’s the 45th lowest business taxes* in the USA. But Malkin knows FAR more about my state’s situation than I do. So, I’ll just return to talking about her OTHER area of instantaneous expertise: Astroturf.

[* The lowest business taxes of the eleven western states, according to the Oregon House’s Ways and Means Chairman, this morning on the Jefferson Exchange — so moving away would require a LONG, even epic emigration.]

“Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes” is what we call REAL astroturf. Not some innocent getting letters published (that disagree with the views of “personalities” like Malkin) in newspapers coast to coast. No: REAL astroturf.

So who is “Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes”?

Good question. He’s a partner in Portland’s Conkling Fiskum & McCormick.

What do they do? From their “What we do” page:

What We Do
Practice Areas

Conkling Fiskum & McCormick is a market-leading Northwest firm primarily focused on three practice areas:

Public Affairs:

We are lobbyists at the federal, state and local levels. CFM helps organizations with public policy, appropriations and managing issues.

Our services: State and Local Public Affairs and Federal Affairs.

Public Relations:

We help market ideas, pass ballot measures, sell products and prepare clients to work effectively with the media and target audiences. More important, we help organizations manage reputations.

Our services: Ballot Measures, Cause Marketing, Crisis Communications, Interactive Communications, Issues Management, Marketing Communications, Reputation Management and Word of Mouth Marketing.


Expert research is the foundation of our success stories. We give you more than raw data. Our value added is helping clients understand next steps. We do this with a host of tools and market-leading techniques. See our Research tools.

And, here’s how they deal with ballot measures:

Ballot Measures

Throughout the state, Oregonians treasure their unique quality of life. Business owners, educators and workers from all walks of life are invested in the way city, county and state governments work together — or don’t. When your objectives include passing or defeating an initiative, referendum or local measure, you’ll want to draw on CFM’s counsel. Conkling Fiskum & McCormick has a proven track record in campaign communications for ballot and bond measures.

We can help you assess the political viability of issues, craft appealing ballot titles and communicate with the people you need to reach. You’ll want a communications plan based on research — not guesswork — to ensure success. You’ll want to develop memorable key messages that pinpoint the benefits of your proposal.

CFM’s relationships with the media, editorial writers and grassroots organizations will help you spread the word. CFM will allow your issue specialists to focus their efforts in areas where their expertise will matter most; we’ll shape it into a form that will get results.

Ah, whores!

Yes, I am certain that there are political things that they will not do. But, hey, Annette Haven refused to take facials, or do anal, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t a porn star.

A profession NOT to always be confused with whores. If you don’t believe me, look at McCormick’s official bio. He even has a “prestigious” award for “communications integrity”:

Partner : Pat McCormick


Pat brings more than 35 years of experience in Oregon public policy and communications to the counsel he offers clients and colleagues. In 1999, his Portland PR peers honored him with the prestigious William Marsh Lifetime Achievement Award for communications integrity.  Careful management of sensitive issues is a hallmark of CFM’s work and Pat has counseled clients dealing with product recalls, litigation, tax abatements, regulatory challenges, facility siting – even a proposal to tax pet food. And no one has managed communications on more statewide ballot measures.  Pat’s public policy role began as chief of staff to Oregon House Majority Leader [Democrat] Les AuCoin, then as AuCoin’s Oregon staff director after AuCoin was elected to Congress. Pat returned to the state capitol as chief of staff to House Speaker [Democrat] Hardy Myers.  Pat then founded his own public affairs firm and directed the state’s high tech trade association. He managed state affairs for Tektronix and served as Senior VP at a major advertising and PR agency before joining CFM in 1991.

But you see, Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes  only HIRED Pat McCormick. Who are OAJKT? (I know, it looks like a poker hand). That’s a very good question, and I CAN’T ANSWER IT.

They were formed on July 14 (Bastille Day, yuck yuck), 2009, by what seem to be employees of a public relations firm with email addresses ending in

Their treasurer is a fellow named Mark W. Nelson who DOESN’T have an email address, but lists a work number of (503) 363-7084.

Which turns out to be the phone number of:

Public Affairs Counsel Inc.
867 Liberty St NE
Salem, OR 97301-2451
(503) 363-7084

Funny thing is, Nelson’s name is removed on July 29, 2009. But he’s still active in the campaign, evidently, as noted in the Great Spadea Kerfuffle (emphasis added):


By MITCH NOLAN — Thursday, January 21, 2010; 8:25 pm

There has been no shortage of advertising in advance of next Tuesday’s special election on tax measures 66 and 67. Some of that advertising has been controversial, but this week, the controversy has surrounded one of the media outlets that accepted that advertising.

On Sunday and Wednesday, The Oregonian’s front page was wrapped by a spadea, a double-sided format that covers half of the front page and all of the “A” section’s back page. Below The Oregonian’s nameplate and a “paid advertisement” disclaimer are the large, bold words, “The Oregonian’s editorial board urges voters to VOTE NO on Measures 66 and 67.”

