After the Mercury reported late last month that state attorney general candidate Dwight Holton was waiting until after election day (May 15) to officially disclose "in-kind contributions" received from his current employer, white-collar law firm Lane Powell, the campaign has apparently done an about-face.
Holton, whose campaign rents a headquarters downtown, had previously acknowledged also doing some campaign work at Lane Powell, which hired him after he left the US Attorney's Office. But Holton's campaign had said it was waiting for Lane Powell to send one combined invoice for after the election. The combined total is expected to top out at $500.
"Our compliance officer said it was our choice," Jillian Schoene, a spokeswoman for the Holton campaign, told me. "But after our discussion with you, we went ahead and reported the very little time that campaign work has required that Dwight make the occasional phone call or review materials while he's at Lane Powell."
It might have been my post (which mostly questioned an in-kind contribution for Holton's opponent, Ellen Rosenblum) that goosed the campaign into shifting strategy. But the campaign might also have been reacting to rising concern about Holton's work for Lane Powell, which defends large corporations, as well as an April 30 letter (PDF) sent to the Secretary of State's office from an advocate for campaign-finance reform.
The letter, sent by attorney Dan Meek, cites the Blogtown post, references Oregon law that says contributions must be recorded with in 30 days of receipt (except in the final six weeks before an election, when the time frame shrinks to a week), and asks for "a public clarification of the applicable law."
If Oregon law allowed campaigns not to report in-kind contribution until they are quantified or invoiced by the contributor, as Ms. Schoene seems to believe, then entire campaigns could be run by means of in-kind contributions not reported until after the election, thereby entirely defeating the purpose of the campaign finance reporting system.
Schoene says the invoices reflect just a smattering of time spent on campaign work, all from March and April.
As for questions about Holton's actual work for Lane Powell, they came up in a stinging letter that some activists tried to deliver to Lane Powell on May Day. The letter notes that Lane Powell lists Holton as a member of the firm's "white collar criminal defense" team.
Given the nature of his work at Lane Powell, the suspicious timing of his resignation as U.S. attorney and subsequent hiring by your firm, plus the fact that Lane Powell is currently providing non-financial assistance to Mr. Holton's campaign, these events all cast doubts on the belief that Mr. Holton can be an independent advocate for the people of Oregon.
Your clients are a who's who of corporations that regularly face prosecution for mortgage fraud, price-fixing, pollution, and violating worker's rights. As Attorney General, the people of Oregon would be counting on Mr. Holton to defend them from the formidable resources of these corporations.
The letter was not answered. Holton's bio at Lane Powell does list him on the white collar defense team, but some of the attorneys on the team specialize in federal sentencing guidelines and in work responding to government audits.
So I asked for some clarification about Holton's job at Lane Powell. Schoene says Holton has "never represented a corporation at Lane Powell, or ever," and said his only clients have been "Indian tribes and individuals." She would not go into further detail, but did trot out a campaign talking point by adding "he's the only candidate in this race who's put a CEO in prison for failing to play by the rules."
Not that Indian tribes don't also have money to throw around. Interestingly enough, another recently reported Holton contribution comes courtesy of an Indian tribe, the Confederated Tribe of Umatilla Indian Reservation, which gave Holton $1,000.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!