Tag Archives: Bruce McCain

Services Set for Bruce McCain


I was able to be a small service for Bruce yesterday and was honored to be a part of it, but I may come back for his Memorial Service. This announcement is from his family via Facebook:


A public memorial service for Reynolds School Board Chair Bruce McCain is scheduled for 5:30pm on Saturday, May 30 at the Reynolds High School Arts and Communications Building. Reception will follow in the Multipurpose Room. The RHS Arts and Communications Building is located at: 1698 SW Cherry Park Road in Troutdale. The entrance in on the west side of the building, near Columbia Park/Imagination Station. 

Bruce McCain was a community leader serving in many roles that placed in the position to serve his community. Bruce’s passing is an extreme loss for the Reynolds School District. As a member of the school board for the past four years and as chairman of the board this year, Bruce immersed himself in his duties and responsibilities and fully participated in all district activities whether board functions or student activities. 

His leadership, his sense of humor and his devotion to the district will be greatly missed. Bruce was active in high schools sports, serving as an official and photographer. Even when he learned that he had cancer, he thought about our students. His three most immediate goals, as he stated on several different occasions, were to be re-elected to the School Board, see the 2015 Bond pass, and stand on stage at graduation in June and hand out diplomas. Bruce accomplished the first two things; and in spirit he will be at Graduation in June. 

Captain Bruce McCain retired from the Multnomah County Sherrifs Department to pursue a private law practice. Bruce is survived by his wife of 35 years, Kathy and their three daughters Kelly McCain MartinRachel Heller and Stephanie Tyler and their families.

Bruce McCain: Bruce of the Blogforce

Bruce McCain’s sober civility was his hallmark in Oregon’s body politic. His memorial is set for May 30


Photo: Tim Newman Photography
Photo: Tim Newman Photography

Bruce McCain died Monday. 

Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon — indeed, the entire body politic — is the poorer.

You may know Bruce from his television appearances on local TV news casts, the voice of reason on my and Lars’s shows, his time as a Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, his professionalism as a Reynolds School Board Member, tireless legal advocate, political tactician, parishioner in the pew, the photographer on the sidelines, the doting grandfather and loving Dad. Husband.

He was a blogger on this website and his own.  A colleague.

He was all of these things.

But Bruce was one more thing that I believe needs to be said:

Bruce was the civil voice in a very uncivil political place. 

Columnist David Brooks says:

Politics exists on the surface, but conduct is at a deeper realm.

When I would engage in free-style verbal flame-throwing, Bruce would draw me back to reason. He did that for many people. His inner conduct — devotion to and love of God — was his deeper realm and informed everything he did. 

At one point in his life, Bruce considered the ministry as a profession, but found his calling in different areas. Still, he was always guiding people. Always the teacher.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus said,

Character is Destiny.

In whatever he did, Bruce brought his best. There were never any halfway measures on his part. Whether it was in his writings, legal briefs, advocacy or even his photographs, he always strived for his best.  

And he always strove to do more. The father of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, once said:

The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.

Bruce’s work was never done. There was always a challenge to confront, a case to win, a wrong to be righted.

He was ambitious, but his ambition was never at the expense of others. There was room for everyone in his successes. 

And he was trustworthy. As fellow Blogforce member (and Bruce’s good friend for many years), former Sheriff Bernie Giusto wrote:

From the earliest days at the Sheriff’s office Lt McCain was one of my closest and most trusted advisors. From there Bruce McCain became my closest confidant. When things were very tough during my second term, Bruce’s unwavering friendship was indescribably vital to my life at that time. The last time [I] talked with Bruce he called me friend. A great honor friend. I will never forget your strong character and honest friendship.

And he was generous. Generous with his time, his expertise and his spirit. On his daughter Kelly’s Facebook page I saw this photo:

bruce family

In the age of self indulgent, beauty-shot selfies, the meticulous photographer gave his family this photograph of himself. He’s not at his best here. He’s dying. He may not have wished this to be his parting shot. But in his spirit of generosity and love, he gave his family this memory. 

But they’ll always have this one too. 

bruce selfie


And so many more memories, little and big.

Salk once said,

Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.

Bruce McCain was a good man. A man of rare generosity. A man of good character. A servant leader.

He knows where he was going and to those he left behind –his descendants– this ancestor left a road map of how to do it right.

Rest in peace, friend. 

McCain: ‘Administrative Law Judges’ Are Just One Reason Why the Outcome of The ‘Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ Case Was Baked In.

Who and what are ‘administrative law judges’ who apparently put Sweet Cakes by Melissa out of business for good?

sweet cakes

As we explained on this website yesterday, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same sex wedding have lost their case before state appointed Administrative Law Judge. But there’s a story behind this story. 

At issue is the role and function of these “Administrative Law Judges” or “ALJs”.

For the uninitiated, ALJ’s are not actual judges nor are they part of our judicial branch of government. In Oregon, ALJ’s are agency employees whose job security depends on pleasing the statewide elected official (Secretary of State, Attorney General Bureau of Labor and Industries boss) who signs their paychecks.

In this case, Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough works for Brad Avakian, so it’s little surprise this ALJ rubber stamped BOLI’s pre-determined outcome, much like city hearings officer do in local municipal contested case hearings.

McCullough previously made news when he ordered a Eugene store to pay a woman $60,000 for denying her service wih her”service dog.”

There’s more. As I pointed out here in 2013, now that the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case is left up to BOLI Director Brad Avakian the issue is likely over and done with. Avakian is hardly a fair arbiter in this case. Even though same sex marriage was not law when when Sweet Cakes case got started, Avakian helped set the stage as a legislator:

On its third reading, SB 2 was carried by Sen. Avakian and passed the state senate, 21-7, with two excused. All seven nay votes were Republicans, while four GOP senators – Frank Morse, Fred Girod, David Nelson and Jackie Winters – voted with the Democrat majority. SB 2 then went to the house, where it was amended to provide an exemption from the Act for “a bona fide church or other religious institution.” Notably, this amendment did not provide for an individual exemption based on that individual’s personal religious beliefs. SB 2 passed the house with amendments, 35-25, with four GOP members – Vicki Berger (Salem), Bob Jenson (Pendleton), Chuck Burley (Bend) and John Dallum (Hood River) – joining all 31 Democrats.

As I predicted back then, there are more problems Christians and others will confront because of this law:

…Oregon law presently does not require a church to provide the use of its facilities for same sex weddings (which are not legal in Oregon anyway – yet). However, if a church or religious institution operates a commercial or business activity, such as a thrift store, the religious exemption may not apply. But more importantly, the OEA’07 provides no religious exemption for individuals.

The Sweetcakes case presents an interesting legal argument in that, while on the surface the Kleins appeared to violate the OEA’07 by refusing to make the same sex wedding cake, they in fact refused to participate in an act that at present is not lawful in Oregon. …[T]he Kleins are not alleged to have told gay and lesbian customers they may not enter or shop at Sweetcakes by Melissa, nor have the Kleins refused to sell their products to any protected class – with one singular exception. Whether the BOLI staff, including the ALJ, agrees or not is doubtful. But consider the following hypothetical case.

Five members of a religious sect that practices polygamy – one man and four women – enter the bakery. The man tells the owner he wants a wedding cake to celebrate his pending marriage to all four of the women, who he lists as brides. The baker tells the man he and his companions are welcome to purchase anything in the store, but the baker will not make a wedding cake for a marriage act that not only violates the baker’s personal religious beliefs, but is not lawful in Oregon, which does not recognize plural marriages.

On its face, the baker has violated the OEA’07 by discriminating against the five customers, based on their religion, which is a protected class. But can the OEA’07 compel a “place of public accommodation” to participate in an act that is not lawful in Oregon? While there is no current Oregon case deciding that issue…

With an activist labor commissioner in Avakian on their side, one can expect more cases to be brought before BOLI or in civil court, claiming sexual orientation discrimination. Christian-owned businesses are particularly vulnerable to set-ups and shakedowns if they refuse to provide their services to a same sex couple or gay person, who may not sincerely want the service in the first place, but may be looking to a P Club type BOLI award.

That point was made by Aaron Klein during a presentation at the Family Research Center’s Values Voters Summit and excerpted here:

I could understand the backlash from the gay and lesbian community. I could see that; what I don’t understand is the government sponsorship of religious persecution.

Bruce McCain is an attorney in private practice, member of the Reynolds School Board, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain and a member of the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce. 

Where Did Victoria Taft Go?

I’ve been writing day after day after day at Independent Journal Review which leaves less time for my own site, but I’ll cross post with IJR and continue to write longer length pieces and  continue to include posts by Bruce McCain, Rees Lloyd, Bernie Giusto, Scott  St. Clair and Pete the Banker over here and continue my site specific items.


McCain: Oregon Dems’ workplace takeover; make it illegal to cut work hours due to ObamaCare

Democrats‘ SB 1543 would make it unlawful for an employer to cut employee hours to avoid costs and penalties of Obamacare.

Irony alert
Irony alert

Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) wants to make 30-hour work week with Obamacare benefits an enforceable civil right in Oregon.

Under current Oregon law, “The opportunity to obtain employment or housing or to use and enjoy places of public accommodation without unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age or disability hereby is recognized as and declared to be a civil right.” ORS 659A.006(2). If Democrats in Salem have their way, Oregonians will see full-time employment and Obamacare added to the list of civil rights enforceable by civil lawsuits and the heavy boot of the Bureau of Labor and Industries or BOLI.

Senate Bill 1543 (see the bill below), sporting the name, “the Health Care Accountability Act,” sponsored by Multnomah County Democrats Michael Dembrow (SD23), Laurie Monnes Anderson (SD25) and Alissa Keny-Guyer (HD46), adds a new section to ORS chapter 659A, otherwise known by its short title, “the Oregon Equality Act.” ORS chapter 659A is Oregon’s statutory depository of civil rights legislation, including defining what acts are unlawful and specifying penalties for violations. As most Oregonians now know, it is unlawful for a Christian bakery to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple (see “Baking a BOLI Cake.”). ORS chapter 659A covers a wide spectrum of prohibited employment discrimination, from the listed protected classes above, as well as whistleblowing, family leave, employee housing, and more.

SB 1543 would add to the ever-expanding list of civil rights by making it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer to reduce the number of hours a full-time employee works solely for the purpose of preventing the employee from qualifying for coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as specified in 26 U.S.C. 4980H.” This provision deals with the so-called employer mandate of Obamacare, in which employers who employ more than 50 full-time equivalent employees must provide health insurance to those employees or face a government penalty. As widely reported this week, the Obama administration has once again delayed implementation of the employer mandate until 2016. But that does little to help Oregon employers who will be impacted by SB 1543.

Full-time Employee and Employer Mandate

Under a little known provision of the ACA, under Obamacare an employee is considered “full time” if the employee works an average of just 30 hours per week – not the 40 hours per week normally associated with full-time employment. This provision has been known for some time, evidenced by the fact that many local governments have been joining private employers in cutting back the number of hours of employees as a means to avoid the impending employer mandate. SB 1543 would outlaw that practice in Oregon and make the 30-hour work week with Obamacare benefits a de facto civil right.

Even worse, subsection (2) of section 2 contains this alarming and confusing provision: “If a full-time employee files a complaint alleging a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the employer has the burden to establish that the reduction in hours worked by the full-time employee was made in compliance with subsection (1) of this section.” This section provides what is known as “a burden shift” from one party to the other in order to prevail against the charge.

Under SB 1543, all an employee has to do is file a complaint alleging a violation of the law, and the burden then shifts to the employer to prove it did not violate the law, awkwardly worded as “made in compliance with subsection (1) of this section.” Subsection (1) of SB 1543 is not a section an employer “must comply with” but rather not violate. SB 1543 is worded so poorly, it is like telling an accused killer that he must prove he “complied with” laws prohibiting the unlawful killing of another person.

A Bonanza for BOLI

Subsection (3) of Section 2 expressly grants to an aggrieved employee the right to file a complaint directly with BOLI, while subsection (4)(a) grants to the BOLI Commissioner the authority and mandate to “enforce subsection (1) of this section in the manner provided in this chapter regarding other unlawful employment practices.” Finally, subsection (4)(b) specifies that a violation of the Health Care Accountability Act “subjects the violator to the same civil remedies and penalties as provided in ORS chapter 659A.” Those penalties can ruin a company, as Sweet Cakes by Melissa can attest.

Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) sponsored SB 1543, which would require employers who cut their work force to prove their innocence or face penalties and damages.

Besides facing the wrath of BOLI, an employer may be sued in civil court by an aggrieved employee. Available remedies include compensatory damages (e.g. back pay, etc) as well as punitive damages and mandatory attorney fees for a prevailing plaintiff (but not a prevailing defendant). The only time a prevailing defendant employer may recover its attorney fees in such cases is “only if the court determines that the plaintiff had no objectively reasonable basis for asserting a claim.” But given the wording of SB 1543 and the accompanying burden-shift, an employee need not have an objective basis for making a complaint – the employee merely needs to file a complaint and the burden shifts to the employer to objectively prove any reduction in the employee’s hours was not solely to avoid the Obamacare employer mandate penalty.

SB 1543 is similar to, but distinct from regulations announced this week by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service affecting small businesses (50-99 employees) and large businesses (100 or more). The new regulations implement the employer mandate, providing additional time to small and large businesses. Under the new regulations, businesses that employ between 50 and 99 full-time workers have until 2016 to comply with the employer mandate to provide health insurance. Those that claim the exemption for 2015 will need to certify under penalty of perjury that they did not reduce their workforce to fewer than 100 employees in order to qualify. While SB 1543 does not criminalize cutting full time employees as does the IRS through perjury laws, nonetheless the message to employers from Democrats in Salem and D.C. is the same:

“Do not reduce your workforce to avoid the costs or penalties of Obamacare.”

Bruce McCain is an attorney in private practice, a retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, a member of the Reynolds School Board and a member of the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce. This piece originally was published at his blog Oregon Oracle


Senate Bill 1543 Prevents employers from firing employees because of ObamaCare

Bruce McCain: Monica Wehby taps out of state $$$

wehbyPortland Physician Latest in Line of Moderate GOP Establishment Candidates

As expected, the race for the 2014 GOP nomination to oppose Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is shaping up as a two-way battle between a moderate GOP Establishment-backed candidate and a grass roots candidate relying almost exclusively on individual Oregonians for support. Any questions as to where Dr. Monica Wehby and State Rep. Jason Conger fit into that narrative were answered with the filing of their most recent FEC year-end campaign reports.

Wehby reported total receipts of $501,353, compared to Conger’s $213,102. A closer examination of each campaign’s report shows Wehby is relying heavily on out-of-state contributors and D.C. lobby PAC’s, while 95% of Conger’s money came from individual Oregonians. Of Wehby’s reported half million dollars in receipts, some $216,630 or 43% were out-of-state contributions. In fact, Wehby’s out-of-state fund-raising exceeded Conger’s $204,000 raised in state from Oregon individuals.

Bruce McCain is an Oregon attorney in private practice, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, a member of the Reynolds School Board and is a member of the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce. This piece was originally posted at his blog Oregon Oracle.

McCain: Cover Oregon COVER UP

Eds note:  The Obama Administration, through its Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius, has been  hiding the bad news about ObamaCare by silencing its partners. As Bruce McCain reports here, the same thing is happening in Oregon with OrBamaCare. 

OrBamaCare website

In September of this year, Rocky King, then Executive Director of Cover Oregon, warned state legislators at a joint committee that the planned October 1 roll-out of the program would not go as planned. “It’s not going to be a beautiful implementation,” confessed King, in what should earn King the “Understatement of the Year” award. Indeed, the implementation of Cover Oregon has been an unmitigated disaster, despite $300 million of federal tax dollars poured into the program.

Even incumbent governor John Kitzhaber, who recently announced his re-election bid, acknowledges thatCover Oregon will be a political impediment for him to overcome, despite his substantial Democratic electoral advantage in Blue Oregon. While the media have been predictably slow to criticize Cover Oregon’s abject failure, the silence from those who contracted with Cover Oregon to implement the plan has been oddly conspicuous. Now we know why.

Third party status reports on the Cover Oregon implementation indicate the state knew as early as November 2012 that it would never meet its planned and announced October 1 deadline. Meanwhile, the state was entering into contracts with “community partners” who would do the groundwork required to implement Cover Oregon. When it became apparent that Cover Oregon would not only fail to meet its October 1 deadline, but also fail to even go live online, the state realized it had a public relations catastrophe on its hands that even a $28 million ad campaign could not cover over.

So in October, Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority quietly created and issued a one-page“Community Partner Confidentiality Agreement” that prohibited contracted partners, including their directors, officers, employees, agents, staff, volunteers and affiliates from making “any false, misleading, deceptive, libelous, defamatory, or obscene statements, written or oral, to the public or to Community Partner’s potential or actual clientele regarding Cover Oregon and its board, officers or employees.”

This non-disparagement agreement was so secret that Cover Oregon officials were confident enough to deny its very existence when asked about it by KXL News. However, when the producer of the Lars Larson Show specifically asked for a copy of the “Cover Oregon Community Partner Confidentiality Agreement,” state officials complied and sent a copy of the same document provided earlier by a confidential source. Both my office and KXL have made public records requests for a list of all parties required or requested to sign these agreements. [Disclaimer: I provide legal analysis and on-air commentary for Alpha Broadcasting, which includes KXL News and the Lars Larson Show].

Bruce McCain is a lawyer, member of the Reynolds School Board, retired Multnomah Sheriff’s Captain, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce. He keeps the blog Oregon Oracle where this post first appeared.

McCain: Does Oregon GOP Senate candidate Wehby embrace AMA position on guns, ObamaCare?

Obama arrives to deliver a speech on health care to the American Medical Association in Chicago, IllinoisWhile the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” will clearly be one of the most important campaign issues in the 2014 elections, for many Oregon Republicans, especially conservatives and Tea Party activists, gun control will also be a defining topic for the May 2014 primary. Oregon conservatives survived a barrage of Democratic measures in the 2013 legislative session, led by the usual suspects like Ginny Burdick and Floyd Prozanski. At the federal level, Democrats’ efforts to implement a nationwide “assault weapon” ban failed to ultimately materialize, though not for lack of trying.

With five declared GOP candidates vying for the opportunity to take on incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the candidates’ position(s) on gun control could play a major factor for activists who consider the 2nd Amendment a constitutional right not to be treaded upon. This issue could become problematic for Dr. Monica Wehby, who is being touted by some Tea Party activists as their “grass roots” candidate. But it is highly unlikely that Dr. Wehby will receive the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, since Dr. Wehby serves as a Board of Trustee director of the American Medical Association, which the NRA considers an enemy of the 2nd Amendment.Wehby AMA group shot enhanced

As noted in an earlier article, Dr. Wehby is an accomplished pediatric neurosurgeon who served as the president of the Oregon Medical Association in 2009. In 2011, Wehby was elected to a four-year term on the Board of Trustees of the AMA. One can presume that to be elected to the AMA board, one supports the policies of the AMA, and when it comes to gun control, the AMA is no friend of the 2nd amendment.

AMA and “Assault Weapons”

AMA policy H-145.993 Restriction of Assault Weapons:

“Our AMA supports appropriate legislation that would restrict the sale and private ownership of inexpensive handguns commonly referred to as ‘Saturday night specials,’ and large clip, high-rate-of-fire automatic and semi-automatic firearms, or any weapon that is modified or redesigned to operate as a large clip, high-rate-of-fire automatic or semi-automatic weapon.”

There are a number of Oregon firearms owners who should be justifiably alarmed at the AMA’s stated policy to support “appropriate legislation” that “would restrict the sale and private ownership of a semi-automatic firearm” that takes a “large clip” or fires at a “high-rate.” Well-educated physicians like the AMA Board, including Dr. Wehby, are presumably real smart people. But the rate of fire for a semi-automatic firearm is directly proportional to one’s ability to manipulate one’s trigger finger. As for a “large clip,” does the AMA Board consider my double-stack Glock pistol magazine a “large clip?” Or what about the dreaded 30-round magazine for my Ruger 10-22 rifle chambered in .22 LONG rifle?

AMA and Dealer Taxes, Ammunition Bans and Local Control

AMA Policy H-145.985 Ban on Handguns and Automatic Repeating Weapons contains a number of policy statements that should incense Oregon gun owners.

First are the issues of mandatory (and expensive) safety mechanisms installed at the factory and taxing gun dealers with surtaxes on both firearms and ammunition sales:

“It is the policy of the AMA to: (1) Support interventions pertaining to firearm control, especially those that occur early in the life of the weapon (e.g., at the time of manufacture or importation, as opposed to those involving possession or use). Such interventions should include but not be limited to:

(a) mandatory inclusion of safety devices on all firearms, whether manufactured or imported into the United States, including built-in locks, loading indicators, safety locks on triggers, and increases in the minimum pressure required to pull triggers;

(b) bans on the possession and use of firearms and ammunition by unsupervised youths under the age of 18;

(c) the imposition of significant licensing fees for firearms dealers;

(d) the imposition of federal and state surtaxes on manufacturers, dealers and purchasers of handguns and semiautomatic repeating weapons along with the ammunition used in such firearms, with the attending revenue earmarked as additional revenue for health and law enforcement activities that are directly related to the prevention and control of violence in U.S. society; and

(e) mandatory destruction of any weapons obtained in local buy-back programs.”

Next is the AMA’s policy supporting “legislation outlawing the Black Talon and other similarly constructed bullets.” This current AMA policy is not only wrong-headed, but hopelessly outdated. Winchester’s Black Talon hollow point bullets were discontinued in 2000. But Winchester did replace the Black Talon with its Ranger SXT line, which many of us joked was Winchester’s code for “Same eXact Thing.” Again, Oregon gun owners should be aware of and wary of the AMA’s policy of supporting legislation that bans hollow point ammunition.

Of particular concern to Oregonians is the AMA policy regarding local control of firearms. The AMA policy itself says:

“[It is the policy of the AMA to] support the right of local jurisdictions to enact firearm regulations that are stricter than those that exist in state statutes and encourage state and local medical societies to evaluate and support local efforts to enact useful controls.”

This AMA policy flies directly in the face of Oregon’s approach to local control of firearms. In 1995, the Oregon legislature took control of the issue through what is known as “preemption,” meaning the state has declared a matter of statewide concern, and any city or county attempts to regulate the matter are “preempted” by state law.

