Voter-Owned Elections

Hear Mayor Potter on Voter-Owned Elections during his State of the City address in front of the Voter-Owned Elections. Dial-up version. Fast-speed connection version.

Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections Ordinance Under Attack
Big-money political players filed an initiative to overturn Portland’s comprehensive campaign finance system that opens up elections to fair competition and holds politicians accountable to community interests rather than special interests.



Decisive Voter-Owned Elections Win in Albuquerque
Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections ordinance is part of a growing trend. Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, joined Portland and six states in adopting full public financing reform. The vote was a decisive 69 percent “yes.” Click here for more on the Albuquerque victory. Voters “get it” that the current system is broken. Voter-Owned Elections are a cost-effective and proven reform that limits spending and levels the playing field.

What We Need Now
First, please write supportive letters to the editor to the Oregonian and other newspapers so they keep hearing that Portlanders are in favor of Voter-Owned Elections. Mention the Albquerque victory or click here to use some of the inspirational City Council comments on Voter-Owned Elections. Looking for more? Follow this link for other letter ideas and contact information.

Second, please sign on as a Voter-Owned Elections Supporter. We need your continued help to defend Voter-Owned Elections and to ensure effective implementation of this new option for Portland voters.
Yes, Keep me posted…Sign up here.

A Sampling of City Council Statements on Voter Owned Elections
Commissioner Sam Adams at April 7, 2005 hearing:
On the funding issue… forgoing just one unnecessary tax abatement could more than pay for the costs [of Voter-Owned Elections]
.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman at May 18, 2005 hearing:
I’ve become convinced that it
[Voter-Owned Elections] is a good idea and a wise use of public resources. I’ve come to understand that our current way of financing political campaigns serve to exclude large numbers of our citizens, particularly women and minorities, from the political process.

Mayor Tom Potter at May 18, 2005 hearing:
[I]’m an anomaly. I don’t think everybody can [run under self-imposed contribution limits]. And so I really support this [Voter-Owned Elections] ordinance and resolution, because it is so important to our future.

Commissioner Erik Sten at May 18, 2005 hearing:
Typically, 80 percent of the time a candidate spends is fundraising, and the vast majority of that is asking for large dollars. I’m yet to find anybody, literally, who’s told me that’s a good system…[that]’s really in line with the basic fundamental premise of one person, one vote.

Click here for more City Council comments.

Quick Overview
Voter-Owned Elections is a proven reform system that is changing politics as usual in Maine and Arizona. Now, residents of Portland will have a chance to see how public financing for candidate campaigns will change how City Hall operates — and who operates within City Hall.

May 11 and May 18 Hearing Summaries
Portland heard thoughtful discussion and clear expressions of support for Voter-Owned Elections from the City Council this morning. Debate focused on the timing and mechanism to ensure voter input on a referral timed to provide Portland with adequate first-hand experience with this reform option. A good amendment calling for a November 2010 referral passed. This amendment delayed the final vote until May 18th. On the 18th Voter Owned Elections was adopted on a decisive 4-1 vote.

Special thanks as well to Auditor Gary Blackmer and Commissioner Erik Sten, the ordinance sponsors. Finally thanks to Comissioners Sam Adams, Randy Leonard, and Dan Saltzman whose contributions made the ordinance stronger. This is a great victory for Portland. The only no vote was from Commissioner Leonard who expressed strong support for the idea but voted no because he disagreed with the timing and mechanism to ensure a popular vote.

April 7th Hearing Summary
Supporters of public funding for candidate campaigns won an important victory in Portland. More than 100 grassroots Portland activists packed City Hall on April 7, 2005,to make a strong show of support for bringing Voter-Owned Elections to the city. In addition to eight panelists who gave invited testimony, the Portland City Council heard from testifiers who spoke over two-to-one in favor of the ordinance.

At the hearing the council moved the ordinance, with a technical amendment limiting administrative costs, to a second reading. Mayor Potter and Commissioners Adams and Sten clearly signaled their “yes” vote at the final hearing. Commissioner Leonard supports the idea but requested that the second hearing be in May because of an interest in ensuring coordination with the budget development process. Commissioner Saltzman was absent with the flu, but there are definite signs of support from his office, as well.

