Over the weekend, the Oregon State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment (SJR 18) that would authorize the state legislature and local governments to (1) enact laws or ordinances limiting campaign contributions and expenditures; (2) require disclosure of contributions and expenditures; and (3) require that political advertisements identify the people or entities that paid for them. The constitutional amendment is required to enact campaign finance limits since campaign contributions and expenditures were found by the state supreme court in 1997 to be forms of free speech protected by the state constitution.
The amendment was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tim Knopp (R-27). On June 29, 2019, the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 22-5 with three Republican Senators absent or excused. All 18 Senate Democrats voted in favor and five Republicans voted against the amendment. Aside from the measure’s Republican sponsor, three Republican Senators crossed party lines in voting for the amendment: Dallas Heard, Denyc Boles, and Kim Thatcher. The House passed the measure on June 30, 2019, by a vote of 43-11 with five Representatives excused. Among Republicans, 10 were in favor, 7 were opposed, and four were excused. Among Democrats, 36 were in favor, one was opposed (Jeff Barker), and one (Brian Clem) was excused.
Oregon has no limits on campaign contributions to candidates or ballot measure campaigns from individuals, candidate committees, political action committees, political parties, corporations, or unions. Along with Oregon, 10 other states allow unlimited individual contributions, 17 other states have no limit on state party contributions, five other states have no limits on corporate contributions (while 22 states prohibit corporate contributions entirely), and 12 other states have no limits on PAC contributions.
House Bills 2714 and 2716, sponsored by Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis), were designed to implement some aspects of the constitutional amendment.
The limits per election from an individual, a multicandidate political committee, the principal campaign committee of a candidate, or a recall political committee would be as follows:
- State Representative: $1,000
- State Senator or circuit court judge: $1,500
- Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, judge of the Supreme Court, judge of the Court of Appeals: $2,800
The above candidates/offices could receive unlimited contributions from a caucus political committee, a political party committee, or a small donor political committee.
HB 2714 passed in the House on June 6, 2019, in a vote of 35-23 with two representatives excused. It was referred to the Senate on June 10, 2019.
House Bill 2716 was designed to require that a communication (advertisement) in support of or in opposition to a clearly identified candidate must state the name of the persons that paid for the communication. The bill was passed by the legislature on June 29, 2019.