Specifically, 166.170 provides:

“(1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly.

(2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void.”

Firearms Ownership as a Disease

The AMA’s approach to gun control is based on its notion that deaths and injuries caused by people using a firearm are a public health issue, not a criminal justice problem. This is best seen in AMA Policy H-145.997 Firearms as a Public Health Problem in the United States – Injuries and Death:

“Our AMA recognizes that uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public’s health inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths. Therefore, the AMA […] urges Congress to enact needed legislation to regulate more effectively the importation and interstate traffic of all handguns” (emphasis added).

Once again, the AMA views the problem as the gun, not the person who uses it. More specifically, the AMA sees the problem as the “uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns.” The AMA answer is more federal regulations affecting the importation and sale of all handguns.

 Asking Patients About Their Firearms

One of the more controversial – and confusing – issues to arise out of the passage of “Obamacare” involved whether physicians may or may not ask patients about their gun ownership, and if so, who would learn of the answers to those questions. Many citizens rightfully ask, “What the hell does that question have to do with my sore throat?” But because the AMA views gun ownership as a potential health issue, the question seems perfectly reasonable to the AMA.

In 2011 the Republican-controlled state Legislature in Florida passed the Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act, a law limiting what a doctor could a ask a patient about their firearms ownership. Violation of the Florida law could result in the doctor being subjected to fines or loss of license. The law was prompted after an Ocala, Florida couple complained that a doctor asked them about guns and they refused to answer. In response to their refusal to answer the gun questions, the physician refused to see them anymore. The law was supported by the NRA.

NRA-voteBut the law was opposed by the AMA and other medical organizations. In 2011 a federal district court blocked implementation of the law and Florida appealed. With Dr. Wehby serving on the AMA Board of Trustees, the AMA filed a friend-of-the-court brief, urging the appellate court to uphold the district court’s injunction. Interestingly, the AMA and the other amici curiae claimed the law violated doctors’ free speech rights – and the court agreed. In other words, as you sit in the exam room awaiting treatment for your sore knee, the AMA claims its member physicians have the free speech right to ask you about your firearms ownership. [emph added by editor]. If you refuse to answer, as did the original couple in Ocala, you may be dumped by your provider for simply refusing to answer a question wholly unrelated to your health.

The AMA reinforced its position on this issue at its 2013 annual conference by reaffirming AMA Policy H-145.975: “Our AMA supports: encouraging physicians to access evidence-based data regarding firearm safety to educate and counsel patients about firearm safety; [and] the rights of physicians to have free and open communication with their patients regarding firearm safety and the use of gun locks in their homes.”

Where Do the Candidates Stand?

For Republican primary voters, gun control legislation varies from relatively unimportant to the most important single-issue for the voter. With Monica Wehby emerging or at least being touted as the de facto Tea Party candidate, this issue begs closer scrutiny. Dr. Wehby already raised eyebrows with her response to the Portland Business Journal on repealing Obamacare when she gave an answer that was much more Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell than Ted Cruz or Mike Lee.

Since 2011, Wehby has served at the highest level of the American Medical Association, which has been no friend of American and Oregon gun owners. To be fair, Dr. Wehby should be given a full and fair opportunity to defend the AMA’s gun control policies from her perspective as a member of its governing Board of Trustees. Likewise, the other four declared candidates – Rep. Jason CongerJo Rae Perkins, Mark Callahan and Tim Crawley  – deserve an opportunity to weigh in on the AMA policies as well as their own position or voting record on gun control laws.

Bruce McCain is an attorney in private practice, a Reynolds School Board member, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, and is a member of the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce. 

McCain: Cogen mistress tells of Dead Head toking by Multnomah County Chair. Brother in trouble?

No criminal charges against the philandering former Chair, but investigation reveals salacious details about alleged drug fueled days as leader of Multnomah County’s government!

In our last look at the Jeff Cogen affair and the ensuing investigation by Oregon’s Department of Justice, we left off in July by explaining why Cogen had little to fear from the DOJ investigation, which actually provided Cogen with temporary cover and an excuse not to immediately resign. We recounted the results from previous DOJ investigations into high profile officials, ranging from Portland Mayor Sam Adams to DPSST Director John Minnis. In each instance, the officials who were the target of the investigation were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the Oregon Attorney General’s office.

Jeff Cogen grateful deadIn that regard, the outcome of Cogen’s case was decided before it began – and Cogen knew it. But like every investigation, there are always some surprises along the way. For example, the allegation by Sonia Manhas that Cogen led a double life – the public persona of political rising star and the private Cogen, who Manhas described as a “Deadhead” follower of the Grateful Dead lifestyle. The other more serious revelation involved Cogen’s alleged drug use, both on and off the job. While DOJ found insufficient evidence to prosecute Jeff Cogen for drug use, another Cogen family member’s problems may have just begun.

What a long, strange trip it’s been…

Lawyered Up

When DOJ launched its investigation in July, one of the first actions Cogen took was to hire Janet Lee Hoffman to represent him. Hoffman is one of the most experienced, successful and respected criminal defense attorneys in Oregon. As the DOJ report indicates, Hoffman lived up to her reputation for encouraging her clients not to give statements to police by refusing to allow Cogen to be interviewed unless the DOJ first gave her a preview of what would be asked of her client. The two sides never reached an accord on that point, and Jeff Cogen himself never gave a statement to DOJ, despite his previous public statements that he welcomed the investigation and looked forward to a full vetting of all the facts.

Cogen would not be the first Multnomah County chair facing a DOJ investigation who refused to be interviewed. When former chair Diane Linn was investigated in 2007 for tampering with public records, she also refused to be interviewed. Like Cogen, she was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by DOJ.

Both Cogen and Linn had every right to refuse to cooperate with investigators. Because these DOJ investigations are criminal in nature, Linn and Cogen exercised their constitutional right not to be compelled by the state to give a statement. With Hoffman in charge of protecting Cogen, the state would have to make its case against Cogen without any help or cooperation from the potential criminal defendant himself. Hoffman did her job, and did it well. And taking a final page from the Sam Adams political playbook, Hoffman declared her client vindicated by an investigation in which he refused to participate: “We’re delighted that the DOJ released its report this afternoon finding no evidence of official misconduct on his part,” Hoffman said. “This is a position he’s taken from the beginning.”

But Hoffman was not the only attorney to claim Jeff Cogen as a client. For example, Multnomah County Attorney Jenny Madkour, whose client technically is Multnomah County and not any individual employee or elected official, nonetheless told DOJ that “her clients [are] representatives from the Chair’s office, representatives from the Board of Commissioners, representatives from Human Resources, and the Chief Operating Officer. She elaborated that her clients are those county employees who are in decision making positions as well as elected positions.” There also was the revelation that Jeff Cogen was a client of his attorney brother Mitchell Cogen. And that brief snippet in the 100-page DOJ report may prove to be the most troublesome for the Cogen brothers.

Better Call Saul!

Better-Call-SaulPerhaps the most sensational aspect of the Jeff Cogen investigation was the leaked reports that Cogen was a regular marijuana user and allegedly used cocaine and ecstasy. In fact, these leaked reports prompted Rosenblum to quickly release the full, but redacted report, before more investigative details emerged without her stamp of approval.

According to the DOJ reports, “Several people provided information during interviews that Cogen is a recreational user of marijuana.” According to Manhas, Cogen also admitted to her of using cocaine and ecstasy, though she never personally witnessed that particular drug use. Based on that evidence alone DOJ correctly concluded that it could not successfully prosecute and convict Cogen of unlawful use of marijuana or cocaine. But at that point, the investigation was looking at the wrong Cogen.

Manhas told DOJ that Jeff Cogen gets his marijuana from his brother, Mitchell Cogen, and his cocaine fromobama-dope a California attorney later identified as Jeremy Friedman. When DOJ interviewed Friedman, the longtime friend of Jeff Cogen was reluctant to answer any questions related to their alleged shared drug use. In the 24-minute interview, Friedman neither admitted nor denied any knowledge of Cogen or himself using or distributing controlled substances or “engaging in any illegal activity on the past.” Friedman did make clear that he and Jeff Cogen are not business partners and Friedman never claimed to be Jeff Cogen’s attorney. The same cannot be said for Mitchell Cogen.

When DOJ contacted Mitchell J. Cogen, an attorney at Bullard Law, the recorded phone conversation lasted about a minute. Mitchell Cogen told the investigator, “I am one of Jeff’s attorneys, so I’m not interested in talking to you.” That abrupt opening remark caught the investigator off guard, who told Cogen that he thought Janet Hoffman was Jeff Cogen’s attorney. Mitchell Cogen replied that while Hoffman is his brother’s criminal defense attorney, he (Mitchell) was one of his brother’s lawyers and apparently invoked attorney-client privilege in refusing to speak with the investigator.

While that conversation closed a very brief chapter in the Jeff Cogen investigation, the implications of Mitchell Cogen’s claim of attorney-client relationship with his brother may prove problematic for the Oregon State Bar. Both Cogen brothers are members of the Oregon bar. Jeff Cogen was admitted in 1994, but has been on Inactive status for the past several years while serving on the Multnomah County commission.Mitchel J. Cogen has been an active member of the bar since 2000.

The issue is not the alleged personal drug use by either Cogen. Like many professions, among Oregon’s 11,000 attorneys, some have issues with alcohol and drugs. Thirty years ago the bar’s Professional Liability Fund established the Oregon Attorneys Assistance Program, where attorneys can get confidential help for substance abuse issues. Recreational marijuana use, though illegal in Oregon, is not likely grounds for bar discipline absent some other factor. And two Oregon bar members, who happen to be brothers, sharing their personal stash may not appear on the bar’s disciplinary radar either. But Mitchell Cogen told a DOJ investigator that Jeff Cogen is not just his brother, but is a client and presumably has been throughout the time frame that is the subject of the investigation. By claiming his brother is a client in this matter, Mitchel Cogen may have turned himself, and potentially Bullard Law, into an investigative target.

Jeff Cogen brother Mitch-Cogen1

If Sonia Manhas’ allegations are true, that Mitchell Cogen was his brother’s drug supplier, then the bar is faced with a situation where an active Oregon attorney at a large well-known employment law firm has repeatedly and unlawfully delivered a controlled substance to a client. And that is grounds for bar discipline, ranging from public reprimand to disbarment.

Unlawful Delivery of Marijuana (ORS 475.860) can range from being a violation to a Class B felony, depending on the amount delivered, the consideration paid, and the location of the transaction. Under Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(a) “it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects; or engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law; or engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Serving as your client’s drug dealer would likely trip one or more of those provisions.

While Attorney General Rosenblum’s investigation has cleared Jeff Cogen of any criminal wrongdoing, her investigation has uncovered possible criminal misconduct on the part of Jeff Cogen’s brother, who is an active member of the Oregon State Bar. RPC Rule 8.3 states, “(a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the Oregon State Bar Client Assistance Office.” Whether the Attorney General forwards her investigation to the Oregon State Bar for further investigation is unknown at this time. But one cannot help but heed these words of caution:

Driving that train, high on cocaine,jeff cogen choo choo

Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.

Trouble ahead, trouble behind,

And you know that notion just crossed my mind.


