Republicans charge Eudaly vote drive is illegal
The Multnomah County Republican Party has filed a complaint about the get-out-the-vote drive organized by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly with city employees on public time scheduled for this Friday.
The party chapter requested the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission to investigate what it calls "illegal uses of City funds associated with Councilwoman Chloe Eudaly's announced plan to direct City workers to canvass door-to-door on November 2, 2018, to encourage voters to cast ballots."
Although city funds will support the event, Eudaly's office says the door-to-door canvassing will be non-partisan and targeted at parts of town where voter turnout has been historically low.
Eudaly's office says, "Our office is grateful for the additional attention to the importance of voting that the complaint has generated and we are confident that the effort complies with the spirit and letter of the law."
Commission executive director Craig Gibons says, "We will investigate as required by the statue and report publicly on the investigation. I do not have a time line yet."
Portland City Attorney says the drive is legal, despite the use of public funds.
"We believe this activity is legal. State law prohibits the use of any City resources to advocate for or against any candidate or measure. As you know, the City "Get Out the Vote" effort is nonpartisan and is directed solely to increasing voter participation in precincts with historically low turnout rates," says City Attorney Tracy Reeves.
But Republican County Chair James Buchal says the drive is illegal and intended to re-elect Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown over Republican state Rep. Kate Buehler.
"This is a transparently partisan misuse of City funds to aid Kate Brown's losing campaign, but it is also plainly illegal," says Buchal, citing a state law that makes it unlawful for any public official to "expend any moneys in excess of the amounts provided by law, or for any other or different purpose than provided by law."
"With rising problems of disorder and decay, even the City Council has not been so foolish as to budget scarce tax funds for marching City workers door-to-door to collect Democratic ballots," said Buchal. "That makes the use of funds illegal, and the law will make Councilwoman Eudaly personally liable for these expenditures."
The Oregon Secretary of State's Office has declined to investigate complaints against the event because it has not already happened. The commission oversees spending by governments in the county.
The complaint follows accusations by Portland landlord that Eudaly is using city employees to help Jo Ann Hardesty be elected to the City Council because they both support rent control. Hardesty, an activist and small business owner, is running against Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who supports "renter protections."
Eudaly's office denies the accusation, saying they only want to encourage more Portlanders to vote.
Eudaly invited all city employees to participate in a get-out-the-vote drive during working hours on Friday. In an Oct. 23 email, Eudaly said the door-to-door canvassing will not be illegal because the employees will only be encouraging people to vote, not supporting or opposing any measures of candidates.
"This will be a voluntary, non-partisan and content-neutral event, with the sole mission of increasing voter participation where turnout has historically been low," Eudaly said in the email. The canvassing is scheduled to start with rally outside City Hall at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 and conclude at 5 p.m.
But Kathryn King, who has owned rental property in Portland for 22 years, says voters in low turnout areas are more likely to support rent control. Hardesty, a well known activist, has endorsed rent control during her council campaign. Her opponent, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, says she supports "renter protections."
Eudlay has also endorsed Hardesty in the race.
"Eudlay and Hardesty both support rent control. Eudlay has endorsed Hardesty. She has an interest in the race. I pay taxes in Portland and don't want my tax money going to influence the election," says King, who also owns a real estate office. She is planning to file a complaint with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office, and has emailed people she knows encouraging them to do the same thing.
Marshall Runkel, Eudaly's chief of state, says the get-out-the-vote drive has no other motive. He notes that Smith did well in some low turnout parts of town that would be canvassed.
"There is no evidence to suggest that this effort is designed to help any particular candidate or cause because its only intended outcome is to encourage people to vote in areas where turnout has been lower than average in previous elections," says Runkel.
The get-out-the-vote drive was first reported by Willamette Week. It is controversial in City Hall. Commissioner Nick Fish does not want any employees in bureaus he oversees to be paid by the city for participating in it. At his direction, the interim director of Portland Parks & Recreation has told its employees they need to use vacation time to participate in it.
Eudaly's office and the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.