Backers of a proposed May 2014 ballot initiative to create a Portland Public Water District are already seeking donations for the political fight to wrest utilities from City Hall.
They've contracted the most powerful Republican fundraiser in Oregon, the firm that raised money in the state for Mitt Romney's last two Presidential bids.
The Portland Mercury reported last night that it obtained a fundraising email circulated by TG Fundraising hours after an alliance of water activists and ratepaying companies called Portlanders for Water Reform announced the ballot initiative.
Tiffany Scott Grabenhorst runs TG Fundraising, whose clients have included U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), and Oregon's GOP gubernatorial candidates Allen Alley and Ron Saxton.
In 2007, as Grabenhorst turned Oregon into a money center for Mitt Romney's first presidential bid, The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes described her as key to "Romney's Oregon machine."
Portlanders for Water Reform leader Kent Craford confirms to WW the letter is genuine, and says it won't alienate any environmental supporters.
"On the contrary, actually," Craford says. "What's great about a non-partisan pocketbook issue like water rates is that it unites people across the political spectrum. And we can assemble the best team from both ends of that spectrum."
The use of TG Fundraising continues the unusual alliances behind the water district campaign. WW has previously reported that the movement's politically diverse backing include big businesses like Portland Bottling and American Property Management, as well as the left-wing activists of Occupy Portland.
Grabenhorst tells WW by email she personally supports the campaign.
"I live in SE Portland have always thought that our water rates were high, but like many Portlanders I didn’t know why," she writes. "When I was approached about the project and learned that our water rates are higher than Phoenix, Arizona and the reason our rates are so high is because of the misallocation of water and sewer funds to pet projects and lavish buildings – it really seemed like a no brainer."
Jessie Sponberg, the organizer of the Occupy Mount Tabor protest to stop the city from covering its reservoirs, spoke at the Portlanders for Water Reform press conference yesterday. But he says he has developed reservations.
"It's outside my pay grade," Sponberg says. "I don't want to end up like Jar Jar Binks in Episode 2. I don't know if my enemy's enemy is always my friend. I'm going to reserve judgement. I'm focusing on the LT2 waiver."