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INVESTIGATION: Merkley Spends 78% of His Campaign Funds with Businesses Outside Oregon

Monday, September 22, 2014

 

While incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) talks a lot about his effort to grow jobs in Oregon, a GoLocalPDX investigation found that Merkley’s campaign spends millions of dollars of campaign funds with businesses in Washington, DC, California, Minnesota and Wyoming to name a few of the locations.

According to an analysis of federal campaign reports, Merkley spent $3,276,106  - 78% of the dollars spent - with printers, copywriters, designers and consultants outside the state. Only 22% was spent with Oregon-based businesses.

“Jeff is a proven champion for Oregon’s small businesses and manufacturers, and he will always fight for the middle class,” states Merkley’s campaign Website, but the spending by his campaign tells a remarkably different story. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series about political candidates and their local spending in Oregon. Next Monday will be GOP Candidate for U.S. Senate Monica Wehby.

Merkley TV Focuses on Jobs for Oregon

Merkley’s campaign - Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Oregon is home to hundreds of locally-owned printing companies, yet Merkley’s campaign has spent more than $700,000 with two Beltway printer/mailing firms located in Maryland. According to Portland Business Journal’s list of Oregon’s top 10 largest commercial printers, those ten companies have 1,343 full-time employees. Yet none of these companies appear on any of the Merkley expenditures.

Linemark Printing of Upper Marlboro, Maryland has received $219,424 in payments according to Federal Election Campaign Finance records from Merkley’s campaign. Linemark states on its website that clients include Johns Hopkins University and the National Education Association union.

The mysterious CHS Mailing has received $497,925 in business from Merkley. Ownership of CHS is cloaked in Maryland business records. The company's only listed representative is a business agent attorney who did not respond to questions. 

GoLocalPDX made repeated efforts to receive comment from Merkley's campaign, but his campaign spokesman Jamal Raad refused to provide comment.

In addition, Merkley’s campaign refused to answer any questions regarding his out-of-Oregon spending and refused to answer questions about his or his consultants' relationships/ownership with any of the companies receiving millions of dollars of campaign accounts.

Local Oregon vendors, such as printers, said they would welcome the opportunity to bid on printing projects from the political campaigns. Portland's Minuteman Press, which specializes in similar business services to the ones the Merkley campaign is purchasing out-of-state, also raised questions about the selection of companies outside of Oregon.

"We can print thousands of political flyers, ads, posters, and direct mail postcards, but we haven't gotten any political candidates requesting that," said a representative for Minuteman Press in Portland. 

Merkley’s Campaigns for Job in Oregon

The most recent Merkley campaign ad talks about the Senator’s efforts to “end deals that outsource our jobs.” The reference is to jobs being outsourced to China, but the language of the ad campaigns are designed and produced by political consultants 3,000 miles away from Oregon, which stands in stark contrast to the message.

"We have the bandwidth to do political printing. No political candidates have done that with us because I think they use other companies that are not in Oregon. But we could do flyers, posters, mailing, etc," said Susan Youngblood at Penny Post Direct Mail.

Bill Dickey is the owner of Morel Ink, a Portland-based printing and direct mail company. He said that most political candidates use a great deal of fundraising firms on the East Coast, specifically in Washington, DC.
"To get them off the East Coast, it's virtually impossible," Dickey said. "If they're doing simple letters they might do it in Oregon, but if they're doing national fundraising it's probably going to be in DC."   
He said that Merkley does use Morel's services, but that happens after working with a fundraising consulting firm somewhere else. 

 

Political Consultants Make the Big Money

Fairfax, Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media has received $773,312 from the Merkley campaign. The media consulting and planning company also works for the campaigns of Kay Hagan for U.S. Senate, Gary Peters for U.S. Senate, Mark Pryor for U.S. Senate, Brian Schatz for U.S. Senate, Natalie Tennant for U.S. Senate, John Walsh for U.S. Senate, Paul Davis for Governor, Mike Ross for Governor, Allyson Schwartz for Governor, Suzan DelBene for Congress, Bill Enyart for Congress, Ann Kirkpatrick for Congress, Carol Shea Porter for Congress, Nick Rahall for Congress, Freedom to Marry and Planned Parenthood.

It is not reported how much of the $773,312 went towards media and how much went towards the fee to the Fairfax-based firm (note payments were made to their San Francisco office).

Other consulting firms receiving tens of thousands in payment from the Merkley campaign include Riffenburgh and Associates of Ventura, CA which received $68,834; Beth Foster Consultant of Minneapolis, MN which was paid $84,000, Kaufman Group in DC which was paid $260,163, and Benenson Strategy Group of DC which collected $183,544.

Mandate Media's Clients

One Big Local Winner

Merkley’s long-time consultant Kari Chisholm has been the biggest Oregon-based winner. Chisholm has worked with Merkley going back to his 2006 State representative run. Founder of the Democratic Political Blog Blue Oregon, Chisholm’s firm, Mandate Media, has earned $373,066 to date. The firm has been paid for ad placement, Web services, mail services, as well as a six-figure sum for consulting fees.

Even Design Work Done Outside Oregon

While Portland is one of the national hubs for graphic designers and home to leading design colleges, the Merkley campaign also tapped design groups from other states around the country. Starfish Design of Centerville, MD and Peggy Shapiro Graphic Design in Chicago, IL combined to earn thousands in payments.

 

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