WHAT'S HAPPENING? Applications are now being accepted from candidates who want to participate in Portland's new public campaign finance program during the 2020 city election.
As of July 1, candidates for the three City Council seats up for election can apply to take part in the inaugural cycle of the public matching program called Open and Accountable Elections. Passed by the council in 2016, the program is intended to allow candidates to run for city positions without seeking large contributions.
HOW DOES IT WORK? The seats currently held by Mayor Ted Wheeler and commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz are up for election in 2020. In order to get certified to use the program, a campaign must raise contributions between $5 and $250 from a minimum number of donors who are Portland residents and over the age of 18 for the following races:
n For mayoral candidates: 500 donors totaling $5,000
n For city commissioner candidates, 250 donors totaling $2,500.
Qualified candidates then can receive $6 from the Portland taxpayer-supported Open and Accountable Elections Fund for every $1 they raise from donations of $50 or less.
HAS ANY OTHER CITY TRIED THIS? The program, which was championed and is being administered by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, is modeled after similar public matching programs in 32 cities, states and counties across the country, including San Francisco, New York City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Maine and Maryland.
HOW DO CANDIDATES QUALIFY? Candidates must file forms that are available online that will be reviewed by program staff. Eligible campaigns then will receive a mandatory training (the candidate and campaign treasurer must both be present) and can begin collecting "qualifying contributions" to qualify for certification to the program.
Qualifying candidates also must follow all Oregon campaign finance laws, including creating a political action committee that reports all contributions and expenditures with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office that is posted online.
ARE THERE ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE PROGRAM? Possibly. On July 10, the city's Technology Oversight Committee told the council that program staff are still working to ensure they can complete all of their duties once candidates begin qualifying to receive the matching funds, including matching their contributions against those reported to state elections officials.
The committee said additional staff may have to be hired if the matches have to be verified manually. That could reduce the matching funds available to the candidates because the program budget has been set, said Commissioners Nick Fish and Jo Ann Hardesty.
DO ALL CANDIDATE HAVE TO USE THE PROGRAM? No, candidates can still run campaigns funded by unlimited contributions that are not matched by city funds, but which still must be reported to state elections officials.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? Information about the Open and Accountable Elections program, including the required forms and a Candidates Guide, is available at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/oae/79335.
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