Sen. Boquist: Nasty politics led to threats, GOP anger
For the past two years, a Republican legislator once an ally of Democrats has become a one-man force waging war against his colleagues to the left.
The scrutiny given to Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, was heightened to unprecedented levels in June when, in one day, he made two comments that brought national media to his door.
Republican senators had left the Capitol in political protest over a cap-and-trade bill aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Gov. Kate Brown's decided to send the Oregon State Police after them; she did so at the request of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Courtney and Boquist used to be friends, though a June 19 floor session showed clearly how far that relationship has fallen.
"If you send the state police to get me, hell's coming to visit you personally," Boquist said to Courtney.
He fueled attention when a Portland television reporter recorded him saying that, if state police come looking for him, they'd better "send bachelors and come heavily armed."
A Senate Special Committee on Conduct has scheduled a hearing for Monday, July 8, to consider Boquist's comments. It could be the first step in possible discipline against Boquist, who has been in office since 2005.
For the first time in detail, Boquist has explained his actions and his claims that the Senate skipped mandatory steps in its disciplinary process. He made the remarks in an interview on Wednesday, July 3, with the Capital Bureau. The transcript has been edited for brevity.
Capital Bureau: What is the origin of that phrase, "send bachelors and come heavily armed"?
Boquist: I'm probably not the originator of that phrase. It's probably been used in many other circumstances in the last four decades of military and government service.
So the origination of this whole discussion was, you know, over a month ago, and it went back and forth, including — there are emails on what is legal, what is not legal. Do you have the authority to arrest? If you have the authority (to) arrest, you know, what happens? And of course, there's correspondence with the state police involved in this. There's electronic correspondence with the Marion County district attorney. Because remember, if you're going to arrest somebody, you have to prosecute them if it's a criminal deal, because other than that, it's false imprisonment.
This comment actually come up multiple times before I actually shared the comment directly with the superintendent of state police and a captain in the building in, you know, that was out there. And of course, their response is the same as response back that, "OK, it's not our job to come arrest you." OK. And if you notice, nobody got arrested.
Now, the media is quite familiar with this … all kinds of threats floating around, all kinds of quotes. The best one in the building here is they're going to arrest us and bring him in and chains and orange jumpsuits. But none of that happens.
So in the video tape … KGW took that has doesn't release the entire 15 minutes of the interview, which our communications director asked me to do the interview. The reason is quotable, because it is a quote from, you know, at least a dozen conversations before directly with the Oregon State Police on, you know, "it would be illegal for you to come arrest, it would be a false arrest."
And of course, they see this is purely political free speech and discussion, you know, within the politics and the realms.
Capitol Bureau: Did you think about what sort of response you would get?
Capitol Bureau: And what was what was your thought?
Boquist: The thought is, is that all of the qualified law enforcement officers and the people would know that they should not be violating the law, and that this was purely a political issue, which it is. It is purely outright political retribution. And the fact that I have a document, which I've given to you, that says there is no complaint, informal or formal, and that it was instigated by news reporters — reporters plural — both in writing, I was told, and verbally, that this is a political issue. One hundred percent. It is unfortunate the rest of the tape was not put out.
Capitol Bureau: Were you expecting this would garner national media attention?
Boquist: I don't think I would expect national media attention at all. And of course, I mean, considering the written responses, there's no complaint. I mean, you gotta realize the media picked up and started running with this. And the real response has been over the last 72 hours in which, you know, people are claiming there's a formal complaint and informal complaint. And there's all this. And of course, that's the media.
Capitol Bureau: In hindsight, do you regret the comments?
Boquist: In hindsight, yeah, that's an interesting thing. It's like foresight, if you can see, for here's my philosophy in life. So the answer is "no." Here's what everybody goes around and saying, "well, in hindsight, I would do something different."
Well, the problem is, if you were starting all over … you'd have the same circumstances in the same place, you'd make the same comment. So I look back in hindsight is know, if I, if I made a mistake, not saying I did in any particular case, or not, I'd probably make the same statement. So the notion like you can go back and, you know, change the circumstances, to me, is nonsensical. What you do is you learn by your mistakes and go forward.
Capitol Bureau: You were in the building Saturday (June 29), but not on the floor. Why was that?
Boquist: I went to (the Republican Senate) caucus. The discussion in caucus was trying to end and sine die (the end of this year's legislative session) on that evening, period. That evening. And what bills we would give rules suspension for, and what bills we would not give rules suspension for, and trying to leave. There was a belief that we would be done on Saturday night.
