There are two bills in the Oregon House proposing election contribution limits. The first, Bill 3343, proposes clear and modest limits and enjoys the support of good government groups that have long struggled to cap donations. The other, House Bill 2680, does little to curb the massive contributions that businesses and unions have long made to candidates and political parties.
So guess which bill has momentum?
Unfortunately for Oregonians who want to make a lot of money from politics, it would be the HB 2680, which was scheduled to be the subject of a working session in the House Rules Committee on Friday.
The bill, in its current version, imposes certain limits. Candidates for a statewide office – such as governor or secretary of state – could not accept more than $ 2,900 per individual election or $ 40,000 from a caucus committee. ‘a political party. Candidates for State House and Senate seats face lower limits. Local governments could set their own ceilings, as long as they do not exceed those of the state.
The range of per capita contributions is much higher than the ceilings of $ 500 to $ 1000 envisioned by HB 3343, but more importantly, HB 2680 would have little effect on changing the dynamics established by the same actors who have long been dominated the political landscape – businesses and unions. Gaps and design flaws abound in the legislation, opposed by the League of Women Voters of Oregon, Common Cause Oregon, OSPIRG, Honest Elections Oregon and several other groups that have pushed for meaningful contribution caps.
Among the flaws: A “person” who can give to a candidate is defined as “an individual, union or company, including any company operated for economic purposes or any non-profit company”. Entities can easily bypass the limit by forming new businesses, which takes $ 100 and a few minutes, as campaign finance reform activist and advocate Dan Meek said, noting that many have exploited a loophole. similar campaign contribution in New York before the state closed it.
There is more. The bill would allow businesses – both for-profit and not-for-profit – to provide a candidate with $ 50,000 per year in paid staff time, such as a political consultant. This gives the donor considerable influence in a candidate’s campaign. This would allow Democratic and Republican caucus committees to raise and redirect donations at much higher levels than most other political committees. And he would continue to bless groundbreaking donations from public sector employee unions and other so-called “member organizations” who would still be able to indirectly direct massive sums to candidates through ” small donor committees, ”as The Oregonian / OregonLive’s Hillary Borrud reported.
Corvallis Democratic Representative Dan Rayfield, the bill’s main sponsor, deserves credit for wading through the campaign finance slump. But even he cannot support the current version without changes, telling the Oregonian / OregonLive editorial board that he would like the amendment allowing the donation of staff time to be reduced, but not eliminated. He said the provision contributes to a legitimate political goal – to help organizations that have been historically excluded from the political process to participate on behalf of the candidates.
It is a valid consideration. But lawmakers should look for other ways to support that goal that don’t allow the same former players to continue playing the same old game. Nineteen states outright ban corporate and union contributions, according to Meek, who helped to write up the successful campaign funding limitation initiatives in Portland and Multnomah County. 23 other states have much stricter limits than those considered in Oregon.
The 2019 Oregonian / OregonLive Polluted by Money series revealed how Oregon’s lack of campaign contribution limits resulted in weaker environmental laws and lower standards than neighbors with stricter campaign finance requirements. Oregonians responded by overwhelmingly backing a constitutional amendment last year to allow campaign limits to be set. And voters in Portland and Multnomah County have already enthusiastically embraced voting initiatives that set hard caps. The only part missing is the Legislative Assembly.
While divorce campaigns are an admittedly difficult challenge from the endless injections of money that fueled them, lawmakers on Capitol Hill must use their political courage to do what Oregonians elected them to do.
They should start by dropping HB 2680, taking the simple approach of HB 3343, and committing to meaningful campaign finance reform this session.