Pay to Play: The Currency of Politics

Pay to play, sometimes pay for play, is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage in certain activities. The common denominator of all forms of pay to play is that one must pay to “get in the game,” 

Oregon has no limits on political contribution and no independent expenditure disclosure requirements (such as requiring a political ad to include a true source of funding). Oregon Legislative races are the second most expensive in the county, after New Jersey, and  state wide candidates are faced with huge financial requirements to run competitive races.

This creates problems.

Forbes recently reported on what it believes is evidence of large scale “Pay to Play” here in Oregon. (Gov. Kate Brown and AG Ellen Rosenblum Blaze the Oregon Trail of Political Patronage) The article states

“Our analysis at American Transparency ( found 207 state contractors gave $805,876 in campaign cash to Governor Kate Brown ($518,203) and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ($287,673) since 2012. These businesses hold lifetime state contracts worth at least $2.6 billion. State contractor donations to the governor and attorney general represent 57 percent of current cash on hand in their campaign committees.”

It’s not surprising that at the State level offices, its the Democrats who are taking the money from those who are “paying” and want to  “Play” because excepting for the recent victory by Dennis Richardson, they have held all state wide offices and have controlled the Legislature in Oregon for many years. Neither PGE, nor Eli Lilly and Co. , nor any of the handful of well connected law firm/lobbying firms have written checks to Chris Dudley or Bud Pierce recently.

But Pay to Play is an equal opportunity bi partisan program. During election time, the “players” may put more of their chits down with their favored candidates in competitive districts but the fact is,  85% of Oregon legislative races and most statewide races are not competitive, so giving to sure bet candidates isn’t a matter of ideology, it’s a matter of access. Or, as some may believe, it’s pay to play.

Watching Pay to Play Unfold?

You don’t always get to see a pay to play unfold. But we could be seeing the “Pay” part developing right now, as a business entity seems to have developed a keen interest in Oregon  and Oregon politics. Motor Vehicle Software Corporation. (MVSC) took root in Oregon just one year ago. As the Portland Business Journal reported,

Here in Oregon, MVSC will provide title and registration services to the business community, largely fleet operators, auto dealerships and other businesses. MVSC also uses its space in Northwest Portland to warehouse license plates, which it sends directly to customers.

The company has a contract with the state DMV that outlines the work it does, but the businesses who use MVSC’s services are who pays for them, not the state.

“It’s a good public-private partnership model,” Brueggeman said.

An ORESTAR search reveals that just in 2015-2017, MVSC  started to pour large amounts of money into Oregon politics and has reported payments of $129,360 to elected officials and political PACs. The majority of that went to Democratic PACs and leaders, including The Democratic Party of Oregon ($20,000), Governor Kate Brown ($10,000), Rep. Tina Kotek ($10,000), Senate Democratic PAC ($5,000) and House Democratic Future PAC ($5,000). Republicans also enjoyed the largesse of MVSC. Including  the House Republican PAC ($5,000) and Rep. Mike McLane ($2,500). (Scroll down for complete sortable list of contributions)

What Plans are ahead for upgrading Oregon DMV records

With Oregon’s new motor voter, and the age of our existing DMV title, licensing and registration system, it’s not too hard to believe that Oregon will soon need an upgrade to the DMV system, and integrate that system with both the Elections department for motor voter, as well as the private companies that are starting to use MVSC services. And, even if the State doesn’t upgrade, clearly the business model for MVSC require a good working relationship, and access, to the political policy makers in Oregon given that their business is creating an interface between public records and auto dealers and auto finance companies. With ORESTAR we’ll be able to watch any correlation between MVSC contributions, and contracts, or legislation, that benefits MVSC specifically.

(This collated data that I have on MSCV contributions has been  given to an intrepid “real” reporter as well. Should he think it worth investigating through his much better sources.)

Politicians also need to Pay to Play

As long as it costs a million dollars to run a competitive legislative race and six figures just to be taken as a serious candidate, candidates feel like they are forced to raise money in large chunks in order to compete. Candidates need to pay for campaigns in order to play in elections.

You may be tempted to feel sympathy for Democratic candidates and elected officials, but don’t. Democratic leaders control Oregon and could pass legislation to limit contributions and require transparency in independent expenditures. They prefer the limitless money model because they continue to win. Why change the rules of a game you dominate?

