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Pacific Continental Dodges on Jeff Pinneo and the Murdock Trust

When confronted with board member Jeff Pinneo’s involvement with the Murdock Charitable Trust and their funding of the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom and the anti-worker political groups National Right to Work and the Freedom Foundation, Pacific Continental Bank claimed it did not involve itself in its board members’ other business or board interests.

That, however, has not always been the case. In fact, in January, Pacific Continental paid $5 million to settle claims it had knowingly financed a Ponzi scheme run by one of its board members (who also happened to be the son of the founder of the bank). Even the trustee managing the bankruptcy of the Ponzi scheme company, Thomas Huntsberger, said the bank was “an essential component to the continuation of the Ponzi scheme.”

Pacific Continental agreed to pay $4.9 million “to settle claims they knowingly aided and abetted the alleged Berjac Ponzi scheme that cost investors nearly $40 million.” “Berjac was an obscure family-owned finance company that supposedly specialized in loaning money to individuals so that they could buy insurance. … Rather, Berjac executives allegedly pocketed investors’ money for their own uses, which included a hodgepodge of real estate and housing ventures.”

The head of Berjac, “Michael Holcomb sat on Pacific Continental’s board of directors.” He ran the company with his brother Gary. Michael and Gary’s father, Jack Holcomb, founded Pacific Continental Bank.

It appears that leadership at Pacific Continental is still showing bad judgment. After financing a board member’s Ponzi scheme, they are now refusing to get involved when another board member who is associated with funding a hate group and organizations working to reduce the wages of workers who likely are Pacific Continental customers.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Columbia Bank and Pacific Continental Bank leaders to drop their ties to a hate group funder.

Freedom Foundation’s Anti-Teacher Editorials Lack Credibility

Recently, a number of Washington newspapers have published anti-teacher editorials by the Freedom Foundation’s Jami Lund. The glaring omission in all of Lund’s editorials is context: There is no mention that the Freedom Foundation is a far-right political group focused on defunding unions so they can elect conservative candidates.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported in its exposé on the Bradley Foundation, the Freedom Foundation is funded by out-of-state billionaires who are trying to enact a far-right agenda, including privatizing our education system and gutting the pension system. These people have exactly zero credibility when it comes to educators and our public schools.

Just look at what has happened in states like Wisconsin, where organizations like the Freedom Foundation have had a head start: the Bradley Foundation takes credit for creating the infrastructure that led to the first private school voucher program in the United States. That infrastructure helped elect Governor Scott Walker, who implemented policies that eliminated educators’ collective voice and enacted the largest cut in education funding in state history. The Freedom Foundation has promised to do much the same here in Washington and Oregon.

But we don’t even need to look at states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where the Freedom Foundation’s compatriots have muzzled the voices of teachers, front-line public safety personnel and other workers. We can simply look at the Freedom Foundation’s work priorities here in the Pacific Northwest. The Freedom Foundation recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars working with a phony front group called the Pacific Northwest Childcare Workers Association to try and trick home health care workers into decertifying their own union, even reportedly stooping to impersonating union personnel. They spent a similar amount of money to try to stop SEIU 503 in Oregon from enacting an administrative change that protects workers by keeping their personal information private.

This same far-right political group is fighting tooth-and-nail against polices that will benefit people across the state, especially women. They recently fought to defeat bills in the Washington legislature that would allow state employees to donate their leave to coworkers who become “sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy and/or childbirth” or who can’t afford to stay at home to “bond with their newborn, adoptive, or foster child.” That’s right, the Freedom Foundation doesn’t think that public employees should have the freedom to donate their leave to their new mother coworkers, who are often forced back to work early because they can’t afford to be unpaid.

The Freedom Foundation isn’t just fighting to prevent teachers, police officers and other workers from joining together to ensure they have a voice in their workplace. They’re also fighting against policies that will benefit all workers. They have opposed raising the minimum wage and requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. They’ve even invited Andy Puzder, Donald Trump’s first choice for Labor Secretary — a man accused of illegally withholding his workers’ pay and forcing them to work off-the-clock — to speak to their upcoming annual fundraisers.

