Oregon Live: Oregon Ethics Watchdog Rejects Conservative Group's Complaint About Kate Brown 65_oregon_ethics

January 25, 2018 06:02 PM
By Hillary Borrud
It took the Oregon Government Ethics Commission roughly 24 hours to vet and reject a complaint filed against Gov. Kate Brown this week.
The politically conservative nonprofit Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation filed a complaint Wednesday against the governor and her office alleging they failed to fully disclose their spending on lobbying as required under state law. The group, headed by former Republican state lawmaker Jeff Kropf, wrote that the governor's office failed to adequately disclose spending on 52 state employees who spent at least some of their time lobbying.
Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation cited public records released by the governor's office to a man in Illinois, Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of a group called Open the Books. According to those records, the state spent more than $165,000 on compensation for employees who lobbied in support of the governor's office from April 2016 through the end of 2017.
The foundation alleged that the governor's office should have included overhead expenses for the state employees who lobbied. Some of the other issues the group raised – for example that the governor's office should have made sure the ethics commission was posting its lobbying disclosures online – do not appear related to state ethics laws.
Ron Bersin, the ethics commission's executive director, wrote in a letter to the foundation on Thursday that the governor is exempt from state lobbying laws. Brown had nonetheless disclosed the portion of her salary that covered time she spent lobbying, which the Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation complained was misleading.
As for the governor's office, it "filed timely expenditure reports for the quarters you mention, and you have not provided any evidence to suggest that the entirety of the reports made to the Commission by the office of the governor did not comply with the requirements of (state law)," Bersin wrote. "Therefore, no action will be taken in this matter."
The governor's communications director, Chris Pair, said the governor's lobbying expenditures did not show up on the ethics commission's website because the administration filed electronic documents containing the information rather than directly entering the information into the system.
"The complaint is based on a blog post written by a tea party activist in Illinois that is false," Pair wrote in an email. "If the (commission's) website does not reflect a dollar figure from our quarterly reports, that's because the dollar figure is contained within the PDF we uploaded."
Andrzejewski said on Thursday that he was never a member of the tea party. When Andrzejewski was running for governor of Illinois in 2010, he told Politico that he was courting tea party supporters. 
The incident did reveal a problem with the ethics commission's electronic filing system for lobbyists and public officials. It's not displaying lobbying spending disclosures filed by any entities, public or private, and Bersin said the commission is working with the vendor for the system to correct the issue.
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