Murmurs: Dark Money Group Launches Attack Ads

In other news: Oregon prisons report a dozen deaths in two months.

DARK MONEY GROUP LAUNCHES ATTACK ADS: A new dark money group has begun running political ads targeting Oregon’s three leading Democratic candidates for governor. “Voters for Truth LLC” has placed push polls online that appear to test different lines of attack against the Democratic front-runners. One such ad, bashing Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, was spotted on Politico over the weekend. The LLC was established in New Mexico on Oct. 29 but gave no details about who’s in charge. Under federal elections law, private companies can spend unlimited sums of money attacking candidates as long as their “primary purpose” is not politics. Oregon law requires political ads to disclose top donors in the last 60 days before a primary election, though it’s not clear the wording of the Politico ad would trigger that requirement. Read more at The Portland Record, a civic data site that launched a campaign finance tracker this week.

OREGON PRISONS REPORT A DOZEN DEATHS IN TWO MONTHS: The Oregon Department of Corrections announced Dec. 30 the death of 67-year-old Robert Lee Shaft, the 12th inmate to die in DOC custody in the last two months of 2021. Shaft, who was in custody at Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario, died in hospice care, according to DOC. The other 11 deaths occurred at three of DOC’s 13 prisons: five at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, three at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, and three at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville—the state’s only women’s prison. “None of these individuals were COVID positive at the time of death,” says DOC spokeswoman Betty Bernt. Among the dozen people who died, the youngest was Sarah Maebell Rodgers, 27, who died Nov. 15 at a local hospital, according to DOC. The agency did not provide any details as to the cause of Rodgers’ death. Two of the OSP deaths were men in their early 30s: Roberto Ruiz, 31, who died at the prison on Nov. 26, and Aleksandr Petrenko, 33, who died at a local hospital on Dec. 12, according to DOC. The department reported 44 total deaths in 2021. In comparison, 50 adults in custody died in 2020, Bernt says. Seven of the 12 recent deaths were individuals in hospice care, she adds. “Many of our patients come to us in poor health, often related to lack of primary care and preventative services. In addition, as our population ages, we have seen increased morbidity and mortality that further adds to this problem.”

GOP GOVERNOR’S RACE TAKES SHAPE: The two best-known GOP candidates for governor officially kick off their campaigns this week. State Rep. Christine Drazan (R-Canby), who earned high marks in her short tenure as House minority leader, launched her campaign Jan. 4. Meanwhile, Dr. Bud Pierce, the Salem oncologist who won the Republican nomination in 2016, will launch Jan. 6. As in his last run, Pierce is likely to rely on the fortune he built through his cancer centers. In previous statements, Drazan and Pierce generally positioned themselves in the middle of the party. Polls, however, show that GOP primary voters have a continuing affection for former President Donald Trump, which appears to be animating the campaign of another Republican contender, Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam. This week, he proposed that people camping in public rights of way and living in their cars be sequestered in a camp on Port of Portland property and overseen by port police. “With time,” Pulliam said, “this will deter the enormous number of individuals coming to Oregon to live outdoors and commit crimes.”

GIVE!GUIDE RAISES RECORD FIGURE: Every time it seems Portlanders can’t get more generous, they dig a little deeper. Almost 17,000 donors gave more than $7.8 million to the 2021 Give!Guide campaign, which closed at midnight Dec. 31. That’s a record-breaking figure—$1.25 million more than the previous all-time high in 2020. Give!Guide, presented by WW, raises crucial operating funds for 202 nonprofits in the Portland metro region. This year’s goal was to raise $6.5 million. Donors exceeded that goal by 20%. The two nonprofits who raised the most money were Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Food Bank. Look for a detailed summary of giving in next week’s edition.