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Mike Nearman

Freedom Foundation Hires Extremist Lawmaker

The group's Oregon director has ties to hate groups and his wife filed a Janus style lawsuit

Brian Young's picture
Aug 19, 2019

The Freedom Foundation has a new director for its Oregon chapter, and he is about as extreme as they come. The Foundation’s new hire is Oregon State Representative Mike Nearman and he has a long history of not just opposing unions but paling around with some dangerous groups.

Nearman has served in the State House since 2014. Before that, he served as a key leader of an anti-immigrant hate group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR). The group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as “the most prominent anti-immigrant group in [Oregon],” has ties to white supremacists and once claimed that giving drivers cards to undocumented immigrants would aid the spread of Ebola and terrorism.

Nearman, who was elected after defeating an incumbent Republican in a primary, was seen as too crazy by other Republicans. In 2014 two State Senators built a website to disparage Nearman and encourage voters to vote against him. Another conservative group, The Conservative Republican Defense Fund, sent out a mailer warning that “electing Mike Nearman for our state representative is bad for our health.” Nearman also had ethics charges filed against him by fellow Republicans for improperly coordinating with Oregon Right-to-Life.

Some of his votes include voting against mandatory paid sick leave, against school lunches for low-income students, and against increasing funding for schools. Nearman is also married to the plaintiff in a case that challenged agency fees. While the Janus case was making its way to the Supreme Court, Nearman’s wife Debora was bringing a similar lawsuit through the Oregon courts. Debora is an employee at the State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, where she freeloads off an SEIU Local 503 collective bargaining agreement. Debora sued the union after they spent $50,000 in COPE funds (ie voluntary political contributions) to try and defeat her husband in 2016. The lawsuit, which was bankrolled by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, not only sought to get rid of mandatory agency fees but also attempted to get the court to force Local 503 to pay her dues back.

Oregon legislators are only considered part-time and the state has no law against outside work. This means that the state has no conflict of interest law that bans an elected official from leading a group that will lobby the State Legislature, as the Freedom Foundation often does.

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