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Effort To Cap Campaign Contributions In Oregon Sputters Again

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Oregonians won't be voting this fall on whether to limit campaign finance contributions in state and local races. The Oregon Secretary of State's office has rejected wording on a proposed initiative that would have changed the state's Constitution to allow that.

Petitioners wanted to ask Oregon voters to allow the state to limit campaign contributions and to require disclosure on who funds political advertising. Current Oregon law has no limits on contributions and does not require ads to list funders.

Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins rejected Initiative Petition 77. She said the contributions limits and the disclosure rules are different concepts that would have to be voted on separately.

Initiative co-sponsor Seth Woolley of the Pacific Green Party said that ruling effectively kills the proposal. And he foresees no other white knights, either.

"I've never had confidence that the legislature would act on this issue because we have so much money involved and they're basically supported by it,” Woolley said.

Atkins said she relied on a legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice to make her ruling.

In a statement, Atkins said, "Oregonians who may support one of the two proposed provisions but not the other would be prevented by (the initiative) from voting separately on those questions.”

The ruling that the initiative contained separate issues pleased Kyle Markley, who was appointed by the Libertarian Party of Oregon to serve on a Campaign Finance Task Force that met Thursday at the Oregon Capitol. Markley submitted comments to the Secretary of State opposing the measure.

"To me they looked like they were just two separate things, and they wanted to have one ride the coattails of the other," Markley said. But even if the proposals were separated, Markley said, "I would still vote no on both."

The union-funded group Our Oregon also submitted comments seeking to quash the campaign finance initiative.

Sponsors of the initiative had not been raising money in support of their proposal, so it's unclear whether they would have been able to gather enough signatures before the July 8 deadline even if the Secretary of State had ruled in their favor.

In Idaho, backers of an initiative campaign that would lower limits on campaign contributions and ban some types of gifts entirely have submitted signatures and are awaiting word on whether their proposal will qualify for the ballot. That effort is being supported in part by a national group called "Every Voice," which is seeking to place stricter limits on campaign contributions in several states.

Washington state is one of them, too. Supporters are gathering signatures for an initiative there that would tighten existing limits on campaign contributions, particularly on lobbyists and government contractors.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.