County campaign spending limits struck down
A ballot measure approved by Multnomah County voters to limit campaign contributions in county races has been ruled unconstitutional.
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Eric Bloch declared the limits violate the free speech provisions of the Oregon Constitution. Bloch cited a 1997 Oregon Supreme Court ruling that invalidated an earlier proposal to cap contributions on a state level.
Supporters will appeal the ruling.
"We want to take big money out of politics, and now we must appeal this outcome to the Oregon Court of Appeals. We believe that 37 states have freedom of speech clauses effectively identical to Oregon's Constitution and still have limits on campaign contributions. Many of them require political ads to identify their largest funders. We believe we will win at the Court of Appeals, and the Oregon Supreme Court, if necessary," said Jason Kafoury, chair of the Honest Elections Committee, which had supported the measure.
The measure had been referred to the November 2016 ballot by the Multnomah County Commission after being recommended by a charter review commission. It was approved by 89 percent of the voters.
The measure limited contributions to candidates for county offices to $500 and restricted how much money could be spent to advocate independently for a candidate. It also required independent committees that run political ads on behalf of candidates to prominently disclose their top five donors, if their donations exceed $500.
After it passed, the measure was proactively submitted to the court for approval by county officials. It was supported by a number of campaign reform activists and opposed by The Portland Business Alliance, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors.