Competing measures could cloud Oregon campaign finance debate

Weeks after coming to a standstill over how Oregon should crack down on money in politics, left-wing organizations are signaling they might just be fighting at the ballot box.

Two groups that are often aligned on Friday tabled proposals for dueling ballot measures on how to limit the state’s permissive campaign finance laws. The proposals – one affiliated with public sector working and advocacy groups, the other with a private sector union – join a series of three proposals tabled earlier this month by good government groups.

The result: Six separate ideas to crack down on political donations in the state have now been proposed for the November 2022 poll. Many, if not most, will die before reaching voters, but even two competing campaign fundraising measures l next year could create confusion that defenders hoped to avoid.

Flags on the Senate floor at the Oregon State Capitol on May 18, 2021 in Salem, Oregon. Voters could consider one or more voting measures next year to curb campaign fundraising contributions in Oregon.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Oregon is one of the few states that places no limits on what an individual or entity can give to candidates, a fact that contributed to the explosion in campaign spending in the last election.

But voters signaled they were eager to reduce the role of money in politics. A ballot measure that amended the state’s constitution to officially allow limits on campaign donations was passed in a landslide last year.

Left-wing groups that pushed for constitutional change have met frequently in private this year, trying to find a consensual framework for new regulations. These talks broke down in early December. Now, different factions come up with their own ideas, which they say need to be tabled immediately in order to have a chance to collect enough signatures in time for a July deadline.

“I think what happened is we all ran out of time, but we’re all determined to do something,” said Joe Baessler, Association of Federal, State, County policy coordinator. and Municipal Employees Council 75. “No one wanted to look like they didn’t support campaign finance reform.

Baessler’s union – one of the largest in the state with more than 23,000 members – has yet to approve any proposals, he said. But he was a designated contact for two potential measures tabled last week, currently known as initiative petitions 46 and 47.

These proposals bear many similarities to the campaign finance regulations that the right government groups put into their own voting action records in early December. They create a complex system of caps on the amount that various political entities and committees can give to candidates and causes. They would also require campaigns to reveal major donors in political advertisements and force so-called “black money” groups to reveal their backers if they are politically active. And the proposed measures would create a system of public funding that would use taxpayer dollars to support the campaigns of candidates who have agreed to only accept donations of $ 250 or less per person.

But the new proposals also contain key differences from the framework proposed by the good government groups. They are less stringent on penalties for exceeding campaign funding limits.

They also contain exemptions on the types of funders that advocacy groups must disclose. Some of these groups feared losing crucial funding from charitable foundations if they were forced to name these foundations in connection with their political activities.

The extent of support for the initiatives was unclear on Monday. One of the main petitioners behind the measures, Samantha Gladu, asked questions of Baessler, who said he was not sure which groups were backing the plan. Inquiries to some advocacy groups that had participated in the campaign finance negotiations were not returned.

Another group’s idea of ​​regulating campaign finance is much simpler. The proposed measure tabled last week by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 is only one page, as opposed to dozens of pages that are difficult to analyze which constitute other proposals. The private sector union represents thousands of grocery store workers, as well as manufacturing and healthcare workers.

Under the UFCW measure, individuals would be limited to donating $ 2,500 per year to a candidate or cause, and businesses would be prohibited from making political donations. However, any entity could create a committee of small donors who could give unlimited amounts if they accepted contributions not exceeding $ 250 per “member” each year. Business groups and Republicans have criticized such an approach, which they say favors unions that overwhelmingly back Democratic candidates.

Michael Selvaggio, a UFCW lobbyist and lead petitioner for the proposed measure, said on Monday that the union had not decided whether it was definitely going ahead with its plan. But he said the UFCW could not support the other concepts that had been put forward, which its members feared would allow hostile groups to turn election complaints into weapons.

“There were concerns about some of the other measures that were tabled,” Selvaggio said. “We got together and decided we were going to float our own concept. “

It’s hard to predict whether a proposal will reach voters next year. In order to qualify for the November 2022 ballot, an electoral measures campaign must collect 112,020 by July 8. look like, a process that can take months.

Once done, collecting signatures in the midst of the pandemic has proven to be expensive and difficult.


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