From the Left Bank

Koch BrothersWhat do Julie Parrish and Mark Johnson have in common?

They’re both Republicans in the Oregon House of Representatives, both represent parts of Clackamas County, both won re-election in 2012, and both got $1,000 checks to their campaigns last September from Koch Industries. This is a multi-billion-dollar company owned by brothers David and Charles Koch who support a wealth of right-leaning libertarian ideas of how our government should work. Or not work, as the case may be.

These donations were news at the time, but never was the question posed: What are these guys doing messing around in Oregon politics? They don’t have any major holdings here. So what’s up?

Turns out these generals of industry give money to encourage the way of life they feel is appropriate, though they usually won’t talk explicitly. It is common knowledge they want to get rid of government regulatory bodies, reduce taxes on the rich and super rich, get rid of the capitalist constraints created by things like land use planning, dump environmental controls, that sort of stuff.

Here’s a new one: Getting rid of the minimum wage. It is $7.25 an hour in Kansas, where Koch Industries is headquartered. (Kansas got to that level in 2010 after being at $2.65, lowest in the country, for years. In Oregon it’s $8.95.)

Charles Koch is quoted in a recent edition of the Wichita Eagle newspaper as saying America’s poor would be better off without a minimum wage; currently the feds mandate $7.25 an hour and President Obama has asked it be pushed to $9, but the Republican Congress members, many of whom received big donations from Koch Industries, agree with Koch that Obama’s full of it. (Instead, Republicans allowed the interest rate on student loans to double this week … but that’s another story.)

How can Koch justify this? It’s part of an “economic freedom” television ad campaign the company is now running in Kansas. Consider this noble thought:

We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country … Anything the people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they (the government) keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we’ve go to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.

Koch said his company wants to promote “earned success while sharing compassion for the vulnerable.”

No doubt these gents will be tossing money at the so-called right-to-work challenge if it reaches the Oregon ballot in 2014. They love this idea because it puts a huge damper on workers organizing for their greater good.

One is compelled to wonder if Parrish and Johnson are on the same Koch bus.

Parrish, held in dubious regard by her colleagues in Salem, also received $10,000 in September from Stimson Lumber, the big Portland supporter of John Ludlow and Tootie Smith in their well-funded campaigns for positions on the Clackamas County commission. We’ve now seen how Ludlow and Smith think government should operate as they take the county toward a slippery slope, already having made us the laughingstock of the state.

Motives for donating money to political campaigns are often implied but rarely stated outright. Looking closely at the donors helps give us an idea of what they stand for and who they want representing their interests in deciding what’s best for Oregonians.

Peter Toll is a 25-year Clackamas County resident with a wide background ranging from journalism to corporate p.r. to having his own financial advisory business for the past 15 years. He has been active in Democratic politics all of his life and spent six years as Bill Bradbury’s chief of staff in the Senate Majority office in Salem. He lives in West Linn.