Sen. Ron Wyden Blasts Trump’s Picks for National Security Adviser, CIA Director

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been an outspoken critic of overreaching surveillance policies such as warrantless wiretapping and the use of torture to gather information from suspected terrorists.

Today, he issued a statement raising concerns about President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for national security adviser, retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

Here is Wyden’s statement:

“The designation of Michael Flynn to be National Security Adviser is deeply alarming. His statements about Muslims are profoundly un-American as well as damaging to the fight against terrorism and national security. He has indicated an openness to torture and the destruction of an entire city, both of which are clearly illegal, not to mention immoral and destructive to America’s global leadership. His financial entanglements with Russia and other foreign governments are also cause for concern, particularly given President-elect Trump’s refusal to disclose his own finances.

With the designation of Michael Flynn and Steven Bannon, the president-elect has created a White House leadership that embodies the most divisive rhetoric of his campaign. To the extent that these become policies or legislative proposals, I commit to stopping them. I will also approach the confirmation process with the expectation that nominees will, at the very minimum, demonstrate a clear commitment to American values and the rule of law.

In that spirit, I look forward to the confirmation process for Representative Mike Pompeo to be Director of the CIA. Given its recent history of operating a disastrous torture program and then spying on the Senate itself, the agency demands principled leadership now more than ever. Unfortunately, Representative Pompeo’s comments in which he asserted that the CIA’s torture program was legal and that the American people did not deserve to know about it are deeply troubling.”

Silver Lining Alert: Oregon Estate Taxes Break Records in Most Recent Quarter

The quarterly revenue forecast the state released yesterday included few surprises: Oregon’s economy continues to clip along, although more slowly than earlier this year.

“Oregon continues to outpace the nation and the expansion endures,” wrote the state’s chief economist, Mark McMullen. However, “job growth in recent months has decelerated somewhat from the full-throttle rates seen in the past couple of years.”

State revenues are tracking forecasts because McMullen and his colleagues in the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis anticipated a slowdown in growth.

One trend state econonmists didn’t anticipate was a strong uptick in revenues from estate taxes—Oregonians dying with estates worth more than $1 million.

(Estate taxes begin at 10 percent on the first million and increase to 16 percent above $9.5 million.)

In the first year of the current two-year state budget cycle, estate tax receipts came in about 15 percent higher than forecast and over the two year period are now expected to reach nearly $280 million, exceeding the original estimate by 28 percent.

The month of August alone saw estate tax receipts of $48.6 million, which state senior economist Josh Lehner says is more than twice the previous highest month on record.

Even with increased tax planning, economists expect the state to continue to reap the benefits of generational change, particularly as the strong economy has boosted the values of financial assets such as stocks and bonds and the value of real estate.

“The large Baby Boomer generation is aging into their retirement years today and into their later ages in the coming decades,” their forecast reads. “As such there will be an increase in the number of Oregonians passing away in the relatively near future.”

The State’s Two Largest Business Associations Vote (Finally) to Merge

After years of discussion, Associated Oregon Industries and its younger, more progressive spinoff, the Oregon Business Association announced today they have voted to merge.

“This is the culmination of three years of intense discussion and outreach,” said Pat Reiten, AOI Chairman of the Board and President of PacifiCorp Transmission said in a statement announcing the merger. “We wanted to make sure we did this right because it’s not only about what is good for business, but, ultimately, what’s good for Oregon.”

Between them, the two groups represent just about every significant employer in the state, with many large companies belonging to both.

Associated Oregon Industries, formed in 1895, has lost some of its swagger over the past decade as Democrats have cemented their hold on the levers of power in this state. Portland-area businesses who wanted a more progressive and environmentally-friendly approach founded the Oregon Business Association in 1999.

The two groups agreed more often than they disagreed but still found significant areas of policy disagreement. Last year, for example, OBA supported Democrats’ move to implement a low carbon fuel standard for Oregon, while AOI opposed it.

Related: AOI and OBA don’t always agree, but their opposition to Our Oregon unites them.

