This bill establishes the Small Donor Election Program funded with general fund (aka tax dollars) as a matching 6-1 program with steep qualifying amounts and sets maximum donations at $6,000. Participation is voluntary so this isn’t a campaign reform program. Candidates with big donors won’t participate, and those that do will have to refuse large donations or return all the matched funds.
Personal Choice and Responsibility
There is no campaign reform in this bill. It creates a slush fund using taxpayer dollars so candidates can draw extra money using matching small donor donations to receive $6 for $1 match. It does not prevent a candidate from receiving funds outside of the matching program from any current legal source, but does limit single donations to $6,000. However, a candidate can choose not to participate in the Small Donor Election program, and not be bound by any limitations. Taxpayers can donate on the tax return to the Small Donor Elections Fund, but cannot chose the party to receive the donation. Why would you donate when it comes from general funds anyway?
Establishes Small Donor Election Fund with $1 million general fund appropriations and sets the Secretary of State up as administrator and watchdog. Requires minimum in-state qualifying contribution is steep requiring amount of $10,000 and 400 individual donors for state senator and $6,000 and 250 individual donors for state representative. Allows candidates to receive an amount equal to $6 for every $1 in qualified small donor contributions from the Small Donor Election Fund with a maximum public match of $600,000 for state senator and $400,000 for state representative for the election cycle that ends in November of 2024. Allows participating candidates to receive other certain contributions and prohibits the use of fund moneys received for certain purposes.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oregon is one of five states with no limits on political campaign contributions, along with Alabama, Nebraska, Utah, and Virginia, and is one of 11 states that impose no limits on individual donors. The passage of Ballot Measure 47 in 2006 technically put contribution limits in Oregon statute, and this bill repeals that measure without a vote of the people who passed Measure 47. Ballot Measure 107, which was referred by Senate Joint Resolution 18 (2019) and approved by voters on November 3, 2020, amended section 8, Article II of the Oregon Constitution to permit the enactment of laws to regulate the use of money in political campaigns. The measure specifically authorizes laws or ordinances, enacted on or after January 1, 2016, that require: (1) limits on contributions as long as resources that are necessary for effective advocacy may be gathered; (2) the disclosure of contributions or expenditures made in connection with political campaigns or to influence the outcome of any election; and, (3) the identification of the persons or entities responsible for political advertisements. HB 2680A establishes limits on campaign contributions that may be accepted by candidates and political committees. Provides for return of funds or withdrawal from program for receipt of nonconforming contribution. Requires candidate to return unspent public moneys to fund no later than 45 days after each general election. Allows resident individual taxpayer to designate contribution to Small Donor Election Fund on income tax return form. Requires Secretary of State (SOS) to adjust maximum public match each election cycle and adopt program rules. Directs all penalties in ORS 260.995 to Small Donor Election Fund. Establishes that participating candidates who falsify campaign records or violate program provisions may no longer participate in program, must return the total amount of public money received from the fund plus interest, are personally liable for returning public moneys already expended, and are subject to criminal and civil liability. Requires SOS to hire full-time employee to provide voter education, support, and outreach on Oregon’s campaign finance laws. Makes program operative on November 9, 2022. Establishes deadlines for SOS rulemaking, revisions to campaign finance manual, and reporting to Legislative Assembly.