Joan Mooney, top aide to Eric Shinseki and former chief of staff to US Rep. Darlene Hooley, resigns June 20 after grilling by House Committee on Veterans Affairs
The ongoing and expanding national scandal over veterans’ care has claimed yet another victim. This time it was not another veteran who died while lost on a secret wait list; but rather a high-ranking member of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s immediate staff. On June 20, Joan Mooney, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs, quietly announced her “retirement” following a withering barrage last month in front of a Congressional committee seeking answers to the recently released VA Inspector’s General interim report that confirmed the worst fears of those looking into VA practices around the nation, including Oregon.
Monica Wehby’s partner joins Nevada GOP donor to fund $106,000 PAC opposing Wehby’s chief rival.
Last month Nevada businessman Loren Parks and Stimson Lumber President Andrew Miller made headlines together when it was reported the two GOP donors had contributed a combined $100,000 to a first-time candidate in a contested Republican primary for the Oregon legislature. What was not reported then was Parks and Miller had teamed up to funnel $105,950 into a newly-formed federal political action committee to oppose Jason Conger in the May 2014 GOP primary for US Senate.
According to its FEC filings, the anti-Conger committee boasts the whimsical name, “If He Votes Like That In Salem Imagine What He Will Do In Congress.” For anyone familiar with Oregon politics in the past 20 years, that committee name is reminiscent of the committee names pioneered and popularized by Gregg Clapper, the public voice of several campaigns financed by Parks. And sure enough, the latest FEC filing for this committee reveals that Clapper has already been paid $7,500 as a consultant to the committee.
Of course, this is not the first time Parks and Clapper have collaborated in opposing a Republican in a contested primary. In 2006, Parks’ money and Clapper’s radio ads went after gubernatorial primary candidate Ron Saxton in a typical Clapper-esque radio ad which can be heard here. Despite the Parks-funded attack ads, Saxton defeated Kevin Mannix and Jason Atkinson in the May 2006 primary.
The original statement of organization for this “independent expenditure” committee was filed March 4 by attorney Tyler Smith, who serves as GOP chairman Art Robinson’s right-hand man and is considered the de facto counsel for the Oregon Republican Party. Smith’s filing indicated the committee’s initial treasurer was Rodney Stubbs, whose Linked-In profile indicates he is the Managing Director for Pacific Freedom Foundation. The address for the committee also was that of Pacific Freedom Foundation, a foreign business corporation whose authority to conduct business in Oregon was revoked by the Secretary of State in 2013. According to the Secretary of State website, Stubbs was the corporation’s registered agent and secretary while Smith was the agent for mailings. The committee dropped Stubbs as treasurer on March 31.
The committee’s first quarter report shows that Parks gave the committee $75,000 on March 15, followed by Miller’s $25,000 two days later. Then on March 19, Miller contributed an additional $5,950 in-kind contribution in the form of an anti-Conger billboard on I-205 in Clackamas County. The FEC report indicates $13,450 in expenditures, consisting of the billboard and Clapper’s fee. But that number is certainly higher today, given the committee’s recent media buy for anti-Conger radios ads.
GOP Hopeful calls Democrat Senator’s Healthy Americans Act “a good plan” by “a friend” with whom “she thinks a lot alike” on health care policy.
Dr. Monica Wehby, the self-described moderate Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, continued her leftward lurch from the GOP conservative base with her recent public revelation that she supported Democratic Senator Ron Wyden’s 2008 Healthy Americans Act, even going so far as to describe Oregon’s senior Democratic senator as a friend with whom she “thinks a lot alike” when it comes to health care policy.
Wehby’s stunning acknowledgment was reported in a recent piece by The Oregonian’s political reporter Jeff Mapes. In the article Wehby described Wyden’s HAA as “a good plan,” but acknowledging she did not agree with every element to the HAA, which is viewed by most as the early precursor to today’s Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Dr. Wehby’s praise for “WydenCare” was echoed by President Obama in a July 2009 interview with The Oregonian. But though the president indicated he also was in agreement “with 90%” of WydenCare, Obama also felt parts of the HAA were “too radical” for the country.
Democrats‘ SB 1543 would make it unlawful for an employer to cut employee hours to avoid costs and penalties of Obamacare.
Under current Oregon law, “The opportunity to obtain employment or housing or to use and enjoy places of public accommodation without unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age or disability hereby is recognized as and declared to be a civil right.” ORS 659A.006(2). If Democrats in Salem have their way, Oregonians will see full-time employment and Obamacare added to the list of civil rights enforceable by civil lawsuits and the heavy boot of the Bureau of Labor and Industries or BOLI.
