National Popular Voter Backer John Koza Really Doesn’t Want Senate President Peter Courtney Re-Elected

The legendary computer scientist made big contributions to Courtney's primary and likely general election opponents.

John Koza's company, Scientific Games, revolutionized state lotteries in this country in the 1970s and 1980s, making Koza a wealthy man.

Today, Koza spends his time and energy promoting the adoption of the National Popular Vote, which would scrap the Electoral College in favor of a system in which the presidential candidate who gets the most votes wins. (If the system Koza favors had been in place in 2000, Al Gore would have defeated George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton would have defeated Donald J. Trump in 2016).

To change the voting system, backers of the National Popular Vote need their idea to win approval in states totaling 270 electoral votes. So far, 11 states, including California and Washington have approved the concept. Those states account for 165 electoral votes.

The Oregon House has passed a National Popular Vote bill four times but the concept has never cleared the Senate, over which Senate President Courtney (D-Salem), the state's longest legislator, has presided since 2003.

Earlier this year, the Senate Rules Committee introduced Senate Bill 1512, which  would have referred NPV to Oregon voters, a move that supporters panned.

"We need to call this bill what it is: a backhanded way to kill NPV," said Oregon NPV Oregon co-chair Elizabeth Donley in a Jan. 31, 2018 statement. "There are no named sponsors, and the statement at the top has made it clear the Senate President does not support it." The bill went nowhere.

As WW reported earlier, Koza's group paid for a website and television and online ads last year targeting Courtney.

At the time, Courtney told WW he believed the people of Oregon, not the legislature should decide on the NPV.

"Changing the way Oregon's electoral votes are cast is a decision that should be made by Oregon voters," Courtney said. "I've made it clear that I would support putting the issue on the ballot. If you believe in the popular vote, then let the popular vote decide the issue."

This week, Courtney's opponent in the Democratic primary, Joyce Judy, reported a $30,000 contribution from Koza and records show he gave another $30,000 to Greg Warnock, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Courtney's district.

Tom Powers, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, took issue with the contribution to Warnock.

"It's interesting that this California multi-millionaire is supporting a right-wing Republican in this seat," Powers said. "We are confident that mid-valley Oregonians will see through it. They know nobody works harder than Peter Courtney and that he is on their side."

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