Oregon's Megaphone. Loren Parks is a man of many interests. The 81-year-old multimillionaire made his bundle from Parks Medical Products in Aloha, OR.
Before moving to Nevada in 2002, Parks gave more than $6 million to Oregon politicians and ballot initiative campaigns, most of them conservative. After he left the state, the money kept pouring in - some $600,000 to support ballot measures in 2006, plus another $900,000 for Republican Kevin Mannix's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign that year.
And the Parks money stream is still gushing this election season. According to a recent report by the progressive group Democracy Reform Oregon, Parks contributed more than half of the amount given in support of the eight initiatives that qualified for this year's ballot - a total of $839,606.
Parks also gave more than $550,000 this year in support of initiatives that didn't make it to the ballot. And on top of that, he gave $175,000 to Mannix to help retire his campaign debts. Add it all up and it comes to well over $1.5 million.
As Willamette Week put it in a 2006 story: "If money is speech, as the Supreme Court claims, then Loren E. Parks has the biggest bullhorn in the history of the state of Oregon."
Of course, how Parks spends his money is his own business, and he has a right to support the candidates and policies of his choice with his dollars. But something is profoundly screwed up when one old man - who doesn't even live here anymore - is virtually bankrolling the entire conservative movement in the state of Oregon. The Supreme Court's dumb ruling that money equals free speech probably prevents the legislature from doing anything to mute Parks' big bullhorn, but at least we can deliver a symbolic BOOT to it, and to him.