Few would disagree that the so-called towboat bill pushed through by Hillsboro state senator, Bruce Starr on behalf of Dale Sause and John Knutson represented the dirtiest of politics. An amendment to the bill, which was written by Sause’s lobbyist daughter and hand delivered to Starr who then carried it to committee, enacted a law that specifically prohibits Captain Charlie Yates from operating Coos Bay Towboat Co., a Knutson Towboat competitor. Oregon Senator Joanne Verger and Representative ARnie Roblan both voted AYE.
Last spring, Knutson testified before the legislature alleging Yates misused his position and threatened his competitors and the bill was signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber in March. Now a federal investigation by the US Department of Justice says the threats simply didn’t happen. Unfortunately, the news comes too late to save Coos Bay Towboat and its employees but it does exonerate the captain and shed some harsh light on the board and contributors of a local political action committee, the CCAP (Coos County Alliance for Progress).
In June, Sause Bros Towing contributed $10,000 to the PAC which in turn immediately distributed $5,000 to Starr’s campaign for state labor commissioner. Dale Sause, owner of Sause Bros has close ties to John Knutson, a founding PAC board member and his company will effectively have a monopoly in Coos Bay. This act alone defines the character of the people manipulating local politics, but there is more. The CCAP board attempted to take over the board this election and to ramrod through unsavory and unpalatable changes that would have centralized control of the county. The latter move was defeated in every precinct and its primary ideological standard bearer, Fred Messerle, also lost his bid for a seat on the commission.
The World quotes a statement from Yates.
“‘False accusations about me were made almost a year ago by Mr. John Knutson as part of his agenda to drive me out of the ship assist business,” Yates wrote. ‘Before there was any investigation or proof, the legislature chose to believe Mr. Knutson’s false accusations and acted in haste to pass a law forcing me out of ship assist work.
‘The legislators who voted for that result should be ashamed and embarrassed that they allowed themselves to be used that way.”
Yates couldn’t be more correct and the smell that emanates from the rat PAC(K) couldn’t be more recognizable to the public if a white stripe ran down the backs of each board member. It is unknown at this time if Yates will bring a lawsuit against Knutson for lying to the legislature but we can hope the US DOJ now begins a separate criminal investigation into the same.