While the city's auditor said Portland is not yet ready to enforce the Oregon Supreme Court's ruling in favor of strict campaign finance limits, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced late Friday his campaign will begin abiding by a $500 cap on future donations.
The announcement came on the heels of a statement from the city auditor's office noting it can't immediately enforce the Supreme Court's Thursday ruling to support Multnomah County campaign limits. That statement from the auditor leaves candidates in local races free to collect large contributions for the time being.
The court ruled in favor of a voter-approved Multnomah County measure capping donations at $500, but Portland's nearly identical voter-approved campaign finance measure remains on appeal. That prompted Portland elections officer Deborah Scroggin, who works in the city auditor's office, to say attorneys still need to take legal steps to ensure the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling will apply to the city.
Candidates participating in Portland’s publicly financed election programs have already agreed to a cap of $250 per donor. Those opting to forego public financing, including Wheeler, are still able to accept larger donations, for now, despite the state Supreme Court ruling.
But Wheeler's campaign said they've decided they're not going to wait.
"To avoid even more confusion, and to make it clear to voters that we agree contribution limits are now state law, we are going to adopt the voter approved limits without exception," the campaign said in a statement.
During his reelection bid, Wheeler had set his own contribution limits at $5,000 from individual donors and $10,000 from organizations. Going forward, the campaign says it will only take contributions of $500 per individual union, donor or organization.
After the landmark opinion this week, the campaign for Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone put out a statement saying Wheeler had taken a gamble that these limits would be found unconstitutional and should now return the “illegal contributions."
“We are working to implement the Supreme Court's holding in Multnomah County as quickly as possible,” the auditor's office said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We are working with the city attorney's office to determine what legal steps are necessary to begin enforcement going forward.”
Scroggin said the city attorney isn't ready to give a timeline for when these campaign finance limits will apply to Portland candidates.
But Scroggin emphasized Friday that candidates will not need to return the large contributions they had received this cycle.
“We will not be retroactively enforcing contribution limits,” she said.
The auditor’s office said it will notify campaigns when enforcement begins.