|SEN. KATE BROWN: Left, with opponent Sen. Vicki Walker.|
State Sen. Kate Brown, running in the Democratic primary for secretary of state, has won our endorsement in every election since 1992.
But Brown wins our Rogue this week for showing two faces in the heated rhetoric around ethics reform in the Legislature.
In an endorsement interview with WW (watch the excerpt below), Brown claimed 2007’s Senate Bill 10 as one of her major achievements as Senate Majority Leader. That bill created the illusion of ethics reform without addressing two fundamental legislative abuses (“Ethics Bomb,” WW, Dec. 16, 2007).
One remaining abuse is “pass-throughs” (“Shakedown Dues,” WW, Feb. 28, 2007). That lets pols effectively launder money for contributors. The other is candidates’ freedom to use donations for virtually anything—including routine personal expenses. And while posing as a reformer, Brown—a lawyer—admitted she used campaign contributions to pay her annual Oregon State Bar dues. (Records show that on Jan, 15, 2004, Brown used $477 of campaign funds to pay her bar dues.)
“I was not practicing law at the time, and I was…working very closely with the bar on a number of issues,” Brown said in the endorsement interview. “I thought it was important for both the bar and the Legislature that I remain a member of the Oregon State Bar.”
Asked if her use of campaign money was appropriate, Brown responded, “It was legal.”
Legal? Maybe. Elections rules prohibit using campaign funds to pay “dues to professional or civic organizations in which the membership is not integrally related to the candidate’s election or duties as a public office-holder.” Rogue-worthy? When it turns out one of your major legislative achievements lets you still cover personal expenses out of campaign funds—definitely yes.