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"Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss'd to me

I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."

Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax


Half of the US Is Broke


The myth of the Christian country


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937


Middle East friendship chart


Corporations enriching shareholders


Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks



"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  





  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:


  • Jim Hightower:

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 

Hard Times in Oregon: 


The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   




    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People


    Connecting the dots between homelessness & hunger in Oregon and Washington County: 


•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.


•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

     In Washington County, Oregon's "economic engine," the divide between the affluent and the working poor continues.  We have a 19,000 unit gap in affordable low income rental housing.  County political and business leaders are indifferent to this crisis...   
















































RAD Lines

See my FACEBOOK @ Russ


  • He lost by 2.9 million votes...

  • He's a con artist...

  • He's a pathological liar... 

  • He's a failed business man...

  • He's a fascist... 


Trump & The Mob


Trump's role models are Vladmir Putin and Benito Mussolini.  He has contempt for our checks and balances system.  He wants to "rule" not govern like a strong man, a despot.  He will shredd the Constitution anytime he feels the urge to do so and like all despots he only listens to his inner circle.  And he is paranoid and narcissistic. 


Hundreds of Oregon Corporations Escape the Minimum Tax


Half of the US Is Broke


The myth of the Christian country


Housing Needs in Oregon 




"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1940

  • "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild

  • Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  

Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw



From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now

The Daily Kos

Blue Oregon


"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001

    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 



"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  


"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' 

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"  

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921) 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."  

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11 

"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”   

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."    

- Abraham Lincoln 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society  

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..." 

- Edmund Burke  

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”  

- Jonathan Swift 

A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  


"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison



















































EDITOR'S NOTE:  I woke up late to hear President Trump (gag) terminate the Iran nuclear deal Obama and the allies negotiated. As many have noted this is a "reckless" decision for the region, especially for Israel and Iran but also not a hopeful sign on the eve of negotiations with North Korea.  Given Trump's decision why should Kim Jong Un believe anything Trump says or signs?  

Trump is simply going down his list of campaign promises while upping the ante in a world which he seems intent of making more unstable. He also seems to be motivated by his personal "hate" for President Obama. How much of Trump's hate toward Obama is based all a well thought out ideology, a strategic vision or pure unadulterated racism to erase any vestige of his predecessor's legacy?  

The immediate risk is what will Iran do and what will Israel do?  Two regimes headed by zealots who see the world through a "good guy bad guy" apocalyptic lenses is not the foundation for negotiation. I hope the Toronto Globe & Mail editorial below proves to be more accurate than my fears. But looking at things through rose colored glasses when Trump is involved doesn't make it for me.  The dude is ignorant and vindictive. 

It's hard to keep hope alive.  

Trump is a self-obsessed and mean spirited dirt bag (I cleaned that up...)  Playing a zero sum game with the ideological clique which rules Iran is not a "deal" that can be made. The bully Potus knows only one way, "my way or the highway."  In a nuclear tipped world in the Middle East with leaders poised to pull the trigger in Iran and Israel one has reason to be worried.  

President Obama and our unlikely allies Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China brokered a good faith agreement creating a 'no nuke free zone' in Iran. Now that the Drumpf has broken the deal it's unlikely that Humpty Dumpy can be put back together again. And who stands to benefit from geo-political chaos - the Man in the Kremlin.




I get a post every week from a website covering the Puzzle Palace.  Given the author, I assumed it titled to the Right.  His post this week confirmed this... 

A primer against gun control: The rally served as a primer on why many Oregonians fear gun control. They believe America is safer when well-trained, responsible people are carrying guns — and that firearms restrictions would make the country less safe. They believe the Second Amendment provides an unmitigated right to bear arms. Some fear that gun registration would lead to gun confiscation.

Commenting on a rally in front of the Puzzle Palace, the claim that America is safer when people carry guns is ludicrous on it's face.  No evidence backs this up - guns are a public health hazard.  Whether on the streets of Chicago or in the hands of a mass murderer Sandy Hook et al. 

What are the so-called "well-trained" gun owners afraid of?  I suspect it's their unreasoning fear of government - a staple of American politics since the Boston Tea Party.  Those "White" Boston Patriots dressed up as Native Americans - now that's not exactly profiles in courage to me.  

