Oregon AG candidate rakes in union money

Chris Rizo May 13, 2008, 2:26pm

John Kroger

SALEM, Ore. (Legal Newsline)-The Service Employees International Union has poured more money in Oregon's attorney general's race, giving John Kroger more money to battle fellow Democrat Greg Macpherson.

SEIU, which is one of the state's most powerful union groups, gave Kroger $162,500 on May 2, in addition to the $120,000 the union gave the law school professor April 4, according to campaign finance filings.

Kroger and Macpherson are the only two candidates for Oregon attorney general. Since there is no Republican running in the attorney general race, the winner in the state's May 20 Democratic primary will almost assuredly be Oregon's next attorney general.

Kroger is also backed by the state's other big labor organizations-the AFL-CIO and the Oregon Education Association, which recently gave him $25,000.

Meanwhile, Macpherson, an employee benefits attorney at the Portland firm of Stoel Rives LLP, the state's largest private law firm, has been endorsed by many of his Democratic legislative colleagues, retiring state Attorney General Hardy Myers and Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Political observers say most of the Beaver State's unions are backing Kroger out of a certain disdain for Macpherson, a three-term state lawmaker who in 2003 played a leading role in overhauling the state's Public Employees Retirement System.

Union leaders blame Macpherson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, for a plan that reduced benefits to state workers.

For his part, Macpherson says the plan kept the PERS system solvent amid billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

"There are only four main sources of money for Democratic candidates: the OEA, trial lawyers, the Democratic Party itself and unions," said Cathy Shaw, a leading Southern Oregon Democratic political strategist.

She noted with the Democratic Party staying out of the race because it's a primary, unions are playing a larger role in the race.

But unions' monetary support does not necessarily translate into votes since some of the union's members are Republicans, and Republicans cannot vote in Oregon's Democratic primary, she told Legal Newsline.

"I don't know how far union reach is beyond union halls at this point," she said. "Money doesn't always dictate a win, but it helps."

Papers show that Kroger has outspent Macpherson, $740,000 to $676,000. Moreover, Macpherson recently loaned his campaign $40,000.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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