Why do we need Voter-Owned Elections?
What is a voter-owned election system?
History of city efforts and final report and ordinance
How can I help spread the word?
How are these reforms working elsewhere?
50 Questions People are Asking about Voter-Owned Elections
Portland Voter-Owned Elections in the News
I’m ready now! Sign me up!

Why do we need Voter-Owned Elections?
Voter-Owned Elections is a sensible reform that is proving itself as a viable alternative to “business as usual” in Maine and Arizona politics. Candidates have a new way to run for office without big money.

  • Voters gain more choices as candidates can run for office based on leadership skills and community support rather than fundraising ability.
  • Voters are the focus of campaigns – not contributors and fundraising.
  • Primary considerations in city council decisions can be community concerns without even the perception that special interests win over public interests.

Portland politics are out of balance.

  • Since 1970, the highest spending candidate for city office has won 87 percent of the time.
  • 56 percent of campaign contributions to City Council winners come from only 10 of Portland’s 43 zip codes.
  • Only 5 percent of contributions came in small donations of $50 or less.

Click here for Portland campaign contribution data and more information on money in Portland politics.

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What is a voter-owned election system?
Voter-owned elections is a comprehensive system that provides candidates a voluntary option for a new way to run for office without big money, special interest contributions. Candidates agree to:

  • Collect a large numer of $5 qualifying contributions to demonstrate community support
  • Reject private money contributions
  • Limit campaign spending
  • Agree to comply with strict administrative rules

In return, participating candidates receive limited amounts of campaign dollars from a publicly financed fund for use only for allowed campaign expenses. Even more important, Portlanders will have Voter-Owned Elections.

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History of city efforts and final report and ordinance
Portland City Auditor Gary Blackmer and City Commissioner Erik Sten worked for months on the Voter-Owned Elections ordinance. The first hearing was in April, 2004, a technical committee provided feedback in July 2004, and a City Council work session was held in August of 2004. A report and initial ordinance draft was available for review last fall. Based on public input, a revised ordinance was released for review in March of 2005. Hearings were held in April and May with the final 4-1 vote occuring on May 18, 2005.
Read the Auditor’s report and final ordinance here. (This will open a page in another website. Use your browser’s “back” button to return.)

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How can I help spread the word?

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How are these reforms working elsewhere?
This campaign finance reform option is working great in Arizona and Maine, providing:

An Arizona Republican has become a staunch reform supporter. Marc Spitzer was a successful legislative candidate under the old system. He ran under the new reform option for Arizona’s Corporations Commissioner (like our state public utilities commission). Spitzer says he understands the reluctance to embrace this idea, but that the benefits are too great to pass up. “The question shouldn’t be how can you afford to do this, but how can you afford not to.”
Read these stories about Marc Spitzer.

If an Arizona Republican has the political courage to support Voter-Owned campaign finance reform, surely we can expect the same from the Portland City Council. Click here to join our Voter-Owned Portland Elections education campaign.

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50 Questions People are Asking about Voter-Owned Elections
(Opens a new page with lots more answers to many more questions.)

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Portland Voter-Owned Elections in the News
(Check out this page of links of what’s been written in the Portland papers.)

Beholden to all but indebted to none

The title of Commissioner-elect Amanda Fritz’s guest opinion about her campaign and the value of the city’s campaign finance reform program says it all. Read her thoughts on how – because of public campaign financing – she could focus on community based conversations rather than spending hours on the phone raising big donations and will be free of special interest influence in Portland’s City Hall.

Also check out this picture of Amanda with a jersey illustrating her status as only the seventh woman elected to the Portland City Council. Photo credit to Portland Mercury.

Voter-Owned Elections Improving 2008 City Elections – Annual cost per Portland resident is bargain $1.05.

The annual cost of Portland Voter-Owned Elections per Portland resident is a bargain at $1.05 – less than the cost of a cup of coffee or gallon of gas for improving “small d” democracy in our city. This is a tiny 0.045 percent of Portland’s budget. Check out a detailed analysis of the 2008 elections and their improvement due to VOE. The report includes rebuttals to myopic arguments that Senator Barack Obama’s small donor fundraising and rejection of presidential public funding means that Voter-Owned Elections is no longer needed. Senator Obama supports public financing reform and small dollar donors are empowered by VOE.

Read the full analysis on how Voter-Owned Elections has improved Portland’s 2008 elections.

Access Not Agreement Role of Contributions Bolsters Call for Campaign Finance Reform

What’s the deal with a donor giving to both candidates in a legislative race? You got it… hedge your bets to make sure you keep whoever wins happy. Access, not agreement is illustrated in some 2008 contributions and fully discussed in a report of 2006 post-election contributions. All the more reason we need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Oregon. Check it out.

or Immediate Release: Contact: Sarah Wetherson
October 18, 2006 503/756-8537

Almost Two-thirds of Ballot Measure Cash Comes from Out of State
But Campaigns Vary in Terms of Local Control

Nearly two of every three dollars for measure fights to date came from outside of Oregon, concentrated in two campaigns.  Most PACs raise more than three-fourths of their cash from Oregonians.

Contributions to signature-gathering efforts broken out by Oregon and other states

BM # Oregon Other States No state reported $ total
Total $ % Total $ % Total $ %
Pro 39 $12,039 100% $0 0% $0 0% $12,039
Anti 39 No organized campaign.
Pro 40 $307,185 100% $0 0% $0 0% $307,185
Anti 40 $57,400 98% $500 <1% $700 1.2% $58,600
Pro 41 & 48 Taxpayers Association of Oregon (TAO) Spending Limit PAC, which gave pro 41 & 48 forces 62.3 percent of their money, received 94.1 percent of its money from Illinois-based group, Americans for Limited Government. The first row below summarizes the in-state and out-of-state money split when all of TAO dollars are counted as coming from Oregon. The second row below summarizes the split between money from within and outside of Oregon when the portion of support to TAO Spending Limit PAC from Americans for Limited Government is counted as out-of-state dollars.
$102,735 70.5% $42,997 29.5% $33 <1% $145,765
$27,543 18.9% $118,189 81.1% $33 <1% $145,765
Anti 41 & 48 Thirteen PACs contributed to the anti 41 & 48 forces, comprising 30.6 percent of their money.  These 13 PACs raised 2.4 percent of their funds from 20 out-of-state donors. The first row below summarizes the in-state and out-of-state money split when all of the contributions from the 13 PACs are counted as coming from Oregon. The second row below summarizes the split between money from within and outside of Oregon when the portion of funding to those 13 PACs that came from out of state is treated as out-of-state dollars.
$1,753,055 92.0% $150,000 7.9% $1,741 <1% $1,904,795
$1,744,792 91.6% $1,579,535 8.3% $1,741 <1% $1,904,795
Pro 42 No organized campaign.
Anti 42 $6000 <1% $3,733,467 99.8% $60 <1% $3,739,527
Pro 43 $174,421 84.2% $0 0% $32,610 15.8% $242,552
Anti 43 $472,729 66.9% $174,950 24.8% $58,446 8.3% $706,124
Pro 44 $68,639 100% $0 0% $0 0% $68,639
Anti 44 No organized campaign.
Pro 45 $10,555 <1% $1,240,000 99.2% $0 0% $1,250,555
Anti 45 $85,440 100% $0 0% $0 0% $85,440
Pro 46 & 47 $327,109 88.6% $300 <1% $41,574 11.3% $368,893 [i]
Anti 46 & 47 $39,340 100% $0 0% $0 0% $39,340
All $3,416,647 38.4% $5,342,214 60.1% $135,164 1.5% $8,929,454

Data based on disclosure reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office on October 2, 2006. Numbers include cash, in-kind contributions and loans received and may change due to auditing and amendments. MiPRAP’s analysis focuses on the PACs whose sole focus is on opposing or supporting current ballot measures.

