Portland Mercury endorses
MEASURE 26-184 (County Campaign Finance Limits): Yes
October 19, 2016
Measure 26-184 would be a bold experiment in how Multnomah County elections are financed. It also might not be completely legal.
If the measure passes, candidates running for county chair, county commissioner, auditor, sheriff, and district attorney could only take $500 from any one person, or $500 from any one political action committee—as opposed to the unlimited contributions they can accept today.
The measure would also limit independent expenditures in any county race to $5,000 per individual and $10,000 per political committee (but only if individuals donated no more than $500 apiece). New “small-donor committees” could kick in as much as they want, provided they don’t accept any individual donations over $100 per person.
Least controversial: The top five financiers of political advertisements would be disclosed in the ads themselves.
The premise is that candidates won’t suck up to a few fat-pocketed donors looking to sway public policy with the help of their checkbook, but instead would lavish attention on many more small donors. Proponents say this would help even the playing field for candidates who don’t cater to the wealthy.
We think that’s a good thing, and we urge you to approve the measure.
Critics, like Multnomah County Auditor Steve March, argue that campaign spending on county elections hasn’t historically been a problem and that the measure is misdirected.
But this measure is about more than Multnomah County. Without any campaign finance limits, Oregon truly is the wild west of election fundraising—the Center for Public Integrity ranks our political finance system 49th in the country, beating only Mississippi. Mississippi!
If passed, the measure will almost certainly be challenged in court—and its backers are hoping for just that. They’d like to take on a controversial 1997 Oregon Supreme Court ruling that blocked campaign finance limits in the state, and perhaps even overturn the disastrous 2010 Citizens United ruling by the United States Supreme Court that declared political spending by nonprofit corporations is free speech.
Reform is needed. Let’s give this a shot
Op-Ed in Portland Tribune by Juan Carlos Ordonez
My View: Keep big bucks out of county races
by Juan Carlos Ordonez
October 27, 2016
Campaign finance reform — especially getting big money out of politics — is a must-do when it comes to making our county more equitable and inclusive. Contrary to the Portland Tribune’s Sept. 23 editorial, Multnomah County ballot Measure 26-184 will even the playing field for “regular” county residents, including people of color.
Big money is an exclusive club. Nationally, less than 1 percent of all people contributed over $200 to candidates, parties and political actions committees. Together, this tiny group unloaded 70 percent of all dollars donated. In this donor circle, people of color are few and far between.
Money translates into power. It gives the wealthy undue say in who gets elected and what policies get enacted. Big money runs counter to the notion of “a government of the people, by the people.”
Ordinary folks generally feel that our political system does not respond to their concerns, and that feeling is justified. In a study that received much attention a couple of years ago, researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities found that “majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” The researchers concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests” essentially call the shots.
If ordinary citizens fare badly in the current system of big money in politics, imagine how it treats those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder. This group includes people of all races and backgrounds, but it is disproportionately made up of people of color. In Oregon and nationally, people of color have significantly less income and very little or no wealth.
So on several levels, big money in politics puts communities of color at an even greater disadvantage. If you lack money or wealthy backers, you will struggle to run an effective campaign. And by granting special access to the wealthy, big money makes it harder for historically disenfranchised communities to have their voices heard.
Measure 26-184 will help restore balance to the system on behalf of regular folks, particularly people of color. The measure places a $500 limit on contributions to candidate campaigns. It also puts a limit on how much an individual or political action committee can spend independently supporting or attacking a candidate. And finally, the measure requires that political advertisements disclose the true identity of the funders of the ad.
By limiting campaign contributions, Measure 26-184 will keep down the costs of running for office. This will make it more realistic for young people, people of color, and low-income folks to consider running for office. If you have good ideas and a good message, you can run a viable campaign, even if you are not wealthy or connected to deep-pocketed interests.
Getting big money out of politics will force candidates to spend more time talking to regular folks, rather than spending time chasing after big donors. This will give greater opportunity to communities of color to have their voices heard. And it should improve the odds that policy decisions will reflect the will of the people.
Keeping big money out of politics in our county will make our electoral system more democratic, more inclusive.
