Goldschmidt's Web of Power

See the "Goldschmidt's Web of Power" chart at

For better and for worse, Neil Goldschmidt changed the face of this city - and this state - forever.

In 1972, at the age of 32, Goldschmidt became the youngest big-city mayor in America. And what a mayor he was. Today, his handiwork is everywhere: Pioneer Courthouse Square (formerly a parking lot). Tom McCall waterfront park (formerly an expressway). Nordstrom. The bus mall. MAX.

In 1979, hoping to reinvigorate his administration, President Jimmy Carter stole Goldschmidt away and made him Secretary of Transportation, where he oversaw the federal bailout of Chrysler and the beginning of airline deregulation.

After voters kicked Carter out of office, Goldschmidt took a vice president's job at Nike. But by 1985, his supporters had convinced him he was the man to lead Oregon back from the crippling recession of the early 1980s.

Goldschmidt was elected governor at the age of 46. He recruited high-tech firms, built new prisons and launched an ambitious Children's Agenda.

But the seeds of his self-destruction, sown a decade earlier, had taken root.

As mayor, he had sexually abused a 14-year-old babysitter and City Hall intern. When he was governor, the victim was an adult and threatening to expose Goldschmidt's crimes.

In 1990, Goldschmidt stunned Oregonians with the announcement that he would not seek a second term. The truth, not revealed for another 14 years, was that he could not risk exposure of his secret.

After leaving office, Goldschmidt's influence only grew - in part because of his connections to the rich and powerful. He rented his talents and his Rolodex to clients such Nike, Paul Allen and Bechtel. Sometimes work for clients clashed with his image as a champion of progressive Oregonian values. He helped Washington utilities explore completing an abandoned nuclear plant and aided Weyerhaeuser in its bitterly contested takeover of Portland's last Fortune 500 company, Willamette Industries.

Nonetheless, Goldschmidt remained everybody's go-to guy. In 2003, Gov. Ted Kulongoski tapped him to be chair of the Board of Higher Education and rebuild Oregon's university system. Later that year, the Texas Pacific Group chose him to guide its controversial bid for Portland General Electric through political hurdles.

But in 2004, reporters learned of the decades-old sexual abuse. When WW broke the story in May, Goldschmidt resigned from all public positions. He saw his portrait relegated to a closet in the Capitol, was expelled from the Multnomah Athletic Club and faced investigations by the Oregon Attorney General and the FBI.

But Goldschmidt's web of connections (see chart), the result of 30 years as Oregon's most successful and charismatic leader, is largely intact. Whether those former employees, colleagues, proteges and clients can rehabilitate him remains unclear, but it is undeniable that he shaped the careers of many who ran - and still run - this city and state.


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FEATURES: Hell on Wheels: John Callahan | Neil Goldschmidt's Web of Power | Gus Van Zant: The Camera Man | Homer's Odyssey: Matt Groening | Quadruple Expresso: MAX Makes Tracks | Nike's Achilles' Heel | Biting Our Time: Restaurants Revisited | Highway to Hell

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