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October 16th, 2013 NIGEL JAQUISS | News Stories
 

Where’s John Kuzmanich?

Process servers can’t find the Oregon Tea Party founder, who’s more than three years behind on mortgage payments.

news1_3950ILLUSTRATION: Thomas James
Few Oregonians have cheered the congressional budget impasse and federal government shutdown more loudly than John Kuzmanich, founder and chairman of the Oregon Tea Party.

Since the Tea Party started in 2009, its members have clamored for smaller government, lower taxes and stronger border security. Party leaders—including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—have helped push Republicans further to the right, making it more difficult for House GOP leaders to reach a compromise on funding the government.

While less influential in Oregon, Kuzmanich and the state’s Tea Party have nonetheless cheered the confrontation with President Obama over the budget.

Kuzmanich, for example, appeared on KATU Channel 2’s Your Voice, Your Vote on Oct. 6, where he told host Steve Dunn the forced budget austerity would help Americans return to “fiscal and personal responsibility.”

“We are just good and decent principled Americans who believe in the Constitution and a fiscally responsible government,” said Kuzmanich.

Even as he spoke those words, Kuzmanich was on the run from his own financial responsibilities.

Washington County court records show Kuzmanich is more than three years behind in mortgage payments on a Beaverton duplex. The lender, the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae, has gone to extraordinary lengths—unsuccessfully, so far—to find Kuzmanich and serve him with court papers.

Kuzmanich, 45, is a University of Iowa grad who built a family trucking business and worked as a mortgage broker. He burst onto the political scene in 2009, founding the Oregon Tea Party and launching a bid for the 1st Congressional District seat then held by U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.).

He also claimed a prominent political pedigree: He is related to the late U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.). (The maiden name of Antoinette Hatfield, the senator’s widow, is Kuzmanich.)

“In late 2009,” according to a Kuzmanich bio on the University of Iowa website, “John made the decision to run for United States Congress in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, his home, and following in the political tradition of Senator Mark Hatfield, a member of his family, he decided to put all his relevant experience to work to serve and represent his principles, his family, his community and country.”

He added this in his 2010 Voters’ Pamphlet statement: “We need to decrease the size of government and make it live within its means just like we do.”

Kuzmanich finished third out of four candidates in the 2010 Republican primary, with 28 percent of the vote.

Records show Kuzmanich four years earlier had paid $361,000 for a duplex on Southwest 150th Avenue in Beaverton. 

Less than two weeks after the election, on June 1, 2010, Kuzmanich failed to make the mortgage payment on his duplex, court records say. He has not made a payment since. 

He now owes principal of $289,000 and unpaid interest of more than $42,000.

In March, Fannie Mae filed suit against Kuzmanich  and since April has tried to serve him with papers 19 times, visiting his duplex, a Cannon Beach apartment, his former business address and the residence he listed in Portland when he ran for Congress in 2010.

“No answer at the door, no noise inside and no movement inside. No vehicles,” the process server wrote in an affidavit after visiting that last address in June.

“After exercising due diligence, Plaintiff has been unable to serve defendants John Kuzmanich and Occupants of the premises, but believes they reside in Washington County,” Fannie Mae’s lawyer, Michael Thornicroft, told the court Aug 12. The court has since approved publishing public notices of the foreclosure in lieu of serving Kuzmanich with papers.

Aaron Crowe, president of the Oregon Association of Process Servers, says defendants are under no obligation to accept service of documents in lawsuits, but most do. 

Crowe says it’s common for a defendant to have to be served more than once, but Fannie Mae’s “Where’s Waldo?” experience with Kuzmanich is far from the norm.

“That is unusual,” says Crowe, who was not involved in the case. “Usually we get service within a couple of days.”

Process servers aren’t the only ones who have trouble finding the Oregon Tea Party founder. 

WW tried to reach Kuzmanich by cellphone, text, email and at the headquarters of his political consulting firm, American Strategies, that he co-founded in 2011.

What we’re left with is this quote from his company’s website:  “John believes that if you have the truth on your side, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” 

 
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