Money changes everything in politics

The Oregon Legislature is in session in Salem and we’ve learned that, due to members who practice sexual harassment, Oregon’s taxpayers must satisfy the grievances of those so harassed by $1.3 million. Not to be outdone, apparently, we now learn further that those days when then-Governor Tom McCall hailed Oregon’s ability to improve the quality of air and water are now near done and dead.

It has been discovered that several of our legislators are all too eager to accept big dollar contributions from business and industry in Oregon for which they silence and emasculate the once proudly effective and highly regarded state environmental agencies. Oregon was the greenest state, a status achieved by the nation’s first bottle deposit, control of urban sprawl, and public availability to all ocean beaches.

The Oregonian/Oregon Live has investigated the matter to find that in a period of four years, the most powerful state industries have terminated, weakened or neutralized former ongoing efforts to address climate change, wolf recovery, bird habitat survival, cancer-causing diesel exhaust, groundwater protections, air pollution, oil spill plans and spraying toxins from helicopters. We’re informed that these changes have resulted from money, and lots of it, changing hands so business and industry can be free to foul as they please. 

The investigations have found that the biggest reason behind the mounting transgressions is the failure of Oregon lawmakers to regulate campaign cash, making Oregon one of the biggest money states in political activities. The flood of money, says The Oregonian, has “created an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants, again and again.” In fact, our laxity in not safeguarding air and water has elsewhere earned us laughingstock status.

And it’s not only campaign money that’s being spent to help office-seeking and office-holding politicians. Business and industry “generosity” has paid for luxury hotel rooms in Canadian chateaus, sports bar visits, and Apple computer hardware. There have also been rose bouquets appearing on legislator’s desks, complimentary candies, and expensive art work to dazzle the eye on legislator office walls. Freebee lodging and meals in Salem have made servants out of legislators as have gifts of Amazon Prime.

These field trip boondoggles and potentate-providing gifts have resulted in legislator and gubernatorial actions taking Oregon to a place where our environmental legacy’s betrayed while our water polluters number the highest in the western states. Meanwhile, those lawmakers as beneficiaries of industry largess have steadily placed pressure on our state’s environmental agencies and bullied them into submission whenever corporate campaign donors were threatened with testing regimens, clean ups and abatement practices. The Secretary of State’s Elections Division could have investigated all this spending but has chosen only to send letters to offenders with never a follow up.

The examples of waywardness are manifold while it’s worse than tragic that the practices threatening our health and safety are permitted to go on and even worsen. It would seem that the legislators are too busy being entertained away from why they’re in Salem and entertaining themselves at the expense of women who work in the capitol. What will it take to get real reforms underway in what once was a lovely building in Salem now smokestack tarnished and an ethics imbroglio? And what’s the fate of our children and grandchildren?

(Gene H. McIntyre shares his opinion frequently in the Keizertimes.)