Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oregonian ed board delivers smackdown to Smith

The avalanche against Gordon Smith's latest anti-Merkley ad continues to build.

On Friday, the state's paper of record issued a scathing editorial against Smith:
Given how few serious problems face the United States in this election year, it was inevitable that Oregon's U.S. Senate campaign would get to the issue of furniture. Not to mention rugs. Two-term GOP Sen. Gordon Smith is running for re-election on the charge that the Democratic candidate, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, was part of spending too much on the state Capitol remodeling project. Smith's new TV spot laments the Legislature buying $4,000 walnut desks and $2,700 leather sofas in refurbishing the Capitol, for a total of $2 million in furniture. We can sympathize with his point. There's a certain appeal to the idea of state legislators assembling their own office furniture from Ikea.

Except that 150,000 Oregonians a year visit the Capitol, producing hard wear on its furniture and rugs. In the last purchase, when the two new legislative wings were added 30 years ago, the state went cheap, with predictable results. This time, a bipartisan committee of six legislators concluded it would be better to buy furniture likely to last 50 years.

The desks and cases have been built by Oregon Corrections Industries, a group that can be counted on to still be around -- and standing behind its work -- 50 years from now.
That's just the opener. The real sting is savored toward the end:
Still, there are reasons Smith might have been startled by the whole state Capitol remodeling project. After all, Oregon's effort is being finished in time and under the original $34 million budget, leaving $4 million to fix ceiling leaks that hadn't been addressed in the original plan.

During most of Smith's time in the U.S. Senate, Congress has been building a visitor center onto the U.S. Capitol. Four years late and $325 million over its original $300 million budget, it's scheduled to open in December -- reportedly because Congress didn't want it getting too much attention before the election.

During most of the construction, Smith's Republicans were in charge of Congress, and Smith himself was on the key Senate Committee on Finance and Upholstery.

Spending advice from Washington, D.C., is always welcome, but you could see why the Oregon Legislature's performance might make Smith want to sit down. Still, it's hard to see him getting startled by a $2,700 sofa.

After all, consider how many millions he's spending to try to keep his seat.

That's calling it like it is.


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