Bruce McCain is a lawyer in private practice, member of the Reynolds School Board, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.


Geoff Ludt Statement About the Status of the Oregon Tea Party

Tea party April 15 enhanced group

Statement Regarding the Status of the “Oregon Tea Party”

by Geoffrey Ludt

Having personally experienced financial difficulties during this “Great Recession,” I sympathize with John Kuzmanich’s private financial predicament and was shocked by his public exposure and humiliation in the pages of Willamette Week and disappointed that his personal matters were damaging the Oregon Tea Party brand (Jaquiss, Nigel (2013, October 16). Where’s John Kuzmanich. Willamette Week. 

I know firsthand that financial stress is dispiriting, it damages relationships (it is especially hard on marriages), it’s a lonely space that drains zeal, judgment and actions.

When coordinating Tea Party events, the commitment burns the candle at both ends — every moment spent on activism costs family time and earnings. Initially, you can rationalize the commitment’s costs — after all, when justice and liberty are at stake, what price is too high? Eventually however, nature course corrects and personal and financial obligations come home. I found myself at this point a few short years ago — John Kuzmanich was there and grabbed the baton (and I am thankful that he was).

In recent times it has been pleasing to see the inspiring work of “Citizen Journalists, Lobbyists, and Activists” — ordinary people working to give us a voice in the media and in the halls of government. The work of promoting good candidates and changing the composition of our local representation has not been as effective. I recently read that the assumed business name “Oregon Tea Party” and entity registration “Liberty Coalition PAC” at the foundation of the work to promote candidates went dangerously un-renewed and dissolved two years ago — anyone (including Tea Party opposition) could have read the same column and, for $150, registered the name with the state and used it. Fortunately, I was able to register “Oregon Tea Party LLC” and the assumed business name “Oregon Tea Party” in every Oregon county before something like that happened (McCain, Bruce (2013, October 19). Who’s Tea Party. Oregon Oracle.  With the dissolution of the “Liberty Coalition PAC” the entity underlying the “Oregon Tea Party” brand ceased in October of 2011 — all accountable leadership and past actions receded into history. There has been no formal “Oregon Tea Party” entity or leadership in the State of Oregon for two years.

Today, aside from the aforementioned LLC and assumed business name registrations, the only two other Tea Party-related registrations are: Oregon Tea Party State PAC, which is just a political action committee (not an entity) and John Kuzmanich’s federal “Liberty Coalition Pac DBA Oregon Tea Party” (despite the fact that the “Liberty Coalition PAC” was dissolved for failure to file and the DBA “Oregon Tea Party” failed to renew).

Between the Tea Party’s birth in February 2009 and today a lot of water has passed under the bridge. In the weeks ahead a constellation of stakeholders will communicate and flesh out some reasonable expectations regarding the Oregon Tea Party LLC’s formal future. There may yet be a next chapter for a formal “Oregon Tea Party”, anchored in a board accountable to local Tea Party aligned organizations or, perhaps, there will not be any formal use of the “Oregon Tea Party” brand at all — which may be how it is supposed to be, the Tea Party belongs to everyone after all.

Bruce McCain: Time to “Occupy” Wapato

Unused Wapato Jail contains $600,000.00 of art.  Photo by Bruce McCain
Unused Wapato Jail contains $600,000.00 of art and no inmates.
Photo by Bruce McCain

We are now fast approaching the two-year anniversary of Occupy Portland, whose members illegally occupied Lownsdale and Chapman Squares in downtown Portland for six weeks in October and November 2011.  While most of the media and public attention focused on the circus unfolding across from Portland city hall and the Portland Building, a few blocks away at 4th Avenue and Burnside Street another protest camp was setting up shop on private – not public property. A newly formed nonprofit group, Right 2 Dream Too, had “rented” for $1 dollar per year a vacant lot owned by Michael Wright, who has had his own long-running beef with the city after former Commissioner Randy Leonard forced the closure of Wright’s Cindy’s Adult Bookstore in 2007. The “tenants” then proceeded to erect a couple dozen tents on the paved surface, a practice that eventually generated thousands in fines and a lawsuit by the campers against the city.

 While the Occupy movement may have been driven by radical left-wing ideology, the Right 2 Dream Toomovement was founded and driven by a mostly singular issue – homelessness, albeit with a definite progressive flavor. The group was supported by a quasi-parent organization, begun two years earlier in 2009, known as Right to Survive PDX, self-described as “a direct action group that educates both houseless and housed people on their civil, human, and constitutional rights.”

Fast-forward to Fall 2013 and Occupy Portland is mostly a bad and at times amusing memory for law-abiding residents and tax payers of Portland. Last month a seven-member federal jury in Portland took less than four hours to clear Portland Police officers of allegations of excessive force in a civil suit brought by activist and protester Liz Nichols, who received a mouthful of pepper spray from one of Portland’s finest. Nichols’ loud mouth encounter with Sgt. Jeffery McDaniel became permanently memorialized in Oregonian photographer Randy Rasmussen’s iconic image that has come to define the six-week siege. Today, the Occupy Portland movement has been reduced mostly to a Facebook page that boasts more than 29,000 “Likes” and 23,000 “Talking About” numbers, as if those Facebook metrics actually translate into effective political power.

While the Occupy movement has become “so 2011,” the Right 2 Dream Too movement continues to present troublesome issues for Portland city hall in general and council member Amanda Fritz in particular. In the latest development between the parties, Fritz recently announced the camp can now move and set up on city-owned property under the Broadway Bridge in the Pearl District. The deal brokered by Fritz was an effort to head off a pending lawsuit filed by the homeless group as well as resolving $25,000 in city fines racked up by the campers for violating the city’s code. While Fritz may have ended one litigation, she likely triggered another, as the Pearl District Neighborhood Association recently announced that it is prepared to spend $10,000 in association dues to ensure the city follows every city code and process in its effort to grant Right 2 Dream Too campers the right to occupy city property with impunity.

As this seemingly never-ending drama plays out between liberal progressive politicians and activists, the public continues to hear the familiar refrain from homeless advocates that the Portland-Multnomah region sorely lacks enough adequate shelter beds for temporary, transitional housing, residential treatment for addiction and mental health problems, warming shelters, etc. Meanwhile, in North Portland, a $58 million, never used facility sits idle and unused, complete with 525 beds, an industrial kitchen, medical and dental facilities, office space for counseling services and more. It’s time to Occupy Wapato.

The Wapato Debacle

Wapato bunks could be used to house homeless? Photo by Bruce McCain
Wapato bunks could be used to house homeless?
Photo by Bruce McCain

The stigma of the Wapato Facility as an albatross around Multnomah County’s neck is mired in the economics and politics of the mid-to-late 1990’s. In May 1996 (yes, it has been that long) Multnomah County voters approved Measure 26-45, a $79,700,000 bond authorization to finance the construction of public safety facilities and equipment in the county. The bond proceeds were used to build the Children’s Receiving Center, build the Wapato Facility, add a dorm at the Juvenile Justice Complex, add beds at the Multnomah County Inverness Jail (MCIJ) and purchase computer applications for public safety use. It also provided funds to repair or remodel the downtown courthouse, Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), and transitional housing facilities. Constructing the Wapato Facility itself consumed $58 million of the $79 million voters approved.

Meanwhile, the State of Oregon was engaged in a prolific expansion of its state prison system. Then-Sheriff Dan Noelle also believed the county would need greatly expanded corrections capacity in the immediate and foreseeable future. But Noelle met stiff resistance from former Multnomah County Chair Bev Stein, who argued that treatment and prevention was more effective than pure incarceration. In a compromise that helped pass the measure, Wapato was presented (and later constructed) as a 525-bed hybrid facility consisting of 300 secure treatment beds and 225 regular jail beds, the difference being primarily module design, security, and operating department. Under the compromise, the county’s Department of Community Justice (DCJ) was to operate the 300 treatment beds, while MCSO Corrections would staff the regular jail beds, with MCSO having overall charge of the correctional facility.

After years of difficult siting issues, Wapato construction finally began in 2002 on an industrial site near Smith and Bybee Lakes in North Portland west of the Expo Center. Construction was completed in 2004, recognized in an anti-climatic “grand opening” in July 2004. The dedication ceremony consisted of former Sheriff Bernie Giusto and others cutting the ceremonial ribbon, followed by locking the doors and leaving – both literally and figuratively, for good. Ever since, Multnomah County taxpayers have spent between $300,000 and $400,000 per year just in maintenance costs to keep the 170,000 square foot facility from falling into complete disrepair before it’s ever used for its intended purpose.

Wapato and Measures 47 and 50

Six months after Multnomah County voters passed Measure 26-45, Oregonians at the November 1996 general election passed Measure 47, a citizen initiative that would have rolled back property taxes (but not assessed values) to 90 percent of the 1995-96 level for each property in the state. In response, the 1997 Oregon legislature referred to the voters, who later approved, Measure 50, which repealed Measure 47, while keeping the former measure’s tax cuts. A complete discussion of Measure 50 is beyond the scope of this article, but the impact on local property taxes was immediate and profound.

Under Measure 50, the objective was to reduce property taxes in 1997-98 and to control their future growth. M50 achieved these goals by cutting the 1997-98 district tax levies, and by making three changes: switching to permanent rates, reducing assessed values, and limiting annual growth of assessed value to 3%. For example, In 1995-96, when the Wapato measure was approved, assessed and real market values of real property were equal, and taxed accordingly. Under M50, for 1997-98, the assessed value of every property was reduced to 90 percent of its 1995-96 assessed value.

The effects of M50 had varying impacts throughout the state because growth in value had not been uniform throughout the state. Properties that had experienced the greatest value growth between 1995-96 and 1997-98 received the greatest cuts in assessed value and consequently, in taxes. For property owners, M50 represented much-needed property tax relief, as did Measure 5 years earlier. But for local governments, including Multnomah County, Measures 47 and 50 resulted in a loss of general fund revenue and all but ensured the Wapato Facility would never be opened.

In many ways, the Wapato Facility became Dan Noelle’s Field of Dreams facility, sold to the public on the promise that “if we build it, the inmates will come.” In the mid-1990’s the economy had recovered from the 1990-91 recession and things were booming, even in Oregon. Many honestly believed that rising property taxes due to ever-increasing home values would easily cover not only the cost of paying off the bonds, but also generate general fund revenue to operate the facility, since the Measure approved by voters was for construction only, and did not include an operating levy. But the boom times of the mid 1990’s were quickly followed by the dot.com bubble burst and the mini-recession in 2000. Coupled with the impact of Measures 47 and 50, the Wapato Facility project was doomed to become a $58 million boondoggle that continues to confound and frustrate elected leaders and taxpayers to this day.

Wapato Options – From Hotel to Casino

In the nearly ten years since Sheriff Giusto cut that ceremonial ribbon commemorating the completion, but not the opening, of the Wapato Facility, political leaders and others have struggled to come up with viable uses for the facility. To his credit, former Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler vowed to open Wapato as a correctional facility, even at the expense of closing down jail beds at MCDC, MCIJ or both. But despite his best effort and intentions, Wheeler’s plan proved to be more expensive and less efficient because of the need to replicate corrections services – including transportation, medical, detention and support staff, etc – spread over three disparate facilities instead of just two. In the end, Wheeler’s proposal was never adopted, nor were other piece-meal efforts by the Sheriff and other county leaders to at least partially open Wapato for local correctional use.

