Do you find it as quizzical as I do, my fellow Oregonians? Here’s what: While the Oregon Legislature was able to vote to punish its PERS’ retirees a bit by voting in SB 822 at the end of the 2013 regular session, reducing cost-of-living adjustments, they were able to return at the behest of John “the sheepherder” Kitzhaber in September to devastate PERS’ COLAs when everything nowadays costs more?
It’s not believed “the sheepherder” necessarily hates PERS’ retirees (If so, he’ll soon hate himself!) but it is believed that he viewed them as bargaining chips in the “grand bargain” deliberations in Salem in September. As surmised, it works like this: Kitzhaber delivers PERS’ heads to the corporate wealthy and influence-peddlers and they in turn fill his campaign chest and the chests of his fellow statehouse politicians so all of them can be re-elected, he to the governorship, they to the Oregon Senate and House. The scheme is that the bunch who voted in favor of SB 822 and SB 861 can return to the capitol again as re-elected powerbrokers, protecting their personal interests.
Go back to the September special session where we now have the evidence to indisputably conclude what happened. Local investigative journalist Tracy Loew reported that the moment Kitzhaber “announced a September special session focused on fiscal issues, campaign contributions from out-of-state agribusiness and biotechnology giants began pouring into the state lawmakers’ campaign coffers.” Two weeks later, a bill barring local governments from regulating genetically modified seeds and crops was added to the so-called “grand bargain” as a condition of it passage.
Further, subsequent to the announcement of a special session, Monsanto, Novartis and Syngenta, three of the giants, have alone contributed $127,745 to 35 legislators’ campaign committees, the two Republican caucus political action committees, and three other PACs that contribute to candidates. These facts are displayed for any citizen’s indigestion in the state’s campaign finance records.
This kind of information can lead voters to raise questions about whether our governor and legislators can remain distinguishable from those who occupy the White House and dominate the halls of Congress nowadays. It also causes any Oregon voter who’s interested in incorruptible government to wonder about the other fiscal issues that were on the docket at the capitol in September, 2013. Was it all only about a circus by the occupants of a building whose gold leaf, on-top statue now displays a red-faced and unabashedly ashamed pioneer?
Those of us who follow the facts in Oregon are well aware that a considerable number of Oregon’s wealthy (and those like-minded elsewhere in the U.S.), corporations here, those who can gain from helping them through campaign contributions for their next election, as well as the many who are not PERS’ beneficiaries, those who harbor nothing but contempt for public employees, and those state organizations that gain advantages, put up a lot of money to persuade a majority of Oregon’s legislators. Persuaded them with greenbacks to vote in favor of SB 861 and the governor to sign-off on it and its precursor, SB 822.
After all, the PERS’ bills, enabling the costs in education reforms and other of Oregon’s social programs, to be placed on the financial backs of PERS’ retirees alone are so inequitable and discriminatory it’ll be not only profoundly disappointing to learn that the Oregon Supreme Court upholds SB 822 and SB 861 but a death blow to fairness in Oregon.
But how do we know anymore who is upholding the integrity for which Oregon has in times past been a lighthouse to prevent wrecks on the shoals of an often rocky U.S. “shore,” one where the politically weak and financially poor are the pawns? Have all in the ranks of the state’s powerbrokers and heavy in influence fallen prey to the “show me the money” mentality that has become the hallmark of so much in modern day America? We’ll soon know more when the Oregon Supreme Court decides.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)