The Democratic leaders have designed the political finance system in Oregon that at best looks like a pay to play system, and at worst is a pay to play system.

Here is how much money Motor Vehicle Services Corporation gave to Oregon Politicians and political committees. And remember THIS IS FROM A SINGLE CORPORATE  INTEREST. How many more are there?

Tran DateFilerContributor/PayeeAmountAggregate AmountParty Affiliation
10/20/2016Democratic Party of OregonMotor Vehicle Software Corp2000020000Democratic
07/25/2016Friends of Tina KotekMotor Vehicle Software Corporation1000010000Democratic
07/23/2016Caddy McKeown for RepresentativeMotor Vehicle Software Corp500010000Democratic
05/23/2016Friends of Ted WheelerMotor Vehicle Software Corporation500010000Democratic
05/16/2016Friends of Ted WheelerMotor Vehicle Software Corporation500010000Democratic
05/02/2016Kate Brown CommitteeMotor Vehicle Software Corporation1000010000Democratic
12/07/2015Kate Brown CommitteeMotor Vehicle Software Corporation1000010000Democratic
08/12/2016Friends of Mark JohnsonMVSC - Motor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Republican
07/26/2016Promote Oregon Leadership PACMVSC - Motor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Republican
11/14/2015John Davis For OregonMotor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Republican
01/08/2017Senate Democratic Leadership FundMotor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Democratic
08/26/2016Future PAC, House BuildersMotor Vehicles Software Corporation50005000Democratic
08/26/2016Friends of Jennifer WilliamsonMotor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Democratic
07/11/2016Caddy McKeown for RepresentativeMotor Vehicle Software Corp50005000Democratic
05/16/2016Friends of Val HoyleMotor Vehicle Software Corporation25005000Democratic
04/12/2016Friends of Ted WheelerMotor Vehicle Software Corporation50005000Democratic
08/12/2016Committee to Elect Mike McLaneMotor Vehicle Software Corp25002500Republican
12/11/2015Boquist Leadership FundMotor Vehicle Software Corporation25002500Republican
11/13/2015Committee to Elect Mike McLaneMotor Vehicle Software Corp25002500Republican
01/19/2016Friends of Val HoyleMotor Vehicle Software Corporation25002500Democratic
07/29/2016Friends of Ted FerrioliMVSC - Motor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Republican
07/28/2016Boquist Leadership FundMotor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Republican
08/05/2016Friends of Nancy NathansonMotor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Democratic
07/31/2016Friends of Arnie RoblanMotor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Democratic
07/27/2016Committee to Elect Betsy JohnsonMotor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Democratic
07/25/2016Peter Courtney for State SenateMotor Vehicle Software Corporation20002000Democratic
07/25/2016Friends of Ginny BurdickMotor Vehicle Software Corp20002000Democratic
07/28/2016Citizens to Elect Carl WilsonMotor Vehicle Software Corp.15001500Republican
08/01/2016Committee to Elect John Lively for State Representative, Dist. 12Motor Vehicle Software Corporation5001500Democratic
08/02/2016Committee to Re-Elect Greg SmithMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Republican
07/27/2016Friends of Kim ThatcherMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Republican
01/06/2017Team BSW (Barbara Smith Warner)Motor Vehicles Software Corporation10001000Democratic
08/16/2016Gomberg for State RepMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Democratic
08/15/2016Friends of Ann LiningerMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Democratic
07/25/2016Friends of Elizabeth Steiner HaywardMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Democratic
07/25/2016Friends of Lee BeyerMotor Vehicle Software Corp.10001000Democratic
01/19/2016Friends of Susan McLainMotor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Democratic
01/14/2016Committee to Elect John Lively for State Representative, Dist. 12Motor Vehicle Software Corporation10001000Democratic
08/04/2016Friends of Chuck ThomsenMotor Vehicle Software Corporation500500Republican
07/29/2016Friends of Bill HansellMVSC - Motor Vehicle Software Corporation500500Republican
09/03/2015Oregon Automobile Dealers Association - Political Action CommitteeMotor Vehicle Software Corporation500500None
07/27/2016Friends of Rod MonroeMotor Vehicle Software Corporation500500Democratic
08/26/2016Oregon Automobile Dealers Association - Political Action CommitteeMotor Vehicle Software Corporation360360None
05/18/2016Friends of Ted WheelerMotor Vehicle Software Corporation50000Democratic

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