This past week, while reporting on suspicious campaign contributions to Jim Francesconi's mayoral campaign, one of his spokespersons turned the tables, tossing questions at me about what he perceived as my conflict of interest [See News, this page]. If I understood him correctly, he was saying my journalistic objectivity might be clouded by my desire to see Jim Francesconi lose the mayoral election. (The spokesperson did not dispute any of the facts reported.)
He is correct in one regard: I would like nothing more than to see Francesconi lose this election. After reporting on city council activities for the past four years, I have become increasingly concerned about what I perceive as Francesconi's willingness to kowtow to big business interests at the expense of individual citizens and social concerns.
Those concerns began long before I was a candidate. After Francesconi (who had earlier claimed to be against the war) voted down an anti-war resolution a year ago, the Mercury bombarded him with questions--which he refused to answer. At the time, a memo from the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) to city council members had surfaced. The memo asked council members to vote against the resolution, saying the council should not have any role in international matters. When Francesconi voted, his explanation suspiciously echoed the logic in that memo. But he brushed away concerns that he was swayed by the PBA, claiming he had made up his mind months earlier (unintentionally admitting that he ignored public testimony).
Francesconi is also the only council member to vote against a resolution that allowed Dignity Village to stay put, even though he has professed compassion for their plight. Likewise, he has called for more transparency in fundraising--but two formal complaints were filed last week to investigate donations to his campaign (see "The Shell Game").
Francesconi's unwillingness to discuss the questionable contributions only further underscores my concerns. While the Francesconi campaign is not willing to self-police a questionable contribution, I feel it is a double responsibility--as a journalist and candidate--to raise the questions they will not.
My goals--in my job as news editor, or as a candidate-- are to push for more accountability from our elected officials. So as "interests" go, I feel pretty un-conflicted. PHIL BUSSE