Gubernatorial candidate Nick Kristof reveals torrid fundraising pace

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Nov. 9, 2021 12:20 a.m.

Kristof’s campaign touted thousands of small donors from Oregon, but new filings also show he’s attracting big money from some very well known names from other parts of the country.

Nicholas Kristof wears a blue button down shirt and a darker blue jacket and gestures with his hands while he stands at a mirophone.

Nick Kristof speaks with media, answering questions about his campaign for Oregon governor, Oct. 27, 2021, at First Presbyterian Church of Portland.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

It pays to have friends in high places. Just ask Nick Kristof’s campaign treasurer.


After nearly a month of keeping his fundraising activity private — an option allowed under state law — the former New York Times columnist and Democratic candidate for governor revealed a massive flood of contributions Monday. Kristof has raised more than $1 million in less than a month, a torrid fundraising pace that is more than twice what his main Democratic rivals have raised to date.

The list of contributions his campaign filed with the Secretary of State includes donors from around the country, with more than half of 408 individual entries listing contributors from outside of Oregon.

Kristof’s campaign suggested that number belied the number of small donors who have given less than $100 to the campaign. Such contributions are reported in lump sums, rather than individually. According to the campaign, 2,522 Oregonians in every county except Sherman County have contributed to the effort so far.

“The number of Oregonians giving money says as much about the strength of the campaign as the overall number of dollars,” said Carol Butler, a campaign consultant working with Kristof. “It is extraordinarily fast.”


For many, the more head-turning contributions disclosed by Kristof might be the five-figure checks from supporters who tend to live out of state, including a $50,000 contribution from philanthropist Melinda French Gates and $10,000 from the Angelina Jolie Family Trust. Kristof also received a $5,000 vote of support from former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

In total, Kristof reported $1,010,999 raised since Oct. 15. That’s far more than has been raised by his two most-prominent rivals for the Democratic nomination.

As of Monday afternoon, House Speaker Tina Kotek, who announced her campaign Sept. 1, had reported raising $414,103 since January. State Treasurer Tobias Read, who began his campaign in late September, has raised $485,886 this year.

Kristof is also outraising people vying for the Republican nomination. Only Salem oncologist Bud Pierce, who has contributed more than $300,000 of his own money to his campaign, is anywhere close. Pierce has reported nearly $750,000 in contributions this year. Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam has reported more than half a million in contributions.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Democrat who is leaving the party to run for governor as an independent next year, has said she will not begin campaigning in earnest until early 2022. Independently wealthy, Johnson is expected to attract millions of dollars to support her candidacy, but has reported little fundraising to date.

In the no-contributions-barred world of Oregon politics, inflation is a constant. During the last race for governor in 2018, Gov. Kate Brown and Republican challenger Knute Buehler spent roughly $20 million apiece, and a three-way race in 2022 could see higher totals.

By this early juncture in the 2018 campaign, Brown and Buehler — both sitting politicians with long-active campaign accounts — had raised $1.92 million and $1.76 million respectively, state records show.

Kristof formally announced his candidacy for governor on Oct. 27, though he’d taken steps to begin a campaign well before. The Yamhill native and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner has faced questions about whether he meets Oregon’s three-year residency requirement for governor. Though he has touted his lifelong love of the state and has spent increased time here running his family farm, Kristof voted as a New York state resident last year.