Lawmakers Pass Historic Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reform, among many pro-democracy bills, head to the Governor’s desk

SALEM — Oregon’s Legislature has wrapped up its 2024 session, passing legislation on several major priority issues, including housing and addiction, but also money in politics. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise this session, a late-breaking campaign finance reform proposal, championed by House Majority Leader Julie Fahey and House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich, passed through the legislature with bipartisan support.

“This is a historic moment,” said Kate Titus, Executive Director of Common Cause Oregon. “Our work is not over – but Oregon is making a giant leap forward.”

The Oregon Legislature has never before passed legislation to limit money in politics, though it did overturn existing limits back in the 1970s. But pressure for them to do so has been building, especially since voters weighed in, with landslide 78% support through a 2020 ballot measure.

Legislators and advocates alike acknowledged that what pushed this forward was the prospect that voters might soon pass campaign finance reform themselves, as a good government-backed measure filed by Honest Elections and the League of Women Voters, IP9, was well on its way to the November ballot. Supporters had collected roughly 100,000 of the 117,000 signatures needed to qualify.

In response, business and labor leaders – two of the biggest campaign spenders – brokered a deal for weaker limits. This gave legislative leadership enough bipartisan support to pass a bill.

Good government groups and roughly 200 voters testified on the bill, the majority initially opposed.

Titus from Common Cause testified before the House Rules Committee that the initial proposal, “wouldn’t work to diversify participation, encourage grassroots engagement, or prevent the biggest spenders from outsized influence, but instead would supercharge the biggest corporations and entities, limit smaller grassroots efforts, and preserve the power of the very biggest spenders.”

Testifying on a later version of the bill, Titus said “The -5 amendment is a testament to the hubris of the political donor class. Oregon voters will have no trouble seeing through this.”

But Common Cause and Honest Elections, representing a broader coalition of good government groups, spent many hours over the last two weeks of the session, negotiating for changes to fix and strengthen the bill, ultimately reaching an agreement.

“After much work by Rep. Fahey and good government groups,” added Titus, “this bill is now worth passing and represents a major step forward toward comprehensive campaign finance reform.”

In addition to campaign finance reform, lawmakers passed important, pro-democracy legislation, including:

  • SB 1571 and HB 4153, to address the misleading use of artificial intelligence in campaign communications;
  • HB 4019, to clarify rules for casting Oregon state electoral votes to protect against fake elector schemes;
  • SB 1533, to expand translation of the voters’ pamphlet to more languages spoken in Oregon to help all Oregonians meaningfully access essential voting information.
  • SB 1502, to make public school board meetings more accessible and transparent by requiring that they are streamed online and allow for remote participation;
  • SB 5701, a budget bill that includes funding for Oregon elections administration priorities.