Attorney General John Kroger this week filed an intriguing lawsuit against the Oregon War Veterans Association. The OWVA, a 501(c)(19) nonprofit, has been under investigation since last year over its fundraising and political activities. The groupâs powerful supporters and allies include Loren Parks, the reclusive medical-supplies tycoon whoâs long bankrolled conservative causes. Last fall, OWVA sued the Oregon Department of Justice to block the release of public records regarding OWVA. The lawsuit filed Feb. 15 raises new allegations of self-dealing against OWVA Executive Director Greg Warnock, claiming he took $690,000 for personal use. OWVAâs lawyer says the suit is a âbaseless political stunt.â
Legislative leaders are still considering a Feb. 4 request from former state Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) and ex-Rep. Tim Knoop (R-Bend) that a portrait of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt be removed from the Capitolâs fourth-floor library. The former lawmakersâ request follows the Jan. 16 death of Elizabeth Dunham, whom Goldschmidt sexually abused when she was a young teenager. Robin Maxey, spokesman for Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) says his boss is seeking legal advice and will make the call with House co-speakers Bruce Hanna (R-Roseburg) and Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay).
Change is hard: Although the 2011 Legislative session opened with talk of completely remaking Oregon government, a high-profile effort by Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) to abolish the troubled Oregon Department of Energy and distribute its functions got a stony reception last week. Part of the issue is the agencyâs extraordinary efforts at self-preservationâa department rep called industry lobbyists together and cautioned them against supporting Baileyâs House Bill 2900. And part is the inertia that makes taking on even a small (fewer than 100 employees) bureaucracy. âIt is very clear that the idea of total dismantling of ODOE is not in the cards,â says veteran lobbyist Len Bergstein, who represents renewable-energy companies. Meanwhile, Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has pledged to shake up Salemâs ossified culture, has still not hired a natural-resources or energy adviser.
A bipartisan bill that would provide in-state tuition for undocumented Oregon students at all public state universities has been introduced in the Legislature. Senate Bill 742, the state-level version of the DREAM Act that failed at the federal level, is âhuge,â says state Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland). â[Undocumented students] have aspirations to continue, but their futures are foreclosed by having to pay out-of-state tuition,â says co-sponsor Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany). âThe opposition to the bill is opposition to illegal immigration.â
A campaign kicks off next week to extend TriMetâs current bus and MAX transfer tickets to three hours. Current bus transfer times are one hour from the end of the route on weekends and two hours on weekends and holidays, and two hours from the time of fare purchase for MAX and WES. Bus Riders Unite! begins its campaign Monday, Feb. 21, at 6 pm at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (1131 SE Oak St.).