I was asked by (Senate Republican Leader) Herman Baertschiger, if in exchange for killing four bills, I would try and keep the peace and not go to the floor.
I think I've only stayed for one sine die. So that was my first session in the House. Because the thing happens at the end of the session, so the public understands, is what's called the Christmas tree bill. This is the literal horse trading bill. This is the bill where people get payoffs for the votes they made. And it appears to me, this was a grand payoff that happened on Sunday, back and forth. And so I generally do not vote on the Christmas tree bill because I mean, it's pork politics, and its worst as far as I'm concerned.
And so Laurie (Monnes Anderson, president pro tempore of the Senate) and I discussed, OK, well, I leave anyway. If I leave and if whomever wants to then come in and vote and have your votes count.
Capitol Bureau: When you came on the floor Sunday (June 30), were you aware that Sen. Sara Gelser said she would not be on the floor with you?
Boquist: Absolutely not. Sara has not talked to me. Nobody's talked to me. The only reports I've seen is what's in the media.
Capitol Bureau: Did you insist on having a gun with you on the floor Sunday?
Boquist: That is a bald-faced lie. OK, that is a bald-faced lie. And three senators are entitled to their free speech, if the issue is a legislative or political issue on the floor. If this is an employment issue, which they are claiming presently, and their shenanigans come Monday, then they are liable in a court of law. At this point, I'm going to give them the advantage that it is political free speech.
Capitol Bureau: Do you regularly carry a concealed firearm on the floor?
Boquist: Yes, I have a concealed weapons permit. Yes, I have occasionally carried a gun on the floor based on the security threat in this building is established. And at this point, I probably have 25 death threats against me.
Now, the answer to your question is that, did I carry a gun down on the floor during the last couple of days? The answer is no. Furthermore, anyone who claimed I did, needs to check their facts. Because let's face reality, it is already a hostile situation, created for political purposes.
Capitol Bureau: OK, so why did you leave on Sunday?
Boquist: When I left, there was supposed to be two bills. We were going to do a Christmas tree bill and the Christmas tree implementation bill: pork one and pork two. Right. That's what was left.
My understanding is they horse traded, somebody horse traded. The governor threatened, this is supposedly, right. The governor, with Peter Courtney, threatened that they would … she would line-item veto all of the Republican projects — basically political blackmail, extortion, which is probably legal in politics. OK, so I'm not blaming her for horse trading. Apparently, what transpired is she did that, and said, you know, if you don't give me an opportunity to vote on the cigarette tax referral, that she'd veto these projects.
They brought back a reconsideration of the speaker's housing bill. And then they brought back the tobacco tax referral. So it was actually four bills in the last 20 minutes of the session, or whatever it was.
The Christmas tree project bill is always held hostage to the end, and that's the best way to do it: hostage. So if you're somebody … who's supposed to get a $55 million project out in your district, mostly rural Oregon, by the way, and you don't, you know, kowtow, you can … have your project line-item vetoed.
That whole process that even though this is supposed to be a public record, it's kept secret to the very end, bothers me.
Then they opened both chamber doors and both ends and they look across, and then they talk about "Kumbaya." There's no "Kumbaya" in this building, period. There is no "Kumbaya." This building has been a hostile work in place for member employees, at least since February of last year.
And so this notion of then, OK, everybody's all friendly, and we make up, you know, simply bothers me, it's a charade.
Capitol Bureau: Is there concern the divide between you and other members in this building is beyond repair?
Boquist: First off, you're right, it's wide.
Here's the issue that started. On Aug. 17, 2018, I sat in the law offices of Barran Liebman with Peter Courtney, with Ginny Burdick and Sen. (Jackie) Winters and myself, and an equal amount of House members. This was in regard to the sexual harassment complaints against the Legislature. It came apparent in that meeting that there was more than dishonesty happening on the side of the Legislature in dealing with the sexual harassment allegations.
You need to remember, I am a hostile witness in at least one of the lawsuits that's out there. There are two other lawsuits that I certainly will be called into. I have multiple written formal complaints that have been stonewalled in direct violation of law. Now, many of the members of the media familiar with, so to say, that we're going to have better relationships until this place is cleaned out, is simply false.
There needs to be outside state and federal investigators looking into the actions of the Oregon State Senate. To my knowledge, I do not know that that is not happening right now. And so, no, we're not going to have good working relationships until they clean house.
Capitol Bureau: Are you going to show up to the hearing on Monday?
Boquist: If there's a hearing, I'll come. I don't even know what the committee hearing is going to consider. So I don't can't make a speculation of what it is they're going to do.
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