The Republican and Democratic parties have failed Oregonians (OPINION)

Guest Columnist By Guest Columnist The Oregonian
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on December 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM, updated December 24, 2015 at 4:01 PM

By Andrew Miller

I generally avoid discussing why I give politically, but I wanted to respond to The Oregonian's recent front-page story discussing my support for the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO).

The credit for the IPO's major party status rests solely with its party leaders. They saw a need to reach voters who are bailing on the two-party system. When I learned about a concerted effort by special interests trying to subvert the IPO from becoming a major party, I offered minor assistance by paying for a mailer to help them reach voters. The result: People who were non-affiliated actually wanted to join and changed their party affiliation.

But I also wanted to understand their level of engagement. Was the IPO a fluke, or were Oregonians ready to embrace more voices in the political process? The result of a poll I commissioned was that IPO candidates could indeed be competitive in legislative and statewide races.

Voters choosing to not affiliate with a major party are at a significant electoral disadvantage. If politicians really believe the playing field should be level, then every party in Oregon should have access to taxpayer-funded primaries. However, legislative Democrats have worked to undermine minor parties by making it more difficult for them to participate as equals.

The political power structure is also fraught with special interest groups benefitting from the status quo. Rarely do we see competitive primaries, and gerrymandered legislative districts have left voters stuck without a choice at the ballot. Look how many legislators got a free pass to re-election last year. The system is broken.

Oregon has shown a lack of innovation and vision, especially in our political process. What the IPO has done without much money is engage more voices in politics. I find that refreshing. Understandably, voters attracted to minor parties are tired of relentless feuds between Republicans and Democrats.

Over the years, I've supported both Democratic and Republican candidates. I'll continue meeting with candidates across parties who are interested in growing the economy and treating taxpayers with respect. Oregon's minor-party and non-affiliated voters represent an important segment of Oregon's voting population, but the law doesn't allow their candidates a fair political process.

Like many voters, I look past party labels to see candidates for who they are, with no expectation of agreeing with anyone 100 percent of the time. I seek out candidates who care about Oregon, understand the fiscal implications of policy decisions and seek assurances that they will work across the aisle to enact laws that will make a difference in our daily lives. I also appreciate candidates who will stand for their communities, not protect special interests.

I'm convinced we need increased competition from parties like the IPO, particularly for statewide and state legislative offices. The Republican Party has allowed itself to be defined by social issues instead of connecting with voters on their policy ideas for good governance, education reform and personal prosperity.

Oregon taxpayers have been poorly served by the continued failures of the elected Democratic political class. Cover Oregon, the Columbia River Crossing, the state radio project, numerous agency IT projects and the Business Energy Tax Credits fiasco at the Department of Energy have cost Oregon taxpayers over a billion dollars that could have been spent on our education system. Instead, we're stuck with high student-teacher ratios and one of the worst graduation rates in the nation.

Why hasn't the current leadership done more to fix these systemic problems? Because six people control the entire legislative process. And those six people are carrying out an agenda of deep-pocketed special interests who only care about scoring their next taxpayer-funded project. Meanwhile, Oregonians suffer the consequences of policies that fail families.

When I give politically, I do so based on the caliber of an individual candidate, rather than with blind allegiance to any one political ideology. For the same reason, Portland city leaders and entrenched interests are rebelling against sharing-economy innovators like Uber and Lyft, Oregon's political elite and their highly paid consultants are working to keep an iron-clad grasp on a system that encourages power and greed over service to the people.

When candidates compete for voters with their ideas, Oregonians are better served.

Andrew Miller is CEO of the Portland-based Stimson Lumber Company.


If Democratic partisans are so up in arms about the IPO, it must be doing something right.


@SocraticMeathead The D goal this election is to win a super majority..It could happen..


They have a supermajority in the senate, with Betsy Johnson.

They are one short in the House, and have their eyes on a couple GOP seats, including Julie Parrish. If they pick up one GOP seat then the only thing standing Between an Our Oregon written tax increase and Kate Browns pen is Betsy Johnson.

