OPINION M107: Connections, money shouldn't limit election choices
For too long, Black, Indigenous and people of color have been underrepresented and under-served because our campaign system favors the wealthy. By limiting campaign contributions, Ballot Measure 107 will make it possible for more diverse candidates to run for office and finally give under-served communities a voice in the decisions that affect them most.
In Oregon, the absence of contribution limits means that the cost of running a political campaign has risen exponentially over recent years. A single candidate can take an unlimited amount of money from very few donors, or even just one wealthy donor with a personal motive, to run for office.
That means to run a successful campaign, a candidate who isn't wealthy or doesn't have a few wealthy donors supporting them must have a grassroots network that can contribute significant amounts of money. Currently, that's the only way to ensure a community is represented by its leaders, not by a few wealthy donors.
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Rising campaign costs create a barrier to elected office for historically disenfranchised communities where wealthy networks often do not exist. Grassroots fundraising, especially during COVID, is nearly impossible due to widespread unemployment.
This dynamic exacerbates longstanding disparities in representation. Too often, underrepresented communities are the ones most impacted by the crises facing our nation — the coronavirus pandemic, economic upheaval, climate change, and lack of voting access. A fair limit on campaign donations increases the opportunities for those on the frontlines of these crises to be equitably represented in the decisions that affect them more than any other community.
Leadership in Oregon does not reflect the communities they represent. Every city in Oregon deserves to be represented by those who share their lived experiences.
That's why organizations like Unite Oregon, representing underserved communities across Oregon, believe reining in the influence of big money in elections will make elections more equitable and result in policies that lift up our communities.
A healthy democracy is where women, communities of color and immigrants can win public office, not just the wealthy. Ballot Measure 107 will ensure that every voter's voice is heard, and every voice counts equally. By limiting campaign contributions, we will bring more voices to the table that reflect our state's great diversity. We all win when Black, Indigenous, people of color, women and working Oregonians can run and win office. Oregon, let's win together by voting Yes on Ballot Measure 107.
Kayse Jama is executive director of Unite Oregon, a nonprofit working for social justice across the state.
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