Mayor Wheeler at a 2018 press conference.
Mayor Wheeler at a 2018 press conference. Alex Zielinski

Sarah Iannarone, a candidate for Portland 2020 mayoral race, is requesting Mayor Ted Wheeler return all past campaign donations from Portland hotelier Gordon Sondland, a wealthy ambassador tangled up in Donald Trump's impeachment hearings.

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Sondland, founder of Provenance Hotels, currently serves as a US ambassador to the European Union. A recently released whistleblower complaint shows that Sondland held met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Trump demanded the Ukrainian government investigate the son of Joe Biden. It's this ask that inspired House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry last month.

According to the complaint, Sondland tried to help Zelensky "navigate" Trump's requests. Sondland has voluntarily agreed to testify before Congress next week.

Sondland, a regular contributor to Oregon elections, has donated a total of $15,500 to Wheeler's past two campaigns—both as personal and corporate contributions.

Because of Sondland's ties to the impeachment investigation, Iannarone believes Wheeler should return every last cent to the monied donor.

“The Wheeler-Sondland relationship has proven to be one of the more lucrative couplings in Portland city politics," said Gregory McKelvey, Iannarone's campaign director, in a press release. "Portlanders expect and deserve elections to be free from the money and influence of people like Mr. Sondland who have actively worked to subvert democracy.”

Commissioner Fish applauds Sondland at an 2009 event.
Commissioner Fish applauds Sondland at an 2009 event.

Wheeler, who has not officially announced a reelection bid, might not be in his current position of power without Sondland's support. According to former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Sondland was also responsible for suggesting the governor appoint Wheeler to fill the state treasurer seat in 2010.

In an email to the Mercury, Wheeler spokesperson Timothy Becker said that Sondland "has been an integral part of our business community."

"The Mayor would hope and expect that Mr. Sondland would testify truthfully before Congress, when he is called to do so," Becker added.

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Wheeler has yet to respond to Iannarone's request.

Sondland has a long history of using his wealth to support many other political campaigns and civic projects in Oregon.

Most recently, Sondland shoveled $22,500 into former Oregon Representative Knute Buehler's unsuccessful campaign for Oregon Governor. Sondland's also donated a total $1,500 to City Commissioner Nick Fish's past campaigns for city council. After Sondland's $50,000 donation kept a Washington Park summer festival running, Fish gave Sondland the "Spirit of Portland" award in 2009.