MEASURE 26-184 (County Campaign Finance Limits): Yes

Measure 26-184 would be a bold experiment in how Multnomah County elections are financed. It also might not be completely legal.

If the measure passes, candidates running for county chair, county commissioner, auditor, sheriff, and district attorney could only take $500 from any one person, or $500 from any one political action committee—as opposed to the unlimited contributions they can accept today.

The measure would also limit independent expenditures in any county race to $5,000 per individual and $10,000 per political committee (but only if individuals donated no more than $500 apiece). New “small-donor committees” could kick in as much as they want, provided they don’t accept any individual donations over $100 per person.

Least controversial: The top five financiers of political advertisements would be disclosed in the ads themselves.

The premise is that candidates won’t suck up to a few fat-pocketed donors looking to sway public policy with the help of their checkbook, but instead would lavish attention on many more small donors. Proponents say this would help even the playing field for candidates who don’t cater to the wealthy.

We think that’s a good thing, and we urge you to approve the measure.

Critics, like Multnomah County Auditor Steve March, argue that campaign spending on county elections hasn’t historically been a problem and that the measure is misdirected.

But this measure is about more than Multnomah County. Without any campaign finance limits, Oregon truly is the wild west of election fundraising—the Center for Public Integrity ranks our political finance system 49th in the country, beating only Mississippi. Mississippi!

If passed, the measure will almost certainly be challenged in court—and its backers are hoping for just that. They’d like to take on a controversial 1997 Oregon Supreme Court ruling that blocked campaign finance limits in the state, and perhaps even overturn the disastrous 2010 Citizens United ruling by the United States Supreme Court that declared political spending by nonprofit corporations is free speech.

Reform is needed. Let’s give this a shot.

Read the rest of our endorsements here.