Oregon lawmakers less and less likely to fund a campaign


The Oregon Capitol in Salem, Oregon, Thursday, September 26, 2019. A new bill passed by the Legislature this summer severely limits the application of the death penalty.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

The Oregon Legislature is unlikely to take significant steps to regulate or strengthen the state’s campaign finance system this year, having gained wide latitude to do so in the 2020 election.

Bills that would create limits on campaign finance contributions in the state – a notoriously difficult subject on Capitol Hill – are unlikely to move as lawmakers near a fast-approaching adjournment, according to the reporters. lawmakers working on the issue.

And even a more widely supported concept that would allow candidates to fund their campaigns with public money if they agreed to limit private donations seems dead, its main sponsor said Thursday.

“I have a feeling the Senate is unwilling to move the bill forward,” said State Representative Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis. “There can be several reasons. I don’t know exactly why.

The bill Rayfield referred to, House Bill 2680, began life as a set of proposed limits on the amount that various entities could donate to campaigns. But Rayfield ended up dropping that proposal when he couldn’t find enough consensus to move it forward.

He replaced the content of HB 2680 with a proposal that would allow legislative candidates to match $ 6 in public money for every $ 1 in private donations if they agree to limit those donations to $ 250 per person. A candidate’s public funding would be capped at $ 600,000 in Senate races and $ 400,000 in House races.

The proposal was rejected by the House Rules Committee in its current form last week, in a party line vote. He is now before the state budget drafting committee, the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

Public funding systems are used in New York and Portland. They have the support of a range of good government, labor, and advocacy groups, who claim they help candidates with no deep connections compete with financial interests.

In a letter sent Thursday, nearly 30 of those groups asked Senate Speaker Peter Courtney to allow the bill to move forward.

“This program is one of the few things we can do in the campaign finance space to make our system fairer, empower everyday Oregonians, and reduce the impact of big money in politics.” , indicates the letter. Courtney’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner D-Lake Oswego admitted on Friday that campaign finance bills face a difficult path in his chamber.

“Something as comprehensive as what we were talking about is going to be really difficult to achieve,” said Wagner, referring to HB 2680. “It will be really difficult to achieve anything over the next two weeks.”

Wagner noted that the legislature is still striving to pass big-budget programs on wildfire relief and mental health, as well as notable political bills dealing with climate change and health care. He said he plans to tackle campaign finance proposals when the legislature meets in its “short” month-long session next year.

“In any case, nothing that we were going to be able to do could come into effect before the electoral cycle of 2024,” he said. “I don’t think we’re dead for this cycle.”

By the time lawmakers meet next year, they may know a little more about the options that lie ahead if they don’t act. In November, voters in Oregon passed Measure 107, which amended the state’s constitution to explicitly allow limits on campaign contributions.

Prior to last year, the state operated under a 1997 State Supreme Court decision who banned such limits, making Oregon’s campaign finance system one of the most permissive in the country. With no cap on what they could donate, special interests poured more and more money into crucial races, including a 2018 Governing Contest that saw contestants spend nearly $ 40 million combined.

With Measure 107 on the books and lawmakers seemingly unable to strike a deal, voters are likely to see at least one proposed campaign finance limits in November 2022, if not more.

“We are preparing if we have to go to the polls in 2022,” said Jason Kafoury, a member of the Honest Elections Oregon group, who has successfully passed campaign finance measures in Portland and Multnomah County. “I try to avoid several [left-leaning] measurements on the ballot. I think that would be a really sad thing for democracy.

Not everyone was quick to give up on legislative action this year. State Senator Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, who has his own proposal for campaign contribution limits, said last week he hoped lawmakers could take further action this year.

“Important laws have been passed so quickly around here before,” Golden said. “I see more than a trifling chance that they are successful this session.”

Neither Golden nor State Representative Andrea Salinas D-Lake Oswego, who is also pushing a campaign finance bill, responded to inquiries on Friday.

Kafoury, meanwhile, said he and his allies will continue to push Courtney and other senators to adopt a publicly funded system before lawmakers adjourn June 27 or earlier.

“Just because the Senate says it has no bandwidth,” he said, “doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying.”


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