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OSPIRG, From the Inside

An e-mail between a former OSPIRG employee and last year’s ASUO Executive Sam Dotters-Katz

This morning I came to the office, and one of our staffers gave me a hard copy of an e-mail given to her by a person who wished to remain anonymous. It was an e-mail sent last year to then-ASUO Executive Sam Dotters-Katz by a former staffer at a branch of what I believe is SOUPIRG (The redacted parts, from what I can make out, say “SOU”–Southern Oregon University). I contacted Mr. Dotters-Katz this morning to confirm the legitimacy of the e-mail, which he verified. The e-mail is rather interesting. Here’s the body:


I felt compelled to write you after watching part of the Senate meeting last night, especially the part involving OSPIRG‘s appeal. I am currently a grad student at U of O, but I was an OSPIRG organizer for one term in REDACTED, when I worked at the REDACTED campus.

Toward the end of my term, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable “selling” OSPIRG to REDACTED students, as my job basically required me to do. The main reason was that it became so apparent that the decision-makers in the organization weren’t the students, but were the staff. The OSPIRG board meeting I attended then were essentially shames, where students would read from a script prepared by a staff  member and then ram all staff proposed decisions through.

When our student chapter at REDACTED tried to request a small amount of money for a Hunger and Homeless Benefit, we were subjected to a horrific bureaucracy. To be blunt, the student’s couldn’t even retrieve a portion of their own money [emphasis original].

I eventually resigned from OSPIRG in December of REDACTED, after the student group attempted to compel me to raise money for the lobbyist wing of the organization (the state PIRG) during my Christmas break.

In my opinion, the incestuous relationship between the student OSPIRG and the state OSPIRG represents not only a major conflict of interest, but a potential abuse of federal tax law. The student PIRG is a 501 C-3, but the state PIRG is a 501 c-4. The difference in non-profit classification is due to the fact that the state PIRG lobbies extensively. Anyways, as you obviously already know, the two organizations share funds, so it appears that cash from the 501 c-3 (student org) is just funneled right to the 501 c-4 (state org).

I don’t know whether or not this is legal–I’m not a tax attorney–but it’s clearly disingenuous and it means that clearly funding OSPIRG means students are funding lobbyists. The fact that Dave Rosenthal has denied this is completely dishonest.

Anyway, after I resigned at REDACTED, almost all the students in OSPIRG quit. Many were angry because they didn’t have any input in the canvass policy which forced me to resign. Some of these students eventually formed their own group and some of them even argued against OSPIRG at their budget hearing after their experience. They had no control over their own organization. At that year, a budget committee voted unanimously to defund OSPIRG, but somehow OSPRIG clawed their way back through incessant appeals and was funded at a third of their desired budget.

In the process, OSPRIG administrators descended on campus, in some cases intimidating students. A few students came to me–at this point I wasn’t working for REDACTED or PIRG–complaining of harassment and they went to officials at the school as well. An OSPRIG director even continued to contact and harass me–attempting to convince me to get the students “back in line” after I had resigned. At one point, this guy threatened to wage “a bloody fucking war” to get OSPRIG back. It took them months to pay me requisitions they owed me, and I only received money after I threated to sue them and file a complaint with the department of labor.

Anyway, a long story, but the point is that I just wanted to thiank you for standing up for the students in this situation. I can’t tell how much it burns me that money comes out of my pocket to fund this organization. After experiencing OSPIRG from the inside, there is no doubt in my mind that it is not in the best interest of students at the U of O to fund this organization.

Also, I know how diligent OSPIRG will be in clawing their way back on campus through each and every possible avenue, so I urge you to stay steadfast. I hope your bout with this organization comes to an end this evening, but if you ever want insight into how OSPIRG works and what makes it tick, I’d be glad to give you some more details that might interest you. One of the things you really nailed was the exaggeration of figures. The metrics forumulas we used to use were so absured, and the sole reason for cooking these numbers is so Dave [Rosenthal] can use the same sort of flashy math we used to night.

Anyway, thanks again for your leadership on this issue and good luck.”

  1. Orev says:

    It won’t be easy, but have to work hard against them at the U of O this spring. They are leaches, and they thrive when people forget about them. We must not forget about them, and finish them off for good in Eugene. It is only a matter of time before SOU leaves them by the wayside, and LCC…well, it’s LCC

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    I understand this letter is being circulated around SOU. I expect OSPIRG to mount a strong defense. Let’s hope the students there can see through the BS and throw these bums out.

  3. Orev says:

    OSPIRG makes me barf. And cringe. And throw flaming liberals from the third floor of the EMU. Whether they are on fire is totally optional.

  4. Kenny Ocker says:

    OSPIRG makes me cringe.

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