Part of the impetus for merging the two groups was the consistent victories public employee unions won over business interests in Salem and at the ballot over the past decade.

The unions’ long winning streak ended this month, when corporate interests poured $27 million into a campaign to defeat Measure 97, a proposed $3 billion-a-year corporate tax increase.

But the merger will not go into effect until July 1, 2017, which means AOI and OBA will continue as separate organizations through the 2017 legislative session and will not name a new leader for the combined entity for seven months.

As WW reported earlier, several of the founders of OBA and some big players, including Nike, initially opposed the merger and it would be no great surprise if another business association popped up to represent dissident viewpoints.

Six Questions for Ben Unger About Why Measure 97 Went in the Toilet

Nobody in Oregon took a bigger beating on the ballot last week than Ben Unger, executive director of Our Oregon, the union-backed advocacy group that created Measure 97.

In the first week of September, Unger, 40, looked like a hero. The $3 billion-a-year corporate tax increase had the support of 60 percent of voters. By election night, polls showed the measure had collapsed under the onslaught of $27 million in corporate spending, but almost nobody expected the final result—a 59 to 41 percent shellacking.

Here are Unger’s thoughts about the result and what comes next.

WW: What surprised you most about this loss?

Ben Unger: The biggest surprise was how difficult it was to tell voters a story about how big the need is. And we struggled to communicate how we could address those needs with one measure. There is a deep skepticism about whether we are delivering what people need from their government.

What lesson did you learn?

I think the biggest takeaway is the coalition we’ve built now, we needed at the beginning. When we started, it was just Our Oregon. Then when we had a meeting the night before the election, there were 60 groups represented in the room. It was a much bigger, broader community. We needed them at the beginning. I think they could have laid the groundwork with the political elites and the media. We never convinced the establishment that we got the details right.

Which of the opposition’s arguments was most harmful?

They were all harmful. They did a good job of connecting a bunch of different arguments that hit home with voters. Then they closed with an argument that the money wasn’t going to go where it was intended. That was the hardest to overcome.

You got millions of dollars from out-of-state unions. How are they feeling?

They want to make sure that nationally we are learning from this experience. How you win these fights is an ongoing question. How do we apply what we’ve learned to the next fight so we’re more able to win? That’s why they invest in us—because they want to know how to do this in other places. I can’t overestimate how much the uncertainty at the national level puts pressure on us to figure that out quickly.

What’s next?

We go to Salem. It will be hard for people to propose budget cuts without first increasing corporate taxes. You talk to voters, they agreed 100 percent that corporations need to do their fair share. We will force that choice more in Salem. The opposition to our campaign is gone now—the California consultants aren’t sticking around like our coalition is, and I think people are more motivated now than ever before.

Will you go back to the ballot again?

That question is still up in the air. We will come to the Legislature with a menu that calls for investments—significant investments, not small. I think we’ve put pressure on everybody. We are willing to come to the table. The challenge is, how do we bring everybody else along?

Light-Rail Plans for Bridgeport Village and Tualatin Stay Alive—by Just 139 Votes

Tigard residents last week approved proceeding with the next step of a proposed $2.5 billion light-rail line from Portland to Tualatin. But just barely.

The margin: 139 votes.

The final tally, which narrowed considerably from early returns, marks a comeback from 2012, when light-rail foes forced the requirement that citizens vote on any rail project.

The narrow victory—just three-tenths of 1 percent of the 25,037 votes cast—does not mean the new line will get funded or built. But a “no” vote would have stopped it in its tracks.

TriMet opened the Orange Line to Milwaukie in September 2015 and could open a line to Tualatin—including shopping meccas Cabela’s and Bridgeport Village—in 2025. But getting federal funding from the new Congress will be challenging.

U.S. Rep Greg Walden, Son of an Oregon Dynasty, is Now the State’s Line to President Trump

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) just became a huge deal.

