Campaign Cash Reports Show Races For Oregon Governor, Ballot Measures Chugging Along

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB), Jeff Mapes (OPB) and Lauren Dake (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Oct. 3, 2018 10:30 p.m.

The two leading candidates for Oregon governor have now raised nearly $20.74 million, showing no signs of stopping as the record-breaking race chugs along.

Related: Oregon Ballot Measure Campaigns Face Nearly $24,000 In Fines For Late Finance Reporting


Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has raised $10.7 million in 2017 and 2018, according to her most recent campaign disclosures. State Rep. Knute Buehler, a Republican, has raised a little more than $10 million in that time, with an additional push from outside groups buying ads to help him.

The updated figures offer the clearest picture of spending in what is now Oregon’s most expensive governor’s race ever — with more than a month to go until the Nov. 6 election. The reason for that clarity: As of Oct. 2, state election law requires campaigns to report donations and expenses within a week. Campaigns previously had 30 days to report.

The recent disclosures provide a glimpse into contests beyond the governor’s race, offering new insight into which ballot measure campaigns and candidates for the state Legislative Assembly are attracting interest from donors.

The data, for instance, show huge spending by the soda industry to ward off a tax on sugary drinks, and the massive role the state’s largest teachers union is playing in fighting anti-tax initiatives.

The Governor's Race

In the governor’s race, Brown’s reporting is more up-to-date than Buehler’s. The Republican candidate’s campaign frequently doesn’t report its activity until it has to, meaning it had only reported transactions through Sept. 25 as of Wednesday morning. Brown has reported contributions made through Oct. 2.

Notable contributions to Buehler include $100,000 from the Papé Group, a heavy equipment company based in Eugene, and $250,000 from the Republican Governor's Association, which has donated nearly $800,000 to Buehler to date. Realtors and the logging industry have also cut big checks to the candidate.

Brown reported big donations from public employee unions and health care organizations. A political action committee associated with the Oregon Education Association contributed $100,000, and a committee connected to Service Employees International Union Local 49 donated $25,000.

Brown also received another $20,000 from Laurene Powell Jobs, the businesswoman and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. She’s now donated $65,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign.

Related: Brown Picks Up Big Donations From Gun Control Group, Democratic PAC

Expense records show the candidates are spending much of that money on broadcasting advertising — at least $6.15 million, according to state records, with more spent on online ads, polling and consulting services.

While Brown and Buehler have spent similar sums of money — nearly $17 million between them — records suggest Brown still has an advantage. As of the most recent reporting, her campaign had $3.4 million on hand, roughly twice as much as Buehler's. Still, the Republican candidate has benefited from heavy outside spending on ads from the Republican Governors Association and local group Priority Oregon.

Measuring Measure Money

So far, the most expensive ballot measure campaign is being waged by backers of Measure 103, the push to ban new taxes on groceries, including on sugary drinks. Its biggest contributor is the American Beverage Association, which has given $1 million. The association represents the soft-drink industry, which has been pouring millions of dollars into fighting efforts around the country to tax soda.


Measure 103 backers have so far reported raising nearly $2.5 million.

The campaign has also received nearly $1 million in total from two major grocery chains. One is Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, and the other is the Albertsons/Safeway company. Both of those chains had a leading role in raising the $2.3 million spent to land the measure on November’s ballot in the first place.

Opponents of the grocery tax exemption have lagged far behind. They reported raising about $670,000, almost all of it coming from about $650,000 in donations from the Oregon Education Association.

Related: Phil Knight Donates Half-Million To Knute Buehler's Campaign

Unions and business are also the main combatants on the other tax initiative on the ballot. Measure 104 would require a three-fifths majority vote in the Oregon Legislature on all tax and fee hikes.

Supporters have raised just over $500,000, with nearly $200,000 of that coming from the Oregon Association of Realtors. That group earlier spent nearly $700,000 to qualify Measure 104 for the ballot.

The Oregon Education Association is also so far mostly financing the opposition to Measure 104, according to the disclosure reports. It has contributed $250,000 to Vote No on 104, which in total reported raising about $261,000.

Two ballot measures aimed at curtailing abortion and illegal immigration are both being heavily outspent.

Opponents of Measure 105 – which would overturn the state's sanctuary law – have raised more than $1.1 million while the Yes campaign has only raised about $40,000.

The Northwest Health Foundation is the largest donor to the opposition campaign, so far giving $315,000. Jesse Beason, a vice president for the foundation, said it is concerned that the passage of Measure 105 would be detrimental to the health of immigrant communities. The foundation is supported by the proceeds of  a 1997 sale of the PACC health insurance firm.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Oregon chapter have together given more than $250,000 to fight repeal of the sanctuary law, which limits state and local police from enforcing federal immigration laws.

A similar dynamic is at play in Measure 106, which would prohibit state funding for abortion.

Opponents have raised more than $1.2 million while the Yes on 106 campaign has collected about $150,000 since finishing its petition campaign to qualify for the ballot.

About $500,000 for the opposition campaign — dubbed No Cuts to Care — comes from numerous Planned Parenthood organizations around the country. The Planned Parenthood of New York Action Fund gave $150,000, while Planned Parenthood affiliates in Southern California and Virginia each gave $100,000.

Another major donor was the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which has given more than $180,000.

The campaign seeking to restrict abortion funding in Oregon has one large donor — Marta von Borstel of The Dalles. She told OPB that she doesn't usually get involved in politics but said the issue "tugs at my heart." Her husband is a financial planner and the two have been involved in a number of overseas charitable activities.

The Fight For Three-Fifths

In the Legislature, Oregon Democrats have been hungry to gain a so-called supermajority. They only need to pick up one seat in the House to gain a three-fifths majority, which would allow them to pass tax measures without Republican help.

Democrats’ best shot was to flip the seat currently held by Buehler, R-Bend, who is vacating the seat to run for governor. But their candidate in that race, Nathan Boddie, lost support from his party after he was accused of harassing a woman at a bar and responded to the allegations by attacking her character. Now, Democrats are spending significant cash in hopes of ousting strong incumbents and ensuring they don’t lose any seats.

Rachel Prusak, the Democratic candidate vying for the seat held by Rep. Julie Parrish, R- West Linn, has raked in more than $400,000 in 2018, compared to Parrish’s $140,000 over the same time period.

And Democrats are playing defense in a rematch between Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, and Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Bynum has raised $252,700 to DeRemer’s $267,000.

Democrats are also working to ensure they keep the seat held by Rep. Paul Evans, a Monmouth Democrat, who is facing a challenge from Selma Pierce, a retired dentist and the wife of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce. The Republican candidate poured some of her own money into the campaign and reported nearly $400,000 in contributions compared to Evans’ $250,500.