When it comes to teachers and education policy, Jami Lund and the far-right political group the Freedom Foundation simply have no credibility. Instead, we should be listening to the collective voice of educators across this state who disagree with everything the Freedom Foundation supports.

The Freedom Foundation Spent a Lot of Money to Try to Trick Childcare Workers Out of Their Union… and Failed

As we reported last month, the Freedom Foundation, under the guise of the Pacific Northwest Childcare Association, has been spending heavily to undermine childcare providers by harassing them at their homes and hoping they will ditch their union. The problem for the Freedom Foundation is, they aren’t.

The Freedom Foundation is driven by a deep disrespect for worker organizations, and they have shown they’ll try anything. They’ve thrown it all at the wall – a statewide canvass, glossy mailers, social media, and significant staff time, which could have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars of their donors’ money. There have even been reports that they try to pretend they are representatives of the union.

And what do they have to show for it?

Nothing. Zilch, zero, nada.

Last week, the Freedom Foundation/PNWCCA turned in just 1/3 of the signatures needed to achieve their goal. All of that money, and nothing to show for it.

The anti-worker organization, which is funded by out-of-state billionaires to keep wages low and advocate against important social and worker protections, failed because Washington workers do not share their extremist views. And what are those views?

  • Opposed raising the minimum wage and extending paid sick leave
  • Argued against increasing education funding
  • Partnering with organizations to cut workers retirement
  • Endorsed Trump’s failed Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder

The Freedom Foundation talks a big game, but their results – or lack thereof – tell a different story. Once again, workers rejected the lies of this extreme right-wing political group funded by out-of-state billionaires.

Another Defeat for the Oregon Branch of the Freedom Foundation

In the fall of 2015, the anti-worker Freedom Foundation moved across the river from Washington to Oregon and announced that they would be “…doing what [they do] best – making life miserable for government employee unions.” Unfortunately for them and their funders, they have failed miserably. The Freedom Foundation’s main Oregon target, SEIU 503, which represents home healthcare workers and other public employees, has higher membership than ever. SEIU 503 has been moving a pro-worker agenda that includes minimum wage increases and paid sick leave for all — both issues the Freedom Foundation opposes.

Just recently, the Oregon chapter of the Freedom Foundation suffered another defeat as they tried to prevent SEIU 503 members from protecting members’ personal information including names, birthdates, and home addresses. In a completely lopsided vote, union members voted with 91 percent of ballots cast to change the union’s corporate non-profit status.

The Oregon staffers at the Freedom Foundation, including controversial leader Anne Marie Gurney, worked tirelessly and spent big money trying to oppose this vote. They dedicated significant staff time, they appeared on conservative talk radio, sent out mailings, and wrote op-eds that were so factually inaccurate the editorial board had to “update” the information. We even heard radio ads. It is hard to know how much the Freedom Foundation spent because they are so secretive about their donors and spending, but given the costs of the activities they engaged in it, could have been in excess of $100,000.

This is not the first time the Oregon chapter has failed. In addition to SEIU 503’s membership and activism being at an all-time high, last fall most of the Freedom Foundation’s upper-level staff drove from Washington to Salem, Oregon to hold a press conference that no one covered. Additionally, in their attempt to build credibility with policy folks in Oregon, the Freedom Foundation embarrassed themselves by failing to even get the dates right on ballot measure deadlines.

The Freedom Foundation’s new MO is to lie about their success, convince donors to give them money based on these lies, and then fall flat on their faces.

Of Course Dennis Richardson is Allied with the Freedom Foundation; He’s as Extreme as They Come

Dennis Richardson claims on his website that, as Oregon Secretary of State, he won’t “use this position for partisan agendas or personal gain.” However, one has to question the validity of this statement. Richardson is as extreme and partisan as they come. In previous public statements, he was front and center at the Freedom Foundation’s fundraiser at the Oregon Zoo last summer and he’s been a guest on the Freedom Foundation podcast with Anne Marie Gurney. Gurney, if you remember once wrote on a personal blog that “We all know there were good and bad slave owners just like there are good and bad dog owners.” But Richardson doesn’t need Anne Marie Gurney to validate how extreme he is.

