Sunlight Foundation Too Generous in Giving Oregon a D on Lobbyist Disclosure

Update (August 13): The Sunlight Foundation, having been notified by us about HB 2058,  has now downgraded Oregon to an F, joining Florida, Nevada, and West Virginia in the F category.

The Sunlight Foundation issued a report on August 12 , 2015, rating each state's lobbying disclosure requirements. They assigned Oregon a grade of D, but that grade was based on their error in failing to account for the new bill passed by the 2015 Oregon Legislature (and not vetoed by Gov. Kate Brown), HB 2058.

That law allows lobbyists to avoid reporting for the next 2 years what amounts to over 99% of their expenditures.  So Oregon now clearly deserves a -1 on the Expenditure Transparency criterion, which would give Oregon a correct overall score of -3 and place it firmly in the "F" category in the Sunlight Foundation analysis, along with only 3 other states (Florida, Nevada, West Virginia).

I testified to the Oregon Legislature (on behalf of Oregon Progressive Party) that I was "in the rare position of agreeing with an editorial in the Bend Bulletin, which pointed out that this bill would relieve lobbyists of the obligation to report all but $92,000 of the over $26 million actually spent on lobbying in Oregon in 2014."

"This 99.6% reduction in reporting of such spending seems particularly inappropriate in light of the recent events that caused the resignation of Governor Kitzhaber. Oregon needs more disclosure of money in politics, not less, and lobbying spending is definitely part of money in politics."

It was the only written testimony against HB 2058, which passed the Oregon House by a vote of 42-16, with Democrats providing 24 of the yes votes. It passed the Oregon Senate by a vote of 18-11, with Democrats providing all of the yes votes.

Here is the Oregonian article on the Sunlight Foundation report.

Senate Democrats Again Voluntarily Allow the DISCLOSE Act to Fail

Today the Democrats in the U.S. Senate voluntarily allowed the DISCLOSE Act to fail, again. This is the bill that would require disclosure of the sources of some independent expenditures in races for U.S. Congress and President.

The Democrats allowed the Republicans to filibuster the bill. The vote to end the filibuster (called cloture) was 51-45 in favor of ending the filibuster and thus allowing a vote on the bill itself. The chair then declared that the cloture motion failed, because it requires a 60% affirmative vote.

At that point, the Democrats could have invoked the "Constitutional Option" and have challenged the ruling of the chair.  That ruling could be overturned with a simple majority vote, as it was last year when Harry Reid invoked that option (also known as the "nuclear option") to disallow introduction of a series of amendments to a bill about Chinese currency manipulation.  The Hill reported on Oct 6, 2011:

In a shocking development, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.

Reid and 50 Democrats voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.  The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

The Democrats use "heavy artillery" on bills of marginal importance but wield a  rubber sword when it comes to campaign finance reform.

House Rejects Bill to Cap Campaign Finance Reporting Penalties

On Friday, June 17, the Oregon House of Representatives voted 54-5 to reject SB 270A, the bill to limit fines for failure to report campaign contributions and/or expenditures to $5,000 for all violations occurring in any month, regardless of the number of violations or the amount of money not disclosed.

This was a victory for the Oregon Progressive Party, the Independent Party of Oregon, and Fair Elections Oregon, which were the only 3 organizations opposing SB 270A (which had passed the Oregon Senate by a vote of 29-0 before we heard about it).

We thank former Senator Rick Metsger for making his views known to House members on the eve of the vote. We also thank the members who spoke against the bill on the floor, including Bill Kennemer, Greg Matthews, Mary Nolan, Chris Harker, Brian Clem, Jeff Barker, and Carolyn Tomei. Jefferson Smith and his staff also worked to defeat this bill.

    Read more ...

Oregonian Writes about SB 270A

Oregon House will vote on capping fines for campaign finance violations
Jeff Mapes
June 14, 2011

SALEM -- Oregon legislators are nearing a final vote on a bill that could dramatically lower the potential penalties that lawmakers – and other political candidates -- face for violating campaign finance reporting laws.

Senate Bill 270, which is nearing the last legislative step of passage on the House floor, would cap potential fines at $5,000 a month for any and all reporting violations. Under current law, each violation can be subject to a fine of as much as 10 percent of the dollar amount of the transaction, which could result in vastly larger penalties.    Read more at The Oregonian ...

Progressive Party Explains Opposition to SB 270A

In a message to leaders of the Oregon House of Representatives, the State Council of the Oregon Progressive Party reiterated its absolute opposition to SB 270A, which remains in the House Rules Committee.  The bill would allow any candidate or political committee to avoid reporting any of its campaign contributions received during an entire month, upon payment of a single fine of only $5,000. It would destroy Oregon's campaign finance reporting system, allowing big money contributors to avoid disclosing their identities . . . ever.     Read more ...

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