March 9th, 2005 Paul Koberstein, Chris Lydgate, Taylor Clark | Special Section Stories
 

1993

     
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Despite the scandal, Packwood clung to power with frantic intensity.

BAD BOB

BY PAUL KOBERSTEIN

Bob Packwood once summed up the wreckage of his political career in five words: "I just didn't get it."

But until his spectacular fall from grace, the longtime Republican senator got everything he ever wanted: women, power and wealth.

First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1968, Packwood carved out a position as champion of women's rights (he consistently voted pro-choice and was one of two Senate Republicans to vote against Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation) and a steadfast supporter of Israel. As chairman of the influential Finance Committee, he wrote the tax overhaul of 1986. He had clout.

But Packwood's political career imploded on Nov. 22, 1992, when The Washington Post reported that he had over many years sexually harassed women in his employ, 10 of whom had talked to reporters Florence Graves and Charles E. Shepard about the unwelcome and unreciprocated advances.

"Several said he was abrupt, grabbing them without warning, kissing them forcefully and persisting until they made clear that they were not interested or had pushed him away. No one said Packwood punished her for rejecting him, but several decided to leave their jobs within months," the Post reported.

In one episode described by the Post, Packwood invited a 21-year-old clerical employee to his office one evening. He was drinking wine and offered her some. "The former employee said she declined, but agreed to his invitation to sit down. Feeling uneasy, she said, she stayed far from his desk, refusing an invitation to come closer. Then, she said, 'he walked over to me and pulled me out of the chair, put his arm around me and tried to kiss me. He stuck his tongue in my mouth.'"

The Post had been digging into the story for much of the fall of 1992, but the paper didn't run the piece until after the election-thus allowing Packwood's 52-47 percent victory over his opponent, Democratic Congressman Les AuCoin.

Voters in Oregon were stunned-especially when they learned that The Oregonian knew about the Post's inquiries (one episode of harassment involved Packwood kissing an Oregonian reporter) but ignored the story and then endorsed Packwood for re-election.

Packwood's sleazeball behavior dated back at least to the beginning of his Senate career, and didn't always involve thrusting body parts.

In his biography of former Gov. Tom McCall, Brent Walth reported that Packwood threatened to expose McCall's son's drug problem before the 1974 Senate primary. Some speculate that this threat kept McCall from running against Packwood.

In his campaign against AuCoin, Packwood ran a vicious TV ad that parodied Jeopardy! (Contestant: "I'll take Congressional Hypocrites for $200." Announcer: "This Oregon congressman voted himself a $30,000 pay raise after saying he wouldn't." Contestant: "Who is Les AuCoin?")

A week after the election, the Big O spiked a column by Steve Duin excoriating Packwood for his "shameless" campaign. (The column, which made no mention of sexual assault, was later published in WW.)

In early 1993, as Packwood tried to counter the charges of sexual harassment, he cited entries in his own diary to corroborate his testimony. The Senate Ethics Committee demanded to see the diary-the full document, not just the passages Packwood selected-setting off a federal court battle that Packwood lost.

The diaries proved to be full of embarrassing details-for example, they suggested that Packwood had conspired with Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) to violate federal campaign laws, and that he might have bribed friends to offer his soon-to-be-ex-wife a job in an attempt to have his future alimony payments reduced.

Despite the revelations, Packwood seemed like he might hang on. Then came the gravest charges yet: that he had ordered his secretary to alter certain passages.

Packwood dictated diary entries into a tape recorder, which were then transcribed by his secretary. A comparison of the tapes and the transcriptions, along with the secretary's testimony, demonstrated his effort to hide some incriminating details.

The committee's progress was agonizingly slow. Calling on the panel to hold public hearings on Packwood, Willamette Week promoted a "Ground Bob" rally on Groundhog Day 1995 that was attended by nearly 2,000 people.

Finally, in September 1995, the Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously to recommend expulsion, and Packwood made a tearful resignation before the full Senate could vote on the committee's resolution.

Today, after years of public silence, Packwood has reemerged as a wannabe elder statesman of Oregon politics. After the November 2004 election, Packwood told The Oregonian's Duin that the Republican Party in the state had become "both pathetic and destitute" by running candidates who "have no appeal to the center."

Maybe Packwood, whose pathetic struggle to cling to power was so damaging to his own party, finally gets it now.