The GOP has shown no ability to beat Dems in swing districts. If the IPO could find a few good candidates and pick up one or two seats in the Oregon house....

This is what the democrats fear. Maybe not the IPO per s, but the possibility that a few higher profile civic activists run for office as independents who are not controlled by the special interests.


@SocraticMeathead The D's have about 175,000 more voters than R's so its a up hill battle and why some R's don't bother to run..D's have the super majority in Senate but have had one for 3 of last 5 election cycles..Betsy being the swing..She would be a good IPO candidate for Gov..I bet many would like her maverick ways..The D's would probably like her to join the IPO..D's 1 seat away from House super majority..If IPO runs right winger in any close House district  they could peel off some R voters who are fed up with R's like Andrew and swing it to the D's..The R's have chance to unseat some D's..Evens from Salem is beatable and so is McKeown in Coos Bay..All 60 House seats are up and in Senate 15 seats..8 R and 7 D..The most competitive is Roblan's seat..But the IPO could help the D's big time if right wing candidates run..If more blueish candidates run then it helps the R's..It will be interesting to watch..


Oregonian's have failed themselves by being lazy voters or non voters.  When we re-elect the sound bite candidate we give rubber stamp approval for business as usual.  Mr. Miller is right six very powerful people own Oregon and are well rewarded for the status quo.  No newly elected politician can get a damn thing done in Salem until they have played ball with those power brokers for several years.  To stay long enough to execute any of their campaign promises, they must sell their souls to stay in Salem.

Sadly, by the time they have been their long enough to carry a bill on their own, they have long forgotten those campaign promises.  They successfully become puppets to the powerbrokers and the lobbyist.

Who said politician's like diapers need changed often?  We have an election comin up in 2016 it is past time for change in Oregon. The parites keep good canididates out of office by not supporting a new person running for a legislative seat.  Again, Mr. Miller is right, the Democrats and the Republican's are dancing together to stop change from happening in Oregon.


Maybe Andrew should become Oregon's Trump..He is all bummed out with the R's and D's and it seems he knows what is wrong with Oregon so maybe he should run for Governor..He has the cash and probably could win the IPO nomination..I'm not sure if he is a NAV, IPO, R, D, Green or whatever but we sure need more people running..


@samoht1 "Maybe Andrew should become Oregon's Trump." 

You use the fact that Miller has money as the only connection to Trump, and if you read his letter again, you'll read about his thoughts on primaries; if only a more diverse group of political parties running was the answer, then his letter would be pointless. Inherent in your statement is the problem which many despises:" He has the cash and probably could win the IPO nomination."


@Mosby @samoht1 He wants the state to pay for minor party primaries..Its not going to happen...It takes cash to run..Either go hustle it or self fund a campaign are the only 2 options....Andrew can self fund a campaign..How do you think the only R candidate for Gov is finding the cash to run?..Bud is self funding...The D's get cash from all sorts of places..I think Andrew would make for a good Gov candidate for the IPO..He should know the issues and has the cash to play the game..Its important the IPO run somebody..Win or lose they need the publicity and will be able to participate in debates..If he doesn't want to run he should go look for someone to run..Like Linda Williams of the IPO..I think she also would make for a good candidate to debate Kate..Its time for the IPO to play the game..Next Gov election they might be a minor party again..So playing now is important..


There is an IPO candidate for governor. A small businessman from Medford. Cliff Thomason. Of course a secon IPO candidate wouldn't be bas, competition is always good.

Thomasons website.



@SocraticMeathead Cliff has some interesting ideas and many people would consider then far right..Not sure If you read his issue positions on stuff but his blog page says a lot..Enough for me not to vote for him..


Besides pillow talking ex GF Monica Wehby into running, Andrew Miller is the political patron of John Ludlow and Tootie Smith. 

That's what his "Independent Party" stands for. 

Oh... he bought high and sold low on the last voyage of the Kitz as well. 


@pors - Your comment is incredibly ill-informed. IPO rejected Monica Wehby's candidate application in 2014 and one of our members is currently running against Ludlow for Clackamas county Commissioner.