Without question, Measure 26-184 is great for all of our communities, including for communities of color.
Juan Carlos Ordóñez served on the 2015-16 Multnomah County Charter Review Committee and is a member of honest-elections.com. Email: email@example.com
Limit big-money campaigns in Multnomah County (Opinion) | The Oregonian by Juan Carlos Ordóñez, Moses Ross and Liz Trojan
There is a value that unites people in our nation — the yearning for a government that is truly of, by and for the people. We believe in democracy.
Even in our current polarized political environment, people of all political persuasions and party affiliations agree that big money in politics squelches the voices of ordinary people, while conferring undue power to the rich and corporations.
Voters in Multnomah County have an opportunity in November to get big money out of politics here at home — a chance to strike a blow for democracy. That opportunity is called Measure 26-184.
This measure comes as a result of the work of a commission made up of volunteers hailing from all corners of Multnomah County. We had the honor of serving in the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee, convening every six years to refer amendments to the county charter. We put Measure 26-184 on the ballot to give our neighbors the chance to enact meaningful campaign finance reform.
Money floods our political system. While the worst excesses occur at the national level, Multnomah County is not impervious to the rising tide of big money. In 2014, the race for county commission chair set a record, with the winning candidate spending $466,000. The future does not bode well, as Oregon is one of six states to place no limits on campaign contributions.
Measure 26-184 accomplishes three things.
First, it limits contributions to any candidate from individuals and political action committees to $500.
Second, it limits the amount of money that can be spent independently supporting or opposing a candidate.
Neither of these limits affect small donors. To the contrary, Measure 26-184 boosts the voices of ordinary voters. It allows the formation of “small donor committees” that have no spending limits, so long as all the money comes from donations of $100 of less.
Third, Measure 26-184 requires that political advertisements disclose the real identity of the principal funders of the ad. This shines the light on who is directly bankrolling a candidate’s campaign or spending heavy sums to make sure that their preferred candidate wins.
These reforms will empower ordinary voters and candidates not beholden to big money. Imagine a system where candidates spend more time listening to the concerns of voters, rather than those of a few wealthy individuals or special interests. Imagine a system where a candidate with good ideas and a strong message can run a viable campaign, even if they aren’t rich or well-connected.
By getting big money out of politics, Measure 26-184 can re-instill confidence in our political system. While serving in the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee, we heard testimony from the public as to their disillusionment with a political system so heavily influenced by money. By eliminating the ability to give unlimited funds to candidates, the proposal reduces the appearance of corruption and the opportunity for outright bribery.
Here in Multnomah County, we have a choice. We can wait for Congress or the Oregon Legislature to act to get big money out of politics — and a long wait it could be. Or, we can act now.
It’s only fitting that the fight to reclaim democracy should begin at home, and Measure 26-184 is how we strike the first blow.
— Juan Carlos Ordóñez, Moses Ross and Liz Trojan are residents of Multnomah County, former members of the Multnomah County Charter Review Committee and members of Honest Elections Multnomah County.
Multnomah Commissioners Flip After Backlash on Campaign Finance Reform - County will defend voter-approved contribution limits after all, instead of standing on sidelines.
Nick Budnick, Portland Tribune, April 14, 2017
In an abrupt about-face, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on April 13 decided to defend the constitutionality of a campaign finance reform measure overwhelmingly approved by voters More.
The Buck Stops Elsewhere: You Voted for Campaign Finance Reform--But The County Won't Defend It, Doug Brown, Portland Tribune, April 2, 2017
You probably voted for it in November. Parts of it might be unconstitutional. And soon, in a perhaps unprecedented move, a Multnomah County judge will have a say on whether a strong new campaign finance law ever sees the light of day.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last Thursday to send the county’s brand-new campaign finance policy, approved by 89 percent of voters last fall, for a court validation proceeding. That means that well before its September start date—before anyone has even formally complained about it—there will be a preemptive court battle to determine the law’s constitutionality.
Reversing Citizens United: The little measure that could | Street Roots news.streetroots.org
On Nov. 8, voters in Multnomah County will decide on a ballot measure that could make it possible to reel in runaway political campaign funding nationwide.