Pat McCormick, spokesperson for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes, says his organization inquired about the spadea before The Oregonian’s January 4 “vote no” editorial. At the time, however, the paper’s advertising department told them that The Oregonian did not accept political ads in the spadea format. After the editorial, McCormick says lobbyist Mark Nelson had the campaign’s media-buying firm make another effort to secure the spadea, which they were successful at doing.

But while The Oregonian’s endorsement was what prompted the campaign’s second push for a spadea, publisher Chris Anderson repeatedly stressed to OMC that the paper’s decision to run the ad “had nothing to do with the endorsement — not at all.” […]

Ah, THAT Mark Nelson.

And, of course, the “director” of Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes? (link added)

Director Name
Erica Hagedorn

P. O. Box 12682
Salem, OR 97309

Ain’t that cool? I can look up their address, but on official documents, OAJKT is just a post office box. Hey: the IRS won’t let you file TAXES to a post office box. But you can run a multi-million dollar initiative campaign out of one?


So, what does Erica Hagedorn (in later amendments, “Erica H Hagedorn” but she moves to Treasurer, replacing Mark W. Nelson) uh, DO?


Ah. And, of course she works for …

Public Affairs Counsel
Salem, OR

Now, after July 29, Danile Kelly moves to “Director,” and HER occupation is listed as:


And her employer, is, of course

Public Affairs Counsel
Salem, OR

So, there’s your official “director” of OAJKT, an accountant, and the “treasurer,” a lobbyist. Curiouser and curiouser as Alice was wont to say (and happy birthday, Lewis Carroll).

So, who’s Public Affairs Counsel? Since “they” seem to be the “grass roots” group “Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes”?

Good question.

According to SourceWatch (emphasis added):

Public Affairs Counsel (PAC) is an Oregon campaign management firm that also conducts public opinion polling and engages in legislative lobbying. The firm has done extensive campaign management in Oregon on behalf of the Tobacco Institute, and later on behalf of individual tobacco companies, to defeat clean indoor air measures and increases in the statewide cigarette tax.

The president of PAC is Mark W. Nelson, who was a former Executive Assistant to Oregon’s State Treasurer and Attorney General. Nelson has served as a campaign and public opinion consultant since 1980.

In 2007, PAC operated a tobacco industry front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check, formed to fight Measure 50, a ballot initiative to increase Oregon’s cigarette tax. The post office box number that Oregonians Against the Blank Check gave on its web site contact page was the same as the P.O. Box belonging to Public Affairs Counsel. [1] [2]

Nelson and PAC worked with the Tobacco Institute in 1987-1988 to help defeat a clean indoor air measure in Oregon [3], and have continued to work for them.

PAC has long been active in Oregon helping the tobacco industry defeat cigarette taxes. In 1996, PAC and Nelson headed a front group called “Fairness Matters to Oregonians,” funded by the Tobacco Institute’s Oregon Executive Committee (a small, state-level branch of the Tobacco Institute formed to defeat public health initiatives in that state), using money derived from Philip MorrisR.J. ReynoldsAmerican Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco Co.. In a proposal from Fairness Matters to Oregonians, Nelson wrote, “PAC has successfully managed and defeated every anti-tobacco initiative put forward in Oregon since 1988.” […]

Isn’t that special?

Do we actually know WHO OAJKT is? Naw.

Mostly big business donors. A slick, faceless, professional campaign in two phases:

  • One, hire somebody to put the Oregon legislature’s attempt to lawfully present a required by law balanced budget without gutting the state’s services (including, thanks to a property tax initiative, the state’s schools, which have to be funded by the legislature) on the ballot with paid initiative petitioners.

That would be Mannix, Walker and Day (as I exhaustively laid out in November 3rd’s “). Yeah. THAT Freedomworks.

  • Two, do a massive media buy and hire a “consultant” or “spokesmodel” or whatever else you call paid political whoring to manage the campaign’s media. Say, a company like Conkling Fiskum & McCormick. ” And a veteran like McCormick (emphasis added):

…Careful management of sensitive issues is a hallmark of CFM’s work and Pat has counseled clients dealing with product recalls, litigation, tax abatements, regulatory challenges, facility siting – even a proposal to tax pet food. And no one has managed communications on more statewide ballot measures….

For the general election:  a massive media buy on December 28, 2009, as laid out in the Oregon Secretary of State’s ORESTAR campaign finance tracking. (To see, go HERE, and enter “Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes” without the quotes. Navigate.)

And, trust me, the battle of commercials raged all day and night. Letterman and Leno, news, you name it, with the “awful” unions managing to put THEIR commercials behind or next to the astroturf OAJKT’s slick commercials. And there were problems: a “bakery” going out of business commercial was revealed to be in California. The OAJKT team couldn’t find a poster child for any business that would go OUT of business. Etcetera.

Copyright © 2009 Oregonians Against Job Killing Taxes.
All rights reserved. PO Box 12682, Salem, OR 97309

But REAL, honest to goodness astroturf. And, guess who they were paying for staff and services? (I’ll tell you in a minute.)

Now, I haven’t delineated how Public Affairs little astroturf group paid Public Affairs Counsel, have I? Seven days before the election [686873]:  (Click on the linked number to look at the reported transaction on ORESTAR.)

