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Jeb Bladine - Kitz campaign story revives old memory

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This week, I was mentally transported back 27 years to a dimly lit conference room in the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office. It was the site of a vile political ambush that became the source for something extremely rare in my life — an enduring grudge.

The trigger for my memory was this week’s Willamette Week story about former Gov. John Kitzhaber and self-proclaimed “Princess of Darkness” Patricia McCaig, a long-time Oregon political operative. WW reported that in 2014, while running for re-election during a political storm over the collapse of Cover Oregon, Kitzhaber engaged McCaig to control that tempest through apparently acute manipulation of the public trust in order to advance his re-election campaign.

That story is there for the reading, and this column is about why none of it is a surprise. In fact, I have to wonder how many other people read that story through the prism of their own personal experiences with the sledgehammer style of McCaig.

In 1988, our company had its first encounter with state officials as newly appointed printer of the state Voters’ Pamphlet. McCaig was riding shotgun for then-Secretary of State Barbara Roberts and was leading a staff of antagonistic people who seemed intent on making our job difficult. Worse, we found ourselves coping with a flawed contract that failed to reveal essential project stipulations.

When the defective contract created a major problem, McCaig was quick to deflect blame rather than accept responsibility. Ultimately, we delivered a quality product on time, but McCaig cited suspicious processing delays while withholding payment for several weeks.

Finally, McCaig cheerfully invited me to come get the check in Salem. I was ushered into that long conference room, finding a table surrounded by stoic-faced bureaucrats. Each had a thick copy of trumped-up charges purportedly justifying a $25,000 fine against our company.

I knew it was a high-stakes cover-up of a sloppy contract that would have embarrassed the Roberts administration. A strange calm came over me. Without bothering to read the document, I uttered just 12 words before standing up and walking away: “You people … are going to pay us every dime of that money.”

Two months and one attorney general’s investigation later, they paid us every dime. And as we continued our 12-year run as printer/distributor for the Voters’ Pamphlet, we were comforted by these 12 words from the following administration: “We know the problem wasn’t you; we know the problem was them.”

The problem, I believe, was her.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news register.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Deroyam

I remember that time well. Glad you can still smile about it and those 12 words

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