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Money is clean and the race is on

On the Town

If political candidates get points for cleverness, then Sho Dozono already has scored a few big ones.

I mean, here you've got a conspicuously successful businessman - owner of a travel agency with 250 employees and 12 offices in three states, and Portland Business Alliance bigwig, for crying out loud.

But when it comes time to declare his candidacy for P-town mayor, as he did this Monday, he announces that he's going to do so with public financing.

What this means now is that Sho and his supporters have to scramble to collect 1,500 signatures (along with $5 from each signee, of course), which they then can turn in for $200,000 in public money (minus the $7,500 already collected) to conduct his campaign.

Hey, what a deal, you're probably saying. And indeed, it does represent a nice little return of about 2,600 percent on your initial investment - but that's not the point here.

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The point is that by seeking public financing, Dozono has, at least momentarily, out-progressived his principal opponent, Sam Adams, who already is filling his war chest with private donations, although, of course, none more than $500.

Because what could be more progressive - with the possible exception of more bike lanes and sod roofs for public buildings - than 'clean money,' as it was called when the measure was enacted three years ago?

It was, as its supporters said at the time, intended to encourage the poor, women and minorities to run for public office - and in Dozono's defense, he's at least one of the above.

Adams, who's been working to burnish his progressive credentials since he was elected to the City Council three years ago, must be having a conniption fit watching Dozono and his camp play the progressive card at his expense.

It may, in fact, be one of the reasons why he floated the idea this week for the City Council to postpone a special election for the seat being vacated by Erik Sten, who, in case you might have missed it, is the father of clean money himself.

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Adams, who as already noted, is not using public financing in his current race for mayor, said he suggested the postponement because - get this - he wanted to make it easier for candidates for Sten's vacant seat to do so.

More likely, of course, he was just trying to stick it to Nick Fish - who, like Dozono, is not a member of the City Hall in-crowd, and who appears to be the leading candidate for Sten's seat - by making it easier for others to run against him.

Fortunately for everyone, the scheme was dead on arrival at City Hall. With the media on full alert, even Adams voted against the proposal.

And since we're on the subject, there's the question of the $173,623 in public money that Sten collected to run for commissioner last time out. Since he'll be leaving office with approximately two-thirds of his four-year term still to be served, is he under any sort of obligation to return a proportionate amount to the city treasury?

No one's saying that the old system - which basically results in selling government to the highest bidder - is any better. But this is getting a little ridiculous.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..