State elections officials are considering penalties of nearly $24,000 against campaigns opposing two anti-tax ballot measures this fall, finding the campaigns failed to report financial transactions on time.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Alma Whalen, a compliance specialist with the Oregon Secretary of State's office, sent notice that the campaign battling Ballot Measure 103 appeared to have reported three transactions later than state law dictates.
The transactions in question involved the Vote No on 103 campaign committee. They include a $250,000 donation from the Oregon Education Association, a $100,000 check to union-backed advocacy group Our Oregon and a $75,000 check to Defend Oregon, the political action committee affiliated with Our Oregon.
Becca Uherbelau, director of Vote No on 103, is also the executive director of Our Oregon.
According to Whalen's letter, the campaign committee should have reported the transactions before midnight on either September 12 or September 14 (state law requires they be reported within 30 days after they occur). But the committee's treasurer, Jef Green of the firm C&E Systems, didn't disclose them until September 20.
"The estimated penalty for these late filings is $12,000," Whalen wrote in a letter to attorney Jill Gibson, who filed the complaint. A notice of the proposed penalty will be sent in January.
The possible fine is just the latest against a campaign committee affiliated with Our Oregon.
Last week, a state compliance specialist sent a letter finding a committee opposing Measure 104 failed to disclose very similar transactions on time: $250,000 from the OEA, $100,000 to Defend Oregon, and $70,000 to Our Oregon. That letter, first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive, listed an estimated penalty of $11,900.
In response to complaints about its finance reporting, Our Oregon has said the problems were the result of inadvertent errors by Green, the campaign treasurer. Last week, Green sent Our Oregon an email accepting responsibility for the problem.
"Without getting too technical, when we set up the database for the No on 104 database, we didn't enter the proper election day, and as a result our software systems that reminds us to file transactions did not flag the pending transactions," Green wrote on September 21. "As soon as we realized that there were outstanding transactions, we filed them... I take full responsibility for the late filings and the proposed penalty."
Measures 103 and 104 are the latest chapter in a longtime fight over Oregon's tax structure. Measure 103 would wall off businesses involved in the "sale and distribution" of groceries from new taxes on their sales. Measure 104 would make it more difficult for the Oregon Legislature to raise revenue by requiring a three-fifths "supermajority" to pass bills that do so.
Measures 103 and 104 have coalitions forming against them, with Our Oregon taking a prominent role.