Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Pretty Cheesy Anti-Tax Pitch

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 at 8:53 PM

It looks like the opponents of Measures 66 and 67 have found their Dorothy English. Her name is Carol Marie Leuthold, and she and her husband Dan have a dairy farm in Tillamook.

Dorothy English, as you may remember, is the sweet little old lady who wanted to develop her farmland outside Portland but was prevented by Oregon’s land use laws. She became the poster child for Measure 37, which gutted those laws. (Fortunately Oregon voters saw the light and later passed another measure that repaired most of 37’s damage.)

Last weekend, a letter from Carol Leuthold appeared in Oregonians’ mailboxes. “Five generations of our family have worked at our Tillamook dairy,” it began. “It’s our life and our business. Milk prices are plunging and it’s harder than ever to keep our business afloat. We’re worried that the new, permanent tax increases legislators passed in June will hurt our farm and the families it supports.”

The letter goes on to ask recipients to vote no on 66 and 67 and thereby reject the modest increases in taxes on corporations and affluent individuals that the legislature passed.

A touching appeal from a poor, struggling farmer with manure on her boots and a battered old pickup out in the yard, right?

Well, not quite.

As a good reporter should, Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes did a little checking and discovered that the Leutholds are not exactly the Joad family from “The Grapes of Wrath”:

“In an interview, Leuthold said her farm operation will face just one increase: a new minimum corporate tax of $150 a year on her family's farm partnership. However, she said her family has enough income from other activities, which she declined to discuss, to be subject to the personal income increases levied on households with taxable income of more than $250,000 a year.”

The Leutholds do not appear to be just barely scraping by: “According to a blog post from a Tillamook Dairy promotional web site, Carol Leuthold traveled in Italy and France [last year] to take cooking classes while her husband Dan went on a South African safari,” Mapes reports.

And last year apparently was not unusual. The Basic Rights Oregon website reports that Carol Leuthold’s profile on the Tillamook Cheese Fan Club site says “Leuthold and her husband, Dan, have a serious case of the travel bug. The couple has roamed around the world, including stops in Brazil, Italy, Germany and Alaska. They touch down in Switzerland, Dan’s familial homeland, every four years or so.”

Curiously, when I went to the Tillamook Cheese Fan Club site today to read the profile for myself, it wasn’t there anymore.

UPDATE: This afternoon, the page that formerly contained Carol Leuthold's profile had been revised to include this message:

"The personality of the month profile for Carol Marie Leuthold has been removed by request of her family.

We here at the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), appreciate the opportunity to share the following information with you.

On Friday, November 27, Carol Marie Leuthold, a member of the TCCA dairy cooperative, wrote a letter opposing Measures 66 and 67, which was mailed to voters in Oregon. The campaign opposing the measures obtained addresses from Oregon state voting records and mailed 950,000 letters to voting households across the state.

While Carol Marie and her family are one of the more than 110 dairy farm families who are members of TCCA, producers of Tillamook dairy products, her letter was not sent on behalf of TCCA or our other dairy farm families.

The letter from Carol Marie reflects her personal views on Measures 66 and 67.

There is no clear consensus among our member dairy farmers regarding these measures. Consequently, as a farmer-owned cooperative, TCCA has not taken a position on Measures 66 and 67. However, we respect our members’ ability to participate in the political environment of their own accord."

“There is nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of working hard for 45 years,” Leuthold told Mapes.

Certainly not. But as Carla Axtman writes on the Blue Oregon blog, “It's tough to make the case that [the Leutholds are] in a world of hurt over possible personal tax increases when one sees the entire Leuthold picture. They don't want to pay more to fund schools and police and roads because … it might put a dent in their ability to take a European vacation? So apparently we'd be killing jobs in Europe, not in Oregon. I can live with that.”

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