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1993: The Packwood Follies | In sickness and in health:The Oregon Health Plan | A shot to the head


For 14 years, Alice Metzinger lived the life of a successful Lebanon restaurateur and pastry chef. Her friends found her intelligent, dynamic and full of humor. But Metzinger had a terrible secret. Her real name was Katherine Ann Power, and she was a fugitive from justice. In 1993, guilt finally forces her to turn herself in to authorities for her role as the getaway driver in a 1970 bank holdup that resulted in the death of a Boston cop. She would be released from a Massachusetts prison in 1999 after serving six years of an eight-to-12-year sentence.

Three teenage girls tell police about a wild night in Salt Lake City with Trail Blazers Tracy Murray, Dave Johnson, Jerome Kersey and Reggie Smith. A Utah prosecutor is convinced the lanky foursome had sex with the under-age mall rats but drops the charges for lack of evidence, proving the Blazers had more luck in court than on it.

Chicago native William Holyfield, 35, becomes so irate after being told he cannot extend his stay at the Portland Hilton that he returns to his seventh-story room, climbs out the window and attempts to avoid paying his bill by shimmying down a rope made of bedsheets. Bad move: He falls, suffering a severe head injury and breaking both legs.

Cops clash with anti-authoritarians during July's oxymoronic Anarchists Convention outside the X-Ray Cafe. The resulting melee is dubbed the Great Anarchist Riot of 1993. Upshot: broken windows, bruised egos, lots of national media hype.

After Police Chief Tom Potter retires, Mayor Vera Katz hires Charles Moose to become the city's first black chief. Moose, who has a doctorate in urban studies, gets extra public kudos when he moves into an inner-Northeast Portland neighborhood.

After years of tinkering, Benson High grad Richard Garfield deals the world
a new card game called Magic: The Gathering. Using funds raised in part from his Benson buddies, Garfield begins marketing what would become the biggest-selling trading-card game in the world, to the delight of gamers and the despair of parents.

A California undergrad named Monica Lewinsky transfers to Lewis & Clark College. Neighbors will later describe her as "bubbly," "nice" and "unremarkable."

Jurors acquit teenager Andrew Whitaker of the most serious charges in the hit-and-run death of 12-year-old Lisa Marie Doell. Whitaker said he ran over Doell to see what it would feel like. The verdict spurs father Steve Doell to become one of Oregon's most influential voices in the victims' rights movement.

PSU speech professor and veteran legislator Frank Roberts, 77, dies after a long battle with cancer. An unreconstructed liberal, Roberts was the husband of Gov. Barbara Roberts, father of state Labor Commissioner Mary Wendy Roberts, and ex-husband of Betty Roberts, the first woman to serve on the Oregon Supreme Court.

PGE decommissions the ailing Trojan nuclear reactor instead of spending money to fix it up, then seeks a $550 million handout from the Legislature
to recover its "stranded costs."

Cheap computers and pent-up literary frustration trigger an avalanche of local small-press magazines, including Plazm, Glimmer Train, Left Bank, Black Lamb, Mr. Cognito, Plant's Review of Books, Blue Stocking and Mississippi Mud.

What part of no don't you understand? In November, Oregon voters once again reject a 5 percent sales tax. It's the ninth time they've been asked and the ninth time they've said no. Years later, Gov. John Kitzhaber says that white rats learn faster than Oregon's sales-tax proponents.

Timothy Hawley, 22, suffers a vicious beating outside the Meier & Frank store at Lloyd Center just before a crowd of teenagers arrives after being turned away from a Benson High School dance. Although Hawley's girlfriend says the teenagers were not responsible for the attack, news coverage creates the impression that the couple were victims of mob violence.



  Every biographer wonders how subsequent events will affect judgments of his or her subject. I gave my forecast in the final paragraphs of Packwood five years ago, concluding:

"If more senators, congress members, or even a president are found guilty of sexual misconduct, Packwood will be remembered as the first, but not necessarily the worst, offender. But if most American politicians truly do 'get it' now, history will remember Packwood harshly."

And harsh that judgment has been.

Ignominy and loss of career are appropriate punishment for being guilty of virtually every charge that 48 female aides, supporters and job applicants levied against you, then threatening them, destroying evidence and jettisoning your long-standing philosophical support of health-care and women's rights in a craven attempt to save your skin.

But while Packwood remains a reviled figure, he is a less lonely one today thanks to the extraordinary intercessions of William Jefferson Clinton. While the president's transgressions were less numerous and egregious than Packwood's, his tawdry behavior provides mitigating comparisons for the former Oregon senator.

Clinton eventually had the savvy, and perhaps remorse, to
apologize. But Packwood would not, could not.

The Oregon senator savored dancing close to danger. Even after Gary Hart and Clarence Thomas had lost careers or reputations on this lethal subject, Packwood thought he could get away with it--he even tried to embarrass Oregonian reporter Roberta Ulrich by conspicuously kissing her in front of a witness.

But Packwood's life changed forever on the afternoon of April 22, 1992, when a top aide informed him that freelance reporter Florence Graves was working on an exposé about his sexual harassment.