Walden represents most of the state east of the Cascades, and while he’s held office in Oregon nearly continuously since 1988, he has gotten less attention than his seven Democratic colleagues. That will change now with Republican President Donald Trump in the White House—alongside a congressional majority that Walden, 59, helped build as chairman of the Republican Congressional Candidate Committee for the past two elections.

Here’s what you should know about Walden.

1. He’s from pioneer stock.
In a state where fewer than half the residents were born in Oregon, Walden traces his ancestry to settlers who arrived by wagon train in 1845.

2. He’s part of a political (mini-)dynasty.
Walden’s father, Paul, served three terms in the Oregon House representing Hood River. After graduating from the University of Oregon, Greg Walden worked for U.S. Rep. Denny Smith (R-Ore.) and then won a seat in the Oregon House in 1988, also representing Hood River.

3. Tragedy shaped his political career.
In 1993, Walden, then Oregon House majority leader, was preparing to run for governor against a former Senate president named Dr. John Kitzhaber (D-Roseburg). Walden and his wife, Mylene, discovered their second, not-yet-born son had a heart ailment. Walden abandoned the governor’s race and surrendered his House seat. His son died 27 hours after being born.

4. A scandal brought him to Congress.
U.S. Rep. Wes Cooley (R-Ore.) replaced longtime incumbent Rep. Bob Smith in 1994 in the 2nd Congressional District. But Cooley was forced to resign after he was caught lying about his military record. Smith came back for a term but anointed Walden his successor. Walden won election in 1998 and has held the seat ever since.

5. He’s got friends in high—and low—places.
When Vice President-elect Mike Pence served in Congress from 2001 through 2012, the former radio broadcaster built a strong relationship with Walden, who had owned two Hood River radio stations. A strong advocate for farmers, ranchers and timber interests, Walden has also supported a key Portland industry—he co-founded the House Small Brewers Caucus in 2007.

What’s It Like When a Populist Demagogue Takes Control of Your Country?

It’s hard to miss the parallels between President-elect Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, a mercurial anti-crime crusader who earlier this year rode a wave of dissatisfaction to the presidency of the Philippines.

The New Yorker disapatched Adrian Chen, a Reed College graduate and onetime WW intern, to the Philippines to profile the country’s new leader—who promised and has delivered a war on drug dealers that has left more than 3,000 people dead in a wave of extra-judicial vigilantism.

Here’s how Chen describes the new president:

“Duterte thinks out loud, in long, rambling monologues, laced with inscrutable jokes and wild exaggeration. His manner is central to his populist image, but it inevitably leads to misunderstanding, even among Filipino journalists. Ernie Abella, Duterte’s spokesman, recently pleaded with the Presidential press corps to use its ‘creative imagination’ when interpreting Duterte’s comments.”

And if that’s not enough to create a parallel, there’s this:

“He is also hypersensitive to criticism,” Chen writes. “’Duterte’s weakness is, really, he’s a tough guy,” Greco Belgica, a Filipino politician and an ally of Duterte’s, said. “You do not talk down to a tough guy. He’ll snap.’”

Sounds familiar.

Debunked: Report That Breitbart Provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos Will Speak at Portland State University is Incorrect

Over the weekend, Portland Antifa, a local anti-facism group, reported that Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at Portland State University on Jan. 18, 2017.

“Trump fanboy Milo Yiannopoulos, a far right ideologue and mouthpiece of the Alternative Right, is bringing his hate-filled speaking tour to Portland State University on January 18th, 2017,” reads a post on Portland Antifa’s blog. “This event is a particularly important as an opportunity for Yiannopoulos to connect with a large audience, and for a large number of Alt-Righters to connect with him and others at the event. This is an opportunity that we cannot give them.”

But Yiannopoulos is not speaking at PSU.

Yiannopoulos’ speaking schedule does show that he’ll be hitting college campuses along the west coast in January, hitting the University of California-Santa Barbara on Jan. 16 and Washington State University on Jan. 19 but Portland State University spokesman Chris Broderick says he won’t be appearing at PSU.

“He is not coming to campus. We had an inquiry last summer from a group that wanted to bring Yiannopoulous to campus in January,” Broderick says. “However, that reservation was never confirmed and has been cancelled. He is not booked to speak at PSU.”