Who are the AR 15 owners?  Good question.  According to the Rolling Stone article cited below - "There are now more than 8.5 million civilian assault rifles on the U.S. market, an arsenal owned by some 5 million people."  But we are a nation of 350 million so a minority of a minority is driving this debate.  Most gun owners don't have AR 15s and are reasonable people who agree that gun control of some sort is needed.  

The NRA extremist leadership who claim gun rights comes down to an implicit White Supremacist view of America - the evidence is overwhelming from Oklahoma City to Charlottesville.  Look at the history of White violence against non-whites - 1) the eradication of Native Americans; 2) slavery; 3) the rise of the KKK; 4) the John Birch Society and 5) the Tea Party.  

As FDR said in the height of the Great Depression - "we have nothing to fear but fear itself, unreasoning fear." Not sure I agree with FDR's rhetoric at that time given the collapse of our economy. People had a right to be fearful. But when it comes to guns I think we have reason to fear the extremist apostles of the NRA and their GOP friends.  

Here's the article, you be the judge yourself.  Again, it offers a different view of gun owners but ends with the same NRA party line -

Capital Chatter: Reflections from a 2nd Amendment rally

Organizers of Second Amendment rally at the Capitol tried to talk about guns without demonizing those who disagree with their views. Click here

Hughes is not a fanatical gun rights proponent but the argument that the AR -15 is a sporting weapon beggars belief since it's military version the M-16 was used in Vietnam as an anti-personnel weapon to mow down enemy soldiers along with it innocent villagers aka the Milai massacre.  

Huges tried to "normalize" the opposition to gun control just days before we had another AR 15 shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.  Enough of this... The AR-15 should be banned.  So aside from fire fights with organized crime or the drug cartel who needs it but the military or police?  

For a short history of the AR 15 go to...
An assault rifle designed for the battlefield has become a windfall for the gun industry and common in mass shootings

The rally in Salem may have been a "kinder and gentler" version of many such rallies but the goal is the same - to stop the momentum of restricting the use of assault weapons in lieu of the atrocities we've seen from Columbine et al.  

Americans don't want to take guns away for those who use them for target practice, hunting or personal safety - but there has to be a balance here and assault weapons don't preserve such a balance.  Polls have shown for decades that a majority of Americans favor gun control.

My gun control laundry list includes -

  • mandatory background checks including gun shows and private sales;
  • outlawing bump stocks & large maggazines;
  • outlawing the AR 15; and creating a robust system to prevent the mentally ill or domestic abusers from buying guns; and
  • allowing gun manufacturers and sellers to be sued by victims of gun violence;  

As the data below indicates gun violence is a 'clear and present danger' and major public health hazard in the US - and this does not include police killings of innocent Black people or the mentally ill - an almost daily occurence in the USA -
The Washington Post has spent the past year determining how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the Columbine High massacre in 1999.




Politics is the art of timing.  Updated 4/16/12:30 PDT

I find it more than ironic that Trump signed off on the missile launch within hours of a firestorm brewing over his personal lawyer, Michail Cohen,  And that was added to by the revelations of James Comey's comments about Trump's alleged sexual dalliance with prostitutes in Moscow, more details on his later dalliances with women outside of marriage and the possibility he fathered an out of wedlock child.

Now to be fair to Il Trumpo - the debasement of the Oval Office accelerated in the Clinton years ultimately concluding in the House passing articles of impeachment for lying under oath about his affair with Oregon's own Monika Lewinsky. But to set the record straight the Senate refused to consider the House articles of impeachment largely because there is nothing in the Constitution which suggests that being unfaithful to one's spouse is a "high crime or misdemeanor." The now much celebrated Alexander Hamilton wrote that section of the Constitution and ironically was it's first victim for alleged predatory behavior - but again nothing came of it.

But like Clinton, Trump's behavior has made him unfit to hold office of the Presidency because as I said on Portland's KPTV live back in '98 - Clinton had lost the moral authority to govern and should step down. Trump never had such moral authority having learned his political lessons from the guru of sleeze, Roy Cohn, the right hand legal thug of Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the Red Scare in the '50s.  Cohn showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.
Roy Cohn, the Red-baiting Senate adviser and fearsome lawyer, counseled a young Mr. Trump for many


OK, I got that out of my system. Next -

Trump's declaration of "mission accomplished" is reminiscent of another declaration by George W. Bush. But history proves such "victories" have a short shelf life. More importantly, nothing on the ground in Syria has changed - Assad is still in power, he will rebuild his chemical arsenal and we are no nearer to peace now than before the allied air strikes. It makes for good viewing, probably for good overnight ratings and for a feel good moment for the American, French and German military commanders in the region. But come on folks nothing has changed and in fact things may get worse depending on how Assad and Putin respond.

