Citing concerns about the flood of corporate cash identified by The Oregonian/OregonLive’s investigation “Polluted by Money,” the Oregon Democratic Party’s central committee has adopted its strongest language to date calling for strict controls on campaign donations.
A non-binding resolution adopted by party leaders last weekend calls for “the substantial regulation of money in politics,” saying it is “of paramount importance” to the Democratic Party.
It is the clearest statement to date by the party controlling Oregon’s executive and legislative branches that its members want the state’s freewheeling campaign finance system reined in.
Oregon today is one of just five states with no limits on the amount of money that a person, business or interest group can donate to a politician. The newsroom’s investigation showed that, per capita, Oregon lawmakers received more money from corporations than anywhere else in the nation.
The giving created a lax regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants, again and again, the investigation found. The result: Oregon trails neighboring West Coast states on a long list of environmental protections.
“Huge campaign contributions from billionaires and massive corporations are drowning out the voices of ordinary people in their government,” said Patrick Maguire, chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party and the sponsor of the resolution.
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The party resolution included stronger language than the party has previously used. The party’s 2018 platform called for restricting the influence of private and corporate wealth in the election of candidates, but stopped short of declaring it a major problem. The party’s legislative priorities for the past session supported legislation to limit donations to ensure mega donors “do not dominate the political process.”
The statewide Democratic party has been criticized for enabling the current system. Progressive groups opposed initiatives in 2006 that would have established some of the nation’s strictest limits.
One of those groups, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, has since dropped its absolute opposition to campaign donation limits, saying that Oregon is so awash in political money that it endangers the ability to hold fair elections.
The party’s resolution also signaled support for changing Oregon’s constitution to allow campaign contribution limits. It praised lawmakers for sending a ballot referral to voters next November that will allow Oregonians to decide whether the state constitution should be changed to expressly permit limits.
Even if the measure passes, lawmakers or voters would still need to establish limits. A bill to set caps failed in the state Senate this year amid concerns that it preserved too many avenues for unlimited donations.