We just need to look at his record.

In 2011, Richardson promoted the anti-worker policies of Scott Walker in Wisconsin suggesting that Walker’s policies should be enacted in Oregon. He opposes raising the minimum wage as well as mandatory paid sick leave for workers. Using the absurd language, typical of the Freedom Foundation and the extreme right, he claimed that, if enacted, employers could face “imprisonment” for failing to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

As a legislator, Richardson looked for ways to make it harder for working Oregonians to vote:

“Two measures Richardson supported, House Bill 2583 in 2005 and House Bill 3432 in 2009, would have required eligible voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship before they could register to vote. While voters currently must attest to their eligibility, the bills would have required them to prove it using a passport, naturalization document or birth certificate.

“In 2007, Richardson tried to force a vote on House Bill 3554, an immigration bill that included provisions that would have required residents to prove citizenship to register to vote.”

He also supported SB 1080 in 2008, which required proof of citizenship for driver license applicants.

But his extremism doesn’t stop at limiting voting rights and harmful anti-immigrant policy. In 2007, Richardson “railed against” the bill in Oregon which granted same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex married couples stating, ‘“this essentially creates special rights for gay and lesbian couples, but discriminates against other couples,” such as two sisters, or a mother and daughter.’

That same day in 2007, Richardson “argued passionately against a bill to prohibit businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation,” comparing sexual orientation “to smoking and drinking, saying all are based on someone’s behavior.” He even related those bills to the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in which 32 people were killed and 17 wounded. “He combined the two events in his newsletter under the headline ‘A tragic week in review.’”

And if that’s not enough, Richardson recently met with Trump administration Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, with whom he shares support for diverting public funding to private schools.“ Richardson “described DeVos as an ‘activist’ and supporter of ‘parental choice in education.’” Meanwhile, thousands of educators, students and parents are protesting Devos’ appointment.

So don’t believe Dennis Richardson when he says he won’t use the Secretary of State’s office for partisan gain. Look at his past positions and statements, look at what he’s prioritized during the first few months in office and look at his friends at the Freedom Foundation. It’s perfectly clear that Richardson is out to enact the agenda of the far right and the Freedom Foundation.

Freedom Foundation Trying to Bamboozle Home Child Care Workers Out of Their Union

The anti-worker Freedom Foundation is working alongside, and apparently backing, a secretive group calling themselves the Pacific Northwest Child Care Association (PNWCCA). This deceitful alliance is no secret. The Freedom Foundation staff are regularly engaging with PNWCCA on social media and on a recent Podcast, Oregon Director Anne Marie Gurney hosted one of the leaders of the PNWCCA. The Freedom Foundation has bragged about their work with PNWCCA multiple times in newsletters to funders:

They are attempting to mislead child care workers and SEIU 925 union members in an effort to undermine their strength and to get members to drop their union and join up with the PNWCCA.

The Freedom Foundation is funded by out-of-state billionaires who aim to keep wages low and take away the voice of workers in the workplace. It should not shock anyone that home care workers are skeptical of the intentions of the PNWCCA because of their relationship with the Freedom Foundation.

The public should not be shocked at how low the Freedom Foundation will stoop to undermine working families. This is just another example of their effort to reduce the political power of working families. Remember, the Freedom Foundation pretends to be concerned with improving the lives of child care workers, but Freedom Foundation leaders have opposed raising the minimum wage increases, paid sick leave for workers and have even argued against increasing education funding. The Freedom Foundation endorsed Trump’s failed nomination of Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary. Puzder himself has been a vocal opponent of raising the minimum wage and expanding the number of employees who qualify for time-and-a-half overtime.

