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Complaint Accuses Loretta Smith Of Violating Campaign Laws In Portland Council Race

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.

Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith.

The Portland Tribune

A campaign finance reform activist says Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith is violating the county charter and state election laws in her campaign for Portland City Council.

Smith is serving her second term as a Multnomah County commissioner and is barred by county term limits from seeking a third. She’s announced plans to join the 2018 race to replace retiring Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, and she’s already acting like a candidate, including raising money.  

Campaign finance activist Seth Woolley says that puts her in violation of a county charter rule voters approved last year. It bans commissioners from running for other elected offices until the last year of their term.

Woolley has filed formal election law complaints with Multnomah County and the Oregon Election’s Department.

“She’s apparently decided that these laws, which she was clearly aware of, don’t apply to her,” said Woolley, who is also state secretary for the Pacific Green Party.

The complaints are available on Woolley’s website.

Smith has stopped short of filing the paperwork to make her candidacy official; candidates have until March 6 to file for the 2018 election.

But she has raised more than $22,000 since October in an account registered with the state as being for her county commission campaign. Several of those donations were over $500, the maximum candidates for county commission can receive under another charter change that took effect Sept. 1. 

When questioned about the donations, Smith’s campaign consultant, Jake Weigler, said he does not believe county contribution limits apply to donations Smith plans to use to run for a different elected office.

“The County charter defines the limits currently under review by the courts as applying to ‘Multnomah County Candidate Elections,’” Weigler said in an email exchange. “Commissioner Smith has made clear she is term limited and is not seeking office as a Multnomah County candidate.”

County voters approved strict limits on political contributions last year, with 89 percent of those who voted in support. A judge is in the process of reviewing whether those limits violate free speech protections in Oregon’s constitution.

Woolley contends that by delaying amending her filings to clarify for which office she’s fundraising, Smith has violated state-level election laws. 

“You can’t just raise money into the wrong campaign account,” he said. 

Smith’s consultant, Jake Weigler, also forwarded an email from county attorney Jenny Madkour.

In it, Madkour confirms that Smith would have to resign if she filled for another office before Jan. 1. But the county attorney didn’t discuss whether other campaign activities, such as fundraising, violate county rules.

“I recommend that you seek private counsel to discuss the impacts of the county code and charter on your personal or campaign related matters,” Madkour wrote.

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