Look for some unhappy Portland Democrats after today's announcement that PGE Park will be renamed Jeld-Wen Field when the Timbers begin play in Major League Soccer.
Not because there's any great sentiment for PGE, the state's largest utility and a subsidiary of Enron when it hung its name on the old Civic Stadium a decade ago.
But rather because of the political activities of Jeld-Wen's founder, the late Dick Wendt. Before his death last year, Wendt ranked among Oregon's wealthiest citizens, thanks to the success of his Klamath Falls-based window and door empire and some savvy real estate investments.
For a time in the past decade, Dick Wendt was one of the largest and most reliable funders of conservative causes. He spent about $350,000 in 2008 in support of various ballot measures sponsored by the anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore and groups such as Freedom Works. (Wendt did his political giving through another company he controlled, Hire Calling Public Affairs.)
“The fact that Jeld-Wen is an Oregon-based company, has a deep-rooted
history in our community and is so committed to giving back makes this
marriage an ideal one for the Timbers,” Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said today in announcing the stadium renaming.
Some Portland Democrats might take issue with the idea that contributing to the campaigns of Sizemore and 2002 GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, among others, constitute giving back. But it's worth noting that Jeld-Wen's approach to politics has shifted in recent years.
Wendt's son, Roderick, now runs the company. And Rod Wendt has not shown the same appetite for the causes his father bankrolled. Rod Wendt did give $250,000 to GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton in 2006 but he also subsequently hired Saxton as a senior executive.
With Rod Wendt and Saxton at the helm, Jeld-Wen and its employees' political profiles are both lower and more moderate. State filings show Rod Wendt gave Allen Alley, then a GOP candidate for state treasurer $20,000 in 2008 but supported Democrat Ted Wheeler for that position in 2010, albeit just with $1,000. In the 2010 governor's race, Dick Wendt's estate gave $1,000 to Republican Chris Dudley, while Rod Wendt gave Democrat John Kitzhaber $5,000.
And after Kitzhaber's election, Kitzhaber named Saxton as a leader of the group advising him on K-12 education.
To some extent, Jeld-Wen is practicing the same smart business principles that made it Oregon's largest privately-held company: Saxton attended President Obama's "jobs summit" in 2009, because the Obama administration's encouragement of energy retrofits are great for the sales of windows and doors, as is Kitzhaber's "cool schools" initiative, which aims to make hundreds of Oregon schools more energy efficient.
So if the howls ring out about the Jeld-Wen name taking pride of place in the people's Republic of Portland , remember, Jeld-Wen is not Rod Wendt's father's company any more.