Last month, Portland hotelier/millionaire/Trump lackey Gordon Sondland lied to impeachment inquiry investigators, claiming that—despite being savvy enough to have purchased a key position in the Trump administration—he just couldn't remember major facts about his involvement in the scandal surrounding Trump and Ukraine. In addition to blaming that foggy ol' memory of his, Sondland also claimed he "didn’t know why" aid to Ukraine was held up.
Yesterday, Sondland's memory miraculously recovered, with the ambassador releasing a four-page sworn statement that, as the New York Times summarizes, "directly contradicted his testimony to investigators last month."
Hours later, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced he'd be returning roughly $16,000 that Sondland had donated to several of Wheeler's election campaigns.
"The Mayor made it clear that he wanted to give Ambassador Sondland the opportunity to explain his involvement in the Ukrainian scandal," Jennifer Arguinzoni, the manager for Wheeler's re-election campaign, said in a press release. "Especially in light of the acknowledgment of a quid pro quo and the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, it has become clear that Sondland's actions are potentially counter to the law."
As the Mercury's Alex Zielinski wrote two weeks ago, Sondland's influence over Portland politics has been evident for years. "Arguably Portland’s most powerful Republican, Sondland’s impact is everywhere: in Portland's swankiest galas, its most upscale hotels, its trendiest bars, and its politics," wrote Zielinski. "Campaign filings show that since 2010, Sondland and his associated LLCs have dumped a total of $16,500 into Mayor Ted Wheeler’s campaign fund. Sondland's wife and business partner, Katherine Durant, has added $6,500 to Wheeler's campaign coffers."
Sondland has given to others, too, including a total of $1,500 to City Commissioner Nick Fish (who told the Mercury he hasn’t spoken with Sondland since 2013) and $22,500 to the failed 2018 gubernatorial campaign of Knute Buehler.
"Wheeler is the first elected official of either party to announce a redirection of funds from Sondland," notes Wheeler Deputy Campaign Manager Amy Rathfelder.
The funds will be split among a number of beneficiaries, including Transition Projects, Basic Rights Oregon, Portland Parks Foundation, Portland United Against Hate, immigrant rights organization CAUSA, DePaul Treatment Centers, environmental advocacy group SOLVE, and Portland Audubon. The largest chunk of cash, $4,000, will go to "organizational partners of the grassroots ImpeachNow.org coalition," a coalition working to... well, impeach now.
While Wheeler has repeatedly and publicly clashed with Trump, he and his administration have been less transparent about his stance on Sondland's involvement in the impeachment scandal—possibly because, according to former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, it was at Sondland's urging that Kulongoski appointed then-county commissioner Wheeler as Oregon's state treasurer in 2010.
Others have been more forthcoming in their condemnation of Sondland. Following Sondland's initial testimony to impeachment inquiry investigators in October, Rep. Earl Blumenauer called for a boycott of Sondland's businesses in Portland. Even earlier in October, shortly after Sondland's role in the Ukraine scandal was revealed, Portland activist and urban policy consultant Sarah Iannarone—who's running against Wheeler in the 2020 election—called on Wheeler to return Sondland's donations. The next day, Wheeler spokesperson Timothy Becker told the Mercury that Sondland is "an integral part of our business community," adding, "The Mayor would hope and expect that Mr. Sondland would testify truthfully before Congress, when he is called to do so."