Murmurs: Lawsuit Alleges Domestic Spying

In other news: Johnson resigns to pursue governorship.

climate Lawsuit alleges Oregon DOJ surveilled climate activists. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

LAWSUIT ALLEGES DOMESTIC SPYING: Four activists filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court on Dec. 14 against the Oregon Department of Justice and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, alleging the misuse of a shadowy group within DOJ called the Titan Fusion Center that the department says exists “to prevent terrorist and criminal threats.” One of 80 such organizations nationally, the center receives state and federal funding, and allegedly carried out illegal surveillance against advocates for the environment, people of color and social justice. The lawsuit, filed by the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law, alleges the DOJ operation constitutes an “unauthorized and unaccountable domestic intelligence program that conducts surveillance on law-abiding Oregon residents.” (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, a co-owner of WW’s parent company.) Among the allegations: that Titan worked hand in glove with Pembina, the Canadian energy firm that sought to develop the now-abandoned $10 billion Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project on the Southern Oregon Coast. The lawsuit seeks to halt Titan’s operations and have the information it gathered purged. DOJ spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson says, “on initial review, many of the examples cited in the lawsuit occurred several years ago and have been addressed.”

JOHNSON RESIGNS TO PURSUE GOVERNORSHIP: State Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) made it all but official Dec. 14 that she’ll run for governor next year. Johnson, who won a House seat in 2000 and later moved up to the Senate in 2005, has been raising money aggressively ($2.1 million so far this year), but has not yet officially filed to run for governor (the filing deadline for independents isn’t until Aug. 30). But she said in a brief video Tuesday that following this week’s special legislative session, she’ll give up her seat Dec. 15 rather than serve through next year, which includes a 35-day even-year legislative session. “Northwest Oregon deserves a full-time state senator and running for governor is a full-time job,” Johnson said. That’s an implied contrast with House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), who will likely hold onto her seat at least through the February session. Johnson finished her brief remarks by calling herself a “daughter of Oregon,” a time-honored political tactic emphasizing one’s roots when it’s advantageous. All three leading Democratic candidates were born in other states.

RANSOMWARE ATTACK HITS ODOT CONTRACTOR: The company that runs timesheet and payroll systems for big entities like Tesla, Temple University, Puma, and the Oregon Department of Transportation underwent a ransomware attack over the weekend. The Florida-based company is Ultimate Kronos Group, and the outage will likely last weeks. This means ODOT is switching to an old-fashioned timekeeping method: paper timesheets. “We have no reason to believe that any internal ODOT network systems are affected,” department spokesman Kevin Glenn tells WW. “Starting immediately, employees are tracking their time using paper timesheets until the system is restored. Every employee will receive a December paycheck as planned.” In a statement on UKG’s website, executive vice president Bob Hughes said suspicious activity was first detected Dec. 12. “The investigation remains ongoing, as we work to determine the nature and scope of the incident.”

SEX WORK DECRIMINALIZATION ADVANCES: A petition that seeks to decriminalize sex work in Oregon has enough support to draft a ballot initiative title, Oregon’s secretary of state announced Tuesday. That’s a key threshold to gathering enough signatures to appear on the November 2022 ballot. The petition, filed last month by an advocacy group called the Sex Worker Rights campaign, aims to repeal Oregon’s prostitution laws, categorize sex workers as “employees” under Oregon law, and protect people who are or once were sex workers from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. The campaign has described its chief petitioner, Aaron Boonshoft, as “an Oregon philanthropist, an advocate of human rights, and a client of legal, consensual sex work.” State records show the campaign so far has received a $49,777 in-kind contribution from Catena LLC, a real estate business that lists Boonshoft as a member in Oregon’s business registry database.

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