Jo Rae Perkins touts financial chops in senate bid. What we found

Oregon

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s challenger twice filed for bankruptcy, had professional credential stripped

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — The first items Republican Jo Rae Perkins lists on her website as her qualifications to unseat Sen. Jeff Merkley in November’s election are her experience as a “financial advisor, budget analyst, debt freedom counselor, and personal banker,” yet KOIN 6 News has learned she has filed for bankruptcy twice and had her Certified Financial Planner mark revoked by the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board.

Court records show Perkins and her husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to eliminate business-related debt in 1997. KOIN 6 News was not able to verify more about that case because, according to the National Archives at Seattle, the original records were destroyed. In 2009, the couple again filed for bankruptcy, this time to discharge personal debt.

Perkins and her husband racked up more than $335,000 in liabilities, including their home, cars, and credit card debt, according to a document filed Dec. 30, 2009 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The CFP Board cited the second bankruptcy as a reason it sanctioned Perkins in October of 2010. The organization allows financial planners to use its certification mark if they meet certain education, experience and ethics standards.

According to a CFP Board spokesperson, CFP revoked Perkins’ right to use the certification mark following an investigation of, among other things, her Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in 2009, which CFP alleges, violated its Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility. According to CFP, Perkins did not participate in the proceedings.

Jo Rae Perkins speaks at a protest June 24, 2020 in Salem (KOIN)

Perkins doesn’t dispute any of the findings. She told KOIN 6 News she and her husband, both self-employed, have been hit with two trying economic times and the savings simply ran out.

“Most of our career has been living basically on commission, and when the economy has hit us twice really hard when you’re in real estate or in the construction trade or in the investment world, you get hit because people aren’t generally buying houses, laying carpet or investing money,” Perkins said. “There was not enough money to make the ends meet as we were growing our businesses and so we ended up in a bankruptcy which millions of people have gone through.” One high-profile example she gave: President Donald Trump, whose businesses filed for bankruptcy multiple times in the ‘90s.

“I understand what people have gone through. And I think that we need to have somebody who gets it.”

Perkins said she primarily declined to participate in the CFP Board’s disciplinary proceedings due to the financial burden. There was a fee that she estimates was around $500, and she would have had to fly out to appear in person at the proceedings, an inappropriate use of funds at a time when she and her husband were struggling to make ends meet, she said.

Despite having her CFP mark stripped in 2010, Perkins listed the credential on her candidate filing when she ran for Senate in 2013.

She did not include the professional certification in her 2017 or 2020 candidate filings, a decision she says she made due to space limitations on the filing documents.

Perkins’ lists her other professions as realtor and insurance agent, though it has been more than two decades since she worked in real estate. KOIN 6 News has confirmed that she does have a valid insurance producer license, but Perkins said she has allowed her other licenses to lapse as she changes careers. The state Division of Financial Regulation does not have any record of investigations or sanctions against Perkins.

Jo Rae Perkins’ campaign website, as seen July 13, 2020 (screenshot)

Ultimately, Perkins considers herself a “Main Street American,” and says she and her husband have gone through “the bad and the ugly” and come out on the other side.

“A lot of people really look down on bankruptcy. I understand that. It’s not the end of the world. It is legal, it is there because things happen,” Perkins said. “I understand what people have gone through. And I think that we need to have somebody who gets it.”

She added that she is particularly sensitive to the economic devastation wreaked by COVID-19, as businesses close their doors and Americans wait for long-delayed unemployment benefits.

“We’re going to see a lot more people going through bankruptcy,” she said. “My heart goes out to them … I understand what they’re going through emotionally, psychologically. My message is, ‘Hang in there, because you’ll get through it.’”

Perkins’ campaign has already found itself in the national spotlight.

Perkins secured 49.18% of Republican votes in the May primary, beating businessman Paul Romero, insurance and financial strategies manager John Verbeek, and dance teacher Robert Schwartz.

Before the votes were even done being counted, though, she posted a video of herself espousing the rightwing conspiracy theory Qanon, according to The Washington Post.

“Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in the since-deleted Twitter video. That’s the motto adopted by those who follow the anonymous Q and believe world governments are being controlled by a cabal of liberal elites who are also running a child sex trafficking ring.

“I stand with President Trump,” Perkins continued in the video. “I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons and thank you patriots. And together we can save our republic.”

The editorial board of the conservative National Review magazine published an article in late May urging the Oregon GOP to distance itself from Perkins, writing in part, “Perkins is an unreconstructed exponent of a batty and corrosive conspiracy theory running a longshot campaign that carries only political downside for Republicans.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Oregon Republican Party had not answered KOIN 6 News’ request for comment.

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