March 14th, 2008 | by COREY PEIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall

Ex-Merc Editor Phil Busse Cashes In As Publicly Financed Campaign Manager (Updated)

     
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Phil Busse has hit a gold mine managing John Branam's publicly financed campaign for Portland City Council.
Busse, a former Portland Mercury editor and 2004 mayoral candidate, has been paid $16,000 to manage Branam's campaign since Branam got his first check, for nearly $135,000, from the city in late February. This is Busse's first campaign manager job besides his own 2004 mayoral bid.
For comparison's sake, Jennifer Yocom, the sought-after campaigner who's managing Commissioner Sam Adams' mayoral bid, has made just over $10,000 since January.
Yocom isn't paid with city money. Busse is.
And Amanda Fritz, a publicly financed candidate running against Branam, has paid her campaign manger, Ellen Klaastad, about one-third what Branam has paid Busse:$5,600 since February.
(For further comparison, disgraced Council candidate Emilie Boyles paid her then 16-year-old daughter $15,000 in public campaign funds for crucial work like “internet marketing.”)
“Branam's blowing through money. A lot of first-time candidates do that,” says Charles Lewis, who's running against Branam.
Adds another candidate in the race, Jeff Bissonnette: "Holy crap."
Asked what he did to command such a high salary, Busse says, "My role with the campaign is more than campaign manager. I'm also the media buyer, general consultant, and also I've done a majority of content writing for brochures and things on the website."

Updated 4.50 p.m.: Busse emails:

Just to re-iterate, my salary reflects a bundle of responsibilities and professional background - as an attorney, as a writer and, yes, as a manager. My shorthand title is Campaign Manager, but that includes duties beyond those immediate responsibilities.

Busse—who is not a member of the Oregon State Bar—has not been providing legal advice to the campaign, according to Branam, who also has a law degree but does not practice.
Branam tells WWire that Busse's pay is fair "in context."
"As candidates, we are asking campaign managers to come on board for three months...and to work not just full time but over time, in a very stressful environment, with very high expectations, in roles that are as public as the candidate's role," Branam says. "And we're not providing health care, retirement benefits, or any of those other benefits that Portlanders and Americans strongly believe in."
Busse's pay so far—which Branam says is not back-dated—works out to $1,143 a day since Branam's Feb. 21 certification as a publicly financed candidate. Branam says he agreed to pay Busse $25,000 through the May 20 primary. That means Busse was given most of his pay just as his job was officially starting.
"It's not entirely unprecedented that when you're working with consultants you make up to a 50 percent down payment," Branam says. "It's certainly not something I'll do on Council."
If Busse works 12 hours a day, seven days a week through the primary, his effective wage is $23 an hour.
"I want him to be able to provide for himself just as Portlanders expect to provide for themselves," Branam says.
"Charles Lewis is paying his campaign manager less than what people get on welfare," Branam says. "I wouldn't work for $1,500 a month. I have very high expectations for 'round the clock work."
 
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