MCSO also pitched Wapato to the state’s Department of Corrections for use as a local state prison, particularly for state prisoners in the final year of their sentences to transition back into their local communities. But Wapato was designed and built as a local correctional facility and not a prison – a distinction without a difference to most citizens. But it is a distinction that is real, and which eventually resulted in DOC’s rejection of Wapato as a state prison.

Others have suggested Wapato would make a terrific hotel, casino or combination of both. County officials approached the McMenamin’s, who had previously converted the county’s Troutdale property to a landmark success. But Wapato is no Edgefield, and that idea went nowhere. Wapato has enjoyed some recent success as a filming site for television and motion picture production, but that is analogous to a celebrity athlete or Hollywood star eking out a living signing autographs instead of actually performing their craft. Worse for taxpayers, because of restrictions in the bonds that are not yet retired, the county cannot rent out the facility, and thus charges film crews only the nominal cost of utilities and security, effectively granting film crews free use of a never-used public facility.

The fact remains that Multnomah County tax payers expected and expect the Wapato Facility to be used as a correctional facility. But that expectation is not likely to be realized in the foreseeable future. At the height of Noelle’s tenure as sheriff in 1999-2001, Multnomah County operated five correctional facilities with a capacity of 2,037 inmates. And that did not include Wapato, which was not yet built. Today, the county commissioners give the Sheriff funds to operate only 1,310 jail beds. The downtown MCDC, designed with a capacity of 476, today holds a maximum of 448. The Inverness Jail in Northeast Portland has a capacity of 1,037 inmates. But with three large dorms closed, MCIJ today is capped at 862. If anything, it is clear with MCDC and MCIJ operating below capacity, Wapato will not see a jail inmate inside its walls unless or until one of the two existing jails close for good. Yet ironically, Wapato may provide Multnomah County with the next best thing – a state-of-the-art facility to deliver shelter and services to homeless individuals and families who genuinely desire and deserve the community’s support.

Homeless at Wapato?

The idea of using Wapato as a homeless shelter is not a new idea. In fact, after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast in 2005, Sheriff Giusto offered Wapato as shelter for New Orleans refugees who may be headed to Oregon. But the stigma of housing out-of-state refugees – many of whom would likely be African-American – in a jail was too much for Portland’s progressive political class to stomach and the idea was quickly dismissed. But if any facility was optimized for such a function, it is Wapato.

Remember, that a majority of the 525 beds (300) were designed and built as secure treatment beds for clients of the county’s Department of Community Justice. The facility is easily segregated by gender, allowing for female-only dorms. Who knows, perhaps an entire wing could be dedicated as The Jeff Cogen Shelter for Mistreated Women.

Funding such a massive program would require shifting existing resources now spread out over several nonprofit providers to consolidation under one very large roof, perhaps with those NGO’s providing the staffing to deliver those services. Today, Multnomah County alone spends millions of federal, state and local dollars providing services to the county’s homeless population. Yet we continue to hear complaints that there is not enough beds and facilities to meet the need of the growing homeless population.

County Homeless Expenditures

Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services (DCHS) is the primary provider of service to the county’s vulnerable population, including the homeless. For FY2014 DCHS has a budget of more than $222 million dollars and 700 employees. By comparison, the budget for the Sheriff’s Office is $122 million with 776 employees. DCHS funding consists of federal and state pass-through dollars, combined with local general fund revenue from property taxes. And the money spent on homelessness is far from insubstantial. The county’s FY2014 Adopted Budget is replete with program after program seeking to address homeless issues. Most of those programs are administered by DCHS’ Community Services Division, with a total division budget of $33,415,819. Examples of homeless programs include:

Progam Name                                                                                                   FY2014 Budget

Homeless Families Shelter & Emergency Services (HFSES)                     $1,301,226

HFSES – Expanded East County Outreach                                                   $60,000

HFSES – Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families                                    $390,000

HFSES – Coordinated Entry for Homeless Families – OTO                       $610,000

Homeless Benefit Recovery Project (HBR)                                                   $420,551

Housing Stabilization for Vulnerable Populations (HSVP)                          $3,606,894

HSVP – Short-Term Rent Assistance                                                            $1,500,000

HSVP – Streetroots                                                                                           $40,000

HSVP – Flex Funds for Veterans                                                                    $30,000

Facility Based Transitional Housing                                                               $238,009

CSEC – Shelter, Housing, and Assertive Engagement                                 $429,450

Homeless Youth System (HYS)                                                                      $4,172,600

HYS – MH and Addictions Engagement Services                                         $471,000

Runaway Youth Services (RYS)                                                                      $821,391

RYS – Maintain Current Service Level                                                           $161,132

Anti-Poverty Services (AP)                                                                              $2,267,172

These DCHS Community Services Division programs do not include many related programs operated by the Mental Health and Addiction Services Division, which has a total budget of $99,716,689 for FY2014. For example, MHASD will spend more than $10 million in FY2014 to provide mental health residential services for individuals with a severe mental illness that require care in a 24-hour-a-day setting. To meet that need, the county contracts with licensed caregivers to provide mental health and social services in structured housing for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. The county will contract for a total of 382 such beds in 2014. But rather than have all of most of those beds in one modern facility, those 382 mental health beds are scattered among 64 separate facilities or homes.

Is There the Political Will for Wapato?

In December 2004, five months after Wapato was completed, the City of Portland and Multnomah County jointly published a 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, an initiative to end homelessness in the city and county by 2015. While this laudable – and now laughable – goal seems hopelessly out of reach in late 2013, the Plan points to problems with our current approach which an operational Wapato facility could help address. The Plan consistently pointed to the lack of housing of all types, whether emergency shelters, transitional housing, or treatment beds. Wapato could fill any or all of those needs.

One particular issue bears directly on a function for Wapato in connection with the county’s overall jail system. One of the Plan’s Nine Actions to End Homelessness is to stop discharging homeless jail inmates and hospital patients “into the streets” without linking those individuals to available services. If Wapato were up and running as a homeless service provider, a discharged jail inmate could voluntarily elect to stay at Wapato rather than on a park bench, in a business doorway or under a bridge, where they are far more likely to engage in behavior that leads to additional police contact – thus perpetuating a very expensive and destructive cycle.

As shown in the county’s adopted budget, there are tens of millions of dollars available to spend on the homeless and on those with mental health and addiction problems. Today those tax dollars are scattered across a patchwork network of nonprofit providers who need those public monies to survive. Injecting Wapato into that equation is bound to ignite some inevitable turf wars and self-protection battles. Also, as noted with the Katrina issue, city and county leaders are likely to reject the appearance of institutionalization of the homeless at Wapato, even if those receiving shelter and services are participating voluntarily, as with current programs.

The key to making Wapato work for the homeless is a simple carrot-and-stick approach. Most will agree that among those camping illegally in Portland and surrounding areas are two broad groups of people: those who are truly down on their luck, who have lost their job in this dismal economy and need their neighbors’ temporary help to get back on their feet; and those pit-bull toting “road warriors” and similar scoflaws who choose to camp where they want, when they want and have little or no desire to do otherwise. Portland in particular has encouraged the latter while claiming to help the former.

It’s time for some tough love in the City of Roses. When a person is found illegally camping on public property, the police officer should politely and compassionately offer that person two distinct choices if the camper doesn’t move: a citation or arrest for illegally camping, perhaps accompanied by a free ride in handcuffs to MCDC; or a free ride to Wapato where the person can get a hot meal, a warm and dry bed out of the elements, medical, dental and other services, and the freedom to stay or leave when they want.

Or we can wait until the Wapato bonds are paid off in 2016, cut our collective losses and sell the place to the highest bidder while city and county officials wonder what went wrong with their 10-year plan to end homelessness by 2015.

Are Bloggers “Journalists?” GOVERNMENT Federal Shield Law May Decide. VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce Weighs In.

We're all Thomas Paine now.
We’re all Thomas Paine now.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could pick and choose your opponents? Like boxing managers in some smoky room in Vegas deciding who would get the next shot at the heavyweight title, your opponent would be hand selected based on what you, the champ, believed would best serve your needs. 

In a sense, the Obama Administration proposes much the same arrangement with news coverage.  President Obama has asked Senator Chuck Schumer to reintroduce federal Journalist Shield Law legislation. 

In the age of Wikileaks and Ed Snowden, President Obama is understandably concerned about people leaking government secrets. You know, like the New York Times leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  

The shield law would allow a journalist a get-out-of-jail free card if they refuse to reveal a source of a story. But there’s a catch.  Government would decide who qualifies as a “journalist” and leave the seriousness of a journalistic transgression up to a judge to decide. The government would presume to separate the legit journalists from the non journalists.

And that puts Barack Obama in the role of Don King. 

As conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg puts it,

Journalism isn’t a priestly caste or professional guild with special rights. It is an activity we all have a right to partake in. Whether it’s a blogger with a virtual tip jar exposing malfeasance or 60 Minutes making fraudulent charges about George W. Bush, there will always be good journalism and bad journalism.

I was a working journalist for years and now I am a blogger. What changed? The person who paid me. The last time this law was considered, bloggers were left off the list of government-approved journalists and it looks like Senator Diane Feinstein wants to keep it that way in the bill’s latest iteration, 

“I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there,” she said.

Thomas Paine was a blogger of his day. Would the pamphleteer who wrote Common Sense make the cut in DiFi’s world? 

Journalism is done for the public good, but it is a private activity. What role does the government have at all in this private activity?

Goldberg lasers in on a fundamental flaw in the logic behind this shield law. Lawmakers have forgotten that the First Amendment covers other things besides a ‘free press,’ 

It also protects free speech, free assembly, freedom of worship and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. We all have these rights. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has no more rights than my dentist.

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has no more rights than my dentist.

It’s possible lawmakers have the same deliberate misunderstanding of the First Amendment as they do of the Second. Rights are accorded every individual citizen, not just government approved subsets of people they call ‘journalists’ or ‘militias.’  With that in mind, I’ve asked the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce and others to weigh in on this issue. The following are their essays from their own perspectives.  

Journalist Shield Laws–A VERY BAD IDEA

Novelist John D. Trudel

What our President and some Republican cronies are attempting to do with this legislation is evil. They seek to exploit public outrage and endless rolling crisis (Obama’s “phony scandals”) to attack and erase our basic Unalienable, God-Given Constitutional rights. “We all have these rights. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has no more rights than my dentist,” says blogger Jonah Goldberg.

NSA is turning America into a “Total Surveillance State,” a “Prison without walls.” DOJ is lying to judges and committees while bugging reporters and Congress. IRS and many other Federal agencies are being used as political attack dogs, and NOT just against the TEA Parties, against companies like Gibson Guitar, non-profits like True the Vote, and, yes, against journalists and writers. We also have the Benghazi, Extortion 17, and Syria cover-ups. Who dares speak against this? Where is Paul Revere?

The media has totally failed in its traditional 4th Estate role. It has moved beyond bias to being an integral part of Team Obama, a propaganda arm with financial and family connections. The old media is no longer trusted, declining, and becoming irrelevant.

