Highlights of 2008 Candidate Fundraising, Release of 2006 Post-Election Donations Analysis that Demonstrates Need for Reform

For Immediate Release: November 3, 2008

Contact: Janice Thompson, (503) 283-1922

Highlights of 2008 Candidate Fundraising, Release of 2006 Post-Election Donations Analysis that Demonstrates Need for Reform

Democracy Reform Oregon releases analysis of “hedged bets” and post-election contributions to 2006 legislative candidates that demonstrates that our campaign finance system is broken. Trends in 2008 general election candidate fundraising contribute to the need for 2009 legislative action on campaign finance reform.

General election fundraising for contested legislative races have broken the half million dollar mark for two candidates with others close behind. Toby Forsberg in House district 39 is the top legislative candidate fundraiser since the May primary with almost $550,000 in contributions. Judy Stiegler running in House district 54 has raised $520,000. Forsberg faces Bill Kennemer who has raised over $285,000 while Stiegler is challenging incumbent Chuck Burley who has received contributions since the May primary of almost $425,000.

“Hedging bets” contributions are also seen in the House district 39 contest with Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and Oregon Nurseries Association PAC giving $1,000 and $750 each, respectively, to both Forsberg and Kennemer. This contribution pattern ensures that a donor keeps in the good graces of either candidate, regardless of who wins because both have received financial support during the general election.

A Democracy Reform Oregon analysis of “hedged bet” contributions to 2006 legislative candidates and “oops, the other guy won” and “wait and see” post-election contributions illustrates that many campaign donations are more about access than interest in a particular candidate. Read the full analysis.

“Hedged bets” and post-election contributions demonstrate the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform. In Oregon that means both contribution limits and public financing reform that empowers small donors. Oregon is one of a handful of states with no limits on either the size or source of contributions to political candidates. “A serious discussion of contribution limits by the 2009 legislature is the logical step after last session’s strengthening of limits on gifts to public officials,” said Janice Thompson, executive director of Democracy Reform Oregon. “Campaign finance reform is even more important than gift limits and has been discussed during interim legislative hearings, but work needs to continue.”

The top donor to each candidate in the contested districts 39 and 54 races are their respective leadership committees. Future PAC’s goal is to increase the number of Democrats in the Oregon House while Promote Oregon Leadership PAC focuses on electing Republicans to the House. Since the May primary Future PAC has raised over $1.5 million while Promote Oregon Leadership committee has raised almost $830,000.

The top two donors to these leadership PACs are their respective party leaders Representatives Dave Hunt and Bruce Hanna that, since the May primary, have raised over $225,000 and $185,000 respectively. The second top contributors to these leadership PACs are $150,000 from the Democratic Legislative Committee and $100,000 to Future PAC and $100,000 from tobacco company Reynolds America to its Republican counterpart Promote Oregon Leadership PAC. This $100,000 is labeled by The Oregonian editorial board as a reward for blocking a cigarette tax during the last legislative session and a down payment on future favors.

These big dollar races aren’t just listed to legislative contests. Fundraising since the May primary by Eugene mayoral candidates, Jim Torrey and Kitty Piercy are each exceeding $250,000.

Both the Public Commission on the Legislature and the Ethics Work Group of the Oregon Law Commission recommended restrictions on pass through contributions. “Such restrictions are best discussed in the context of designing a package of contribution limits as should occur during the next session,” said Thompson.

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