Senate Bill 1543, sporting the name, “the Health Care Accountability Act,” sponsored by Multnomah County Democrats Michael Dembrow (SD23), Laurie Monnes Anderson (SD25) and Alissa Keny-Guyer (HD46), adds a new section to ORS chapter 659A, otherwise known by its short title, “the Oregon Equality Act.” ORS chapter 659A is Oregon’s statutory depository of civil rights legislation, including defining what acts are unlawful and specifying penalties for violations. As most Oregonians now know, it is unlawful for a Christian bakery to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple (see “Baking a BOLI Cake.”). ORS chapter 659A covers a wide spectrum of prohibited employment discrimination, from the listed protected classes above, as well as whistleblowing, family leave, employee housing, and more.
SB 1543 would add to the ever-expanding list of civil rights by making it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer to reduce the number of hours a full-time employee works solely for the purpose of preventing the employee from qualifying for coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as specified in 26 U.S.C. 4980H.” This provision deals with the so-called employer mandate of Obamacare, in which employers who employ more than 50 full-time equivalent employees must provide health insurance to those employees or face a government penalty. As widely reported this week, the Obama administration has once again delayed implementation of the employer mandate until 2016. But that does little to help Oregon employers who will be impacted by SB 1543.
Portland Physician Latest in Line of Moderate GOP Establishment Candidates
As expected, the race for the 2014 GOP nomination to oppose Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is shaping up as a two-way battle between a moderate GOP Establishment-backed candidate and a grass roots candidate relying almost exclusively on individual Oregonians for support. Any questions as to where Dr. Monica Wehby and State Rep. Jason Conger fit into that narrative were answered with the filing of their most recent FEC year-end campaign reports.
Wehby reported total receipts of $501,353, compared to Conger’s $213,102. A closer examination of each campaign’s report shows Wehby is relying heavily on out-of-state contributors and D.C. lobby PAC’s, while 95% of Conger’s money came from individual Oregonians. Of Wehby’s reported half million dollars in receipts, some $216,630 or 43% were out-of-state contributions. In fact, Wehby’s out-of-state fund-raising exceeded Conger’s $204,000 raised in state from Oregon individuals.
Multnomah GOP Boss Jeff Reynolds Hired to Defeat Republicans
Clackamas County commissioner and Republican candidate for Congressional District 5 Tootie Smith is no stranger to primary election battles. In 2000 Smith won a 4-way primary to reach the general election, where she defeated Democrat Mike Clarke to win the HD 28 legislative seat. Two years later, Smith beat James Buchal in the GOP primary and went on to defend her seat with no Democratic opposition. In 2012 Smith finished in the top two in the primary race for Clackamas County commissioner, then defeated Jamie Damon in the November general election.
Along the way Smith faced opposition from fellow Republicans in her partisan primaries and even in her county race. That is normal and expected for any political party. But Smith likely never faced the situation she faces today as an elected GOP county chair from her neighboring county not only is working to ensure her defeat, but is getting paid to do so. As expected, the latest FEC filing for 28-year old GOP candidate Ben Pollock shows that Multnomah County GOP chair Jeff Reynolds, along with his business partner and “chairman” of what remains of the Oregon Tea Party, John Kuzmanich, was paid $6,000 in the final quarter of 2013 to ensure Pollock’s victory – and Smith’s defeat – in the 2014 primary.
Former Democrat, Pacific Green, now Republican, Callahan Stumbles Badly on Lars Larson Show.
Mark Callahan is certainly ambitious, if not persistent. Armed with his pocket New Testament and pocket Constitution, Callahan is one of five candidates stumping for the GOP nomination in the May 2014 primary. At stake is the chance to oppose Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley in this year’s US Senate race. Callahan has all the Tea Party talking points memorized, while repeating his mantra of liberty and personal responsibility. But as we saw earlier with John Kuzmanich, preaching personal responsibility to others is sometimes easier than practicing the same virtues personally.
Callahan has built his most recent campaign around his five-point Eagle Scout mantra of “Leadership, Integrity, Character, Honor and Trust.” But a closer examination of the personal and political life of this GOP candidate reveals Callahan falls short in each trait he espouses. One thing is certain. Mark Callahan has never met a political party he wouldn’t join or political race he wouldn’t enter, ranging from local school board to President of the United States. And there’s little Callahan won’t say or do to get elected, a goal which he has yet to attain at any level.
