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Great things come in small packages.

Back to the beginning.

Truth Seeker

Though Willamette Week forced former Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt to admit he sexually abused a 14 year-old girl, their story was built on the investigation of Phil Stanford from the Portland Tribune.

Phil Stanford
More than a year ago, Portland Tribune columnist Phil Stanford knew Neil Goldschmidt had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, but lacked the documentation to confront the former Oregon governor.  "No one wanted to touch this," said Stanford.  Original photo courtesy of the Portland Tribune.

Story by Christopher Vetter

eil Goldschmidt is probably the most important leader this state ever produced. His genius for urban revitalization in the seventies transformed Portland into a modern city. In eight years as mayor, Goldschmidt launched Pioneer Courthouse Square, expanded parks, created the bus mall, overhauled land use planning, reformed city services, increased public support for the arts, introduced new Rose Festival traditions, funded light rail, and championed economic development policies that fueled responsible growth. If you view the skyline from the 30th floor of the US Bank Tower at the Portland City Grill, you could not point to a single city block that does not bear his influence. His impact on Portland was so profound that President Jimmy Carter tapped Goldschmidt to become his Secretary of Transportation in August 1979. His rise to national prominence was meteoric, almost as dramatic as his fall from grace.

Goldschmidt became Oregon governor in 1987. He was innovative and popular before electing not to run for a second term, claiming his crumbling marriage had robbed him of the focus he needed to run the state. He became a powerful consultant, wielding influence in local and national politics. His Rolodex gave him access to corporate leaders, international dignitaries, senators, governors, legislators, mayors, religious leaders, celebrities, journalists, editors, teachers, administrators, union bosses, lobbyists, academics, artists, writers, publicists, and presidents. Except for Andy Warhol in his Studio 54 phase, no one was more visible at prominent parties and signature events than the former governor. Goldschmidt was a mentor to Governor Kulongoski and wielded influence in selecting Democratic nominees for offices throughout the state. From energy policy to higher education, Goldschmidt was a player.

Though many powerful men have strong sexual appetites, who imagined Neil Goldschmidt was capable of sexually abusing a 14-year old girl?  The investigation of Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss compelled Goldschmidt to apologize for his actions and withdraw from public life on May 6, but Portland Tribune reporter Phil Stanford had the story more than a year ago.

To get something like this into the paper you need documentation, including signed statements.  I was never able to get the mother to respond to me; she was very bitter.  The main thing here is that I had the story pretty well nailed down—but not well enough to get it into print.

“Though I spoke with the girl, I couldn’t get her to go on the record.” said Stanford. “To get something like this into the paper you need documentation, including signed statements. I was never able to get the mother to respond to me; she was very bitter. The main thing here is that I had the story pretty well nailed down—but not well enough to get it into print. Willamette Week deserves a great deal of credit for being able to get the story to that point.”

“We might have committed more resources if we had known the full extent of the story,” said Portland Tribune reporter Kristina Brenneman. “We never decided to pursue this as a team. The details were not fully known to other reporters. Phil was working on this and he was allowed to pursue it. There was definitely an ownership issue. This was his story.”

Before the news broke, the Portland Tribune chose not to confront Goldschmidt with accusations of statutory rape. In an interview conducted by electronic mail On May 10, Portland Tribune reporter Jim Redden said introducing sexual abuse allegations without sufficient evidence could have disastrous consequences. “[Failing to confront Goldschmidt was not a matter of] etiquette, there was a need to back up the question. No one with inside knowledge would speak on the record. We were looking for court or other records that confirmed the story. Willamette Week got them first—the Seattle records now posted on their website. In any story like this, when you ask the subject a question, he can say no. If you can't get the story out right away because you don't have the documentation, he can cover it up even more—including pressuring the victim.”

Legal fears weighed oppressively on Stanford, Redden, and Brenneman. The Portland Tribune news team would only print facts supported by signed statements or recorded interviews. “There were no specific legal threats from Goldschmidt that prevented us from publishing anything we knew,” said Brenneman. “That was never an issue in preventing the story from getting out . . . Phil knew Willamette Week was working on the story. As he became more aware of their publication date, he alerted us to the interviews he conducted and what this was all about. Jim [Redden] was working with Phil to track down public documents. Unfortunately, we had nothing that would be libel proof.”

“This is a very, very, very hard story to nail down and the potential for libel is enormous,” said a prominent Portland reporter. “If you are going to accuse a former governor of having committed a felony, you damn well better have it straight and you better have it solid. If you don’t do that, you just have a rumor, which is all that was out there.”

 

The governor loses his smile




Headlines and information from the Neil Goldschmidt sexual abuse scandal
 

The Willamette Week story that drove Neil Goldschmidt to his knees

The apology letter from the former governor


The Phil Stanford story that revealed the impact of the crime on the victim

Willamette Week founder helped prevent the victim from revealing her secret

Jim Redden reports the Goldschmidt payoff exceeded $350,000

Can Goldschmidt make a comeback?

Oregonian Public Editor
Michael Arrieta-Walden claims Goldschmidt received no special treatment

The Washington Post spin on favorable treatment Goldschmidt received from the Oregonian

Goldschmidt records not available to the public

Goldschmidt surrenders license to practice law

Controversy emerges over Goldschmidt portrait in state Capitol building

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin attacks the admitted sex abuser

Governor Kulongoski caught soliciting favors for Goldschmidt

Kulongoski will lead higher education board in wake of Goldschmidt resignation

Goldschmidt departure from PGE buyout may streamline approval for Texas Pacific


Oregon Electric Company may replace Goldschmidt with Kitzhaber

Oregon State Archives covering Goldschmidt administration

 
 

The Goldschmidt story continues to grow, as local and national journalists examine the details of the crime and the impact of his withdrawal from public life.

 

 

 

 

 

   
Inside Portland is an online entertainment magazine covering life in the Portland Metropolitan area.  We explore news and trends that impact the Pacific Northwest.  Inside Portland offers concert information, relationship advice, movie showtimes, links to Portland publications, and insightful articles on local events and personalities.  This publication is not affiliated with any of the publications, personalities, or organizations featured in Web links and articles.  All rights reserved.  ©2004