Without taking out Assad - there will be no change. And that prospect is fraught with so many risks that such an alternative is unthinkable. Taking out Assad would be regime change - who would replace him, how would it be managed in the mangled politics of the Middle East with so many complicit players - especially Iran and Mother Russia now feeling it's time has come to re-emerge as a global giant. And an attack on Assad would also be considered by the Russians as an attack on them, just as a Russian attack on a NATO ally would be seen. So there are no simple solutions, I'm not sure there "is" a solution.

But the complicity of the allies in the Syrian disaster goes deeper than guns and beating one's chest which Il Trumpo does so readily. The heart of darkness is the failure of the Trump administration and the European community, aside from Germany, to allow asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war torn countries in this region and Africa to escape the claws of ISIS et al. As long as the hapless civilian victims of Assad's and Russian terror are penned up in Syria the narrative of massive violence and human suffering, on a scale not witnessed since Hitler's "Final Solution" will not end.

So dear Mr. President spare me your arrogant and ignorant rhetoric - "mission accomplished" not in a New York minute you tin horn despot who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War not once but 5 times... Flat feel-eh? Yeah and I have a bridge I can sell you!



EDITOR'S NOTE:  I concur with the analysis below.  The irony of course is that the people who are being punished by the Trump/GOP attack on Obamacare are the middle class who were elligible for the Exchanges before they were subverted by the Trump/GOP cabal against Obamacare.  These are residents of Red states who voted for Trump and/or who make too much money for being on Medicaid or for subsidies to reduce their monthly insuance bills.  So they are left with a choice of no health care, going to an ER when sick or paying for insurance with high deductibles. 

Obamacare’s Very Stable Genius

President Barack Obama in 2014, back when the Affordable Care Act had a friend in the White House.CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

Front pages continue, understandably, to be dominated by the roughly 130,000 scandals currently afflicting the Trump administration. But polls suggest that the reek of corruption, intense as it is, isn’t likely to dominate the midterm elections. The biggest issue on voters’ minds appears, instead, to be health care.

And you know what? Voters are right. If Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress, we can safely predict that they’ll make another try at repealing Obamacare, taking health insurance away from 25 million or 30 million Americans. Why? Because their attempts to sabotage the program keep falling short, and time is running out.

I’m not saying that sabotage has been a complete failure. The Trump administration has succeeded in driving insurance premiums sharply higher — and yes, I mean “succeeded,” because that was definitely the goal.

Enrollment on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges has also declined since 2016 — with almost all the decline taking place in Trump administration-run exchanges, rather than those run by states — and the overall number of Americans without health insurance, after declining dramatically under Obama, has risen again.

But what Republicans were hoping and planning for was a “death spiral” of declining enrollment and soaring costs. And while constant claims that such a death spiral is underway have had their effect — a majority of the public believes that the exchanges are collapsing — it isn’t. In fact, the program has been remarkably stable when you bear in mind that it’s being administered by people trying to make it fail.

What’s the secret of Obamacare’s stability? The answer, although nobody will believe it, is that the people who designed the program were extremely smart. Political reality forced them to build a Rube Goldberg device, a complex scheme to achieve basically simple goals; every progressive health expert I know would have been happy to extend Medicare to everyone, but that just wasn’t going to happen. But they did manage to create a system that’s pretty robust to shocks, including the shock of a White House that wants to destroy it.

Originally, Obamacare was supposed to rest on a “three-legged stool.” Private insurers were barred from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions; individuals were required to buy insurance meeting minimum standards — the “individual mandate” — even if they were currently healthy; and subsidies were provided to make insurance affordable.

Republicans have, however, done their best to saw off one of those legs; even before they repealed the mandate, they drastically reduced outreach efforts in an attempt to discourage healthy Americans from enrolling.

The result has been that the population actually signing up for coverage is both smaller and sicker than it would otherwise have been, forcing insurers to charge higher premiums.