While Measure 26-184 is written as a county charter amendment specific to Multnomah County races, it contains provisions capping independent expenditures, which is prohibited under the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision of 2010. . . .
Attorney Dan Meek, who assisted in drafting the measure, explained it was written with the intent of being challenged.
And he expects it will be challenged, both in federal court for the limits it places on independent expenditures – $5,000 from an individual and $10,000 from a political committee – and in state court for setting limits on direct campaign contributions in Multnomah County to no more than $500 from any individual or political committee. . . .
He said it will take, at a minimum, two years for the challenge to come before U.S. Supreme Court justices, but when it does, they will have an opportunity to use it to overturn Citizens United.
Meek said if this were to happen, laws limiting or banning independent expenditures that were already on the books would be resurrected – if they hadn’t already been repealed – and it would open the door for new laws limiting independent expenditures to be introduced and implemented across the nation.
Campaign finance reform, appointed sheriff on the ballot for Multnomah County voters
The Oregonian | oregonlive.com
October 24, 2016
Voters in Multnomah County will decide on an ambitious proposal for campaign finance reform this fall, one of a handful of measures on the November ballot that would refashion how the county governs itself and alter the future of local elections. . . .
Each was placed on the ballot by the county's Charter Review Committee, a citizen panel convened every six years to decide on changes to the county's charter.Here's a look at what those measures would do:
Campaign finance reform: Oregon is one of six states without limits on campaign contributions. Measure 26-184 would change that, at least in Multnomah County races.
Candidates could collect no more than $500 from individuals and political committees. So-called "small donor committees," which bundle up smaller contributions from individuals, could accept no more than $100 per donor each year.
Independent expenditures in support of a campaign would be limited to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per political action committee. And every political ad in county races would have to say who paid for it.
A group called Honest Elections Multnomah County — which includes three members of the Charter Review Committee — rallied behind the measure. It's also garnered support from five political parties, advocacy groups for people of color and several candidates, including state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who's running for Oregon Secretary of State.
Proponents say the limits would level the playing field among potential candidates and make elections more transparent. And they say it would ensure that candidates spend time speaking with voters instead of courting people with money.
But even if the measure passes muster with voters, will it pass legal muster?
Opponents predict the measure will face swift and costly litigation — just like when voters statewide tried to cap campaign contributions nearly 20 years ago. The Oregon Supreme Court in 1997 ruled the limits violated the state's free speech clause.
Juan Carlos Ordonez, a member of the Charter Review Committee and the Honest Elections group, agrees the courts will probably have to revisit the issue. But with the distance of two decades, he said, the outcome could be different.
Ordonez argues the Oregon Legislature has shown little appetite for statewide limits. A local measure, he said, could pave the way for limits across Oregon.
"We do expect there will be a legal challenge," he said. "We welcome it. It's really the only path forward right now."
The measure has faced other criticism. County Commissioner Loretta Smith, the only African American on the county board and Portland City Council, tried to dissuade the citizen panel from putting the measure on the ballot. She argued the limits would harm chances for women, minorities and "the little guy" to make it into office.
"You are going to stop folks like me from being in office," she told the Charter Review Committee in June.
She supports statewide campaign finance limits, she said, but said enacting only in Multnomah County would be unfair. She said it would ensure county commissioners are chosen by business or lawyer groups. And it would hurt commissioners who later run for non-county offices, she argued, because they would lack connections to big donors.
Ordonez said Smith's comments were "upside-down." The Portland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon have both endorsed the measure.
"Campaign finance reform is an absolutely a priority for people of color," Ordonez said. "Communities that have been historically marginalized, people with less wealth and less income, are at a complete disadvantage." . . .
— Emily E. Smith
firstname.lastname@example.org 503-294-4032 @emilyesmith
Fans of campaign limits push for legal fight By Nick Budnick, Portland Tribane, Sept. 22, 2016"Fans of limiting the influence of money in elections want Multnomah County to be the slingshot that knocks out legal rulings that block state and national reforms.
"A variety of Portland-area residents and local and state organizations have come together around Multnomah County Measure 26-184, a campaign finance reform law placed on the ballot by the county’s charter review committee that convenes every six years to consider reforms." Read more