Candidates who received more than $500 before the recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling will not be fined

PMG FILE PHOTO - Campaign finance reform activists collect signatures for the Portlnd ballot measure in 2018.Portland will start enforcing campaign contribution limits recently approved by the Oregon Supreme Court on Monday, May 4.

The $500-per-contribution limit will not be enforced retroactively.

The court upheld the limit approved by Multnomah County voters in 2016 in a ruling released Thursday, April 23. The next day, the City Auditor's Office said the ruling did not apply to Portland because a case challenging a similar measure approved by city voters in 2018 was still before the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The appeals court vacated the Multnomah County Circuit Court decision invalidating the limt on Tuesday, April 28. The auditor's office issued a subsequent press release saying it will enforce the limit beginning May 4 in order "To give the public and affected parties adequate notice and opportunity to comply."

Mayor Ted Wheeler, whose reelection campaign has not been complying with the limit, said he would honor the limit starting Friday, April 24.

The Supreme Court court ruling prompted Portland lawyer and campaign reform activist Dan Meek to demand the City Auditor's Office immediately enforce the limit on candidates running for the City Council.

"The limits are in effect," said Meek — who is active with Honest Elections, the advocacy group that wrote both measures — on April 23.

But Portland Elections Officer Deborah Scroggin said the ruling will not immediately be enforced in city races.

"Because the city wasn't a party to the Multnomah County case, however, there are steps that the city needs to take before it can begin enforcing its campaign contribution limits, and we are working with the City Attorney's Office to determine what legal steps are necessary to begin enforcement going forward," Scroggin said on April 24.

The ruling was issued less than a month before the May 19 primary election.

Additional city candidates who have received contributions of more than $500 during the primary include mayoral challenger Ozzie Gonzalez, council contenders Jack Kerfoot, Keith Wilson and others. Meek said they all are subject to fines between two and 20 times the amount of each contribution over $500.

But the lawyer who challenged the measure before the Oregon Supreme Court argued that even the county limits were not yet in effect. Among other things, Gregory Chaimov noted the ruling remands the measure back to the trial court to determine whether the limit violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and whether the amounts are reasonable.

"The Supreme Court's decision won't be final for at least three weeks while the parties have an opportunity to ask the court to reconsider the decision, and even then, the trial court needs to decide if the amounts of the county's limits are valid," Chaimov said

The Portland Business Alliance, which challenged the county measure along with Oregon Business and Industry, said enforcement should wait until Oregon voters consider a similar statewide measure at the Nov. 3 general election.

"In November, Oregon voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment to allow campaign contribution limits. Passage of that measure should initiate the start of a bipartisan, collaborative conversation about how limits will be set to ensure a fair and even playing field for all involved," said the statement in part.

Wheeler agreed.

"The solution, I believe, is for the state Legislature to take this up immediately in the

2021 session and establish uniform rules, similar to nearly all other states that have

adopted contribution limits. Every candidate should be held accountable to the same

standards," Wheeler said April 24.

You can read the Oregon Supreme Court ruling {obj:46536}

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

Have a thought or opinion on the news of the day? Get on your soapbox and share your opinions with the world. Send us a Letter to the Editor!