After the fact, Oregon regulators called foul on Ecotrust’s plan to accept millions in taxpayer subsidies spend $5 million of that money to acquire the mill from the owners and in essence give it right back

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The article below appeared in the UnOregonian on Sunday. It follows the trail of a state investment in a logging mill gone bust.  It's another dubious legacy of the Kitzhaber era.  It repeats an all too frequent saga of bad investments by Business Oregon, the state's economic develpment agency.  But beneath the obvious - it's a saga about how Oregon's once robust timber industry has dried up and withered on the vine, so to speak.  

Thanks to the clout of the environmental lobby beginning with the Clinton administration and federal law suits used to close down timber harvests to protect old growth forests, spotted owls and other species on public lands in Oregon - the timber industry has, like it's steel mill brethren in the heart land, seen its role in the economy diminished and with that the hollowing out of thousands of family wage jobs especially in "the Other" Oregon.  My hometown once boasted of being the timber capital of the USA - no more.   

I'm not yearning to return to the "good old days" of jipper loggers, clear cuts and ravaging the land for profit. But the pendulum has swung too far from pro-growth to anti-growth.  And when I drive west from Portland to my home community of Forest Grove - the scaring from clear cuts is still there but not on federal lands but on private lands. We've privatized not moderated industrial timber harvests.  What is required is good environmental management and harvesting - not a zero sum game fought by eco types vs. loggers.  

In the meantime we get failed promises as detailed below.  

Hillary Borrud and Gordon R. Friedman

The Oregonian/OregonLive

When state and federal officials approved $8 million in taxpayer financing for a Southern Oregon sawmill project, they did so on the premise the investment would bring back jobs. But officials green-lighted the project despite warning signs the plan to retool the mothballed mill was likely doomed to fail.

Sure enough, even with the expensive taxpayer- provided upgrades, the reopened Rough & Ready mill operated for less than 20 months before shutting down for good. Its equipment has been auctioned off, the land sold and the promised jobs only briefly delivered.

The failed project was overseen by Portland environmental nonprofit Ecotrust.

Taxpayers ultimately poured more than $12 million into the small-scale family- owned mill. On the day the land was sold, only $5 million of it remained.

The other $7 million had been spent for naught. Cave Junction residents like Matthew Davis, who worked on the millroom floor as did his father and three brothers, have a hard time accepting that work is gone forever.

“It was a game changer,” Davis said of the mill’s closing. “The mill was a really good income. One of the best-paying jobs around.”

After the mill closed, Davis went back to school and landed a better, higher-paying job as a diesel engine mechanic. But it requires a 115-mile daily c ommute to and from Medford.

Government officials who hand out the type of tax credits that Rough & Ready received don’t check a project’s financial viability or budget details first. And that is by design. Lawmakers who created the so-called “new market” credits directed regulators to defer to private sector investors.

Officials at Business Oregon, the state economic development agency, approved Ecotrust’s tax credit application for the mill project despite red flags. Among them: a simplistic hand-written budget, ineligible costs that could have been detected up front and a recent failure by the mill’s operators to keep it open despite substantial public investments.

Millions of taxpayer dollars were invested in getting the Rough & Ready sawmill up and running again. It operated for less than 20 months before closing for good. Jamie Francis, file

Then-Gov. John Kitzhaber supported retooling the mill in sleepy Cave Junction, surrounded by national forests just north of the California border. He liked the idea of putting laid-off mill employees back to work.

The sawmill’s owners, Jennifer and Link Phillippi, wanted as much taxpayer help as possible to buy up-to-date equipment and restart the mill. The size of a tax credit for pumping up a rural business like theirs depends on the total cost of the improvements. Ecotrust decided to include in its tax credit application a $4 million expense to buy the decades-old mill and the land on which it sits. What should have been obvious: The company in charge of the sawmill already owned the mill and the land, so buying them wasn’t a genuine arms-length cost and shouldn’t have counted.

But officials at the state and federal agencies that grant new market credits say digging deep into the workings of individual proposals isn’t their role.

On the federal level, the Department of Treasury scrutinizes the private entities that it authorizes to award multiple tax credits to a spectrum of projects. Ecotrust is one of those. Treasury officials check the performance of each entity’s portfolio before granting it a new round of credits to give out.

