Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's With The Bulletin's Anti-Tax Obsession?

Posted By on Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 6:48 PM

The Bulletin’s opposition to Measures 66 and 67 seems to have turned into an obsession. Bend’s Only Daily Newspaper has yet another lengthy tirade against the tax measures on its editorial page this morning – the fourth, according to my recollection, plus a column a couple of weeks ago by Editor John Costa, numerous “In My View” pieces and countless letters to the editor.

Today’s epic tries to make the point that Oregon’s tax system is already fair. It made me wonder whether the people who write The Bulletin’s editorials bother to read their own newspaper: On the front page today there’s a story describing how Plum Creek, a Washington-based real estate investment trust, made $233 million in profits last year and paid CEO Rick Holley more than $8 million, and yet paid only $10 in Oregon corporate income tax.

Another thing I’ve been wondering about is why The Bulletin is on such an editorial rampage over these measures. In more than 25 years of reading the paper I’ve never seen it go on a tear like this over any other issue.

One bit of information that might shed some light on the question is how much more The Bulletin’s parent corporation, Western Communications Inc., would pay in taxes if Measure 67 passes. WesCom owns eight daily and weekly newspapers in Oregon and California. Because it’s not a publicly traded company I can’t get hold of a shareholder report and find out how much money it made last year or how much it paid in state taxes.

But if it didn’t show any profit and paid the current minimum of $10, the additional bite under Measure 67 could be substantial. Under the measure, corporations with sales in Oregon of more than $100 million would have to pay up to $100,000.

It also would be interesting to know how much top Bulletin and WesCom executives such as Chairman of the Board Elizabeth McCool, President and Bulletin Publisher Gordon Black and Costa would be affected by the personal income tax increases under Measure 66. I have no way of knowing, but I’d bet all of their families have incomes over $250,000 a year. (If they don’t, they’re definitely underpaid.)

The Bulletin has often insisted – quite rightly – that molders of public opinion should disclose any conflicts of interest or potential conflicts that might influence their position. So how about a little disclosure on this issue, guys?

(Personal disclosure: My wife and I don’t make over $250,000 and don’t own any corporations, so we will not be directly affected by the tax measures.)

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