WHAT IS HAPPENING? The 2020 city elections will be conducted under new campaign finance disclosure and contribution requirements approved by Portland voters, along with a new public campaign financing program approved by the City Council.
The goals are to require more transparency in campaign-related advertising; to provide easier contributions to political action committees; and to allow candidates who do not solicit large contributions to better compete against more traditionally funded campaigns.
The City Auditor's Office announced the new disclosure rules went into effect Wednesday, Sept. 4. City candidates are eligible to qualify for the public campaign finance program on Thursday, Sept. 12, the first day they can file for office for the May 2020 primary election.
WHAT ARE THE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS? The requirements were approved by Portland voters in the November 2018 election. Although some provisions of the measure are being challenged in court, the following ones have been approved:
n Timely disclosure of financing for certain elections communications that advocate for or against a city candidate. All now must include information on any committee providing the ad, including names of individuals or other entities contributing to the committee and their dominant backers. The communications include printed, billboard, website, email, video, TV, phone, radio and streaming audio communications.
n Independent expenditure registration. Entities making more than $750 in independent expenditures to support or oppose city candidates now must register with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office as a political committee or independent expenditure filer and provide certain disclosures.
n Payroll deduction for political contributions. Public and private employers in Portland now must allow employees to donate to political committees through payroll deduction if they allow similar post-tax deductions for other purposes.
HOW DOES THE PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE PROGRAM WORK? The council approved the Open and Accountable Elections program in December 2016. It did not go into effect until this upcoming election.
To qualify for the public matching dollars, candidates for mayor will have to raise at least $5,000 in total from 500 individuals. Candidates for commissioner or auditor would have to raise at least $2,500 in total from 250 people.
In exchange for agreeing to limit individual contributions to $250 or less and abiding by other fundraising limits, qualified candidates will receive a 6-to-1 match for campaign contributions of $50 or less.
Candidates are not required to participate in the program, so the 2020 election likely will include a mix of traditional and publicly funded office-seekers.
HOW CAN I LEARN MORE? The city auditor has posted the rules for the voter-approved requirements at portlandoregon.gov/auditor/79656. The Open and Accountable Elections program has its own city website at portlandoregon.gov/oae. It includes the current list of city candidates applying for the program.
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