Felix Schein, a campaign consultant to Ron Saxton, wrote a response
to Northwest Republican last week. In it, Schein defended Saxton (a Republican candidate for Oregon governor in 2002 & again next year) as a "lifelong Republican" who has given generously to Republican causes. NWR quickly determined that several aspects of Schein's piece were lacking in factual backing (i.e. they were wrong), but there was one piece that bugged me.
Over the last fifteen years, Ron Saxton and his wife Lynne have contributed more than $20,000 to Republican candidates and causes. Among those who have received contributions; President George W. Bush (2000 and 2004), Senator Gordon Smith (multiple contributions), Congressman Greg Walden (multiple contributions), Senator Mark Hatfield (multiple contributions), The Republican National Committee (multiple contributions) and the Oregon Republican Party.
. . .
So, while it is true that as Chairman of the AterWynne law firm, Mr. Saxton and the firm contributed to Democrats running for local office, it is misleading and incorrect to suggest that those contributions were made by Mr. Saxton personally or exclusively to Democrats – or that his history of supporting Republicans is more questionable than that of Mr. Atkinson or Mr. Mannix.
There were two things that seemed worthy of review in that statement: the claims of strong support for Republicans, and the suggestion that any donations to Democrats were simply part of doing business at his law firm.
So, off to the web I went: The Institute on Money in State Politics
. And what I found confirmed some
of what Schein wrote, while seeming to refute other parts.
After examining the records, I think the message I took from Saxton's campaign contributions was twofold: Saxton does give to conservatives, but seems to like giving to "moderate" Republicans and Democrats at least
as much as to conservatives; and if you're a lawyer, you have a better than average chance of receiving contributions (though most Saxton contributions came just days before or after the election, thus doing little except helping to retire campaign debt).
Schein is right about this: Saxton has given almost $21,000 to Republican candidates and committees since 1990. He has also given just over $6,000 to Democrats in that time, but the last donation to a Democrat was $500 to Earl Blumenauer's campaign for the U.S. House in June 1999. He also gave $1,000 to Ron Wyden's campaign for the U.S. Senate in April 1998. Other gifts to Democrats, all in 1996 or earlier, include:
* In addition to those listed in the paragraph above.
- Ginny Burdick, state senate: $250
- Blumenauer*: $500
- Democratic Party of Oregon: $250
- Randall Edwards, state house: $100
- Phil Keisling, secretary of state: $250
- Ted Kulongoski, attorney general: $500
- Kevin Mannix, attorney general: $200
- Norma Paulus, superintendent of public instruction: $1,250
- Wyden*: $500
The gifts list Saxton's name specifically, and list his occupation as "Ater Wynne," which is the law firm
at which he's a partner. Only occasionally does it list his occupation as "attorney."
By contrast, several other contributions are listed as coming from "Ater Wynne," without an accompanying attorney's name, implying that the donations are firm-sanctioned. The firm's donations include $40,000 to Saxton during a three-month period in the 2002 primary (less than a year after he was the firm's chairman). Also on the firm's list from the last six years are a variety of (mostly) Democrat and Republican candidates:
- Hardy Myers (D), attorney general: $2,000
- Ted Kulongoski (D), governor: $10,000
- Senate Republican Leadership Fund of Oregon: $500
- Thomas Balmer, Oregon Supreme Court: $1,950
- Senate Democratic Leadership Fund of Oregon: $500
- Jim Hill (D), governor: $100
- Majority of Oregon (R): $250
- Oregon House Democrats/Future PAC: $1,500
- Paul DeMuniz, Oregon Supreme Court: $1,000
- Randall Edwards (D), governor: $250
- Gary Bruebaker (D), state treasurer: $300
Is it reasonable to assume that donations with Saxton's name are Saxton's donations, and donations with Ater Wynne's name are the firm's donations? I think so.
But also of interest is the Republicans that Saxton has chosen to support.
They include people I would classify as conservative, including Keith Parker
, who lost an Oregon House race by 40 votes to Jeff Barker in 2002; Bill Witt
, who served two terms in the state house before losing to Charlie Ringo for a senate seat in 2002; and Lynn Snodgrass
, who lost to Bill Bradbury for secretary of state in 2000. (I'm going on memory here, so correct me if you disagree with my labels.)
At the federal level, Saxton has given $5,000 to George W. Bush (including a $2,000 gift from Saxton's wife), $4,500 to Sen. Gordon Smith, and $2,200 to Rep. Greg Walden. He also gave $1,000 to the Oregon Republican Party.
Other federal giving in the last 10 years included:
- Lisa Murkowski (R), U.S. Senate, Alaska: $1,000
- Molly Bordonaro (R), U.S. House, Oregon: $250
But Saxton's giving targets also include people that Lars Larson
would affectionately call RINOs, including:
- Max Williams, a Tigard Republican who was whisked out of the legislature by Gov. Kulongoski to head the state corrections division. While in the state house, Williams proposed a 5 percent sales tax (together with reductions in the income, inheritance & capital gains taxes); favored the income tax increase that was defeated by voters in January 2003; and was questionable on property rights.
- Lane Shetterly, a Dallas Republican who was whisked out of the legislature by Gov. Kulongoski to head the state Department of Land Conservation and Development. For more info, see Max Williams. Where Max goes, Lane seems to show up. And vice versa.
And both are attorneys, along with Murkowski, Parker, Witt, Mannix & Randy Miller.
Here's a list of Saxton's state contributions over the last 10 years:
- Parker (R), state house: $100
- Mannix (R), governor: $300
- Williams (R), state house: $100
- Shetterly (R), state house: $250
- Witt (R), state senate: $275
- Majority of Oregon (R): $940
- Mannix (R), attorney general: $250
- Snodgrass (R), secretary of state: $250
- Williams (R), state house: $100
- Tom Hartung (R), state senate: $100
- Randy Miller (R), state senate: $200
- Anitra Rasmussen (D), state house: $100
- Jim Westwood (Natural Law), Oregon Supreme Court: $150
- Jeannette Hamby (R), state senate: $100
- Jack Roberts, state labor commissioner: $200
- Ginny Burdick (D), state senate: $250
- Jane Lokan (R), state house: $200
- Beverly Clarno (R), state treasurer: $200
- Mannix (D), attorney general: $200
- Randall Edwards (D), state house: $100
- Phil Keisling (D), secretary of state: $250
(I'm hoping someone can fill me in on the Majority of Oregon. I couldn't find much in a Google search.)
So to sum up, Saxton definitely has been a Republican supporter for the last six years or so (which is, coincidentally, when he probably started thinking about running for governor), but he also has a clear history of supporting Democrats and "moderate" Republicans over the last 15 years. And I have trouble buying the argument that it was a law firm decision — if so, then why not list it solely as an Ater Wynne contribution?
I'm inclined to cut Saxton some
slack because I didn't vote for anyone with an R next to their name until 1994. However, there are two problems with that: Saxton is more than 10 years older than me, and I'm not running for governor. Schein and Saxton can't conveniently ignore or dismiss Saxton's history of support for Democrats if they hope to win the Republican primary in five months.