Elections watchers find themselves puzzled by several aspects of the Robert Wolfe (Progressive Party) candidacy for November’s Secretary of State race. Wolfe’s depth of interest in the actual Secretary of State position is difficult to verify. His funding is perplexing; the vast majority of the money comes from The Foundation for Constitutional Protection (FCP,) which is represented by a Texas lobbyist who works for conservative interests such as Shell Oil and the Koch Brothers. Wolfe is also a client of conservative political activist, attorney Ross Day.
Earlier this year, Wolfe led a failed effort to get a measure legalizing adult marijuana use on the November Oregon ballot. His petition, IP-24, failed to qualify for the election when Secretary of State, Kate Brown, determined in July that nearly half of the 175,000 signatures he’d submitted were invalid. Subsequently, in September, Marion County Circuit Judge Mary M. James decided against Wolfe in a lawsuit he filed challenging Brown’s signature validating process.
Bill Bradbury, former Senate President and Secretary of State of Oregon, commented on October 10, “Wolfe is using the Progressive Party ticket to engage in a personal vendetta against Kate Brown.”
Jillian Schoene for Kate Brown’s campaign concurs. She says, “Robert Wolfe broke state elections law, Kate Brown is holding him accountable and he is running against her in retaliation.”
Wolfe’s campaign site doesn’t suggest the thorough interest in state issues that most would expect of someone hoping to be second in line to be governor of Oregon. He states there that the focus of his candidacy “is primarily to highlight severe problems with Oregon’s revered Initiative and Petition system,” but also, “In addition, I strongly support the broader platform of The Progressive Party of Orgon (sic.)”
However, the issues listed on Wolfe’s site (excluding his arguments with Brown and her initiative and petition policies,) are only two. One is an objection to a clear-cutting vote Brown made (along with Governor Kitzhaber and Treasurer Ted Wheeler as part of the three-person State Land Board) in November 2011, and the second is a suggestion that voters approve Measure 80, which would legalize marijuana cultivation and sale to adults in the state.
Wolfe’s campaign financing disclosure (online at the Oregon Secretary of State site) shows that $8,000 of the $9,350 donations he has received comes from the FCP, a client of lobbyist Trey Bloker, whose clients are oil and gas and other conservative corporate interests, including the Koch Brothers.
$1,100 additional of the $9,350 total in Wolfe’s coffers came from the Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, which he is director, and which has received more than $374,000 from the same Texas group since March 2012.
The two sums together (8,000 plus $1,100) mean that more than 97% of Wolfe’s financial support comes from an organization that shares the same out-of-state lobbyist as conservative business interests.
Wolfe’s legal attorney in his fight with Brown is a staunch Republican activist, Ross Day of Vote Oregon LLC and Day Law Group. Day has partnered with Kevin Mannix, another conservative and former GOP gubernatorial candidate, on state petitions.
Salem Weekly asked Wolfe to provide his perspective on the apparent narrowness of his progressive platform and interest in state issues, on Bradbury’s comment that his candidacy is primarily a vendetta and on the right-wing associations of the Foundation for Constitutional Protection that funds him. He declined to comment.