Under Oregon law, Business Oregon leaders said, they were required to leave it to Ecotrust and the Phillippis to judge if the deal would save the mill. Ecotrust was paid $520,000 for arranging the deal.

When Oregon lawmakers created the state version of new market tax credits in 2011, they instructed Business Oregon to award the credits as long as certain federal requirements were met, no matter how dubious a project may appear. In a low-income community? Arranged by a federally approved entity? Backed with all the investment dollars required? Ecotrust’s Rough & Ready proposal checked all those boxes, so the taxpayer spigot was turned on.

Business Oregon reviewers didn’t spot warning signs because they aren’t allowed to dig deeper than face value, agency spokesman Nathan Buehler said.

The reopening drew high public praise from Oregon officials. “Credit goes to Governor Kitzhaber and to Ecotrust for their efforts on this project and on behalf of the Josephine County economy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden. Rep. Greg Walden hailed the project as “good news for working families in southern Oregon.” Kitzhaber promised to help the mill project “in any way I can.”

Lawmakers ended the state version of the new market tax credit program in 2016. Congress, however, has repeatedly extended its new market incentive program, allowing project backers to receive $21 billion in tax credits since 2000.

Beginning in November 2017, The Oregonian/ OregonLive sought public records about Ecotrust’s Rough & Ready deal. It reviewed tax credit applications, emails and documents given to the state by a concerned Ecotrust insider.

Those records trace the complex financial web that ultimately provided $8 million in federal and $4 million in state taxpayer resources.

Following reporters’ inquiry, Business Oregon notified Ecotrust in February of its plans to claw back more than $1 million of the taxpayer incentives due to misspending. Ecotrust has the option to avoid repayment if by May 3 it spends $2.9 million on other allowable projects in rural Oregon. The nonprofit has indicated it will try to do that.


Ecotrust was founded nearly three decades ago to nurture eco-friendly businesses and show companies that they can build wealth while also doing good. Founder Spencer Beebe is pictured on the nonprofit’s website wearing a white hat, an appropriate symbol of its ethos. “Spencer has always creatively leveraged capital to scale a new economy — finding ways to let mission drive money,” the website says.

One way it has paid for that work: winning $114 million in federal and state tax credits. The public-facing nonprofit also sits atop a less-publicized constellation of for-profit subsidiaries that exist to make money. Those for-profit companies own stakes in a handful of other tax credit projects, eco-centric businesses and the ultra-green Ecotrust headquarters in the Pearl District.

Ecotrust next plans to use a new helping of federal tax credits, intended to encourage investment in low-income areas, to build a new hub in southeast Portland’s rapidly redeveloping industrial area.

Ecotrust officials are accustomed to rubbing shoulders with influential people in Oregon. The city of Portland rented space in its headquarters building. In 2014, Kitzhaber urged that the group be awarded the tax credits — and even tossed in a $1 million largely forgivable loan from a pot of taxpayer money under his control.

The former governor, who is working to regain career credibility after an influence- peddling scandal led him to resign, is now getting help from Ecotrust. It has inked a four-month contract with him to work on an opaque economic development and natural resource management project called Salmon Nation. Ecotrust would say only that the group is paying him “his standard hourly consulting fee.”


To qualify for the maximum amount of state tax credits, Ecotrust needed to show that upgrading the Rough & Ready sawmill so it could reopen would cost at least $8 million. Ecotrust’s application to Business Oregon showed half that cost would be to acquire land and construct a building — even though the same three-page application showed the mill was a lready s ituated on a 300-acre site with an existing 35,000-square-foot sawmill.

Acquiring land and buildings from Rough & Ready’s owners only to give them to an entity 99 percent owned by those same people is not an upgrade eligible for a state taxpayer subsidy, Nia Ray, director of Oregon’s Department of Revenue, informed Ecotrust. Tax credits should never have been awarded for that purpose, she said.

Yet Business Oregon signed off on the subsidies. Buehler, the spokesman, said Ecotrust’s application didn’t provide enough detail for officials to spot that problem.

Adam L ane, E cotrust’s chief f inancial officer, defended the companies’ handling of tax credits.

The incentives are restricted to helping businesses in census tracts with low median incomes and are intended for projects that wouldn’t be able to secure private financing without taxpayer subsidies. Most have gone to urban projects, but Ecotrust’s credits were designated for rural communities.

