Oregonian's Ohman on Oregon's Campaign Finances

Jack Ohman, the renowned political cartoonist of the Oregonian, has allowed us to reprint this gem from February 12. It is available nowhere else on the web. Click on the cartoon to see a readable version.Ohman on Oregon

Where Ohman says, "But we don't have any limits on contributions," he means Oregon does not have limits that are being enforced. As we know, in November 2006, the voters of Oregon enacted Measure 47, which established one of the nation's most strict system of limits on political campaign contributions and expenditures. It also requires every political advertisement funded by "independent expenditures" to fully disclose the names, businesses, and amount contributed by each of its 5 largest donors, right in the ad itself.

The Secretary of State and Attorney General of Oregon have refused to enforce Measure 47, even though no court has ruled any part of Measure 47 to be unconstitutional. The Chief Petitioners have sued the Secretary of State and Attorney General to compel them to implement and enforce Measure 47, and that case is now before the Oregon Supreme Court, where oral argument was heard on January 9, 2012. The Court will probably make a decision within a few months.

Due to their refusal to implement Measure 47, campaign spending in Oregon continues to skyrocket. Total spending on campaigns for state and local offices in Oregon increased from $4.2 million in 1998 to $57 million in 2010. Candidates for Governor in 2010 alone raised and spent over $20 million. Winning a contested race for the Oregon Legislature now typically costs over $600,000, sometimes more. The Oregonian reports that spending on state legislative races in Oregon is higher per capita than in any other state, except New Jersey.

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