The senator would spend the next six months in a race to-the-political-death to kill or delay the Graves story until after the November election. He threw up a wall of innuendo, misinformation, veiled threats and systematic lies. He convinced Vanity Fair to drop Graves' initial piece, then, when the Washington Post got wind of the story, excavated anecdotes on the sexual history of his accusers, forcing the Post to delay publication until after he squeaked past Democratic challenger Rep. Les AuCoin.

It was a Pyrrhic victory. In order to win that battle, Packwood opened himself up to deadly allegations of intimidating witnesses, a more legally severe charge than the sexual harassment itself. The senator would have retained more dignity and endured less pain if Graves had reported the story before November and just ended the agony.

Instead, the senator spent 30 months shamefully switching and shedding defense strategies. First, he denied the story. Then, as the Post accumulated evidence, he blamed AuCoin. Then, after the story became public, he blamed self-denial (he only denied the charges to the Post, he claimed, because he had psychologically denied it to himself). When that didn't fly, he blamed booze. When that didn't work, he blamed changing mores, by which grabbing women by the buttocks, pulling their ponytails and thrusting one's tongue into their mouths were no longer the norm for American men.

And when all else failed, he blamed the women.

The torturous stalling only forced Republican and Democratic senators on the Senate Ethics Committee to peer even deeper into Packwood's behavior. When investigators demanded to see his 8,000-page diary, Packwood faced the Hobson's choice of destroying documents to hide information that could potentially land him jail.

The Senate Ethics Committee ultimately charged him on four counts: multiple sexual misconduct, intimidating witnesses, destroying diary evidence and making illegal quid-pro-quo promises to lobbyists in exchange for job offers to his then-estranged wife.

Still, Packwood resisted until majority leader Bob Dole realized the scandal was deflecting attention away from a major Republican opportunity--Clinton's Paula Jones problem. Once Republicans concluded that Packwood was becoming a 1996 presidential election-race liability, his fate was sealed. He resigned in September 1995 to avoid the dishonor of expulsion.

Packwood remains a political pariah outside the Beltway. No GOP presidential candidate or Oregon Republican candidate wants his endorsement. That isolation must be cruel for this man who loved power, not money. And the ostracism must cut deeply for the history-sensitive, diary-writing Packwood, who, with his far-reaching legislative accomplishments, could have reasonably expected a couple of federal buildings, university halls or lecture series to be named after him.

Why did this talented man self-destruct? Even after 26 years of marriage, his ex-wife Georgie said she never really knew what was going on inside him. "There's something else here that none of us knows," she said. "But there sure as hell was something. And it is scary as hell for him."

The epilogue is that at age 67, Packwood still has time to salvage some personal and public esteem. Finally apologizing would be a start. As the senator's former aide Bob Witeck suggested to his boss in Packwood, "The next several years are an opportunity for Packwood to do that [apologize]. The ability of Americans to forgive is incredible. I hope Packwood realizes that."

But I don't think he does.

Former WW staff writer Mark Kirchmeier is the author of Packwood: The Public and Private Life from Acclaim to Outrage (HarperCollinsWest, 1995). He is now a public-relations administrator at the University of Portland.



It was a tragedy as shocking as it was incomprehensible: On the morning of July 30, two masked men ran into the Albina Head Start offices, shouting, "Where's the money?" and shooting at random. When the smoke cleared, worker Christina Clegg, a 33-year-old mother of three young children, was dead. For a neighborhood that had suffered so much from inner-city violence, it seemed almost too much to bear. Outraged community leaders offered a $20,000 reward for information on the killing. But truth is stranger than fiction. A few months later, police arrested one of the suspects after he tried to collect the reward. Eventually, prosecutors accused Clegg's husband, Grover Clegg, of hiring two hit men to kill his wife in order to escape their troubled marriage and collect on an insurance policy. In fact, Clegg was no stranger to insurance scams: He once arranged to have his own car stolen; on another occasion, he set his own house on fire. After a three-month trial, Clegg and his two accomplices were convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole.



On March 19, 1993, federal regulators gave the green light to one of the boldest experiments in modern bureaucratic history: the Oregon Health Plan.

The brainchild of a state senator and ER doc named John Kitzhaber, the plan represented a first step at tackling the nation's deepening health-care crisis.

In the past decade, soaring health-care costs had made insurance too expensive for many working families. At the same time, to qualify for Medicaid you virtually had to be destitute. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians had no coverage.

The central idea behind the plan was to broaden eligibility to the working poor while rationing benefits--no more liver transplants for alcoholics or boob jobs for transsexuals. The plan would also hold down costs by using HMOs and plow the savings back to doctors and hospitals.

The benefits were immediate. In 1994, its first year of operation, the plan signed up nearly 120,000 new members while bad debts at Portland hospitals dropped 16 percent. And the most hotly debated aspect of the plan--the infamous "prioritized list"--turned out to be a non-issue, partly because doctors found ways around it, and partly because it was swallowed in a surge of public hostility toward HMOs.

Unfortunately, the plan never quite reached its potential, in part because of the collapse of the employer mandate, which would have required businesses to provide health insurance. By 1999, it was also clear that the plan's costs were out of control: Its budget swelled from $1.33 billion in 1993-1995 to $2.36 billion in 1999-2001. Its future will likely depend on the mood--and the health--of the Legislature in 2001.


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