Once upon a time, Oregon led the nation in progressive reform. In the 1960s and 70s, Oregonians established a first-in-the-nation bottle bill, preserved the Oregon coastline by turning most beaches into state parks, and established land-use reforms that protected farm land and forests from development. |
But that was before the Oregon Legislature repealed all limits on political expenditures in races for state and local offices. Then, after Oregon voters in 1994 overwhelmingly adopted strict limits on political contributions, the Oregon Supreme Court struck them down in 1997, leaving Oregon as one of only three states with a truly "Wild West" political system.
In this era of no limits, contributions to candidates for state or local office in Oregon skyrocketed, from $4.2 million in 1996 to over $49 million 10 years later. The result is that those who can readily afford to make political contributions are now in charge. For example, among all states Oregon continues to have the lowest taxes on corporations and nearly the highest income taxes on families living near the poverty line.
The share of Oregon income taxes paid by corporations has decreased by 65% since 1975. The poorest 1/5 of Oregon families pay 9.2% of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest 1/5 pay only 6.7% of theirs. And the corporations have successfully reduced their share of Oregon's property taxes from 50% to 38% over the past 17 years.
Meanwhile, Oregon gives away hundreds of millions of dollars in excessive video poker commissions and has allowed private electric utilities to charge ratepayers over $1.2 billion for "income taxes" that the utilities never paid.
Why do corporations, video poker parlors, and utilities get such good treatment? What do they have in common? They give politicians huge campaign contributions, which have skyrocketed from $4 million in the 1996 election cycle to over $49 million only 10 years later. Most campaign money comes from corporate interests. The Oregon Restaurant Association, representing video poker parlors, has alone given over $1.2 million to Oregon politicians' campaigns in the last 3 cycles.
The politicians and state bureaucrats have even gone so far as to refuse to enforce the limits on campaign contributions Oregonians voted into law in 2006 by statewide initiative. That leaves Oregon as one of only 3 states without such limits. Even the corrupt cesspool of Illinois politics is being cleaned up with limits on political contributions, effective January 1, 2009. But not Oregon.
Campaign spending in Oregon is literally out of control. In the 2006 race for Governor, the candidates took over $18 million, almost all of it from special interests. It now costs over $700,000 to win a contested race for the Oregon State Senate and over $400,000 to win a contested race for the Oregon State House of Representatives. Then the big donors get their way with Oregon government.
But you can help change that by putting a measure on the ballot to ensure that campaign contribution limits are enforced in Oregon. This can be done by (1) amending the Oregon Constitution to require enforcement of the voter-enacted limits and (2) preventing the Legislature from interfering. We need 1,000 petition signatures to get the ballot title process started.
If you agree, here are 6 easy steps for you to help:
By downloading and signing the proposed statewide measure, you can put a campaign finance reform Oregon constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot.
Click to download the signature sheet.
Click to print out the text of the proposed measure.
Staple the sheet with the measure text behind the signature sheet, using one staple in the upper left corner.
Fill out one of the numbered lines with your signature, the date, your printed name and address. Get your friends to sign also, on the other numbered lines.
Fill out the "circulator certification" at the bottom of the sheet; make sure to date your signature on or after the last date upon which a voter signed the sheet.
Then mail the completed sheet (with text stapled to it) to:
9220 SW Barbur Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
If you would like to get more involved with the campaign, please visit Fair Elections
Thanks for your help. Harry Lonsdale Dan Meek Liz Trojan David Delk Lloyd K. Marbet Tom Civiletti