Oregon is one of only four states that has no limits on contributions to political campaigns. This leaves our state wide open to the influence of big money, often from individuals and special interests from out of state. Because the Oregon constitution prohibits campaign contribution limits, we must amend our constitution to make it possible to impose limits.

SJR 5 ), a constitutional amendment necessary to allow the Legislature and the people, by initiative, to set candidate contribution limits, has recently been proposed and is supported by Governor Brown, the League of Women voters,  Common Cause Oregon, The BUS Project, Oregon Action, OSPIRG, AARP and NAACP.  SJR5 needs action by the Senate Rules committee to refer it to the Senate for a vote. Having limits, along with the transparency regarding who is giving contributions and how much, already provided by ORSTAR, makes it easier for voters to “follow the money” in political campaigns..

In the latest polling, Oregonians support such limits by 74%, up from the 72% who voted for the last limits proposal in 1994. There actually were limits from the early 1900s to 1976. The two lawsuits to declare limits unconstitutional, in 1976 and 1997, both clearly stated the necessity of amending the constitution.

It’s time to email your state legislators  and urge them to support SJR 5. We want SJR 5 to be moved from the Senate Rules committee to the Senate with a “do pass” recommendation. All legislators need to be asked, but in particular, the members of Senate Rules, (Chair Diane Rosenbaum, and members Ginny Burdick, Ted Ferrioli, Lee Beyers, and Brian Boquist).  Or you can contact legislators by phone by calling 1-800-332-2313, telling the operator your address, and they will connect you.

Write or call your legislators and ask them tho support SJR 5. When writing, use your own words, but feel free to use the following talking points (taken from Common Cause’s 2009 report):

  • Fundraising totals continue to climb at a rate higher than inflation, a trend that is likely to intimidate potential candidates.
  •  Large contributions dominate fundraising, a trend that undermines public trust. For example, a four-election cycle analysis of legislative contributions shows that 71 percent of general election fundraising came in contributions of $1,001 or more.
  • Large contributions that comprise large percentages of total fundraising undermine public confidence and raise the possibility of perceived corruption. For example, a member of the House received one contribution that comprised 53 percent of total fundraising.
  • Donations of $100 or less are overshadowed by big contributions.
  • The number of Oregonians who contribute to candidates in state races is estimated to be no more than 0.8 percent of the almost 2.8 million eligible voters in our state.
  • The role of leadership PACs in legislative fundraising is increasing and contributes to the need for pass through restrictions
  • Not all PACs are created equal and encouragement of fundraising targeted to small donors and provisions to encourage volunteer campaign activity is appropriate
  • “Double giving” donations to leadership PACs of both parties account for 30 percent oftotal fundraising by these four groups from 2000 through 2008. This indicates that a significant number of donors make contributions that appear more about ensuring access than ideological commitment.
  • The top fundraiser typically wins and money in politics is one element in uncompetitive elections. For example, the top fundraiser in 2008 legislative general races won 92 percent of the elections.