'til death do us part

BY CHRIS LYDGATE

It was a tragedy as shocking as it was incomprehensible: On the morning of July 30, two masked men ran into the Albina Head Start offices, shouting, "Where's the money?" and shooting seemingly at random. When the smoke cleared, worker Christina Clegg, a 33-year-old mother of three, was dead. For a neighborhood that had suffered so much from inner-city violence, it seemed almost too much to bear. Outraged community leaders offered a $20,000 reward for information on the killing. But truth is stranger than fiction. A few months later, police arrested one of the suspects after he tried to collect the reward. Eventually, prosecutors accused Clegg's husband, Grover Clegg, of hiring two hit men to kill his wife in order to escape their troubled marriage and collect on an insurance policy. In fact, Clegg was no stranger to insurance scams: He once arranged to have his own car stolen; on another occasion, he set his own house on fire. After a three-month trial, Clegg and his two accomplices were convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Strong Medicine: The Oregon Health Plan

BY TAYLOR CLARK

Does this scenario sound familiar? Spiraling health-care costs. Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians without insurance. Hospitals stretched thin. Patients can't pay their bills. Welcome to the health-care crisis of the early '90s. But back then, somebody actually tried to do something about it.

In March 1993, the feds approved an ambitious project designed to radically expand health-care access in the state: the Oregon Health Plan. The brainchild of a Roseburg ER doc and state legislator named John Kitzhaber, the Plan promised to deliver health insurance for the "working poor"-the people who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

The Plan's biggest innovation was a rationing scheme that ranked operations by medical necessity and cost effectiveness. Vaccinations ranked high-liver transplants for alcoholics ranked low. The Plan also used HMOs and transfered savings back to hospitals and docs.

In 1994, the first year of the program, things seemed to be going swimmingly; 120,000 new members signed up, and bad debts at Portland hospitals shrank by 16 percent. As long as the economy stayed healthy, so did the OHP.

But when the bubble of the '90s finally ruptured, the swollen OHP was the first to get butchered in Salem. Health advocates swarmed to stop the bloodletting, but to no avail. In February 2003, bureaucrats restructured the plan, slashing benefits and imposing co-pays and premiums.

Since then, 75,000 low-income Oregonians have been squeezed out of the plan. In July 2004, the OHP stopped accepting new patients unless they live in absolute poverty. Since then, ER visits at Oregon hospitals by the uninsured have soared by 50 percent.

And we're back where we started.


* Smart, funny, dynamic pastry chef Alice Metzinger is a successful restaurateur in the little town of Lebanon. But she also has a terrible secret. Her real name is Katherine Ann Power, and she's a fugitive from justice. Guilt finally forces her to turn herself in for her role as the getaway driver in a 1970 bank holdup that resulted in the death of a Boston cop. She spends six years in prison.

* Three teenage girls tell police about a wild night in Salt Lake City with Trail Blazers Tracy Murray, Dave Johnson, Jerome Kersey and Reggie Smith. A Utah prosecutor is convinced the lanky foursome had sex with the underage mallrats but drops the charges for lack of evidence.

* Chicago native William Holyfield, 35, becomes so irate after being told he cannot extend his stay at the Portland Hilton that he returns to his seventh-story room, climbs out the window and attempts to shimmy down a rope made of bedsheets. Bad move: He falls, suffering a severe head injury and breaking both legs.

* Cops clash with anti-authoritarians during July's oxymoronic Anarchists Convention outside the X-Ray Cafe. The resulting melee is dubbed the Great Anarchist Riot of 1993, complete with broken windows, bruised egos and lots of media hype.

* Mayor Vera Katz hires Charles Moose to become the city's first black police chief.

* After years of tinkering, math geek (and Portland native) Richard Garfield unleashes Magic: The Gathering. The card game sells 10 million cards in six months.

* A California student named Monica Lewinsky transfers to Lewis & Clark College. Neighbors will later describe her as "bubbly," "nice" and "unremarkable."

* Jurors acquit teenager Andrew Whitaker of the most serious charges in the hit-and-run death of 12-year-old Lisa Marie Doell. Whitaker said he ran over Doell to see what it would feel like. The verdict spurs father Steve Doell to become one of Oregon's most influential voices for victims' rights.

* Cheap computers and pent-up literary frustration trigger an avalanche of local small-press magazines, including Plazm, Glimmer Train, Left Bank, Black Lamb, Mr. Cognito, Blue Stocking and Mississippi Mud.

* Intel unveils the first Pentium processor, clocked at a mind-boggling 60 MHz. Thanks to a massive marketing blitz, the chip becomes a household name, but later turns to fodder for late-night comedians when Intel admits that the chip sometimes bungles its arithmetic.

* Once again, Oregon voters reject a 5 percent sales tax. It's the ninth time they've been asked and the ninth time they've said no.


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