Mayoral candidate Sho Dozono tried to clear the air last week after a December poll about the mayor's race had raised a stink. As of last Thursday, February 14, the Dozono campaign hadn't reported the poll as a campaign contribution.
Dozono's campaign manager, Amie Abbott, released a statement late on Friday afternoon: "Sho determined that the most transparent action was to report the poll as a contribution to the campaign committee. Sho also decided to pay for the poll himself, even though he received this poll information prior to the time he had decided to qualify as a publicly financed candidate. He felt that was the best way to ensure the campaign remains as free of politics as possible."
Sadly, the way Dozono reported the massive $27,295 poll was anything but transparent. Instead of reporting who commissioned the poll—lobbyist Len Bergstein admitted he did, to the Portland Tribune—Dozono reported it as an in-kind contribution from himself, leaving Bergstein's name off of the public records.
To truly be transparent, here's how the poll should have been reported: As an in-kind contribution from Bergstein, or—if Dozono insists on paying for it—as a payment from Dozono, buying it from Bergstein. Either way, Bergstein's name should have shown up. I asked Dozono's campaign manager why they didn't take those more transparent routes.
"Why would [that] be more transparent in the first place?" Abbott asked in return. Because the name of the person who actually commissioned the poll would be reflected in the public record, I explained. "I don't think I'd agree with that," Abbott replied.
I'm not pulling ideas out of thin air. According to state law, "a person may not make a contribution in any name other than that of the person who in truth provides the contribution" and a political committee can't record a contribution "in another name than that of the person by whom it was actually provided." Violation of that law is a Class C felony.
That's not the only problem with the Dozono campaign's attempted fix.
The transaction was dated December 21. Dozono told me—and plenty of other reporters around town—earlier this month that he had no idea who commissioned the poll (that claim showed up in the Oregonian as late as February 16). If he didn't know that Bergstein commissioned the poll until last week, how could he have paid for the poll on Bergstein's behalf in late December? It strikes me that marking the poll down in December is an attempt to not violate a $12,000 in-kind contribution cap as a publicly financed candidate. The auditor claims the cap didn't kick in for Dozono until he joined the program on January 7.
According to Abbott, the campaign has "had legal interpretations, and at this point the secretary of state's office has told us that they're satisfied with the way we've handled the issue." We'll see if the voters are, too.