• Fighting for opportunities in Oregon

    Senator Wyden held town halls over the weekend in Josephine, Klamath and Lincoln counties where constituents asked about local issues such as the agreement he helped to broker in the Klamath Basin and his work with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives and Oregon congressional delegation to keep the Coast Guard rescue helicopter in Newport.

    Ron had the honor of taking his neighbor, 100-year-old World War II hero Dario Raschio, to lunch at Otto’s -- a must-stop deli in their southeast Portland neighborhood. And on Martin Luther King Day Ron had the privilege of speaking at The Skanner’s annual breakfast in Portland about the need to fulfill Dr. King’s challenge by repairing our nation’s broken criminal justice system and providing equal opportunity for all children to a good education.

    “Stop allowing the size of a parent’s wallet and the color of a child’s skin to determine the quality of a child’s education,” he said at The Skanner breakfast.

    At the Josephine County and Klamath County town halls on Saturday, Ron spoke of the urgent need to pass his O&C Act, which will double harvests and provide a steady supply of trees from federal O&C lands that will mean more jobs and new certainty for the mills and timber companies that rely on federal forests. Owen Dwyer, an eighth grader from Cave Junction, also asked Ron to keep up the fight to preserve net neutrality.

    He also spoke about the water compromise in the Klamath Basin that he helped to work out among tribes, irrigators and conservationists -- a message he emphasized again that evening when he attended the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce’s 94th annual gala in Klamath Falls.

    At the Klamath County town hall, Ron also lauded the efforts by Kaye Cory in the wake of her husband Lyle’s death to ensure veterans like her husband always receive timely and adequate health care from the VA.

    Before Senator Wyden’s town hall in Lincoln County on Sunday, Ron toured the Coast Guard facility in Newport and then met with the Newport Fishermen’s Wives, an essential ally that helped Oregon’s congressional delegation keep the Newport facility open through 2015. The helicopter there is critical for the safety of Oregon fishermen.

    Ron stressed that the fight to stop the Coast Guard from closing the Newport facility last year will allow work throughout 2015 to develop a longer-term solution to keep the helicopter in Newport.

    “This is a life-or-death question,” he said, noting that Coast residents and visitors depend on the rescue helicopters to survive accidents in  the cold waters of the Pacific.

    Senator Wyden has held 718 town halls in fulfillment of his pledge to have annual meetings in each of the state’s 36 counties to hear what is on the minds of Oregonians.

  • Shining Light on the Dark Money Tainting our Elections

    You don’t have to be deeply immersed in politics to recognize the disturbing state of modern campaigns. There are lots of reasons for why this is the case, but one of the biggest—perhaps the biggest—happened five years ago today. That’s when the Supreme Court offered its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, ruling that corporations have the same rights as people to spend money and influence elections.

    That decision unleashed a torrent of special-interest money that has washed over and tainted campaigns at every level. Even worse, the amount of money—especially anonymous money—pulsing through our elections grows with each cycle. It will not stop until we take action to reform our campaign finance system. With Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, campaign finance laws that have held back this flood of money are now seriously eroded,  with elections becoming less democratic and more the province of the wealthy.

    For decades I have worked to force more disclosure and transparency in the way campaigns are financed. With the amount of money gushing into campaigns it’s only fair and right that voters at least know who’s writing the checks.

    There are other tools as well and that’s why today I am again joining  Sen. Tom Udall from New Mexico to cosponsor legislation that will provide a much-needed  safeguard against the influence of big money in US elections. We are calling for a  constitutional amendment  that would give Congress the power to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures. Democracy is threatened under a system where unlimited sums of money can be raised and spent by an anonymous few to support a candidate or derail a campaign.

    I do not take constitutional amendments lightly. But the effects of Citizens United have become clear in the past few years, making our democracy less fair through huge sums of anonymous money influencing elections.

    In the last Congress, I was proud to join with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, in sponsoring the bipartisan “Follow the Money Act,” which would require all entities that engage in election-related activity to report their significant donors. At the very least, voters should know where campaign money is coming from and where it’s going.

    I hope my colleagues in the Senate will adopt these common-sense regulations to work towards more transparent campaigns in the future.

  • Vanishing Timber Payments Highlight the Need for Real Solutions in Rural Oregon

    Rural Oregon received some bad news this week –  our state will see county payments from the U.S. Forest Service fall to a tenth of last year’s level, from $68 million to roughly $6 million. The safety net for rural schools, roads and law enforcement has been cut to pieces by House Republicans who refused to extend the Secure Rural Schools Program last year.

    Ron promised to keep searching for every opening to renew this lifeline for rural Oregon, as soon as possible.

     “This drop unfortunately shows the fallout from House Republicans’ puzzling decision at the end of 2014 to reject my efforts to fund and pass Secure Rural Schools payments for one more year,” Ron said. “These payments are an essential lifeline for rural Oregonians who need to fund their roads and law enforcement as well as their schools.”  

    Since Ron co-authored the program in 2000, county timber payments have brought more than $2.8 billion to Oregon, keeping teachers in classrooms, firefighters on call and roads from falling apart.

    House Republicans say they plan to tie the safety net to a controversial logging bill. But the president has already threatened to veto legislation that undermines bedrock environmental protections or gives away huge tracts of public land.

    That approach is a dead end, that doesn’t get rural communities any closer to a solution.

    Ron’s focus is on putting forward real solutions for rural Oregon through his bill on O&C Lands, solve the long-standing water rights issues in the Klamath River basin and strengthen the safety net for local roads schools and law enforcement.