New networks are emerging, from Fox to The Blaze, part of a return to grass roots journalism with powerful new technology. Instead of Thomas Paine and his pamphlets, we now have legions of bloggers, writers, PACs, and informal networks, most of us seeking to spread truth, each in our own way. America is seeing a new awakening. The embers of freedom still burn.

This threatens Washington insiders, the power elites in both parties. They don’t want to face investigations, arrests, and impeachments. Instead of enforcing existing laws, they seek to pass new laws and empower bureaucracies to ration freedom and circumvent the Constitution.

The proposed “Shield Laws” are just one more attempt to create classes of Government Given Rights to favor insiders and to replace the God Given Rights endowed to ALL Americans by our Creator.

The proposed “Shield Laws” are just one more attempt to create classes of Government Given Rights to favor insiders and to replace the God Given Rights endowed to ALL Americans by our Creator. Obama’s “Soft Tyranny” is growing fangs and claws. Our rights come from God, not from any government, and we cede these at our peril. “Those who seek safety by giving up Liberty will wind up with neither.”

It is an interesting time to be a Thriller novelist. My last novel, Privacy Wars, won three national awards, predicted the NSA and IRS scandals, and is getting more discussion in political groups than in bookstores. My next book, Soft Target, has a SPEC OPS storyline.  I don’t even HAVE a blog yet. I’ve planned to start one as my Email lists are badly overloaded, but if we have government control of public speech, it is game over. Not just for bloggers, for all of us, and for the America we love.

[I]f we have government control of public speech, it is game over. Not just for bloggers, for all of us, and for the America we love.

“Share” if you want our politicians to start respecting the Constitution! Send them a message here: http://bit.ly/1doWd52.  John Trudel is a novelist and thinker. Find his work here: www.johntrudel.com


We’re All Journalists

Dan Sandini

Citizen Journalist, Dan Sandini: So by way of introduction I’m Dan Sandini, a double Masters with top grades and 20 years in tech and finance.  Came from nothing except three squares, a roof, and parents who loved and cared about about me.  After retiring self-made at 42, I saw Breitbart give a speech on YouTube and became a Citizen Journalist.  I’m lousy at all aspects of it, but was good and persistent enough to help expose the reality of Occupy, meet Breitbart and contribute to his movie Occupy Unmasked.

I want to say that it is my belief that all Citizens of the United States of America are, and should be considered Journalists.  I’ve learned that the truth is no one story.  That each of us as Americans, even when seeking to to offer “just the facts,”  offer unique perspectives.  Only with a collective perspective, available to all other Citizens, can we as a society form a consensus of what reality is, and thereby make the right decisions forward as a nation.  I have seen Blacks the target of racism, and have the act ignored by the reporters of every mainstream media outlet in the city in the interest of political expediency.  Without one brave TEA Party Mom with a cell phone camera, the truth would still be unknown.  But thanks to her:  the truth is undeniable.

Thomas Paine said:  “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

Further, without having any formal education in philosophy or history, I have an innate sense that we humans are extremely special beings, all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable Rights, including our freedom to report the news as we see it.  This Right has been protected from legislators such as yourselves under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Thomas Paine said:  “When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”  Please do not let history record that it happened under your watch.

Dan Sandini is a Citizen Journalist. Find his work here: http://www.youtube.com/user/daylightdisinfectant


Shielding the Police Journalist 

by Bernie Giusto

Nothing is more threatening to United States law enforcement’s ability to protect our free society than artificially limiting freedom of speech.

Nothing is more threatening to United States law enforcement’s ability to protect our free society than artificially limiting freedom of speech.

Agents of the FBI, Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, State Troopers, Deputies and police officers in general have long relied on the right to engage anyone, in the court protected Fourth Amendment use of the force principle known ,”Mere Conversation.” Courts have long protected that principle with or without a specific purpose for the conversation. The freedom to ask questions, interpret the answer, and publish those exchanges in police documents as a part of the public record (available to a free press) is the check and balance courts have set out as the most fail-safe method limiting the abuse of the freedom of expression of an over ambitious law enforcement agenda.  First and foremost,  the courts have protected the right of law enforcement to be journalists undefined by law, with the right to ask and the purpose to inform of a crime past or a clear and present danger that may await.
 First and foremost,  the courts have protected the right of law enforcement to be journalists undefined by law, with the right to ask and the purpose to inform of a crime past or a clear and present danger that may await.

When Congress redefines Free Speech by defining a “journalist” with the purpose of limiting who is protected for sharing views, the real danger is not who is included in this newly created clique but who is left. The basis of police writings are nothing more than written observations informed by events which are often subject to the individual interpretation by individual “police” journalists. We not only allow, but courts have extolled the social virtues of, allowing police officers to lie to bad guys in order to get to the truth of a potential or actual criminal act to protect (the predefined) good guys. Eventually, both the lie and truth it may or may not extract become part of these journalistic observations. We trust that this creative fiction serves a greater interest, but even more, we trust that protecting the right of these “sworn citizen journalists” is a social necessity. The observations that lead to those lies to get to the truth are necessities worth protecting. These journalists may be summoned to court to validate the fiction, but most often they are not. These cop journalists are given the benefit of the doubt. In fact, we praise their results even if the cop had to lie to get to the truth. 

So it would lead this long-time “police” journalist to conclude that when Congress sets about redefining who gets protection for their journalistic creativity and who does not, it is defining what has social value and what does not. Congress could keep redefining what ‘value’ is and the rationale to decide. Congress could someday decide to end protection police journalists have for what they observe and record. Congress could decide to end the practice of allowing a cop to lie to get to the truth, saying that we are no longer allowed to judge the value of the lie but only experience the result of the lie on the public record and in the public consciousness. If that happens, we have gone way past “In God We Trust.”  Instead, we will have completely forsaken one of our founding principles on which free speech was born, “…[T]hat these truths are held to be self evident.”  I wonder if they meant “…but only as viewed by Congress.


Bernie Giusto, Multnomah County Sheriff (Retired), Chief of Police, City of Gresham,Oregon State Police, member Victoria Taft Blogforce.


Anyone can report the news and should

by Victor Sharpe

The Constitution we appreciate and embrace so deeply is threatened by Democrat politicians, from the present incumbent in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama, down through the Democrat Senatorial and House ranks. Now we have Senators Durbin, Schumer, Feinstein, et al, threatening our First Amendment rights, namely by defining who is a “real” journalist.

The Shield Law attempts to place some limitations on courts and police from compelling journalists to divulge anonymous sources. But Senator Durbin wants to penalize those whom he disapproves of, especially those who write words he finds objectionable and not supportive of his leftist views. In a recent opinion essay published in the Chicago Sun Times, Senator Durbin argued it was “time to say who’s a real reporter.” In other words, he wants many of those on the right to be stripped of their First Amendment protections.

The Democrat supporters now want the Obama Administration to be the arbiter of who the First Amendment can apply to. In other words, the old Marxist aphorism that, “all people are equal, but some are more equal than others,” will apply and severely affect everyone’s rights – but primarily conservative bloggers and writers who oppose the soft tyranny that is the Obama regime.

Anyone can report the news and so they should. Just because amateur reporters or freelance journalists are mostly unpaid and work independently should not preclude them from enjoying the same First Amendment privileges, which the so often biased leftwing political hacks who infest the mainstream media receive.

Victor Sharpe is a writer for many national blogs, including American Thinker, is a musician and a middle east expert.



Free Speech is Free Speech; without compromise.

by Dr. Tim Ball 

“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” –Thomas Jefferson

 The US Founding Fathers produced a masterpiece. It works because it has no illusions about the nature of people. As George Washington said, “We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.” They knew some people would attempt to ignore, bypass, or even corrupt a free society.  They understood the power of power;  the corruption of power; and the power of corruption. They anticipated Lord Acton’s comment that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Alexander Hamilton said, “A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.” James Madison expressed it this way. “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.” They designed a system that anticipated and precluded demagoguery. They knew the key was free speech and so made its protection the top objective. They knew governments were the most likely to abridge or control free speech and so made the second amendment the ability to defend it.

As George Washington said, “We must take human nature as we find it, perfection falls not to the share of mortals.”

The Fathers also understood that information and its dissemination is power and recognized the role of the media as the Fifth Estate. The US people and their constitution is being challenged as never before partly because the media failed. It is the pattern of previous civilizations that they begin to fail in the second century of their existence as demagogues and power elites undermine the values, institutions and thereby the belief of the people.

Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “global village”. It was the first part of information democracy. The second part was the creation of the Internet. For the first time in history a majority of people had access to information but could contribute their ideas and participate in discussions among large numbers of people. People realized the value, openness and diversity of the internet so it quickly became the source of information for more and more people. This accelerated the demise of the media already in progress because of their failure to  act as the Founding Fathers had envisioned.

In an ironic twist the success of the internet and bloggers has triggered attempts to limit their role. The media want the politicians, who they are supposed to prevent from limiting free speech, to limit free speech. They want journalists designated a special group and protected under a shield law.  A hint of the media concern was a comment by Juan Williams on FOX news about the unprofessionalism of bloggers.

As Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.” Don’t let them be suppressed in any way.

Lack of professionalism, failure to expose wrong doing and open bias among the media are the main reason the public are not listening to them anymore. Their solution is to enshrine rights they have already failed to uphold and to suppress ordinary citizens who have used a vehicle of free speech to seek the truth. The blog site is equivalent to the Pamphlet during the Revolutionary War.[1] They were the vehicle of the people’s ideas and were critical in achieving freedom leading to the construction of the Constitution. Those freedoms are under attack as never before. This apparently small battle over control of the internet and information is central to the progress toward a full functioning and free society. As Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.” Don’t let them be suppressed in any way.

[1] There is a “Check list of American revolutionary war pamphlets in the Newberry library”.  Dr. Ball is Canada’s first Climatologist and has been instrumental in bringing science back into the political debate over man made global warming. Find his work here: http://drtimball.com/


Who is a journalist matters

Bruce McCain

I’m not sure if this helps frame the issue or not. While I certainly don’t like the idea of Diane Feinstein defining who is and is not a “journalist” today, the question remains: Who is a journalist in today’s world where anyone and everyone with a smart phone and a YouTube account can self-publish “news” as a “citizen journalist?” Let me give you two examples in Oregon unrelated to the shield law, but with legal implications nonetheless.

But the question remains, who is “the media?” Can any citizen journalist with a WordPress blog, including some of our more activist OEA members, demand entry to our executive sessions as members of the media

Oregon is the only state that allows the media to sit in on executive sessions of public bodies (I know because I am an elected official of a large suburban school district). Under Oregon law, the media may attend, but may not report on what they learn. In our district, we have had local reporters from the Gresham Outlook and Oregonian sit in on out executive sessions in which we discuss some pretty touch subjects. But the question remains, who is “the media?” Can any citizen journalist with a WordPress blog, including some of our more activist OEA members, demand entry to our executive sessions as members of the media? It hasn’t happened yet to us, but there have been a handful of instances where just such a demand has been made by a blogger who was denied entry as a “legitimate” member of the media. If everyone today is a potential “citizen journalist” then no one is a journalist. It has become the classic distinction without a difference.

