Saturday, August 9, 2008

Well-Upholstered Politicians

Those Gordon Smith ads chiding Jeff Merkley because the Oregon Legislature spent millions on redecoration during his tenure as House speaker prompted a snarky editorial

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM

Those Gordon Smith ads chiding Jeff Merkley because the Oregon Legislature spent millions on redecoration during his tenure as House speaker prompted a snarky editorial from The Oregonian yesterday.


The ads describe how the lege spent about $2 million on rugs and office furniture, including $4,000 desks, $2,700 leather sofas and flat screen TVs for lawmakers. If you don't pay close attention to the ad you might get the impression that all the money was spent on Merkley's office alone.

"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," The O writes. "We can sympathize with [Smith's] point. There's a certain appeal to the idea of state legislators assembling their own office furniture from Ikea."

But the editorial goes on to note 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 [Enterprises], a group that can be counted on to still be around - and standing behind its work - 50 years from now."

Then comes the zinger:

"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."

Ouch.

The Eye would be willing to bet a substantial sum that Smith and his congressional colleagues didn't get their furniture from Ikea either.

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