Yiannopoulos, Breitbart’s technology editor, achieved notoriety earlier this year when he was banned permanently from Twitter because of his comments about actress Leslie Jones, who starred in the Ghostbusters remake.

Yiannopoulos’ booking agent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clackamas County Voters Toss Out John Ludlow, Repudiating 2012 Rightward Shift

Oregon voters on Tuesday night split tickets to an unusual extent.

Results in Clackamas County provide a couple of prime examples. Voters in the most conservative of the three metro-area counties supported Democrat Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket by a 50 percent to 43 percent margin. The also narrowly supported Republican Dr. Bud Pierce over incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in the governor’s race.

But in the race for Oregon secretary of state, they strongly favored Republican Dennis Richardson over Democrat Brad Avakian by a margin of 53 percent to 39 percent.

That’s more than triple the four percentage-point margin by which Richardson won statewide, becoming the first Republican elected secretary of state since 1980.

It also suggests a large number of county residents voted for Clinton and Richardson, a pairing that requires some imagination.

In both the presidential, governor and secretary of state’s race, Clackamas County voters supported the Republican candidate more than the average of state-wide results—which makes the county commission results even more interesting, even though those races are nominally non-partisan.

In 2012, former Wilsonville May John Ludlow won a decisive victory for county chair. He beat better-known politicians including former House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone) and incumbent Chair Charlotte Lehan, employing a tough-talking approach that anticipated a style now popular with voters nationwide.

Ludlow formed a slate with former state Rep. Tootie Smith. They ran as outsiders with anti-light rail platform and a promise to “stop Portland creep.

But their stormy tenures on the commission will last only one term.

Commissioner Jim Bernard, a light-rail supporter, easily defeated Ludlow and newcomer Ken Humbertson defeated Smith.

Related: How a timber baron funded a populist revolt in Clackamas County.

State Rep. Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego), who formerly served on the Clackamas County Commission, applauded the changes.

“Clackamas County voters made a great decision in choosing Jim Bernard as chair and Ken Humbertson as commissioner,” says  Lininger. “I think they will be able move the county forward in a positive way.”

In the Most Expensive Election Cycle Ever, County Voters Say They Want Campaign Finance Limits

On Tuesday, Multnomah County voters had a lot of decisions to make.

The ballot featured the most expensive secretary of state race ever (Republican Dennis Richardson won) and the most expensive Oregon ballot measure everywhere (Measure 97 failed under an onslaught of $26 million from corporate opponents).

A county charter review commission put five measures on the ballot, asking voters to weigh in on term limits, whether county commissioners could run for chair without resigning, whether the sheriff should be elected or appointed, how the charter review commission itself should work—and, whether the county, Oregon’s most populous, should impose campaign contribution limits and force candidates to disclose who paid for their ads.

As part of their campaign, proponents, led by public interest lawyer Dan Meek, found a clip of President-elect Donald J. Trump explaining how campaign contributions work. (Explanation starts at 1:05).

“I contribute to everybody,” Trump said in a January speech, explaining he’d given to most of his presidential rivals, including Hillary Clinton. “Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”

That’s what Meek wants to end. Oregon voters approved state-wide campaign limits in 1994 but the Oregon Supreme Court struck those limits down in 1997.

After that Meek began working toward a new version of contribution limits. He  put two measures on the statewide ballot in 2006. Voters approved contribution limits but did not change the Oregon constitution to allow the limits to go into effect.

This time, Meek’s aiming a smaller target, in effect using a rifle rather than a shotgun. The measure proposes to limit contributions to $500 per individual donor and make ads list the top five contributors, as is commonly done in other states.

Voters responded enthusiastically, approving the new limits by an 88 percent to 11 percent margin, a bigger endorsement than any of the other county charter changes or any statewide ballot measure.

“Voters are angry with the status quo of big money buying the government,” Meek says. “Our result will lead to more local and statewide anti-corruption measures.”