The PNWCCA is not fooling anyone because we all know it’s the Freedom Foundation and their billionaire funders that are backing them up.

Freedom Foundation Hired Staff Trained by Hate Group

What does it say about an organization if it is sourcing its attorneys from a group that has been designated a “Hate Group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)? Well, when that organization is the Freedom Foundation, that’s just par for the course.

The Washington state-based anti-worker Freedom Foundation, which also operates in Oregon and California, employs at least three attorneys trained by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative and virulently anti-LGBTQ legal group designated a “Hate Group” by the well-respected SPLC in its 2017 annual report.

The Southern Policy Law Center said of ADF, “Leaders of the legal advocacy organization and its affiliated lawyers have regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’ The group also has supported the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”

Three members of the Freedom Foundation’s legal team were “Blackstone Legal Fellows” with the Alliance Defending Freedom prior to being hired by the Freedom Foundation. According to the ADF’s website, “The Blackstone Legal Fellowship is sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family…The Blackstone Legal Fellowship seeks to cultivate a new generation of leaders throughout the legal culture that is propelled by this vision of the law to foster legal systems that fully protect our God-given rights.”

Litigation counsel David Dewhurst is a former Blackstone Fellow. Dewhirst authored a paper that examined the role of accrediting institutions. He expressed concern about the ability of accrediting institutions to “impose” their values on educational institutes, including prohibiting “discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation.” He cited an example of a graduate student who was dismissed for refusing to provide counseling to a gay student because of her “deeply held religious beliefs.” Dewhurst also served as a law clerk for the Christian Legal Centre, a newer and smaller version of the Alliance Defending Freedom in the United Kingdom.

Like Dewhirst, Freedom Foundation litigation counsel James Abernathy and Stephanie Olson also were Blackstone Legal Fellows with the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Not only has the Freedom Foundation hired these ADF-trained attorneys, it also gave the Alliance Defending Freedom a platform from which to spew its hateful rhetoric. On December 30, 2014, ADF’s Kristin Waggoner appeared on the Freedom Daily podcast with Jeff Rhodes to discuss ADF’s defense of “a Washington florist being sued for declining to cater a same-sex wedding.”

Interestingly enough, one of the Freedom Foundation’s largest public individual donors, the Murdock Charitable Trust, is also a donor to the Alliance Defending Freedom. With so much in common with an anti-LGBT Hate Group, it’s no wonder that working families do not trust the Freedom Foundation.

Murdock Trust Part of Trump’s Anti-Women Agenda

As we’ve written over the past few weeks, the Murdock Trust is part and parcel of Donald Trump’s America. While leaders of the Washington-based funder might tell you they are not supporters of Donald Trump, behind the scenes, they fund the very organizations that fight to enact Trump’s extreme right-wing agenda.

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The Murdock Trust has contributed over $1.3 million to crisis pregnancy centers across the Pacific Northwest. These groups pose as health clinics and often advertise as if they provide abortion services, but are “almost entirely funded by national anti-choice umbrella organizations” according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Trump, too, has supported pregnancy crisis centers. His “charity,” the Donald J. Trump Foundation, contributed $600 directly to Choices Pregnancy Care Center, a center with two locations in Georgia and contributed $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, whose website “touts its opposition to abortion rights and their founder’s ‘instrumental’ role in establishing Care Net—one of the three major umbrella organizations of CPCs in the United States.”

The centers use far-reaching and deceptive information to “persuade women, sometimes violently so, to not terminate their pregnancies.” Furthermore, they “use deceptive and intimidating practices in order to prevent women from accessing the full range of reproductive-health options.”

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Crisis pregnancy centers also often portray themselves as abortion providers on the Internet and position themselves close to legitimate reproductive health clinics in order to confuse women who are trying to access legitimate abortion providers.

Beyond crisis pregnancy centers, Trump has advocated for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, which would allow individual states to ban abortion, even admitting in an interview on CBS that women who couldn’t afford to travel to another state for an abortion might not be able to have one.

