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Desperate Republican Super-Minority in Oregon a sign of the Freedom Foundation’s Miserable Failure

The Republican State Senate in Oregon recently fled the state to avoid taking a vote on a bill combating climate change. The Oregon State Police have been deployed to retrieve the Senators and they are likely to face fines of $500 per day (as of the writing of this piece). Their refrain on why they are taking this drastic action: they don’t feel listened to in Salem and therefore are denying a quorum to the Democrats. In reality, this is a last-ditch effort from a Republican super minority that can’t seem to win elections and increase their presence at the Capitol in Salem. This domination by Democrats and floundering Republicans who sit on the fringe of the political spectrum has not always been the political landscape in Oregon.

This circus in Salem comes four years after an Olympia Washington based group with ties to the Koch brothers, calling themselves the Freedom Foundation or Opt-Out Today,  launched a campaign in Oregon targeting unions and union members. Their idea came from the midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio and it’s pretty simple: If they could destroy unions, they could remove what they see as a major funder of Democratic candidates and causes and help right-wing Republicans get elected.

In the fall of 2014, the Freedom Foundation, under then new CEO Tom McCabe, launched their so-called “opt-out campaign” in Washington and in Oregon in the fall of 2015. They began by targeting home care workers represented by SEIU, badgering them about their union membership and trying to persuade them to stop paying union dues. Despite the organization’s tax-exempt status which strictly prohibits spending for political purposes, McCabe made it very clear that the Freedom Foundation’s mission is to win elections for Republicans in order to push the right-wing’s agenda. In 2015,  McCabe wrote in a fundraising letter: “Are you tired of the Pacific Northwest being dominated by left-wing radicals?” He continued: “Freedom Foundation is leading the most aggressive push in twenty years to take back the Pacific Northwest. …the takeover of the Pacific Northwest by the Left took a lot of money and sophistication, as well as the raw determination to co-opt the region’s political machinery…The Freedom Foundation is the only group working on a region-wide basis to mount such a response. If this goal seems a little too ambitious or farfetched to you, just consider what’s happened in Wisconsin – another “blue” state, that is, until it suddenly wasn’t – where men and women of courage stepped up and took bold actions…To put it simply, the union bosses bankroll the left-wing establishment in our region…”

It is a refrain, McCabe and other Freedom Foundation leaders repeat often.

Then, just a year ago, they were gifted a decision by Donald Trump’s Supreme Court, when they ruled in Janus v AFSCME that public sector workers could receive all the benefits of the union and pay none of the dues. According to the Freedom Foundation, they expanded their outreach program to all public sector workers including teachers, nurses and social workers.

But a year since Janus, what’s clear’s is their campaign has been a massive failure. Their tactics have been reduced to spam emails and low budget social media advertising. Not only are working families doing great in Oregon and winning well-earned raises and increased benefits, but Republicans now have super minorities in the state legislature for the first time in Oregon history. In other words, the Freedom Foundation’s goal of turning Oregon into a red state is backfiring, in a big way.

The Freedom Foundation’s sales pitch of turning Oregon into a red state has been a fool’s errand from the beginning. But when you’re a Republican elected official in Oregon and so down-and-out that you would flee the state risking arrest and financial fees to avoid doing your job, you will believe anybody that’s selling you some hope, even if it’s false hope.

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