Tobias Read

Candidates May Be Able to Accept Bitcoin Contributions

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson says allowing Oregon candidates to accept cryptocurrency contributions would be an innovative way to expand political participation. Others like Treasurer Tobias Read aren’t so sure as they worry about cryptocurrency’s “secretive nature” that could be used to cloak the identity of campaign contributors.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson says allowing Oregon candidates to accept cryptocurrency contributions would be an innovative way to expand political participation. Others like Treasurer Tobias Read aren’t so sure as they worry about cryptocurrency’s “secretive nature” that could be used to cloak the identity of campaign contributors.

With political insults flying freely, it would be easy to miss this quirky bit of political news – Oregon may allow candidates to accept cryptocurrency campaign contributions.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is proposing a rule that he says mirrors a 2014 Federal Elections Commissions rule permitting Bitcoin contributions. Richardson said cryptocurrency donations to candidates would be treated the same as stock contributions and, in his view, would expand participation in state elections. “Cryptocurrency is here to stay,” Richardson said.

While cryptocurrency has gained in popularity and use, but at least one former FEC commissioner questions whether they meet transparency laws intended to reveal the source of political contributions. While cryptocurrency transactions are tracked, identities in transactions aren’t.  Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read echoes that concern, warning straw donors could be employed to cloak actual donors because of “cryptocurrency’s secretive nature.”

Cryptocurrency exists digitally, not physically.  It is encrypted for security reasons, but not issued by any governmental authority. Its value is determined organically and can fluctuate. Under Richardson’s proposed rule, a candidate receiving a cryptocurrency contribution would be required to report at its market value the day of receipt. If the cryptocurrency rises in value, the candidate must report the gain. Similarly, if the currency loses value, the candidate must list the loss as if it were an expenditure.

The FEC rule allows cryptocurrency contributions up to $100 in federal elections. However, Oregon doesn’t have limitations on contribution amounts, which is potentially significant since the value of a Bitcoin is hovering around $6,000. It has ranged as high as $20,000. Despite limits, the Register-Guard said one California Democratic House candidate reported nearly $200,000 in cryptocurrency contributions.

The public will have a chance to comment July 23 in Salem on the proposed state rule allowing cryptocurrency contributions.


Making State Jobs Programs Do the Job

Legislators of both political parties and from all parts of Oregon agreed the state can play a more significant role in job creation by making its far-flung economic development efforts more agile and coordinated.

With nearly unanimous support in their short 2012 session, lawmakers approved House 4040, which the Eugene Register-Guard said "could prove to be the most far-reaching jobs bill that emerged from the legislative session."

The genesis of the Oregon Investment Act stands in stark contrast to the bickering and posturing in Congress as it debates how to stimulate the still-sluggish U.S. economy.  The act also provided a way for legislators here to surmount their usual differences over the appropriate government role in economic development.

To get behind the scenes, I asked Rep. Tobias Read to recount how the measure came about. Here's what he said:

"After he was elected, Governor Kitzhaber and his team asked Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Business Development Commission Chair Wally Van Valkenburg and me to serve as something of an economic development transition team. We had a lot of help from Scott Nelson (Governor's office), Tim McCabe (Business Oregon director), Paul Grove (Business Oregon legislative coordinator) and others as we worked quickly to put together some recommendations. We also recognized that there was far more work than could be done in the short time between his election and his inauguration, so, as we delivered our recommendations, we asked for the opportunity to continue working.  

"We got permission, and spent some time learning about strategies from other states and countries, and then went on the road to talk with people about what businesses in Oregon needed to expand and hire.

"We heard different versions of the same story around the state. The consistent theme was that businesses couldn't get access to the capital they needed to expand.  Furthermore, people felt that Oregon's programs are scattered across agencies, difficult to find, and too rigid.

"We recognized that we couldn't solve all these problems in the short session, or in the time that led up to it, so the Investment Act (House Bill 4040) is really enabling legislation that creates the Growth Board to build a plan to address all these issues — and to make policy recommendations to set the stage for substantive changes next session.  We made clear that we were interested in establishing priorities, promoting flexibility, achieving coordination, and gaining the leverage that comes from attracting new private-sector dollars into the Oregon economy.  

When Your Word Is Your Bond

In church yesterday, there was an interesting illustration in the lead pastor's sermon.  

To illustrate the importance of "your word is your bond," the pastor described the situation in 1988 when then presidential candidate George H. W. Bush beat the Democrat, Michael Dukakis, at least in part, because he uttered the words, "Read my lips... no new taxes." Then four years later, those words came back to haunt President Bush when his challenger, Bill Clinton, pointed out that he hadn't lived up to his promise.

The pastor drew spiritual lessons revolving around honesty, integrity and trust, but after hearing the sermon, my thoughts went to the application of the "your word is your bond" ethic at the Capitol in Salem where I have spent the last 30 years lobbying legislators.

On the basis of that experience, I would say that living up to the phrase was what set apart legislators and lobbyists alike. If their word was their bond, you could trust them. If not, trust broke down and it was more difficult to find middle ground on tough public policy issues.  

I have known a number of legislators over the years who have practiced that level of integrity in Salem, perhaps more in the past than currently. Here are just four examples of legislators you can count on today.

Jobs Bills in the Mix

In a short legislative session dominated by budget concerns and Governor Kitzhaber's ambitious reform efforts in health care, education and early learning, jobs bills have taken a back seat. But that doesn't mean they won't make it to the finish line.

There are major bills to coordinate the state's economic development activity, create more enterprise zones and reduce temporarily Oregon's capital gains tax rate. And there is legislation to clarify how and when to tax data centers such as Facebook's that were prize catches by previous economic development recruitment.

Here is a quick overview of some of the significant jobs-related legislation in Salem:

House Bill 4040: Drafted by two influential legislators — Reps. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, and Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, along with State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the Oregon Investment Act seeks to align state economic development programs and incentives to make them more inviting to private sector companies. The measure has passed out of the House Transportation Committee, so remains alive.

Read, Bentz and Wheeler co-authored an op-ed in The Oregonian explaining their intentions:

"Oregon spends significant Oregon Lottery profits and other funds today to enhance business development. Yet those tools are scattered across multiple agencies and have little strategic connection, and sometimes have little accountability to measure results.