Northwest Accountability Project Calls on Murdock Trust to Cease Funding ‘Hate Group’ Alliance Defending Freedom

Portland, OR: The Northwest Accountability Project today called on the Vancouver, WA based M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to stop funding the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) after its designation as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and reform their giving policies to exclude groups that fight against equality for all U.S. residents. The Murdock Trust has donated at least $975,000 to the ADF, including $375,000 in 2016.

Northwest Accountability Project Executive Director Peter Starzynski said, “The Alliance Defending Freedom’s designation as a hate group formalizes what should have been obvious to the Murdock Trust: the ADF demonizes and scapegoats gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, making their lives less safe.” Starzynski continued, “For an organization who proudly touts that they ‘intentionally work each day to be agents of peace’ to continue funding the ADF is a great hypocrisy. The Murdock Trust needs to renounce the ADF and make clear that they will not fund the ADF or similar groups in the future.”

The Southern Policy Law Center said of ADF, “Leaders of the legal advocacy organization and its affiliated lawyers have regularly demonized LGBT people, falsely linking them to pedophilia, calling them ‘evil’ and a threat to children and society, and blaming them for the ‘persecution of devout Christians.’ The group also has supported the criminalization of homosexuality in several countries.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit organization that monitors the activities of over 1,600 domestic hate groups and extremists, including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and antigovernment militias, and provides analysis to law enforcement, the media and the public.

The Murdock Trust along with their board members, Wells Fargo’s Jeffrey Grubb and Pacific Continental Bank’s Jeff Pinneo, have recently been under scrutiny for their funding of various extreme groups that try to divide communities like ADF, the Freedom Foundation, Focus on the Family, the Heritage Foundation and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Recently, the student governments at the University of Oregon and Portland State University passed resolutions condemning the Murdock Trust for this type of funding.

The Northwest Accountability Project is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to educating the public on the issues that enhance the well-being of middle-class families and workers while shining a light on extremism and the moneyed special interests that attempt to bring an agenda of hate and division to Washington and Oregon.
More info at www.nwaccountabilityproject.com

Sign The Petition: Protect The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

As we highlighted last October, the Murdock Trust, with Wells Fargo executive Jeffrey Grubb as one of three trustees, has funded groups that have worked to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which recently fined Wells Fargo a record $100 million for illegally opening accounts for unsuspecting customers.

Now, you can add your voice to a petition to call on Congress and the White House to oppose any effort to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Sign here!

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A few examples of the organizations that Murdock funds:

  • $300,000 to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Reform, whose legal director slammed the CFPB in a May, 2016 article in the National Review that argued that a proposed CFPB rule to protect consumers right to file class action suits was created to help President Obama’s and the CFPB Director’s “trial lawyer friends.” In August, the Manhattan Institute invested heavily in creating a massive report to debunk the rule and criticize the CFPB.
  • The Heritage Foundation, which has received more than $3 million from the Murdock Trust, has also written extensively attacking the bureau, calling it “one of the most powerful—and unaccountable—federal agencies ever created.” Heritage also argued that “in the case of the CFPB, the rule of law is being supplanted by regulatory whim, producing deep uncertainty in the consumer financial market.”
  • The Washington Legal Foundation, which has received more than $1.4 million from the Murdock Trust, joined criticism of the CFPB in August 2016 by arguing its actions hurt consumers and were designed to “serve the interests of the class-action plaintiffs’ bar instead.”

Why would these corporate-driven organizations oppose the CFBP? In just five years since its founding in July 2011, the CFPB has an impressive record of taking on the finance industry on behalf of American working families.

With so much controversy surrounding their leadership, it doesn’t look good for Wells Fargo that a top executive in the Pacific Northwest is helping an organization that funds groups trying to undermine the very agency that regulates the massive bank.

The Murdock Trust appears to want to protect the big financial companies that caused the Great Recession. This, in turn, would greatly benefit Wells Fargo. But as working families we know the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a record of standing up for us. We just wish the Murdock Trust and Wells Fargo did too.

Sign up to learn more about the project.