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Our view: A stacked system

Published on June 1, 2016 4:04PM

It’s no wonder people are lining up to vote for Donald Trump.

After reading the East Oregonian story “Lobbying, contributions dual paths to political clout” by Capital Bureau reporter Hillary Borrud, you too may be inclined to send a big broom to the White House and State Capitol and sweep out every vestige of the current political class.

The article detailed in numbers and personal examples the ease and mystery through which corporations and special interest groups are lobbying the state.

It’s a closed circle of back-scratching in the halls of power, and it takes significant monetary investment in order to slip through.

Borrud reported one such case. In the last two years, a California company called Vitu spent more than $200,000 on lobbying and campaign contributions in Oregon. That included $20,000 to governor Kate Brown’s campaign. And where was Kate Brown earlier this month? Touting Vitu at the company’s headquarters right after it landed a state contract to provide electronic registration and titling services for Oregon car dealerships. Go figure.

We understand that every system needs “grease.” That’s one way things get done — partnerships, support, favors and recommendations. But cold hard cash — and the lobbyists that flaunt it — have far too much power right now in Oregon.

There are ways to make the system better, though it won’t be easy. It is difficult because lobbyists and the majority of legislators — who have the power now — like the current system as it is. They are shielded by state laws, have few limits on what they can do with their dollars, and can operate in a battered media landscape with little risk that any misdeeds will be uncovered.

To chip away at the status quo, voters should support term limits and lobbyist transparency. They should support clear public records laws that allow the media and concerned citizens to hold our leaders responsible. They should support strong campaign finance laws and hard caps on political donations. And they should hold politicians like Kate Brown to their word when they make promises of transparency and openness yet fail to follow through.

Trump is wrong. A lot. But he is right when he points out that the political system, as it exists now, is not interested in being helpful to the majority of middle-class Americans. It’s much more interested in keeping the campaign dollars flowing, and having easy and unseen access to the lobbyists who hold the moneybags.


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