Transaction ID:686873
Transaction Date:01/19/2010

Payment Method: Check

Amount: $13,083.00
Aggregate: $27,083.00 (Prior payment of

And we’re not even to the final accounting. That’s just five figures, I guess, for those PAC employees to run OAJKT out of their post office box. Still, for a “grass roots” group, that’s serious money.

On the same day, January 19, the Oregon Republican Party ponies up $50,000 ($50,ooo aggregate for the whole election, too) [686843].

Weirdly, there’s ALSO a transaction of $5,900.00 (Aggregate: $15,900.00) TO the Oregon Republican Party for “General Operational Expenses (need description); Wages, Salaries, Benefits.” [686877]. SAME bunch, too, according to their state ID # (379).

Salaries? Wages?

That doesn’t look like sneaky — albeit legal — money laundering does it? Naw. Forget I mentioned it.

You don’t think that the Oregon Republican Party is engaged in a stealth campaign to undo the Democratic majority in the Legislature do you? I mean, Kevin Mannix WAS the Oregon Republican Party’s chairman, and attorney general candidate and gubernatorial candidate all in the last decade, right? The SAME Mannix who, with FreedomWorks’ Russ Walker, were the greatest recipients of Freedomworks’ NATIONAL largesse over the past couple of years (as I reported)?

Day, Walker, Mannix

Gee. That would be tantamount to treason: sneaking off after the legislative session and trying to exercise a “stealth” veto over the budget, aided and abetted by the biggest businesses in Oregon, wouldn’t it?

Perish the thought.

Let’s move on to nobler thoughts. More weird money to OAJKT:

And on the same day, January 19 — a week before the election — $2000 to “Marketing Communications Services” c/o a San Francisco address. “$2,000.00 Aggregate: $635,000.14”  (Don’t you  just love that 14¢ ?) [686875]. [NOTE: There’s even MORE cash here, $167,642.00, to be exact. See [668484] 12-29-09 Flint Schubert Public Affairs transaction for more details.)

And, on January 18th, $2000 to “Lori Hardwick Fundraising, Inc.” of  P. O. Box 25445 Portland OR 97298.  Because, you know, a popular “grass roots” movement like this needs professional fundraisers who operate out of their post office boxes. [684977].

But we still have no real idea WHO was actually behind OAJKT. A LOT of linkage with the Republican party, though, including the GOP’s Senate PAC, “The Leadership Fund” ($25,000 [679053])and lots of “Friends of” Republican legislators’ political funds: “Larry George for Senate” ($5000 [682871]). “Friends of Jay Bozievich.” “Friends of Tim Freeman.”  So many, in fact, that one half expects to see “Friends of Carlotta.”

And on January 13, we have this transaction with Public Direct: “Amount: $10,000.00 Aggregate: $100,000.00” [681271]. Of course, it’s not mentioned that Public Direct is, well, let’s let Public Affairs Counsel tell you in their own inimitable style:

Public Direct is the direct mail arm of Public Affairs Counsel. PAC provides a unique direct mail product that is not available anywhere else in the country. This mail provides the highest level of personalization with proven results on ballot measure and candidate campaigns.

Welcome to the future. Slick operatives and shuffling money. Astroturf and professional media consultants, San Francisco storefronts and  Media Services TV, radio and probably web commercial buys. Business bundling (anybody in Oregon who contributes individually to a campaign and isn’t as rich as Croesus, like Phil Knight of Nike — $100,o0o [675738] — is a damned fool) and four, five and six figure contributions from businesses and chambers of commerce. Forget that nickel and dime stuff. Politics is about professionals and MONEY, baby. Serious money given, and serious money “earned.” The “people”?

Forget it. We know how to manipulate their votes. And, if you look at the dollars spent on this campaign by both sides and the outcome, they roughly parallel in proportions.  These days in Oregon, the $ spent is always roughly equal to the votes garnered. Cash politics. Yum.

But the political rallies, and speeches etc? Not so much. A purchased campaign. Hired whores of the left taking on hired whores of the right. And then the right whining that they couldn’t outspend the collective working people. That’s not right, quoth they. Well, thanks to the Supreme Court last week, that era is over. Richies rule, right?

Elections are becoming like books. You don’t actually need to be an “author” to have a book tour and sign autographs. Just celebrity and a paid writing whore. I mean … ghostwriter.

You don’t actually need to be a “candidate” to have an election. Just cash and a paid campaign whore. Er … political consultant.

Add media buyer, publicity firm, and lots of bookings.

For either or both. They’re both as phony as a three dollar bill and nearly as valuable.

But what the hell. The progressives “won” right?

This time. But consider the shape of campaigns to come.

Oh, and take a look at THIS little $10,000 contribution that showed up on January 19 (hoping to stay under the radar?), also seven days before the election:

click for Oregon Secretary of State original

Yeah, our old Oregon initiative pal, Howie Rich.

Or, perhaps:

Which is NOT the same thing as somebody writing a letter to the editor that got into several newspapers. Not the same thing at all. Right Howie?

Well, at least you now know what “spadea” means.


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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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