“One of the key elements of the new markets program, both state and federal, is they are supposed to go to try to fund projects that will create economic and — the way Ecotrust does it — environmental benefits in these rural companies, these needy Census tracts,” Lane said. “It is supposed to go to try to fund things that would not otherwise be fundable.”

Still, Lane was asking hard questions of other key decision-makers at Ecotrust as little as seven days before the tax credit deal closed.

Bettina von Hagen, chief executive of Ecotrust Forest Management, Ecotrust’s forprofit forest management subsidiary, wrote in an internal analysis of the Rough & Ready deal that log supply wouldn’t be a problem because the mill had “resolved supply issues” and could easily secure logs from its previous suppliers.

That raised questions for Lane. He wrote in the margins of von Hagen’s memo, “I think more needs to be said about this given that it was the main reason the mill was closed before. What has changed?”

Lane had other questions, too: Did Ecotrust have proof that a log shortage really forced the mill to close in 2013? Why wouldn’t a commercial lender pony up money for the project? Had von Hagen verified that a log shortage wouldn’t “kill the company” again after reopening?

“Rigorous analysis (i.e. ‘hard questions’) is the expectation we would hold in any project we undertake,” Carolyn Hollard, Ecotrust’s vice president for communications, wrote in an email. “We do not move forward with any transaction until we complete our diligence and questions are answered.”

Ecotrust said when it put the deal together that the public’s investment would create much-needed jobs in unemployment-racked Cave Junction.

“This project will bring back 70 jobs in an economically depressed region of the state with unhealthy forests,” Ecotrust said on its application. “Working people are productive, pay taxes and are not a drain on the state resources. … Rural Oregon communities need a sustainable economic engine to support the quality of life we all desire.”

Davis, the laid-off mill worker, said his younger brother, Chuck, and a neighbor went back to work when the retooled mill started sawing logs again. But, Davis noted, “It didn’t last very long.” For Chuck — who joined the Marines right after the mill closed again — the mill’s second shuttering brought grief. “He was so upset,” said Davis’ wife, Lynne.

Out of Ecotrust’s 25 new market tax credit deals, Lane said only two have run into problems like Rough & Ready’s. Still, he said “this is heartbreaking for us because when we put this deal together we were incredibly excited about the job creation, not only at Rough & Ready but the surrounding landowners.”

As for the state’s contention Ecotrust got the subsidies improperly by counting ineligible expenses, Lane said, “We are not saying that is correct.” However, Lane said Ecotrust agrees with the state that “this is a good solution” to spend any money left to purchase timberland for the Phillippis to manage.

“We’re working w ith t he Phillippis, o r monitoring them, because they’re the ones that sort of have to drive it,” Lane said.

In l ight o f t he p roblems t hat a rose, Ecotrust will repay $250,000 — half of the fees it earned for handling the tax credits — and use it to purchase timberland in low-income tracts, Lane said.

Ecotrust is not ruling out future tax credit deals involving lumber mills, Lane said. “Ecotrust has a strong forestry team. We know a lot about it.”


Rough & Ready had been sawing logs continuously since 1922 and was the last working mill in Josephine County when it closed in February 2013. Its holdings spanned two mills located side by side. One was a 1940sera mill and had recently been upgraded with $2.5 million of taxpayer help to more efficiently saw large diameter logs. The second mill, added in the 1970s, was capable of sawing small logs but had been dormant since 2002 because it wasn’t capable of turning a profit.

The Phillippis closed the large log mill in 2013, citing a shortage of logs from federal lands. The infusion of taxpayer financing in 2014 was to retool the small-log mill and put it back in business after 12 years.

They were bullish about the chances of success.

“Demand is good right now,” Link Phillippi said at the time. “Our markets are good. Our customers are begging for wood.”

Critical to any mill’s success is its ability to acquire raw logs.

Both Lane and Jennifer Phillippi said they had reason to believe Rough & Ready

“This project will bring back 70 jobs in an economically region of the state with unhealthy forests.” Ecotrust, in its application for tax credits for the Rough & Ready sawmill

After the fact, Oregon regulators called foul on Ecotrust’s plan to accept millions in taxpayer subsidies spend $5 million of that money to acquire the mill from the owners and in essence give it right back.