On another legal matter, Oregon like most states has several statutes that protect the media from defamation claims. In Oregon, a defamation claim against “the media” can only be brought if a demand for correction or retraction was first made or if the plaintiff alleges and proves actual intent to defame by the media defendant. As you probably know, in a defamation action against a defendant who is an owner, licensee, or operator of a radio or television broadcasting station, or an agent or employee thereof, the defendant is “not liable for any damages for any defamatory statement published or uttered in a radio or television broadcast, by one other than the [defendant] unless” the plaintiff alleges and proves that the defendant “failed to exercise due care to prevent the publication or utterance of such statement in such broadcast.” ORS 31.200. But again, who is a member of “the media?” You may recall an Oregon federal defamation case last year in which an attorney successfully sued a woman blogger for defamation. The defendant, Crystal Cox, represented herself (like Roger Alvey) and lost badly. But one of the issues the court had to address was whether or not this blogger was protected as “the media” for the purposes of Oregon defamation law. The court said No because “The Oregon Legislature has not expanded the list of publications or broadcasts to include Internet blogs.” The court also laid out a series of criteria for a member of the media, which Cox failed to meet:

“Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For example, there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest; (4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted; (5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources; (6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or (7) contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story. Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not ‘media.’”

At some point, someone – whether the legislative or judicial branches – must proffer an objective definition of “the media” or “journalist” if these statutes are going to have any meaningful effect. 

I realize there is a subtle difference between “journalist” and “media” but not much. I don’t have an answer for this issue. Perhaps Jonah Goldberg is right: abolish all special protection for “the media” if in fact everyone and anyone can now call themselves a “citizen journalist.” But good luck getting those laws changed in the face of stiff media lobbying. If anything, there may be efforts to add internet blogs to Oregon’s list of “publications.” At some point, someone – whether the legislative or judicial branches – must proffer an objective definition of “the media” or “journalist” if these statutes are going to have any meaningful effect. If not, then I agree with Goldberg and let’s just abolish all special protection for “the media” who now include anyone with a smart phone.

 Bruce McCain is a retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, an attorney in private practice and a member of the Victoria Taft.com Blogforce 


Diane Feinstein’s blogger persecution fetish is obscene

By Scott St. Clair

Who died and made Dianne Feinstein the newest William Randolph Hearst deciding who is and who ain’t a journalist? This paraphrase of what every kid in America has said at one time or another to the grade-school busybody who shoves everyone aside to make up her own tetherball rules or decide that her friends get first in line at the drinking fountain, fits California’s Democratic senior U.S. senator to a tee.

Feinstein wants the federal government to define who is and who is not a “real journalist.” During Senate deliberation of a new federal “shield law” to protect journalists from being forced to disclose sources, she proposed an amendment that would limit its application to what she called “real reporters.”

Setting aside for the sake of argument that part of the First Amendment that says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press…” that makes this a legally-dubious and specious effort, from a policy standpoint, what she is doing is deplorable public policy.

Her amendment “defines a ‘covered journalist’ as someone who gathers and reports news for ‘an entity or service that disseminates news and information.’”

This begs the question as to what qualifies as “an entity or service that disseminates news and information.” Nobody rightly knows. One thing we do know from listening to her, however, is that she’s on the warpath to exclude bloggers – especially teenaged bloggers – from any protection or coverage at all.

Have California bloggers been so unkind to her that she now has a fetish to persecute them?

But journalists are no better since they love to run a closed shop with high barriers to entry erected in the name of so-called “professionalism,” but which more resemble a way to keep the riffraff competition out. Even their professional organization – The Society for Professional Journalists – which was founded as a fraternity in 1909, likes to gussie up the family tree in order to distance itself from your grandfather’s journalism – watch “His Girl Friday” for a comic look at how it was in 1940 – to those who peddle their wares today.

If you want to get in their club, you have to play by their rules or don’t play at all.

All of which is reminiscent of the struggles I had several years ago with the Capitol Press Corps in Olympia when I covered state government for the Freedom Foundation in Washington state. I was there to report the news, dig up stories and tell those who read our blog what was going on. But because I didn’t get paid by an organization whose purpose was to report the news as they defined it, I couldn’t get press credentials, which consigned me to the cheap seats up in the Senate and House galleries, which occasionally had its advantages since I was forced to take a more panoramic view of things that allowed me to uncover a unique form of official chicanery.

I did get credentials from the United States Congress when I spent some time in Washington, D.C. to cover a story, but that wasn’t good enough for the Statehouse crowd.

Technology and market forces have, and will continue to change, journalism. So, what else is new? Part of that change is discarding some of the old to embrace some of the new.  

The muckrakers of the early 20th Century – Upton Sinclair, Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffans and others – were disparaged by many of the journalistic elites of their day since the demand for what they wrote and exposed came out of a public appetite for juicy stories whetted by sensationalist “Yellow Journalists.”

Then TV came along to displace newspapers as the number one source of news for Americans, with the Internet making strong inroads to eventually displace the tube.

About the only thing certain in all this is that most Americans distrust traditional news outlets. Sixty percent of those surveyed by Gallup a year ago said they don’t believe newspapers, TV and radio report the news fully, fairly and accurately. What happens when you have a product the public regards as lousy? They stop buying, and the bottom line gets whacked.

Let’s face it: Journalism and news outlets are in the toilet nationwide.  Newspapers have seen a 30 percent reduction in headcount since their heyday of just over a dozen years ago. Almost daily, print news outlets cease publication and convert to exclusively digital content. For-profit journalism is increasingly supplanted by non-profit journalism, which is itself struggling.

Once there were close to three dozen reporters covering the Washington State Legislature and the governor’s office in Olympia, but by 2009, it was tough to find a fourth for pinochle because so many publications stopped sending reporters to cut costs or because it was easier to publish the AP feed.

It’s no better in radio and TV, where bottom-line driven headcount reductions and thinner news coverage is the order of the day.

Yet the honorable gentle lady wants us to restrict the definition of journalist to a dying breed. Maybe it’s because the less there are of them, the better politicians like it. After all, isn’t a journalist’s job to hold politicians accountable – something on the order of speaking truth to power, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?

Nah – that only mucks up the journalist’s next gig, which is working for the very ones he’s supposed to be watchdogging.

The hottest career move in journalism these days seems to be jumping ship from whatever “news outlet” you see dying on the vine to going to work as a PR flack for government. It’s happening both on the federal level and at the state level.

Back when I covered the capitol for the Freedom Foundation, yesterday’s Seattle Times or KING 5 reporter popped up as today’s “official spokesperson” for this, that or the other mayor, county executive, state agency or even the governor.

Instead of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, journalists are seeking out jobs that afflict them with comfort, which makes veteran reporter Seymour Hersh as mad as a wet hen.

Hersh, who received the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering and reporting on the My Lai atrocity during the Vietnam War, thinks that those who pass themselves off as journalists and editors these days should be fired because they’re too cozy with what he calls the “total nincompoops” who run the world.

Quoted at the UK’s TheGuardian.com, he’s especially critical of The New York Times for spending “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would.” And, he contends, the Obama administration stopped informing the American public years ago about what the government was doing and morphed into a full-time auxiliary of the president’s re-election campaign.

He hasn’t much use for any of what he calls “insiders” in journalism today. His solution is for newspapers and news outlets to hire outsiders that cannot be controlled and turn them loose, which brings to mind the lowly blogger.

 I know this guy, an outsider, who runs a blog in West Seattle, and he’s taken it upon himself to do what the newspapers and TV stations in Seattle and King County won’t, which is investigate and report on alleged corruption of publicly-funded homeless activists and their cozy relationships with city and county government.

OK, so David Preston doesn’t always follow the AP Stylebook, but his Blog Quixotic performs a valuable public service by investigating how the public’s money is being spent, whether the spending complies with the law and generally what public officials are doing on a matter of significant interest to taxpayers.

But according to Dianne Feinstein, he’s no better than a 17-year-old blogging in his parents’ basement, ergo he’s undeserving of Shield-Law protection.

If he’s not, then nobody is, and maybe that should be so all the way around. There’s a case to be made that shield laws do more harm than good because they promote whispered secrets and half-exposures of the truth.  

If you’re going to have one, it shouldn’t exclusively apply to a government-defined class of swells who are already too cozy with those they’re supposed to investigate and upon whom they’re supposed to report.

It’s enough that some in government try to regulate the editorial content of newspapers critical of their action, even doing it repeatedly, or that newspapers sidle up to legislators currying tax-relief favors, which then makes their news and editorial coverage of the government questionable since they’re arguably beholden to it for survival. How about when one of Sen. Feinstein’s colleagues suggests the government should financially bail out failing newspapers? No matter how you slice it, it’s creepy.

And what are you going to do when “real” journalists partner with bathrobe-clad bloggers to provide coverage in neighborhoods and on topics the big boys have abandoned? That’s happening, but no protection for the blogger half of the partnership from Sen. Feinstein.

What people want is the news reported to them in an honest and straightforward manner. They no longer care if it comes from their local version of The Daily Planet or TheDailyPlanet.com, a local blog. If the facts are there and the story is accurate, that’s all that matters. If “journalism” gets practiced by a 17-year-old looking into miscues in the faculty lounge or a 70-year-old crusading for a new senior center who uncovers evidence of official misconduct, then so be it.

You don’t have to be a member of the union, work for the right employer, have a degree from the correct school or drink the right whisky to be a journalist. Maybe journalism is and should be like the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous description of obscenity —  probably many think it is already – which he declined to define saying only “I  know it when I see it.”

In any event, one clear obscenity is what Dianne Feinstein is trying to do to bloggers.

Scott St. Clair is a journalistic pugilist, born free American man, writer, journalist,  and is a member of the VictoriaTaft.com Blogforce


Bruce McCain: Multnomah County Chair Cogen Uses Sam Adams Playbook

Cogen waiting for firing squad
Lonely Jeff Cogen.

Based on several high profile cases over the past few years, Cogen is gambling that the DOJ investigation will come up empty, allowing him to claim vindication and remain in office for the remainder of his term, which expires December 31, 2014. Whether Cogen runs for reelection is another matter, and one that is fast approaching. But for now, as his mistress Sonia Manhas wanders the private sector looking for work bearing Cogen’s scarlet letter, Cogen himself will watch as this week’s DOJ investigation gets underway, confident of its outcome.

Jeff Cogen is no dummy. A smart lawyer and savvy politician, Cogen’s political star was rising fast until he flew too close to the sun and got torched. But he has seen plenty of DOJ investigations, some up close within Multnomah County itself, to feel less concerned about the DOJ investigators than what his future spousal and child support payments may be. As with most of these types of investigations, the focus will be on whether Cogen’s conduct gives rise to criminal culpability for official misconduct.

Official Misconduct: ORS 162.415

The crime of official misconduct is one of those rare criminal statutes that can only be violated by “a public servant,” which includes public employees like Manhas and elected officials like Cogen. A public servant commits the crime of official misconduct in the first degree if, with the intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another, the servant knowingly performs an act that constitutes an unauthorized exercise in official duties.

For Jeff Cogen to be found criminally culpable for first degree official misconduct, the DOJ must find evidence that:

  1. Cogen acted in his official capacity;
  2. Cogen acted with the intent to benefit himself or harm someone else; and
  3. Cogen’s actions amounted to an unauthorized exercise of his official duties.

Moreover, to support a successful prosecution, each element must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. While many viewing Cogen’s actions and conduct relating to Ms. Manhas as easily meeting all three elements, past examples of DOJ investigations for criminal misconduct of elected and high-ranking public officials tell a different story.

