The City of Portland will start enforcing a policy that limits campaign donations in city elections—nearly one and a half years after Portland voters approved the rule.
On April 23, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed a lower court's decision that Multnomah County's policy capping individual donations for county campaigns at $500 was unconstitutional. That Multnomah County policy had not been enforced since it was approved by county voters in 2016, as it faced an immediate legal challenge from monied lobbyist groups. However, that didn't stop Portland voters from passing a nearly identical rule for its city elections in 2018. The idea was to have a city policy ready to enact (or, if things went poorly, revoke) as soon the courts made a decision on the Multnomah County policy.
That plan is now playing out.
Portland's elections office announced Tuesday that, because of the Supreme Court's decision, the city would begin enforcing its campaign finance rule on Monday, May 4.
The policy explicitly caps campaign donations by individuals or Political Action Committees (PAC) at $500 per election. Starting next week, these new limitations will apply to all three Portland City Council races and campaigns for the Mayor of Portland. Candidates who violate the new donation limits will fines between two to 20 times the amount of unlawful contribution.
The mayor's race has drawn the largest donations of any city races this election cycle. While some candidates, like Teressa Raiford and Sarah Iannarone, chose to limit their campaign contributions based on voter's 2018 decision, candidates Ozzie Gonzales and Mayor Ted Wheeler have solicited donations far above the $500 mark.
On Friday, Wheeler announced that he would immediately adhere to the $500 limit, now that it's been hashed out in the state Supreme Court.
At least 17 candidates in city-level races are participating in Portland's Open and Accountable Elections program, which matches campaign donations with public dollars—if a campaign caps donations at $250 per donor per election.