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Monday, June 11, 2007

Johnson corruption probe: More questions

What did Leslie Frane know and when did she know it?

As Executive Director of Oregon's massive government workers union, SEIU Local 503, Leslie Frane knows about protection rackets. But will she testify before the Oregon Ethics Commission? Frane's shop is the better half of the government union election campaign group called Our Oregon, known as the 800-lb. gorilla of state politics.


May 21, ten days before the Senator Betsy Johnson corruption scandal broke on the pages of Willamette Week and The Oregonian, SEIU paid for a large, expensive print fluff-ad in the Senator's home-district daily, The Daily Astorian. The ad (see below) includes a blow-up childhood photo and proclaims Johnson, who ran unopposed for a 4-year term last November, "a hero." It raises many questions:

- Is Leslie Frane innocently spending her ample political warchest during the Legislative session to curry favor with Salem's up-and-coming Democrat gubernatorial wannabes, buying influence early?

- Was the purpose of Frane's ad to anoint Sen. Johnson the front-runner, and the coronation turned out to be ... premature?

- Is it true that every dollar in SEIU's political campaign warchest is forcibly taken from government workers' paychecks without their consent or approval, and is often used to support candidates and causes with which they disagree?

- Did Frane know exactly when the corruption story would break, and schedule Johnson's protection 'cover' accordingly?

- Was the damage control firm Gard & Gerber involved in the ad's production or placement? G&G is rumored to be working on a similar pre-campaign campaign for the other frontrunner - one of Portland's five mayors - ex-union boss Randy Leonard.

- Is the SEIU ad connected with payments made by Senator Johnson's last campaign to G&G?

- Will Sen. Johnson and Frane report the ad's cost as a political campaign contribution and/or expenditure?

These questions and more will be on the minds of Oregonians June 22, as the Senator Betsy Johnson matter goes before the Oregon Ethics Commission in the first phase of the complex, mushrooming corruption and cover-up probe. Who knows what will happen next ... besides Leslie Frane?

The Commission's budget and enforcement powers - promised to be strengthened by the new majority Democrats after years of GOP neglect - will put the state's hyper-partisan political self-policing system to the test.

Should the government-run inquiry amount to a whitewash, legal experts say a civil case or even a class action suit against Senator Johnson could be brought by a growing number and variety of disgruntled citizens, including many Oregonians who reside within a 10 mile radius of a rural airport.

The photo and comment, below, is via: oregonguythinks.blogspot.com, May 31, by OregonGuy

This is a political ad paid by SEIU Local 503 in The Daily Astorian, 5/21/07

Aren't legislators supposed to refrain from accepting gifts from political action committees while they're in session? I guess ORS 260.174 doesn't mean much to the Senator. But this is a campaign contribution.

(Ed. note: Government unions' campaign activities like this may not required to be officially disclosed in Contributions & Expenditures Reports, based on Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who made precedent by taking no action in the notorious "Our Oregon" complaint from 2006.)

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