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corporate dominance | government oregon elections 2006

Want to make a difference?

Help qualify measures #8 and #37 for the November 2006 ballot. Get BIG money out of Oregon politics!
We are 80% of the way to getting two crucial campaign finance reform measures on Oregon's November ballot. Your help now can make it happen!

Now is the time to join over 300 other volunteers who are getting signatures for the Oregon Campaign Finance Reform Initiatives: Petition 8 and Petition 37.

On Petition 8, the one-sentence constitutional amendment, we have collected over 111,000 signatures. But we need 140,000 to be safe. So we need just 29,000 more signatures on Petition 8 before July 7.

On Petition 37, the statute limiting political contributions in all state and local races in Oregon, we have collected over 92,000 signatures, but we need 106,000 to be safe. So we need just 14,000 more signatures on Petition 8 before July 7.

To get signature sheets, contact  info@fairelections.net or 800-939-8011 and give us your mailing address and the number of signature sheets you want (spaces for 10 signatures per sheet). Be ambitious; ask for many sheets. This is the best way to go. Each signature sheet is a 3-fold "self-mailer" that is pre-addressed back to FairElections Oregon.

Or go to www.fairelections.net and click on "Create Your Petition Packet" in the left column. If you do this, YOU MUST PRINT THE "COVER SHEET" ON THE BACK OF THE "SIGNATURE SHEET" OR ALL THE SIGNATURES YOU COLLECT WILL NOT COUNT.

With the endorsements and support of the Oregon Sierra Club, Alliance for Democracy, OSPIRG, and many others, we can get this done and make history.


Dan Meek

Check out this article in the Portland Alliance:

The Portland Alliance.org title image
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Front Page > Issues > 2006>April
Sierra Club backs campaign finance reform

By Dave Mazza

The state's largest environmental group is throwing its weight behind two statewide petition initiatives that, if passed, would severely limit the role of money in Oregon elections. The Sierra Club of Oregon announced its endorsement of Initiative Petitions 8 and 37 (see sidebar for details) in a Feb. 28 press release. FairElections Oregon is circulating both statewide campaign finance reform measures. Oregon is one of only five states that do not limit political contributions.
Initiative Petitions 8 & 37

Oregon voters originally approved political contribution limits in 1994, but three years later the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution did not allow such limits. FairElections Oregon is trying to correct that by a two-step process.

Step one is Initiative Petition 8, a one-sentence amendment to the Oregon constitution that would permit limits to be imposed on political contributions. Step two is Initiative Petition 37, a detailed statute that restores and updates the 1994 limits.

Initiative Petition 37 bans all corporations, labor union treasuries, and other entities from making contributions in candidate campaigns. There are 21 states that currently ban corporate contributions and 14 that ban union contributions. Initiative Petition 37 allows any individual person to contribute in candidate races (primary and general elections are separate races):

* $500 in any statewide race (governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, labor commissioner, superintendent of education, appeals court judge); and
* $100 in any non-statewide race (state legislature, city council, etc.).

In addition, any person can contribute $50 per year to any small donor committee, $500 to any political committee, and $2,000 to any political party with an aggregate limit on all of these contributions of $2,500 per person per year. Individuals contributing within these limits would be the only source of funds for political committees and political parties.

Initiative Petition 37 allows anyone or any group to create a small donor committee which can receive contributions of $50 or less per contributor per year. The committee can use these funds in any amount to support or oppose any candidate or candidates. Membership organizations of individuals such as public interest groups or labor unions can form these committees — as well as regular political committees — and can allocate part of each member's dues to the committee as long as it doesn't allocate more than $50 per member per year. Membership organizations can also solicit contributions from its members.

Under Initiative Petition 37, a candidate may spend not more than $50,000 in a statewide partisan race or $10,000 in any other race with those limits increased by 50 percent for non-incumbents.

Initiative Petition 37 bans all such expenditures by corporations, unions, and other entities and limits individuals to "independent expenditures" of not more than $10,000 per year on all candidate races. Further, it requires:

* Every campaign ad funded by "independent expenditures" must prominently disclose everyone who contributed $1,000 or more to the "independent" campaign, their lines of business and the amounts contributed; and
* Anyone making independent expenditures during any two-year election cycle in excess of $200 must publicly report the expenditures in the same manner and schedule as a political committee must report.

For more information on Initiative Petitions 8 & 37, see www.fairelections.net. For information on the Sierra Club endorsement, see www.oegon.sierraclub.org.

"What Tom DeLay was indicted for in Texas is completely legal in Oregon," states Harry Lonsdale, a former candidate for the U.S. Senate and supporter of the two measures.

Backers of the two measures say Oregon's current system allows wealthy individuals and corporations to buy the government they want — leaving most citizens to pay the price in more ways than one.

"If we really want Oregon's government to reflect the values of Oregonians, then we have to change our campaign finance system," explained Barry Wulff, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club's political chair. "As long as corporate polluters have so much control of our political system, we should not be surprised when the system continues to allow pollution of Oregon's air, water and people."

The claim by supporters of Petitions 8 and 37 about money choking our political system seems upheld by the numbers. Over the past decade, the cost of Oregon campaigns increased tenfold. Corporations outspent labor unions by five-to-one and environmental groups by 100s-to-one. In the 2002 gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Kevin Mannix received over $1.2 million from six corporate contributors. Between them, gubernatorial contenders Mannix and Ted Kulongoski spent $4.5 million. The cost to win a contested state senate seat is now more than $500,000. A similar seat in the state house is more than $250,000.

Candidates are the only ones claiming money doesn't buy results. Enron purchased PGE in 1997. Over the following two election cycles they contributed more than $400,000 to legislative candidates from both major parties. In return, they received the largest electricity rate increase in Oregon history —over $400 million per year. They also got away with charging Oregon ratepayers more than $800 million in "state and federal income taxes" never paid by PGE or Enron.

The Sierra Club and FairElections Oregon both believe public support for reform is at an all-time high. In 1994, 72 percent of Oregon voters approved limits on political contributions, only to have the Oregon Supreme Court strike it down as unconstitutional. A recent Oregon voter poll conducted by Riley Research Associates shows 76 percent of Oregon voters support the establishment of limits on state and local campaign contributions. Only 13 percent oppose and 11 percent remain undecided. Of those who expressed an opinion, 85 percent favored creation of limits, including 90 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of "other."

Winning the endorsement of the Sierra Club is a major coup for the election reformers. Not only is the Club the largest member-based environmental group in the state, they are the most active in electoral politics, bringing money and a cadre of members with experience in electoral politics. And then, of course, there is the name recognition the Club's endorsement extends to an issue. All of this will be needed for the campaign to collect the 100,840 valid signatures necessary by the July 7, 2006 deadline to qualify for the November ballot.

"These are really important ballot measures that will help Oregonians take back our political system and help restore confidence that our government is not being run by wealthy corporate interests," states Ivan Mulaski, a Sierra Club task force member. "We will be urging all of our members to take a very active role in this campaign."

Dave Mazza is editor of The Portland Alliance.

homepage: homepage: http://www.FairElections.net
phone: phone: 503-246-2906
address: address: PO Box 8488 Portland, OR 97207