Where's Monica, Andrew?

Go ahead and spend daddy's money attempting to buy your own political party. The cute trick of naming it the "Independent Party" almost seemed like it was going to work as a stalking horse for your regressive agenda until you larded it up with GOP has beens and half baked west hills "libertarian" business buddies. Now it's becoming clear that you really only wanted to rebrand the ridiculous ORP and move its center of power to your well manicured back yard and away from the heathens in Cave Junction. 


@pors People need to get over the hijack talk of the name..And a 2 party system controlling everything sure hasn't helped..They also are, For Sale..Cash talks in Salem..


@coastal123 "If moderate or more centrist Republican, or Democratic, politicians or candidates choose to leave their party for the IPO, then kudos to them for doing so"

Except that is not what happened. The IPO was "purchased" by the GOP'er's who want to hide from the toxic GOP label (records deficits, record debt, climate science denial, 25 years of failed oil wars, anti-health care reform, anti-environment, anti-public education, anti-immigrant, anti-civil rights, anti-women's rights, pro-religion) while still promoting the same failed GOP policies but calling them "Independent".

As the Oregonian article noted, the Clackamah GOP operatives run the "Independent Party" and have "put their stamp on the party" selecting right wing candidates to promote the same failed right wing policies that Oregon and the nation and still recovering from.


Since the D party is in near total control at the state level, it likely fears the IPO major-party status more than the R party does.  And that can show itself in unwarranted attacks against the IPO.


IPO was exposed as a front for GOP'ers trying to hide from the toxic Republican Party brand in Oregon.

SALEM — Months after winning recognition as the state's third major party, the upstart Independent Party of Oregon seems ready to deliver on plans to upend a political order long dominated by Democrats and Republicans.  Well-known Republicans, including a Clackamas County lawmaker, have drifted over to put their stamp on the party — recruiting and guiding candidates, shaping its message and positioning the party for a run at the governor's office.



If moderate or more centrist Republican, or Democratic, politicians or candidates choose to leave their party for the IPO, then kudos to them for doing so.  In previous election cycles, many candidates from both the D and R parties were jumping at the chance for an IPO nomination under the fusion voting (cross-nomination) process.


"Oregon's political elite and their highly paid consultants are working to keep an iron-clad grasp on a system that encourages power and greed over service to the people"

There are those who would say that the property tax breaks given to lumber companies that own their own forests work to keep an iron-clad grasp on a system that encourages power and greed over service to the people.

What Andrew Miller isn't telling you is that ALL successful human systems whether political, personal, family, or business, are organized on the principle of selfish-self interest and greed.  That is what motivates human beings.  And there is really nothing wrong with it as long as people have some restraint.


It is because of that potential 'restraint' the D party likely fears the IPO more than the R party does.  Right now, the D party is in near total control at the state level and 'restraint' is the last thing it would want.


The ORP is stuck on a reactionary social agenda which is anathema to most Oregonians, allowing the ODP to become complacent.


the IPO opening its primary should

Please NAVs



Who will be on your ticket? Besides Chris Telfer, that is?


You can check at ORESTAR to see who has filed for state offices. I believe there are currently 8 candidates. Including not only Ms Telfer, but Four candidates for the state legislature and a small businessperson has filed for Governor.

The IPO has said that the goal is to have 6-8 good candidates running for the legislature this cycle, as well as a few statewide candidates.

Remember, it's the first time in a while that a political party in Oregon has reached major party status, and the IPO is only 5% of all voters for now and doesn't have the infrastructure, financial base, or a candidate "bench" just yet. so it's unfair to strictly compare it tothe Ds or Rs.


IPO - Keep up the good fight against he corrupt establishment.  Merry Christmas.

Dirty Enrique

@MoreProgressiveThanThou This is the same message the Tea Party had and then they were consumed by the Kochs.


