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June 8th, 2011 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

News That’s At Least 90 Percent Locally Owned.

State Treasurer Ted Wheeler

    Oregonians can now see two very different accounts of what happened in the Oregon Department of Energy investigation, in which four employees were accused of steering state business to Cylvia Hayes, Gov. John Kitzhaber’s companion. The first report was ordered by former Gov. Ted Kulongoski. In it, a retired judge, Francisco Yraguen, said all four employees should be fired. The second was ordered up by the Kitzhaber administration. Written by Portland lawyers Ed Harnden and Paula Barran, that report cleared the employees and said they should be returned to work without discipline. State officials made the reports public Tuesday. Both reports show Energy Department employees were alarmed at what appeared to be favoritism shown to Hayes, triggering the investigation last August. The reports do share one feature: They clear Hayes. And laud her. The Harnden and Barran report quotes an unnamed source calling Hayes a “rock star.” To see the reports and our continuing coverage, go to wweek.com.
  • U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton and 34 Oregon district attorneys issued a stern letter to medical-marijuana dispensaries last week, warning that prosecutors take a dim view of the pot shops. “The sale of marijuana for any purpose—including as medicine—violates both federal and Oregon law and will not be tolerated,” the letter says. The warning letter, first reported on wweek.com, follows WW’s recent story on medical-marijuana dispensaries (see “Budding Conflicts” WW, June 1, 2011). Similar letters have gone out from U.S. attorneys in Washington, Arizona, Vermont, Colorado, Montana and Rhode Island. One name notably absent from the Oregon letter: Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk. “I don’t like to threaten things that we realistically are not geared up to do,” Schrunk says.
  • State Treasurer Ted Wheeler is cleaning up his campaign account, which until this week showed a negative balance of $217,000—not a confidence-inspiring figure for the man who is effectively the state’s banker. Most of the deficit—$200,000—consisted of loans from himself. Wheeler and his wife, Katrina, forgave $120,000 this week. Wheeler’s campaign still owes him $80,000, his campaign manager $12,000 and his pollster $5,000. Wheeler, who comes from a wealthy Portland timber family, is up for re-election next year.
  • Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) tried to curtail price manipulation in the oil markets with a proposed $150-billion tax on oil speculation. His proposal failed. Now, DeFazio is trying again with a tweaked bill that would add a .01 percent tax to every oil futures transaction. The speculation DeFazio is trying to discourage with the tax already adds 80 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, according to research by Goldman Sachs and cited by DeFazio’s office. On May 31, DeFazio sent a letter to Congressional colleagues asking  for their support. So far, the bill has picked up only four co-sponsors. Pro-Wall Street Democrats and Exxon-friendly Republicans in Congress may ensure that DeFazio’s bill goes nowhere—even though cutting the “speculators’ premium” in gas prices would help consumers and businesses.
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