- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - A Republican legislative candidate in Eastern Oregon says he’s returning a $30,000 campaign contribution to Loren Parks, a Nevada conservative who has pumped millions of dollars into Oregon campaigns.

The contribution has become a distraction in the primary campaign, Republican Greg Barreto told the East Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1fTg3W8).

Barreto owns a manufacturing company in Cove, east of La Grande. His Republican opponent is John Turner, a retired Marine and former Blue Mountain Community College president who criticized Barreto for taking money from Parks.

The two hope to succeed Republican Rep. Bob Jenson of Pendleton, who’s retiring.

Parks is in his late 80s and owns a medical equipment supply company in Oregon. He has put millions into conservative candidates and political issues in the state, including backing Bill Sizemore and Kevin Mannix, notable for their statewide ballot measure campaigns on crime and tax issues.

Parks has a website and YouTube channel where he dispenses personal advice on issues ranging from sexual dysfunction to post-traumatic stress disorder. Barreto said he didn’t know about that side of Parks.

“The opposition wouldn’t let it go and would take it right down to the wire,” Barreto said. He said he wanted to get back to what he called the real issues of the campaign: jobs, lower taxes, natural resources and smaller government.

Turner said Barreto made a bad decision to take the money and now has “flip-flopped under pressure.”

“You can’t do that in the state Legislature while being effective,” Turner said.

The district covers Union and Wallowa counties, and part of Umatilla County. It’s reliably Republican, but Jenson has sometimes been a swing vote in the House.

State campaign finance records show Turner has raised nearly $60,000 and has gotten backing from neighboring Republican Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner and former state Sen. David Nelson of Pendleton, as well as from unions representing public workers and health-industry groups.

Barreto has raised about $114,000, including the Parks money and $35,000 in family loans.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info