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While Oregon lawmakers debated campaign finance limits, Phil Knight gave $2 million to a Republican PAC

A sign for the House Republican caucus room at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.
Amanda Loman
Oregon Capital Chronicle
A sign for the House Republican caucus room at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

As the legislature debated campaign finance limits last month, Oregon’s richest man quietly gave another $2 million to a political action committee that tries to elect Republicans to the statehouse. Such a contribution would be barred under a just-passed bill that Gov. Kotek has said she'll sign.

Nike co-founder Phil Knight gave $2 million on Feb. 15 to the Bring Balance to Salem PAC, which spent more than $4 million in 2022 trying to elect Republicans. Knight has given the PAC $7 million since it launched in 2021.

His latest check wasn’t reported until Friday because committees have 30 days to report transactions. It’s the largest sum any political action committee has received this year – the next closest was a $500,000 donation from the Oregon Zoo Foundation to a committee supporting a bond for the zoo.

Knight would be barred from giving that much under a campaign finance bill passed by the Oregon Legislature that Gov. Tina Kotek has indicated she will sign. Beginning in 2027, House Bill 4024 will cap individual contributors at giving candidates $3,300 per election – or $6,600 to a candidate who runs in both the primary and general elections. Individuals could give up to $10,000 per two-year election cycle to multicandidate committees like the Bring Balance to Salem PAC

In turn, committees like Bring Balance to Salem could give no more than $5,000 in a two-year election cycle to a candidate and no more than $15,000 per year to a caucus committee. In 2022, Bring Balance to Salem gave more than $860,000 to Senate Republicans’ Leadership Fund and nearly $560,000 to House Republicans’ Evergreen Oregon PAC, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars directly to candidates.

That spending helped Republicans gain one seat in the Senate and two in the House, though Democrats still hold a four-seat majority in the Senate and a 10-seat majority in the House.

The Oregon Capital Chronicle is a professional, nonprofit news organization. We are an affiliate of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Capital Chronicle retains full editorial independence, meaning decisions about news and coverage are made by Oregonians for Oregonians.

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. Julia is an award-winning journalist who reported on the tangled efforts to audit the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona.