Hearing Examiner Makes the Right Call

For Immediate Release: March 21, 2008

Contact: Janice Thompson, (503) 283-1922

Hearing Examiner Makes the Right Call; Earlier Decision Would Have Been Helpful but Now Mayoral Campaign Questions are Cleared Up and Time to Move On

Statement by Janice Thompson, executive director of Democracy Reform Oregon

Democracy Reform Oregon is pleased to see any candidate, including Sho Dozono, opt into the Voter-Owned Elections program. Many candidates met all of the qualifying requirements and others did not, but all of their efforts are to be applauded.

It should be no surprise, however, that complaints were filed about the certification decision allowing Mr. Dozono to receive public financing because there were valid concerns about whether or not current program rules allow for major private contributions, such as the Dozono poll, during the qualifying period. The hearings process worked exactly as intended to provide a full airing of pros and cons of the Auditor Gary Blackmer’s certification decision.

Democracy Reform Oregon supports the administrative law judge decision to overturn the Auditor’s certification ruling. We agree with the hearing examiner’s reading of the city code that receipt of a major gift, a $27,000 poll to the Dozono campaign, during the qualifying period exceeds the $12,000 in-kind contribution cap.

Earlier resolution of this issue would have been helpful to all parties. Democracy Reform Oregon will assist on developing stronger administrative guidelines to ensure correct interpretation of the code. One element of that effort appears to be clarification that city code and regulations operate alongside state law and rules. Though state rules on candidacy were referred to by the city’s attorney as being vague, they are clearly based on receipt of a contribution, such as poll results. Not considering these state rules in reviewing compliance with the city code caused unnecessary confusion in the certification process. In general, steps need to be be taken to ensure that election program administrators can be clearer in the future.

Continued clarification and improvement of the reform program is the key role for the Citizens Campaign Commission and they should plan on working on additional safeguards and administrative guidelines to ensure increased effectiveness of the reform program.

For now, it seems time for mayoral candidates to move on and we look forward to a vigorous discussion of critical city issues. We appreciate that Voter-Owned Elections will enhance those discussions since so many non-participating candidates are agreeing to self-imposed contribution and spending limits. We urge all non-participating candidates to use this funding approach, unheard of in Portland politics until enactment of the campaign finance reform program.

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Note: Democracy Reform Oregon became Common Cause Oregon in August 2009.