Two campaigns have raised more than 99 percent of their funds from out-of-state sources: the effort to defeat measure 42, which would bar insurance companies from using credit ratings to set insurance rates, and the effort to pass measure 45, which would re-impose term limits on state legislators.  These campaigns, taken together, have raised $5,644,322 or 63.2 percent of all the money the 17 campaigns have raised, skewing the overall percentage of out-of-state funding.  In terms of numbers of contributors, Oregonians are the overwhelming majority to all but these two campaigns.

Insurance companies and industry groups from 16 states around the country have poured more than $3.7 million into the state to fight measure 42.  The chief petitioner for measure 42, on the other hand, has not formed a political committee to promote the measure.

“Oregon ballot measure politics often have national implications so it isn’t surprising to see money coming from beyond our borders.  But it’s striking that virtually no Oregon money is going to the campaigns against measure 42 or for measure 45,” said Sarah Wetherson, research and outreach associate of the Money in Politics Research Action Project (MiPRAP).

The term limit measure presents a rare opportunity for comparison with an earlier successful measure on the same issue.  The current campaign urging Oregonians to pass measure 45, raised $1.25 million dollars, more than 99 percent of which came from Illinois-based US Term Limits.  The “no” on term limits campaign raised $85,440 from lobbyists and labor groups in Oregon.

In 1992, only 20.7 percent to the “yes” campaign came from out-of-state US Term Limits and at least 71.7 percent of the contributions came from in-state contributors.  (The remaining 7.6 percent came from contributors whose home state cannot be identified.)  There was no opposing term limits campaign in 1992.

“In 1992, funding to pass the term limits measure came largely from Oregonians.  This year, out-of-state money put this measure on the ballot, and essentially all of the campaign’s money has come from outside of Oregon.  The lack of Oregon financial support may well reflect Oregonians’ leeriness of the issue, having seen the effects of term limits – more partisanship, less legislative experience,” said Wetherson. The board of MiPRAP, a non-partisan, not-for-profit group whose goals are to increase accountability and opportunities for participation in politics, has voted to oppose measure 45, the term-limits measure.

Measures 41 and 48, because of their heavy dependence on money from other PACs, deserve a closer look to track back the original source of dollars.

The supporters of measures 41 and 48 appear to have received 70.5 percent of their dollars from Oregonians.  However, the Taxpayer Association of Oregon Spending Limit PAC, which gave the measures’ supporters 62.3 percent their funding, received 94.1 percent of its funding from Illinois-based Americans for Limited Government.  The level of financial support from Oregonians drops to 18.9 percent when the Americans for Limited Government support for the Taxpayer Association committee is counted as out-of-state dollars.

The opponents of measures 41 and 48 received 92 percent of their money from Oregon-based PACs, individuals, businesses and labor groups.  A close look at the 13 PACs contributing to the opponents of measures 41 and 48 shows that they raised a nominal 2.4 percent of their dollars from out-of-state sources. These out-of-state dollars have a negligible effect on the split between money coming from within or outside Oregon.

“By following the money, we can see that 88.1 percent of the money to promote measures 41 and 48 came from groups outside Oregon,” said Wetherson.  “The money story does not show much Oregon support.”

The campaign opposing measure 43, parental notification on abortion, has the next highest percentage of out-of-state dollars.  The political committee raised almost a quarter of its dollars from out-of-state sources.  However, it also raised more than two of three dollars from individuals and organizations based in Oregon and outside interests are not officers on the no on 43 PAC, suggesting support from Oregonians.  The pro measure 43 campaign, however, has received no money from outside of the state.

“Out-of-state contributions to ballot measures campaigns don’t always mean that a campaign isn’t home grown.  You have to look closely at who controls campaigns and what percentage of money is coming from out of state,” said Wetherson.

MiPRAP released an earlier report detailing the leading contributors to ballot measures campaigns. Readers can find it at http://www.oregonfollowthemoney.org/Press/2006/101606.htm.

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[i] The Money is Not Democracy PAC raised $368,893, which it added to its $5148 beginning cash balance.  It spent $267,610, leaving $106,431 available for the November campaign.