Enrique's comment is ridiculous. I haven't seen any Tea Party groups favor campaign finance reform. I haven't seen any people elected by the Tea Party do much of anything on consumer protection. It seems to me that what their leaders do is play on populist support for divisive social issue, which is basically the exact opposite of what the IPO does.

Dirty Enrique

@Sal_Peralta_626 You haven't heard of Taxed Enough Already?

The tea party movement is a large, fractious confederation of Americans who are defined by what they are against. They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy — with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes and intrusive regulation.


Yours is a fringe group.


Our party has deviled into a moderate. Response to the Tea Part. In 2014, we ran a candidate against Bill Post and in 2016, it is widely anticipated that Jim Thompson will be running as an Independent against Mike Nearman. Those two legislators are probably the two elected officials who are most closely aligned with the Tea Party. That won't stop anonymous trolls like yourself from lying about us, but rational readers will at least have some of the basic facts.


The best and brightest in Oregon are not attracted to serve in public office.

How else could Oregon end up with Kitzhaber - 4X? 

As for the Ds and Rs, they do serve - themselves - quite well.


Sorry, naming your party "Independent" is disingenuous and a little sneaky.


IPO was formed after the D's and r's in the legislature made it harder to run for office by doubling the number of signatures needed to file by petition and removed the word 'independent' for candidates who filed that way. In response to those changes, citizens collected 30,000 signatures to form the IPO.


OK, so it seems like part of the plan was to get people who wanted to register as independent (non-affiliated) to check the box marked "Independent", rather than "Not a member of a party", which was listed last on the registration forms.



That's an interesting comment, given that the D party pushed through the state's new motor voter act, in part to increase the total number of registered voters with this new method in an attempt to reduce the IPO percentage back to minor party status in future election cycles.


I'm not sure that was part of the agenda, though it is possible.

What was definitely part of the agenda is that Democrats know they do better at the polls when more people are registered, just as the opposite is true for Republicans.

Still, IPO functionaries have been here to comment, and so far there have been no denials.


@brewhaha - No. As I have said elsewhere in the thread, we formed the party because the legislature passed laws to make it harder to run for office by petition and removed the word "independent" as the descriptor for those who did. We thought it was outrageous. If there was an ulterior motive, it is that we wanted to have legal standing if the legislature decided to mess with the rights of minor parties as it had done for non-affiliated voters and candidates. We had no expectation that the party would grow as it did -- no other party has come close to that rate of growth. When it became clear that tens of thousands of people were starting to join, we pioneered the use of the internet to deliver individualized ballots so that our members could vote for candidates in their own districts and help the party set it's agenda. What we have accomplished on a shoe string budget with no paid staff for the first seven years was something of a minor miracle, and I am excited to see people in other states starting to follow our example.


"Independent" was changed to "Not a member of a party" on registration forms. It's not as if the legislature was banning people from registering as non-affiliated voters. Your "outrage" is misplaced.


What they were doing is trying to deny ballot access to competing candidates and to make the label less attractive for those who qualified by eliminating the word "independent" as a descriptor for those candidates. We thought it was outrageous. YMMV.


While it is refreshing to read of the authors willingness to open his mind to something other than the "status quo", I'm finding it difficult to give credibility to his arguement(s). As one who is/has supported right leaning republicans that continually support the policies of their corporate masters, I find it hard to believe that he has the best interest of the voters of this state at heart. Far be it from me to judge the man and his beliefs, and how he donates his time and money, at the very least, it is good to know that he is putting his money where his mouth is. How many of us do that?

And regarding his support of Dem's also, I'm afraid I am ignorant to who exactly those candidates are/were. However, I do agree the system is broken, and until viable alternatives emerge, why should us voters not believe the author when he says the Dem's do all they can to impede the progress of a third party? What are they so afraid of? The loss of power and control, obviously. That tells me that no current party (R's and D's) is interested in any kind of meaningful change, especially to the tax-payer funded campaign contribution system. They don't wanna lose any of those dollars. So, as with the dog chasing his tail, it seems that the partys' in charge like the way it is, and if any real change is to occur, it will be through and with leadership from people like Mr. Miller.

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