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Hatfield's reputation for moral rectitude (he was sometimes called "Saint Mark" by colleagues, and not always in derisive terms), was challenged in 1984 when columnist Jack Anderson revealed that Hatfield's wife, Antoinette, had received a $50,000 realtor's fee for showing houses to Greek financier Basil Tsakos while her husband was using his Senate office to promote a Tsakos scheme to build an oil pipeline across Africa. Hatfield was running for re-election and had to defend the deal to Oregonians. I challenged him in a combative television interview and series of commentaries on KGW-TV (owned by King Broadcasting), and found myself persona non grata. After Ronald Reagan was re-elected later that year and Hatfield headed the inaugural committee, my colleague Don Porter, then heading King's Washington, D.C., bureau, was forced to stand in the snow while competitors went inside Hatfield's house to film an inaugural breakfast. Hatfield was absolved by his colleagues of any wrongdoing in the Tsakos case.
As he grew in Senate seniority and forged strong personal relationships with senior members of both parties, Hatfield slipped from the national spotlight, seldom seen in Sunday interview shows or headlined in national newspapers. Hatfield made a conscious decision to use his seniority on Appropriations to funnel money to Oregon in the same manner as Warren Magnuson built Washington state's institutions. He built personal bonds across the political aisle (including with Magnuson) and gained a reputation for intellectual integrity. His position as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee was the ultimate insider role.
He doggedly delivered health and science projects to the University of Oregon's Health Sciences Center, the Oregon State University Marine Sciences Center (later carrying his name), and brought about a series of dams, jetties, port installations, and forest projects. He brokered the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area as well as forest wilderness.
For four decades, Hatfield stayed true to his emphasis on peace over war, the importance of scientific and medical research, and aid to the poor and sick. He supported environmental issues such as forest wilderness and the Columbia Gorge but also championed timber policies and dams often opposed by environmentalists. As chair of Appropriations, he bulled through a major dam on a Rogue River tributary at Elk Creek despite opposition from environmentalists and even the Reagan Administration (the latter on cost grounds). My last television documentary, in 1986, opposed the dam and I wound up in Hatfield's doghouse once more.
After I left Oregon in 1989 I had no contact with the senator until he invited me to that 2004 lunch. We had shared causes but there were deep rifts as well, and the lunch was perhaps a way to heal old wounds. It certainly felt good to me; like millions of Oregonians over nearly half a century, I admired, respected, and learned from the governor and senator. No one dominated Oregon politics over the entire last half of the century more than Hatfield, and his stamp on the state is indelible.
Hatfield would have loathed the partisanship of today's Congress, and would have constantly found himself under the sort of pressure he faced in 1995. He left on his own terms and at his own time. That was quintessential Mark Hatfield. We may never see another like him.
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