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Campaign Finance Reform Supporters File Suit For Enforcement of Measure 47

Yesterday, supporters of campaign finance reform in Oregon filed suit to require the Secretary of State (Bill Bradbury) and Attorney General of Oregon (Hardy Myers) to enforce the provisions of statewide Measure 47, which was adopted by Oregon voters in the November 2006 general election.

"The voters of Oregon adopted campaign finance reform in November," said attorney Linda Williams, "but the two government officials who are required to implement the reform are refusing to do so."

For a copy of the suit and comments by the plaintiffs, see; www.fairelections.net/current.

A copy of the suit itself is here:  http://fairelections.net/current/files/comp4c3.pdf

The plaintiffs are Bryn Hazell, Francis Nelson, Tom Civiletti, David Delk, Gary Duell,
Joan Horton, and Ken Lewis.

On November 17, the Secretary of State issued a letter stating his intent not to implement any of Measure 47, despite the fact that it was enacted by voters in the November election. The letter stated it was based on advice from Attorney General Myers. "It is the duty of government officers to enforce what the voters enacted, added Ken Lewis, former president of the Port of Portland. "It is not for them to say it is not valid. Their job is to enforce it, until someone who objects gets the courts to rule otherwise."

Tom Civiletti, another of the plaintiffs, said: "Campaign finance reform lies at the heart of the crucial issue of citizen trust in our system of governance. Refusal to enforce this voter passed legislation delivers yet another blow to that trust."

"I disagree that the substantive provisions of Measure 47 can be disregarded, said attorney Dan Meek. "The letter assumes that all of the limits on political contributions are unconstitutional, without any judicial determination of that conclusion. The reasoning in the letter appears to be circular and simply assumes that a court has determined that all of Measure 47 is unconstitutional. No such court decision exists. Also, there are at least six provisions in Measure 47 for stricter campaign finance reporting and disclosure for which there is no question of constitutionality," said Meek.

Here are the six provisions:

a. Every campaign advertisement funded by "independent expenditures" must prominently disclose the top 5 contributors to the "independent" campaign, the businesses they are engaged in, and the amounts contributed by each of them.

b. Every candidate who spends more than $5,000 of personal money on a campaign for public office must disclose in every subsequent campaign ad the amount of personal money being spent on the campaign.

c. Every contributor of $500+ per year must obtain a "handle" from the Secretary of State, so that his or her future contributions can be more accurately recorded.

d. The Secretary of State must "make available on the Internet in an interactive database format all contribution and expenditure reports" within 5 business days of getting the data.

e. No employer can "provide or promise any benefit or impose or threaten any detriment due to the fact that an employee or contractor did or did not make [political] contributions or expenditures." Any employee subjected to this "shall have a civil cause of action against the violator and shall, upon proof of violation, recover a civil penalty of not less than $50,000 per incident of violation."

f. Campaign contributions not used in the campaign shall revert to the State Treasury to help pay for the Voters' Pamphlet. Such funds cannot be amassed in "war chests" and then used in a subsequent election or to support or oppose some other candidate later.

Meek also questioned Bradbury's implicit conclusion that the strict limits on campaign contributions in Measure 47 would be struck down as inconsistent with the Oregon Constitution. While enactment of Measure 46 would have eliminated any debate on this subject, there is no ruling from any court that any part of Measure 47 is unconstitutional. "Measure 47 is different from Measure 9 of 1994. In addition, the 1997 Oregon Supreme Court decision (tossing out Measure 9 of 1994) is not immune from revisiting:

The "free speech" clause of the Oregon Constitution was in 1857 copied from the Constitution of Indiana, and Indiana has very low and strict limits on political contributions by corporations and unions. Also, 28 other states have "free speech" clauses in their constitutions that are virtually identical to Oregon's. Each of them declares that every person has the right "to speak, write, or print freely on any subject." Some of them use the word "publish" instead of "print," but they are otherwise the same as Oregon's. Of these 28 other states, all but one (New Mexico) have limits on political contributions, and no state supreme court has ruled that their constitutions preclude such limits.


Measure 47 enacts a comprehensive system of campaign finance reform for candidate elections. It bans all corporations, labor union treasuries, and other entities from making contributions in candidate campaigns. Today, the federal government and 21 states already ban corporate contributions, and union contributions are banned in federal races and in 14 states. Measure 47 allows any individual person (U.S. citizen) to contribute up to $2,500 per year to candidates for state or local office, to Oregon political committees, and to Oregon political parties, as specifically set out in the measure.

Measure 47 also bans all "independent expenditures" by corporations and unions, as did Congress in enacting the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002. Independent expenditures by individuals are limited to $10,000 per person per year, and each ad financed by such expenditures must disclose the names of the top 5 contributors to the campaign, the businesses they are engaged in, and the amounts they have contributed.

Additional details are available at www.fairelections.net/sum5.pdf.

Measure 47 was endorsed by the Sierra Club, Alliance for Democracy, OSPIRG, Pacific Green Party, Clackamas County Democratic Party, Health Care for All Oregon, Oregon Gray Panthers, Northwest Progressive Community, Oregon Small Business for Responsible Leadership, First Unitarians, and many others.

homepage: homepage: http://www.fairelections.net