The Oregon Business Association
sprang up in 1999 as an alternative to Associated Oregon Industries, long the state's largest and most influential business lobby.
The intriguing premise behind the group's formation was that OBA would be less conservative than AOI and include a stronger voice for Portland-area business leaders than AOI. OBA has walked a difficult path over the past decade, nowhere more obvious than in the acrimonious debate over Measures 66 and 67, the two tax increase that Oregon voters approved in January. OBA stayed neutral
in that battle, even as AOI and the Portland Business Alliance poured money into the unsuccessful campaign to defeat the measures.
Now OBA has made its first foray into the hotly contested 2010 gubernatorial race
, giving $5,000
to Republican Chris Dudley in the May primary.
The contribution is interesting for a couple of reasons:
OBA prides itself on bi-partisanship — and while it's also endorsed former Gov. John Kitzhaber in the Democratic primary, it made its first contribution to Dudley.
Second, the group's snub of Dudley's GOP rival, Allen Alley,
highlights a puzzling aspect of the GOP primary: Alley boasts an impressive corporate resume, including stints at Ford, Boeing, a leading venture capital firm and top executive positions at two Oregon tech firms, In-Focus and Pixelworks, where he served as CEO and is still chairman. In those two latter jobs, Alley networked aggressively and is well-known to many OBA leaders—and yet the group is supporting Dudley, who played 16 years in the NBA but whose business experience consists of a couple of years working for local investment firms.
OBA exective director Ryan Deckert says the group will also contribute $5,000 to Kitzhaber's campaign later this week.
Look for WW's
endorsement in the gubernatorial contest and all other contested May primary races in our April 28 issue.