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Oregon Closes Election Complaint Over Deal Brokered By Brown

<p>Oregon Gov. Kate Brown responds to a question at a gubernatorial debate at Winston Churchill High School in Eugene on Oct. 6, 2016.</p>

Bradley W. Parks


Oregon Gov. Kate Brown responds to a question at a gubernatorial debate at Winston Churchill High School in Eugene on Oct. 6, 2016.

Oregon elections officials say they’ve found no evidence of wrongdoing in a ballot measure deal brokered by Gov. Kate Brown earlier this year and are closing a complaint on the matter.

The July complaint alleged Brown, senior Nike employee Julia Brim-Edwards and officials at two public-sector unions had violated state law with the deal.

Under the agreement, labor unions agreed to drop a possible ballot measure that would have forced publicly traded companies to disclose tax information — a proposal Nike disliked. In return, Nike agreed to join unions in opposition to two other ballot measures: Measure 103, which would wall off groceries from some new taxes, and Measure 104, which would force the Legislature to meet a higher bar before it can raise revenue.

Nike ultimately paid $100,000 to a new political action committee, the Common Good Fund, founded by Brim-Edwards.

Complainant Richard Leonetti argued that was a breach of state law. In a complaint written by an attorney affiliated with the Measure 103 campaign, Leonetti suggested the agreement violated a law that prohibits accepting “any consideration” in exchange for hindering or delaying “any part of an initiative, referendum, or recall petition.”

The Oregon Department of Justice declined to investigate the matter. On Tuesday, the state’s Elections Division said its investigation turned up no proof of wrongdoing.

“The evidence received does not indicate that a violation … occurred,” state elections director Steve Trout wrote in an Oct. 19 letter to the parties involved. He added that allegations made in the complaint were “outweighed by the direct and express statements received from the subjects in response to our inquiries.”

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Dirk VanderHart is JPR's Salem correspondent reporting from the Oregon State Capitol. His reporting is funded through a collaboration between public radio stations around the Northwest called the Northwest News Network.