OREGON NEEDS MORE "ECCENTRIC" MILLIONAIRES
April 26, 2006
The so-called mainstream media in Oregon has made a very big deal out of the rather large contributions that one man, a former Portland area businessman, has made to the campaign of Republican candidate for Governor, Kevin Mannix.
The Oregonian, which inaccurately refers to itself as a newspaper, has published several front page stories about Mr. Parks, and has consistently painted a very unpleasant picture of him. The Oregonian’s articles have been so biased and distasteful that an expose on the same man in The Willamette Week, Portland’s offbeat, unabashedly liberal, alternative newspaper, was quite fair in comparison.
I suppose that there is reasonable cause for a second look anytime any candidate for a high public office gets a large chunk of money from any one source. Inquiring minds immediately want to know what the rich guy is going to get in return for his money. It is one thing to wonder. It is another thing altogether to jump to conclusions that are baseless and publish stories that impugn someone’s character without any factual basis, as The Oregonian has done.
I have known Loren Parks for more than a dozen years. He has donated generously to several projects with which I have been involved. In all that time, Mr. Parks has never so much as hinted that he wants or expects anything in return. Mr. Parks’ views on political issues vary from extremely liberal on such issues as abortion rights and doctor assisted suicide to quite conservative on such issues as judicial reform, property rights, tax cuts, and government spending. He is also no fan of public employee unions.
All things considered, you know what I like most about Loren Parks? When he believes in a cause, he supports it generously. I know dozens of businessmen in Oregon, who call themselves conservatives and have far more money than Loren Parks, yet don’t donate a tenth of what he donates. Call him eccentric, if you wish, but if we had a dozen guys like Loren Parks in this state, liberals would not control Oregon and conservative groups would not be forced to operate on a shoestring or be outspent by their liberal opponents ten-to-one every election cycle.
Thirteen years ago this June, I met with Loren Parks for the first time. He and another Portland area businessman, Robert Randall, who has since passed on, offered to fund the entire start-up and two years operating budget for Oregon Taxpayers United, which for more than a decade was Oregon’s premier taxpayer association. Mr. Parks and Mr. Randall told me up front that it would take two years to get the organization off the ground and build up a membership large enough to support it. They agreed to pay the bills, including my salary as executive director, for that entire period.
They kept their commitments and also donated generously to specific projects for some time after that.
Never once in more than a decade did either of these two men ask me to do anything that would benefit them personally. Every project we worked on was chosen because we agreed together that it would make our state a better place to live, work, and raise families. Our goal was to lower taxes for everyone, make government more efficient and more responsive to the taxpayers, limit the power of the public employee unions, and preserve private property rights.
Because of the generous support of these two individuals and a handful of other successful businessmen and the faithful donations of nearly twenty thousand $25 to $100 per year contributors, we were fairly successful.
Our measures saved the property owners of our state several billion dollars in property taxes; reined in runaway public employee pensions; stopped a boondoggle, multi-billion dollar light rail project; and made government taking of private property via land use regulation the hottest political topic in the state.
We were able to force onto the table several topics that Oregon’s political left had kept buried from public view for decades. Activist judges may have thrown out some of our measures after voters approved them, but we made issues like “double taxation”, lavish public employee pensions, Double Majority elections, and property rights front page political topics and forced the discussions that eventually led to at least some level of reform in those areas.
As I stated above, there have been others who have helped fund some of our major projects, but in all honesty, Loren Parks has been the key donor. Without his help, many critically important projects simply would not have happened. Often Loren Parks gave the seed money that got the ball rolling. Anyone who has worked in politics or started a new business knows the value of seed money. Seed money is the magnet the attracts the rest of the money and tells other donors that this project really is going to happen.
Loren Parks and I do not agree on every issue. I am pro-life and he supports abortion “rights”. He funded most of Oregon’s doctor assisted suicide campaign, which I opposed. He doesn’t care much for religion, and I am a committed, born again, Bible-believing Christian. But we work together on projects where our views overlap.
He may be a liberal on some issues, but he is a die-hard conservative on most.
You know what else I respect about Loren Parks? He is loyal. When the liberal media beats the stuffin’ out of you and suddenly most of your conservative “friends” act like they never knew you, Loren Parks just shrugs his shoulders and stays the course. Political correctness means nothing to him.
In summary, I know this “eccentric” millionaire that the Oregon media are trying to demonize as a way of hurting Kevin Mannix’s gubernatorial campaign. Mr. Parks is indeed an interesting fellow. I only wish Oregon had a dozen more like him.
Before you conclude that rich guys always want something in exchange for their political donations, consider this. I went to Loren Parks a few months ago and asked him to support a measure that stops insurance companies from basing rates and premiums on a person’s credit score, a factor that has little or no bearing on an insurance company’s actual risk in issuing a policy.
Obviously there is no personal reason for Mr. Parks to support such a measure. He would get nothing out of it. Nonetheless, he committed $100,000 to help place the measure on the ballot. Why? Because it helps the little guy. The decision was that simple for him.
I believe that Loren Parks’ support for Kevin Mannix is also that simple and straightforward. I believe Mr. Parks has donated generously to the political campaigns of Kevin Mannix primarily because Mr. Mannix has consistently advocated for putting violent criminals behind bars and even sponsored a ballot measure that forced judges to mete out serious prison time for violent criminals. Public safety is an important issue to Loren Parks and Kevin Mannix is a public safety kind of guy.
I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that Kevin Mannix will owe nothing to Loren Parks, if he becomes Oregon’s next governor. For all of his donations, Mr. Parks will ask for nothing. Mr. Parks may not be a saint, but I have never known him to put any strings on any political money that he has donated. He is not trying to buy access to a future governor. That’s not his style. He likes Kevin and his positions on crime and taxes, so he donates to his campaigns. It’s that simple.
Some millionaires simply want to leave the world a better place than they found it. That’s the kind of millionaire Loren Parks is. I guess it’s fair to say that in the times in which we live today, that does make him just a bit eccentric.
© 2006 Bill Sizemore - All Rights Reserved
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Bill Sizemore is a registered Independent who
works as executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, a statewide
taxpayer organization. Bill was the Republican candidate for governor
in 1998. He and his wife Cindy have four children, ages eight to thirteen,
and live on 36 acres in Beavercreek, just southeast of Oregon City, Oregon.
I know this “eccentric” millionaire that the Oregon media are trying to demonize as a way of hurting Kevin Mannix’s gubernatorial campaign. Mr. Parks is indeed an interesting fellow. I only wish Oregon had a dozen more like him.