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76 chapter 5 Get Our Money Out of the Mattress Foul cankering rust the hidden treasure frets, But gold that’s put to use more gold begets. —William Shakespeare, from “Venus and Adonis,” 1593 No longer in office, Bob Straub was still active in Democratic Party affairs. He continued to consult Ken Johnson and Johnson’s boss, Dewey Rand Sr. at the Capital Press, when he came through Salem. One day in early 1964, Bob came into the office and said, “Ken, I’ve decided to run for state treasurer.” Johnson shook his head and said, “State treasurer? Now why would you do that?”1 The two men had talked for years about a Straub run for governor. State treasurer was the lowest profile of the three major statewide offices, and not particularly glamorous. On the other hand, if Straub were successful, it could be a step up the ladder toward the governorship. One thing that most Democrats didn’t know about Bob Straub in those days, because he seldom discussed it, was that he had extensive experience in finance and investment. Straub had been successfully investing his money in the stock market for many years, beginning as a teenager.2 His Dartmouth connection gave him ties to influential people in the world of finance, as did his marriage to the former Patricia Stroud, whose brother, Dixon, worked for a fellow by the name of Nelson Rockefeller. Straub’s boldness when it came to pursuing his interests served him well in understanding the world of finance and investment. Because he was unafraid to pick up a telephone, Straub came to be on a first name basis with another Rockefeller brother, David, who was also a Dartmouth graduate, and who was the CEO of the Chase Manhattan Bank. If Bob needed advice from him, it was only a phone call away.3 This was one of the many interesting contradictions in Bob Straub’s life— that a man could grow up in a family whose patriarch, Thomas Straub, was a staff attorney for California energy behemoth Pacific Gas and Electric; get a Dartmouth education; marry into a prominent family; successfully go into business for himself … and still retain an acute sense of duty to ordinary citizens to help them achieve a better life. Straub never forgot that he had had lucky breaks and privileges that others never had—and never got over the unfairness of the huge wage disparities he saw growing up in the Depression. Beginning in the prune orchard of his childhood, on through his college Get Our Money Out of the Mattress 77 years, and as a man starting his own business, he had worked side by side with laborers who did not have those advantages and knew that they deserved whatever opportunities he, and the rest of those more successful in society, could summon up on their behalf. Straub, as someone increasingly knowledgeable about the prudent investment of his own growing personal wealth, had been disturbed about the state’s investment policies, or lack thereof, for years. The legislature had passed laws that restricted how surplus money and pension funds could be invested. About the only thing the state could invest in long term were AAA Blue Ribbon Bonds at about 3.25 percent interest. This extremely safe arrangement made good sense to many people, still remembering the stock market crash in 1929, which led the nation into the Great Depression. However Straub believed that the state could make two to three times that amount with wise investment in the equities market. Short-term money was held in banks paying even less interest, at substantial profit to themselves. These banks saw no reason to change this “safe” arrangement. Straub told Johnson that day, “Ken, there is only one sure way to lose money and that is to not invest it. It’s as if we were hiding our money under a mattress.”4 “Get our money out of the mattress” was Straub’s initial theme in the state treasurer campaign, though it became only one of a wide spectrum of issues he raised to convince voters to break the Republican monopoly hold on Oregon’s statewide offices. From the beginning of the race, Bob Straub was the decided underdog. His incumbent opponent, Howard Belton, was nicknamed “Mr. Integrity,” and, as the name connotes, was widely respected, having unblemished service in state government for over thirty years.5 Straub knew he needed an aggressive campaign to convince voters...


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