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Chemical tycoon dumps $300k into effort to force Oregon taxpayers to fund religious education.
Coos County-based Dennis Beetham hands disgraced former school official huge sum to help advance a pair of petitions to amend Oregon's Constitution.
Correction: The sub-headline for this article originally labeled Beetham as being based in Bend, Oregon. He is based in North Bend (in Coos County), which is nowhere near Bend, Oregon. They’re, like, 4.5 hours away by car. As stupid as I personally think it is to name something North Bend when it’s technically SOUTH of actual Bend…….I did make the mistake. And now it’s fixed! Corrections are fun!
January isn’t a month you’d expect to see much action in the Oregon campaign finance world. But an effort to weaken public schools in Oregon - and subsequently enrich religious groups with taxpayer money - got a huge money boost to kick off 2023.
Ever hear of Dennis Beetham?
In January, this North Bend-based chemical tycoon with a pesky history of environmental disaster handed disgraced former Alsea School District Superintendent Marc Thielman $300,000.
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What are these two up to? Beetham’s huge donation went to two separate groups advancing state Constitution amendments where Thielman - who also sought the GOP nomination in 2022 for Oregon Governor (and lost badly) - is listed as chief petitioner:
Education Freedom for Oregon - Open Enrollment: Seeks to amend constitution where “Parent may select any public school statewide; district must admit, space permitting. Limited admission priorities.”
Education Freedom for Oregon - School Choice: Seeks to amend constitution where “State funds provided for private, religious, homeschool, tuition/expenses when parent declines K-12 public school.”
Both Initiative Petitions (IPs) being advanced by these two groups also list two other chief petitioners: Kimberly Gubala & Donna Kreitzberg.
The initiatives are aimed squarely at weakening public education in Oregon and attempting to force Oregonians to spend public money to benefit religious organizations and enrich religious education.
Don’t take it from me, check out the FAQs on their website.
Oregon Sec’y of State accepted both petitions
But that just means the petitions were written in a way that complies with constitutional requirements.
In order to get the two petitions on the ballot in 2024, Thielman and his crew need to collect 250,000 signatures for each of the two petitions.
Should they meet the signature threshold (which seems likely) the initiatives would need to pass a popular vote (which seems unlikely).
Beetham’s no stranger to flooding right-wing issues and politicians with money
His $300k to Thielman’s group is on top of an additional $30k+ that Beetham already donated to the anti-public education group - stretching back to late 2021, according to state campaign finance records.
Beetham also loaded Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix up with nearly $50k in the 2022 election cycle. One of Mannix’s first political appearances after taking office was with Oregon Mom’s Union - another anti-public education and anti-union group lead by MacKensey Pulliam.
Editor’s note - congrats to myself for writing this whole thing and not once mentioning or linking to this video where Marc Thielman dresses in drag and performs in front of an audience of school kids whilst sporting a noticeable erection.
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