Bernie Giusto

On August 1, 2005, former Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk asked the DOJ to investigate former Sheriff Bernie Giusto for his actions related to an “intervention” orchestrated by Mrs. Lee Jeddeloh for her husband, James Jeddeloh and also for the Sheriff’s handing of Mr. Jeddeloh’s application for a concealed handgun license. The DOJ investigation specifically focused on whether Sheriff Giusto’s actions constituted official misconduct. DOJ investigators interviewed 21 witnesses and reviewed hundreds of documents before concluding in January 2007 that Sheriff Giusto committed no criminal act. While Giusto eventually retired due to a potential DPSST decertification matter, his resignation was not due to a DOJ finding of official misconduct. [Disclosure: I represented Sheriff Giusto in both his DOJ investigation and DPSST matter and he’s a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.]

Diane Linn

Diane-Linn-smallWhile the DOJ was busy in 2006 investigating Sheriff Giusto, district attorney Schrunk dropped another steaming pile on the Attorney General Hardy Meyer’s doorstep. This time, Schrunk asked DOJ to investigate former county chair Diane Linn for possible criminal misconduct related to tampering with public records. The timing could not have been worse for Linn, who was already notoriously known as the lead singer for Diane Linn and the Mean Girls. Schrunk’s request came at the end of April, just as ballots went out two weeks before the May primary election. Linn understandably charged the investigation and its timing were politically motivated. Voters didn’t care. They booted Linn and gave the job to Ted Wheeler, who rolled to an impressive win with 70 % of the vote against an incumbent female Democrat.

Linn’s investigation involved charges that she had directed a subordinate employee, Laura Bridges, to make changes to Linn’s electronic calendar to make it appear Linn was working when she allegedly was not. The allegations actually related back to 2003, when a reporter for The Oregonian filed a public records request for Linn’s calendar.

The investigation quickly became a nasty political spat involving Schrunk, who was falsely accused by Linn of having contributed to Wheeler’s campaign; and even attorney general Meyers, who had to recuse himself because he had endorsed Linn over Wheeler. Eventually, Peter Shepherd took over the investigation, which dragged on for the rest of Linn’s lame duck year of 2006.

Linn was not investigated for official misconduct, but instead for Tampering with a Public Record (ORS 162.295) and Solicitation of Tampering of Public Records (ORS 166.155(2)(a)). The DOJ wrapped up its report in April 2007, long after Linn had vacated the Multnomah Building. The investigators noted several evidentiary problems in the case which,

“taken in combination, these evidentiary problems lead to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to establish a reasonable doubt that Diane Linn committed the crimes of Tampering with Public Records or Solicitation of Tampering with Public Records.”

As a final irony to the Diane Linn case, the Oregonian reporter whose initial public records request in 2003 started the chain reaction that lead to Linn’s departure was David Austin, who now works full time as the spokesperson for Multnomah County. Rather than chasing the Cogen story for the media, Austin has spent the past two weeks on the receiving end of his former colleagues’ questions about his boss’s illicit affair. Welcome to the Multnomah Building.

Sam Adams

SAM ADAMS AND BEAU BREEDLOVE AT A MENTORING FUNCTIONMost Portlanders, and Oregonians for that matter, are familiar with the Sam Adams affair involving teenagerBeau Breedlove. Besides admitting he lied about the affair to get elected, Adams also withered a six-month DOJ investigation that focused on many of the more prurient details we have all tried to forget. On January 21, 2009, DA Schrunk once again wanted nothing to do with involving his office in another Portland or Multnomah County political mess so, along with Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, Schrunk asked new attorney general John Kroger to investigate Adams.

The DOJ Adams investigators focused their attention on three primary areas: 1) sex crimes; 2) official misconduct; and 3) theft. First, investigators wanted to know if Adams had sexual intercourse with Breedlove before June 25, 2005, while Breedlove was under 18 years of age, which could have resulted in criminal charges of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Sexual Misconduct, and Sex Abuse III. Fortunately for Cogen, Ms. Manhas, a married mother of two, is well past the age of consent.

Adams was also investigated for official misconduct stemming from two unrelated events. First, was the allegation that Adams had hired Amy Ruiz, then a reporter for the Portland Mercury, in 2008 in an effort to stop her from pursuing a story about Adams’ relationship with Breedlove. Adams was also alleged to have used government resources to disseminate false information during his tenure as city commissioner and mayor. Finally, the DOJ investigated Adams for possible theft or theft by deception for statements Adams may have made in connection with his campaign for mayor.

The DOJ investigators interviewed 57 witnesses; reviewed “voluminous” City hall records, including phone and email records; and even conducted a forensic examination of Breedlove’s cell phone and three of Adams’ computers. Six months later, the DOJ wrapped up its investigation with a straightforward summary conclusion:

“We have obtained no evidence that Adams engaged in illegal sexual intercourse with a minor, committed official misconduct, or engaged in theft by deception.”

Like Cogen, Adams was asked to resign, not only by editorial boards, but also those who had supported him in the past. Not surprisingly, the Oregonian, Portland Business Journal and Portland Tribune called for Adams’ resignation. But so did Portland’s leading gay publication, Just Out, which wrote, “”Adams has failed to show the principled character that this publication feels is a basic requirement for an elected official.” Yet Adams, like Cogen today, rebuffed those calls and rode out a criminal investigation that came up empty.

Minnis-medium-214x300John Minnis

While the previous incidents cited above involved elected officials, another scandal erupted in late 2009 that did not get as much attention as Adams’ affair, but like Cogen’s, involved a power boss and a female subordinate. At the time, John Minnis was the appointed Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the state agency that trains and certifies law enforcement officers. Minnis was in charge of DPSST when his agency doggedly sought to decertify Bernie Giusto two years earlier. By the end of 2009, Minnis himself, a former Portland Police officer, was facing his own DOJ investigation, loss of his own police certification and public disgrace.

John Minnis was no stranger to politics or government. Minnis spent 27 years with the Portland Police Bureau. He also served in the Oregon legislature as a Republican legislator. Minnis served in the House from 1985 to 1999, rising to chair both Ways and Means and Judiciary committees. Term limits forced Minnis to switch to the Senate, where he served one term from 2000-2004, representing his east Multnomah County district. Though John Minnis served nearly two decades in the Oregon legislature, his wife, Karen, may have had the bigger impact. Karen Minnis served as speaker of the House in 2003 and 2005 and in 2003, the Republican couple were considered Oregon’s most powerful duo in Salem.

In 2004, John Minnis was appointed by Democratic governor Ted Kulongoski to take over DPSST. Some questioned how a retired Portland Police officer could work full time as a PERS employee for DPSST. The answer is because PPB’s retirement system for police and firefighters for those hired when Minnis was hired is not part of PERS, and is therefore not subject to the retirement work restrictions covering PERS retirees. Thus, Minnis was able to pocket his PPB retirement, collect his $120,000 per year DPSST salary, and build on his PERS retirement account that included nearly 20 years in the legislature. But John Minnis was double dipping in places other than the public’s pocketbook.

According to investigative reports, Minnis had begun pursuing a female subordinate who was a secretary in his office around October 2008. Unlike Cogen’s affair, in which he and Manhas admit was consensual, Minnis was a predator pursuing prey. Minnis’ target was a married female with a known alcohol problem that Minnis exploited on multiple business trips in which they both participated. Minnis’ victim accused him of repeatedly groping her, plying her with alcohol until she passed out and making repeated unwelcome sexual advances toward her.

Things ended badly when she woke up in a hotel room naked with her clothes folded neatly at the end of her bed. Only later did Minnis’ victim learn that Minnis – a former police detective – was careful not to engage in sexual intercourse while she was passed out, but had instead, in his words, “ejaculated on the freaking sheets.” When pressed by investigators whether he had engaged in any sexual contact with his victim, Minnis sounded exasperated when he boasted:

“Look, if I’m gonna have sex with somebody I would like them to participate. I like it to be mutual between the two of us but it’s no fun uh, having sex with yourself or someone who is not participating. That’s not my style. That’s not who I am.”

Governor Kulongoski wasted no time placing his appointed sexual predator on basically house arrest during working hours. On November 23, 2009, Minnis sent an email to DPSST announcing his retirement effective January 1, 2010. Minnis made no apology for his conduct with a DPSST employee, but instead claimed he was retiring from 25 years of state service to enter the private sector. But Minnis’ legacy lingered on a while longer.

Minnis’ victim filed a tort claim with the state and a separate complaint with the Bureau of Labor & Industries, which took the rare and unusual step of actually filing a $2 million complaint against Minnis and DPSST on behalf of Minnis’ victim. The BOLI suit was settled with the state agreeing to pay Minnis’ victim a total of $450,000. Minnis was required to personally pay her $65,000, with the remaining $385,000 coming out of a risk management fund.

By all accounts, Jeff Cogen engaged in no behavior with Manhas remotely related to Minnis’ unwanted sexual aggression. Nevertheless, the county quickly covered itself in Manhas’ severance agreement in which Cogen’s mistress agreed – with her attorney’s blessing – not to sue the county over Cogen’s conduct. But the bigger lesson for Cogen is the result of the DOJ investigation into Minnis’ conduct.

Minnis took his female subordinate with him to at least three DPSST-related business trips, including Bend and San Diego. At each trip, the two ended up in one or both of their hotel rooms, with Minnis doing his best to ensure he didn’t ended up having sex with himself, since “that’s not his style.” Minnis knowingly took advantage of his female assistant’s known substance abuse issues by plying her with vodka until she passed out, only for her to awaken in the morning naked with her clothes folded neatly on her bed. Minnis cost Oregon taxpayers $450,000 to compensate his former assistant for his sexual misconduct. Yet the DOJ investigators concluded:

“ … on November 23, 2009, this office initiated an investigation into possible charges of Official Misconduct by Director John Minnis relating to his personal relationship with an employee of Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. This letter concludes that investigation. In the course of our investigation we interviewed four people, reviewed the former Director’s email account, reviewed hundreds of pages of documents relating to the former Director’s travel expenses and conducted an audio recorded interview of Mr. Minnis.

It is our opinion that we cannot prove Mr. Minnis committed any criminal acts as the Director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in regards to his personal relationship with a particular employee under his supervision.”

Not all DOJ investigations of official misconduct produce empty results. In August 2009 former Marion County Sheriff Russ Isham was discovered by one of his own patrol sergeants, who stumbled upon Isham in his parked SUV. Isham was in uniform with his pants unzipped. In the back seat, Isham’s former campaign manager was covering herself. DOJ investigated and was prepared to charge Isham with first degree official misconduct – not for the tryst with his female staffer in uniform – but for trying to orchestrate a departmental cover up the scandal. Those facts don’t appear to be involved in Cogen’s case.

There remains the possibility that DOJ investigators working the Multnomah Building this week will uncover some yet undisclosed smoking gun that will land Jeff Cogen in a prosecutor’s cross-hairs. But as the high profile incidents above show, Jeff Cogen could have engaged in far worse conduct with Sonia Manhas had still escaped official misconduct charges. Cogen surely knows this as well as did Sam Adams.

Bruce McCain is an attorney, retired Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain, Reynolds School Board Member and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce. His piece first appeared here.