Loren Parks, Andrew Miller fund anti-Conger PAC
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was that of Pacific Freedom Foundation, a foreign business corporation whose authority to conduct business in Oregon was revoked by the Secretary of State in 2013.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.
Coordinated or Independent?
The FEC has strict rules and tests for determining if there is coordination between so-called independent expenditure committees and the candidate their effort is helping. In this case, given Miller’s not-so-secret relationship with Monica Wehby – Conger’s chief opponent in this primary – the question becomes whether the Wehby campaign engaged in any coordination with the committee funded by her partner and Parks.
The FEC uses a three-prong test to determine coordination between committees or candidates: payment, content and conduct.
Payment – This prong of the test merely requires that the communication (billboards, radio ads) need only be paid for, in whole or in part, by someone other than a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, a political party committee or an agent of the above. In other words, the anti-Conger communication must be paid for by someone other than the Wehby campaign. It’s not clear if Miller is an “agent” of the Wehby campaign, but assuming he is not, then the first prong of the coordination test is met.
Content – The content prong relates to the subject matter and timing of the communication. A communication can meet this part of the test by several means, including:
- A public communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate; or
- A public communication that is made within 90 days before an election and refers to a clearly identified House or Senate candidate and is publicly distributed in that candidate’s jurisdiction.
The anti-Conger billboard and radio ads clearly meet the second prong of the coordination test.
Conduct – The third and final prong examines the interactions between the person paying for the communication (e.g. Parks and Miller) and the candidate (Wehby), authorized committee or political party committee, or their agents. A communication satisfies this part of the test if it meets any one of five standards regarding the conduct of the person paying for the communication and the candidate, the candidate’s committee, a political party committee or agents of the above:
- If the communication is created, produced or distributed at the request or suggestion of the candidate, candidate’s committee, a party committee or agents of the above; or the communication is created, produced or distributed at the suggestion of the person paying for the communication and the candidate, authorized committee, political party committee or agent of any of the foregoing assents to the suggestion.
- If the candidate, the candidate’s authorized committee or party committee is materially involved in decisions regarding the content, intended audience, means or mode of the communication, specific media outlet used, the timing or frequency or size or prominence of a communication.
- If the communication is created, produced or distributed after one or more substantial discussions about the communication between the person paying for the communication or the employees or agents of that person and the candidate, the candidate’s committee, the candidate’s opponent or opponent’s committee, a political party committee or agents of the above.
- If the person paying for the communication employs a common vendor to create, produce or distribute the communication, and that vendor:
- Is currently providing services or provided services within the previous 120 days with the candidate or party committee that puts the vendor in a position to acquire information about the campaign plans, projects, activities or needs of the candidate or political party committee; and
- Uses or conveys information about the plans or needs of the candidate or political party, or information previously used by the vendor in serving the candidate or party, and that information is material to the creation, production or distribution of the communication.
5. If a person who has previously been an employee or independent contractor of a candidate’s campaign committee or a party committee during the previous 120 days uses or conveys information about the plans or needs of the candidate or political party committee to the person paying for the communication, and that information is material to the creation, production or distribution of the communication.
Whether there was any coordination between “If He Votes Like That In Salem Imagine What He Will Do In Congress” committee and the Wehby camp is a fact question for the FEC to decide. But to avoid the finding of prohibited coordination, for example, one would have to believe there was no substantial discussion, material involvement, assent, request, suggestion, or that the Wehby campaign had no knowledge of Clapper’s proposed media buy for radio ads that sound remarkably like Wehby’s speech she gave to the Executive Club, over which Clapper presided, the night before the ads began to run. Coincidence or Coordination? We report. The FEC decides.
Skirting FEC Contribution Limits?
The committee claims to be an “independent expenditure” committee, which are perfectly legal in federal elections and can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money – as long as the committee is actually supporting or opposing more than one candidate for federal office. In the case of “If He Votes Like That In Salem Imagine What He Will Do In Congress” committee, the sole purpose borne out by FEC filings is that this committee serves one purpose – to oppose Jason Conger, since he is the only candidate in this primary who has ever voted in Salem and who is the sole target of the committee’s expenditures.
A committee to oppose a federal candidate like Conger is perfectly legal; however individual contributions to such committees are limited to the $2,600 per candidate, per election limit under federal law. Clearly Parks and Miller greatly exceeded that individual contribution limit. So how did they do it? By the committee’s treasurer simply checking a single box on the Statement of Organization that says the committee supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate. That single check box opens the checkbook of Parks and Miller to make the contributions they made, and more.
But who are those other candidates – besides Jason Conger – this committee supports or opposes? It’s clear the Wehby campaign is benefiting from Miller helping his girlfriend; but to admit Wehby is being directly supported by this committee opens the door to possible coordination as described above. Ultimately, this too, is a fact question for the FEC to ultimately resolve if challenged.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wehby can enjoy the financial backing of her companion as well as that of Oregon’s most notorious sexual hypnotist while hearing a radio ad that ends with, “Paid for by the ‘If He Votes Like That In Salem Imagine What He Will Do In Congress’…..Committee.”