It’s time for Multnomah County Republican Party chairman Jeff Reynolds to resign. No, the reason is not the bone-headed move to tie the MCRP raffle of an AR-style modern sporting rifle to the memory of Abraham Lincoln and slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, the latter of whom was murdered by an assassin wielding a scoped hunting rifle. MCRP has twice auctioned off DPMS AR-15 rifles before in an effort to raise money for the county party. Reynolds’ provocative move to link a firearms auction to the memory of an assassinated president and revered civil rights leader achieved its short term goal of capturing local media attention for the 24-hour news cycle. But the long term effect on Multnomah County Republicans, already a punch line in Oregon’s most liberal county, remains to be seen. Instead, Reynolds’ political problems were occurring on the radio air waves, and had nothing to do with the attention-grabbing gun auction.
While local media were pushing the MCRP rifle auction story, another political event unfolded the same day that should cause Reynolds to step down from his position as MCRP chairman. As expected, Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith finally announced she is entering the race to unseat Democrat Kurt Schrader in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. But before Smith can take on Schrader in a general election, she must first get past her primary opponent, Ben Pollock. As reported here in October, the Pollock campaign is being handled by the fledgling political consulting firm, American Strategies LLC, which is comprised of Reynolds and the self-styled “Chairman of the Oregon Tea Party,” John Kuzmanich.
In September of this year, Rocky King, then Executive Director of Cover Oregon, warned state legislators at a joint committee that the planned October 1 roll-out of the program would not go as planned. “It’s not going to be a beautiful implementation,” confessed King, in what should earn King the “Understatement of the Year” award. Indeed, the implementation of Cover Oregon has been an unmitigated disaster, despite $300 million of federal tax dollars poured into the program.
Even incumbent governor John Kitzhaber, who recently announced his re-election bid, acknowledges that Cover Oregon will be a political impediment for him to overcome, despite his substantial Democratic electoral advantage in Blue Oregon. While the media have been predictably slow to criticize Cover Oregon’s abject failure, the silence from those who contracted with Cover Oregon to implement the plan has been oddly conspicuous. Now we know why.
Third party status reports on the Cover Oregon implementation indicate the state knew as early as November 2012 that it would never meet its planned and announced October 1 deadline. Meanwhile, the state was entering into contracts with “community partners” who would do the groundwork required to implement Cover Oregon. When it became apparent that Cover Oregon would not only fail to meet its October 1 deadline, but also fail to even go live online, the state realized it had a public relations catastrophe on its hands that even a $28 million ad campaign could not cover over.
So in October, Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority quietly created and issued a one-page “Community Partner Confidentiality Agreement” that prohibited contracted partners, including their directors, officers, employees, agents, staff, volunteers and affiliates from making “any false, misleading, deceptive, libelous, defamatory, or obscene statements, written or oral, to the public or to Community Partner’s potential or actual clientele regarding Cover Oregon and its board, officers or employees.”
This non-disparagement agreement was so secret that Cover Oregon officials were confident enough to deny its very existence when asked about it by KXL News. However, when the producer of the Lars Larson Show specifically asked for a copy of the “Cover Oregon Community Partner Confidentiality Agreement,” state officials complied and sent a copy of the same document provided earlier by a confidential source. Both my office and KXL have made public records requests for a list of all parties required or requested to sign these agreements. [Disclaimer: I provide legal analysis and on-air commentary for Alpha Broadcasting, which includes KXL News and the Lars Larson Show].
While the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” will clearly be one of the most important campaign issues in the 2014 elections, for many Oregon Republicans, especially conservatives and Tea Party activists, gun control will also be a defining topic for the May 2014 primary. Oregon conservatives survived a barrage of Democratic measures in the 2013 legislative session, led by the usual suspects like Ginny Burdick and Floyd Prozanski. At the federal level, Democrats’ efforts to implement a nationwide “assault weapon” ban failed to ultimately materialize, though not for lack of trying.
With five declared GOP candidates vying for the opportunity to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the candidates’ position(s) on gun control could play a major factor for activists who consider the 2nd Amendment a constitutional right not to be treaded upon. This issue could become problematic for Dr. Monica Wehby, who is being touted by some Tea Party activists as their “grass roots” candidate. But it is highly unlikely that Dr. Wehby will receive the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, since Dr. Wehby serves as a Board of Trustee director of the American Medical Association, which the NRA considers an enemy of the 2nd Amendment.
As noted in an earlier article, Dr. Wehby is an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon who served as the president of the Oregon Medical Association in 2009. In 2011, Wehby was elected to a four-year term on the Board of Trustees of the AMA. One can presume that to be elected to the AMA board, one supports the policies of the AMA, and when it comes to gun control, the AMA is no friend of the 2nd amendment.